As you’ve probably noticed, these entries read more like a journal of our trip rather than advice. I’ll save the advice/tips/things I learned post for the end, so if you’re not particularly interested in our day-to-day comings and goings, please feel free to hold out until that final post that sums it all up. 😉
We had the best of intentions on Day 2. We got up and got ready, hopped on the Tube, and headed toward Buckingham Palace hoping to see the Changing of the Guard. Unfortunately, the Guard had other plans. We waited outside with a surprisingly small crowd until we eventually spotted the tiny sign that said that the Changing of the Guard was not happening today, but would be tomorrow. We were slightly disappointed, but it was nice to see the Palace without the hoards of people all around.
After that, we headed over to the Winston Churchill museum, passing by a Naval area and a beautiful park (which we later discovered was the location for some 9/11 ceremony in honor of the 10th anniversary. Prince Charles was there… we may have walked right by them and didn’t even notice!
It was just beginning to rain as we ducked inside the Winston Churchill museum. The museum was housed in the same location as the war rooms that Churchill had used during World War II. These were the rooms that the war officers and administration would reside in while the rest of London was being bombed by the Germans. It was fascinating to see how they lived and how routes for war ships and planes were mapped in the days before computers, internet and Google. After we explored the rooms, which were recreated in every detail including phones, chairs, and desks of the era, we went into an extended portion of the museum that revealed Churchill’s life story, from his childhood to his death. We were enthralled and could have spent several days wandering through the museum reading each description, but we decided to duck out and head over to the Tower of London before it closed for the day (after first stopping off at a pub for some fish and chips).
We were able to get into the Tower as one of the last groups before it closed. We wandered through the rooms and read descriptions of torture that had occurred there centuries ago, as well as tales of exotic animals that used to roam there. Afterward, we headed to a pub that dates back to 1623(!) called The Lamb and Flag. We loved this pub (even though it didn’t serve food). It was a little hard to find, tucked away in an alley near Covent Garden, which meant that it had a crowd of mostly locals and no tourists. We were there around Happy Hour time, so we were hanging out with the crowd of folks who had just gotten off work. We had to cut our time there shorter than we wanted simply because we were hungry, so we headed out to find food just as a saxophonist was setting up to play in the pub. We’ll definitely have to return to this place next time!
We found a restaurant out of necessity rather than seeking out the best place for local food. It was a little touristy, but they did have an assortment of “pies” available, so we were able to sample a couple, including an excellent Shepherd’s Pie.
Then we headed back over to the Tower of London for the nighttime “Ceremony of the Keys,” which I had reserved tickets for months in advance (thanks to a Rick Steves recommendation) because they only let about 25 or so people participate in this ceremony that has taken place every evening for hundreds of years. It’s basically the ceremony of locking the gates of the Tower. The Ceremony wasn’t exactly as spectacular as we were expecting, but it was a nice way to spend the Sunday evening, particularly since everything else in London seemed to be closed on a Sunday after 6. Since that was the case, we headed back to the hotel after the ceremony.
The next morning, we checked our bags at the hotel desk and hustled over to Buckingham Palace once again to try to catch a glimpse of the Changing of the Guard. This time, we were successful! It was considerably more crowded and we had a tough time seeing anything for awhile, but as the crowd cleared out we eventually scored an excellent front row spot for the last 30 minutes of the Change. It was a beautiful day, so we walked through the park and over to the hotel, where we grabbed our bags, got back on the Tube, and headed to the train station where we’d take the Eurostar to Paris! We had a wonderful time in London, and it was definitely nice to begin our trip in a country where we didn’t need to struggle to speak the language. That would certainly change once we arrived in Paris…