02 November 2009

This That and The Other in London

Our extremely entertaining Yeoman! Did you know (or care??) that today there are 35 Yeomen Warders and one Chief Warder. All warders are retired from the Armed Forces of Commonwealth realms and must be former senior non-commissioned officers with at least 22 years of service. They must also hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal. NCOs from the Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force are eligible to apply, but members of the Royal Navy are not, because while members of the other services take oaths to the Crown, members of the Navy take an oath to the Admiralty.
The tomb of Isaac Newton. As a regular breaker of rules, I took this picture after we attended the beautiful Evensong service at Westminster Abbey. I told the kids that we were just saving the 18 pounds per person charge to tour the Abbey, but actually the choir sung service was a calm break in our non-stop forced march through the streets of London. You are not supposed to do any touristic activities while you are in the Abbey for the service...thus the non-flash surreptitious photo taking.

We never quite succeeded in remembering which way to look. We just ended up looking both ways all the time in order to not be flattened by the oh-so-patient London drivers.
This was so close to my heart...a shout out to Dad! I will always connect St Martin in the Fields to the classical music that Dad played all the time. The calm dulcet voice announcing that they were playing this or that piece featuring Sir Neville Marriner and the St Martin in the Fields Chamber Orchestra.

Long live that Queen!
Ole Vic
Covent Gardens...now just a bit too touristy for me. Felt like Pier 49 in San Francisco...in fact, I think the street performers were a franchise for how similar they were to what we have seen in SF. I even saw our old Peruvian buddies playing those Pan flutes!!
The Borough Market...WAY crowded, but good lunch and fabulous farm fresh meat and produce.
Celia prayed at the altar of Harrod's and loved every minute of this bizarre and incredible place. We had to admit that the clerks at Harrod's were the nicest people in London.
Piccadilly Circus...what a madhouse! But we did find a really good take-out Sushi restaurant near there!

The view out of our Youth Hostel room window. On Halloween night they even shot fireworks off the top. There was a banner announcing the countdown to the 2012 Olympics...1000 days to go!! I just cannot even imagine what a total and complete madhouse London will be if it was to the gills crowded the week we were there!
Nathan's favorite toy at Harrod's.
We lucked out and came out of Harrod's shortly before they turned on the Christmas Lights for the first time. Dannii Minogue was the celebrity on hand to push the button. She led the crowd in a countdown, hit the lights, and then fled for the food store behind her with a huge mob in full pursuit. Out come the riot police and sirens. What a first hand lesson in the British obsession with celebrity...it was quite an experience!

Southbank Bike Tour

I have to say the highlight of this tour was riding our bikes across Tower Bridge! It was shorter but similar to if you rode your bike across the Golden Gate Bridge in traffic! The tour bus from Belgium that was behind us was none too happy with our choice, but we had a blast! The more conservative members of our group were frightened by the fact that I was snapping pictures as we rode, but as I was riding in the center of the group and I wasn't actually looking at the camera as I pushed the button...no Marys were harmed in the taking of these photos...although after that they banned photo taking during the actual riding. But at least I have cool photos of the experience!!

Liam - our South African guide on this tour was a real Shakespeare aficionado. I think my favorite narrative of his was at the Globe Theater. He really brought home how much Shakespeare influenced our language and what a cool guy he was. He also read a piece from a book that expressed his reasons for loving the City of London. Not your ordinary well rehearsed and monotonous tour guides of London! Suffice it to say, we truly enjoyed the bike tours! I can't wait to host visitors in Paris so we can do the bike tours there...Watch out Cousin Claire! I think you will be the first victim!!

Nathan and Celia Hit London

Celia and Nathan had complete say over our routes both in the Tube and walking. They are well seasoned travelers who can definitely hold their own in any city!!

Starbucks...our favorite place to rest and feel our feet again!
Celia in Harrod's.

They had a blast at the Science museum!
But not during the wait to get into the Science Museum!
Celia and her on going love affair with Jimmy Choos!

Central London Bike Tour

Our first day in London, we went on the Fat Tire Bike Tour of Central London. As you can clearly see from the pictures, the parks were bursting with color. By the end of the afternoon, the sun came out and lit up the green of the grass and the golds and orange of the trees until it almost hurt your eyes! It was so nice to see so much of London with the wind in your hair. Matt - our fearless leader - is a Churchill fanatic and really gave us great historical perspective in a way that made the city come alive! Suffice it to say, we fell in love with the city that day!