Saturday, January 28, 2012

Westminster to Tower Bridge

On Tuesday Dec. the 20th, we managed to actually get up by 8 AM! Yay, us!  Already off to a good start, we had some breakfast and coffee to help top off the morning. Our plans for the day were to first go to the London Eye and to ride it.  We were hesitant to pay about $30 each to go, so we decided that IF the weather was clear we would ride.  It was a gorgeous day and I am glad we went.  It was nice to see London from high up.

London Eye Day
London Eye From Westminster Bridge

London Eye Pod
London Eye Pod
Big Ben Day2
Palace of Westminster as we were heading to London Eye
London Eye Near Top
Near the top on the London Eye
The ride on the London Eye took about 30 minutes and there were about 15 people in there with us.  I think we were the only ones who spoke English as a first language.  It was interesting!

After the ride in a big circle we headed towards the Palace of Westminster.  We stopped at McDonald's first to get something to drink and all the products showed the calories. I wanted a mint McFlurry so bad but saw it was 400 calories! Seeing the calories really made me think twice about it. I never did get one, even though Frankie so graciously said he would eat half. I would love it if the calories were posted everywhere in America.  It would make counting calories so much easier and I think really show us why we are such a fat nation! 

Anyways, back to London! We tried to get a picture of ourselves with the Tower of London in the background.  I think we were doing OK.

Frankie Jennifer Big Ben Day

A guy saw us trying to take pictures of ourselves and volunteered to take one for us.  We didn't even ask!  It was very kind of him.

Frankie and Jennifer Big Ben Day2
In case you weren't sure, it was a little windy and colder this day.
Clock Face Detail
Detail of clock face of the Tower of Big Ben.  So beautiful!
Big Ben and London Eye
I love this picture with The London Eye and Tower of Big Ben together!
We were in luck this day.  When we got to the Palace of Westminster they said that we could go in and watch the House of Commons members debating!  How cool is that?  We had to get a picture id taken and wear it around our necks.  The picture was awful, if you squinted very hard you could just make out that it was a person.  That is security!

Before getting to the House of Commons we walked through Westminster Hall, which is the oldest part of the palace.  When they say old, they are not joking.  This part of the hall was built in 1097.  That is not a typo...1097 AD!  This hall is 915 years old and they just let people walk in it!!  

Westminster Hall
Westminster Hall
King George 6th and Queen Elizabeth Floor Westminster Hall
So many historic events have happened here.  They commemorated a lot of them with plaques on the floor.
Stained Glass Westminster Hall
The stained glass at the end of Westminster Hall showing the coats of arms of the Kings of England and Scotland.
We did make it in to see the members of  Parliament debating.  There were several people on the house floor and they were all enclosed behind a bullet proof glass.  There were three guys that had on the white wigs but I couldn't take pictures.  I couldn't even take in my purse.  I had to check it with security.  We sat and watched for awhile, but it was typical politics and I get bored very quickly with that.  So we didn't stay too long.

Back outside we continued our journey by crossing the street to go to Westminster Abbey church.  This is where Prince William married Princess Kate in April of 2011.  We decided to not go inside. We didn't want to spend $50 for that and we were more interested in seeing St. Paul's Cathedral, which also cost to visit.  I did walk around and take some photos of the outside.
West Minster Abbey
Westminster Abbey's front facade.
Gargoyle West Minster Abbey3
Gargoyle at Westminster Abbey
Guess who we saw near Westminster Abbey!  None other than, the Queen herself!

Queen Elizabeth Mask

We thought our next stop should be Wimbledon but we got side tracked, squirrel, and went to the Clink Prison Museum instead. We had never heard of it, but I think Frankie saw a sign for it or something.  I have no idea how we came about going there, but it happened.  I have heard the expression "to get throw in the clink", and this is where it comes from. It was a nice little museum, but not one that I would go to more than once. I did learn a lot of history though. London was a very bloody place back in the day.  Prisoners today have NO idea how good they have it.  Oh wait, one man apparently does.  I took a bunch of pictures of the information signs and set ups.  You can find them and all my pictures from the trip on my Flickr London set.
Begging from Prison
A prisoner would have to beg for money to buy food or to pay
off the debt that landed them in prison in the first place.
Man in the Hole

If a person was thrown in a hole like the one above it was basically a death sentence.  They were thrown in there and forgotten about.  The Thames river would flood with the tide causing raw sewage to swirl around the prisoners legs.  All the standing in dirty water would cause sores and after a time their skin would fall from their bones.

Heads on Poles

Another lovely tidbit I learned at the Clink Prison Museum and also the Tower of London, was the fact that once a person had been executed in what ever brutal fashion was the choice of the day, the dead person's head would be chopped off and put on a pole.  The poles were then tied to London bridge. London bridge was the only way of coming in or going out of London at the time, so all would see and be warned.  See what I mean!  Very bloody!

One of the very cool things that we saw on our way to the Clink Prison Museum and then again heading away from it was Borough Market.  Now that was amazing!  It is a food market filled with all kinds of food. Now, I love groceries stores.  I love seeing all the different products and learning about them so this was wonderful in my eyes!  Let me share some pictures with you.

Goose Fat
I hear it's good for roast potatoes....
Onions and Garlic
Even I liked the way this picture turned out and I detest onions!
Pig Leg
Deer leg, hog leg, other leg? Not sure.
Sea Food
If I can see its eyeballs, I am not going to eat it.  Period.
Huge Meringue
Theses were as large as my hand, not that it is saying much, but for meringue, it is!

Since we were near it we decided to walk to and across the Tower Bridge.  We were on the south side of the river Thames and needed to cross anyways to get back to the hotel, so why not cross at the Tower Bridge?

Tower Bridge

Walking Tower Bridge3

Walking Tower Bridge6

I really liked the bridge.  I think it was one of my favorite attractions in London. On the other side of the river we walked past a street vendor selling caramel roasted peanuts.  Oh they smelled so good, so we bought some.  They were as good as they smelled!  Continuing on to the hotel we walked past the London Tower. We  have plans to come back and see it another day since we already bought tickets online before leaving home.

When we travel we have times of definite plans to see things and then there are the times when we go where the wind blows us. In walking back to the hotel we suddenly (there was a sign) decided to take a boat tour of the River Thames (pronounced Tims) which took us from London Tower to the London Eye. At the London Eye we hopped on the tube to head back to the hotel. It was around 5 PM and we decided to not go as late tonight as we did last night and give ourselves a little break and rest.

The tube was crazy crowded. I was standing and since I am short, I pretty much had my face in a couple of peoples armpits.  Lovely.  As crowded as it was I thought we were in New Delhi or something! Strangest thing was that there were so many people reading the same newspaper while on the train. It was the free London evening paper which they hand out everyday, but it was still strange to see so many of them at the same time.  We missed our stop because we just simply could not fight the crowd to get off the train when we needed to. We managed to get off at the next stop and  just walked to the other side of the tracks for the train going the other way. This one was not as crowded and we made it to our stop.

We ate supper at the hotel at the Côte Restaurant which is French food. We planned on breaking out of our American shells and trying Indian and Japanese this trip.  But for now, this was our second try with French food and it was very tasty!

Côte Brasserie

Côte Brasserie-Chicken

While we ate we talked with a guy sitting at the next table who was from London. He gave us some tips on where to get a full English breakfast in the morning.  Bellies full of good food and heads swimming with the thought of future good food we drifted to our room and to sleep.

The blog posts are taking forever to write up for each day, but I will continue on!  So fear not, there is more to come!  :)