Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 3 - London in 12 hours!

Morgan helped Royce and I book a bus trip to London so we could tour on Monday while she and Matt went to work.  Matt gave Royce a quick European driving lesson on the way to the bus stop as Royce was set to drive us the next day on our own.

We arrived in London at 11am and were scheduled to get back on the bus to leave at 11pm. 
12 hours!  We hit the ground running!
First stop -- Buckingham Palace.
Of course, the guards are WAY far away because nobody can even come close to this entrance.  There is actually a tour for Buckingham Palace but it took almost 3 hours and it was one stop we were just okay seeing from the outside and not worrying about going in. 
The size and scale of everything is crazy.  SO big. 

This was from inside the round-about outside the palace gates.   
We did look at a few historical buildings, walked through a beautiful park, and sited a few other minor things along our walk.  If you're like me and relate everything in London to "how have I seen this with William and Kate or Princess Diana?" then the park we walked through was the park with a long driveway through it that essentially goes from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.  You see it in the motorcade after William and Kate's wedding along with some of the Queen's motorcade's from the Parliament to the Palace. 
And so, after walking through the park we end at the Parliament which is the home of Big Ben.
It was about this time in the picture below that was the first of three times Royce asked me what time it was.  "Look at the big clock!" 

Next on our list was the London Eye.  This was a stop we allowed plenty of time for because we wanted to ride the Eye. 

A few pictures from the ride! The whole ride took about 25 minutes and was so neat.  There were probably 15-20 of us in our bubble.  There were informative videos while we rode and great photo opportunities of course. 

The pictures above show how small the buildings were below while we were at the top of the Eye.
The one on the right is Buckingham Palace from the Eye.  The trees are the park we walked through. 



Our walk back across the bridge after riding the Eye was the ONLY rain we experienced in England.  It rained on us pretty good for about 15 minutes and then it was done and we enjoyed the day. 

Now, back to the other side of Big Ben to see the Parliament.
This building was unbelievable.  The detail, quantity of sculptures, windows, carvings, and arches was unreal.  We did actually want to go on a Parliament tour but they were sold out for the day.


When we realized the Parliament tours were sold out for the day I started getting nervous that Westminster Abbey's tours may have the same status.  So we kept this stop brief and headed to where we thought Westminster Abbey was located.  OUR MAP showed it a few blocks to the south.  And I know it's crazy, in the end, to not realize we were already on the back side of the Abbey, but when we were only focused what we were looking at and our map didn't lead us to believe we were close then yes, we took off walking in the wrong direction. 
We DID walk through a neat park along the water, and we DID end up in a very non-touristy business district, and we DID spend 30 minutes walking at least a mile in the wrong direction.  I had switched my phone off to save data and battery for the day so when I switched it back on and mapped Westminster Abbey you can imagine my disappointment when I saw it was right where we had already been and it was now 3:45pm.  We headed back to where we had come from via a more direct route and I was beyond frustrated. 
We made it to Westminster Abbey around 4:00pm and they informed us that while it was open until 4:30pm they stop allowing people inside at 3:30pm.  I was so upset.  I held my own pity party, grumbled around for a while, and we circled the building a time or two so I could at least see the pretty exterior.  I usually try to see the silver lining when plans don't go my way but I couldn't see any possible reason as to why we weren't meant to get to the church on time therefore missing a tour. 

It was now 4:10pm and we circled the building and were looking at the church sign on the sidewalk.  Then I saw our silver lining...  The Daily Evensong was at 5:00pm.  This was a service open to the public, and the golden lining was that it was free and we hadn't had to buy a tour ticket!  So no, we didn't get a full tour, but we were going to be able to step foot inside.  Royce jumped in line an I headed for the gift shop to kill a little time.  Thankfully while I was in the gift shop I overheard people talking how they start seating everyone at 4:30.  I got back just in time! 
I truly hadn't seen a sign on whether or not cameras were allowed so I snapped a few pocket pictures from my phone as we were being shuffled in.  Cameras were indeed not allowed so I didn't take any more.   

We were in the first 20 or so people in line so we got the best seating.  We sat in the actual wooden pews that face the center checkerboard-floored isle.  I was ecstatic!  There are three rows of pews on each side.  The first two rows are for the choir and we sat in the third row.  I've looked up seating charts from the Royal wedding but it's not specific as to who was in our actual seats.  But for the Daily Evensong the choir was in front of us and it was a beautiful service.  They probably allowed 200-250 additional people in folding chairs off to the sides.  Westminster is a Catholic church, but not Roman Catholic so they don't answer to the Pope.  They are Anglican and part of Church of England. 

Taa-Daa!  A much happier Megan after the service.
(Special thanks to Royce for putting up with me before the service.)
We got out of the service at 6:00pm and needed to be to a show at 7:30.  We were tired, hungry, and still had to walk more before we could relax about the time. 
We made it to our final stop -- Seeing WICKED at the Apollo Victoria Theater!
How ironic is it that we saw Wicked, a story based off of The Wizard of Oz set in Kansas, and we went to London to see it?!?  Seeing the show was actually Royce's idea, so he and I were both on Cloud 9 at the end of the day with our last two stops.  *crummy picture but we were being shuffled through the door quickly and only had one chance!*
And of course, the show was AMAZING.  Neither of us are actually Wizard of Oz fans. 
But this show is fantastic.
We got out of the theater a little after 10:00pm and had until 11:00pm for our bus to leave.  We were right across the street from the bus stations so we grabbed a drink, caught some WI-Fi, and just tried to soak in all we had just experienced.  It was a fantastic day!
I mapped our day with the Map My Walk app.  We started and stopped at the blue dot.  The 'wrong turn' we took was the sharp V on the lower right side of the red line.  We walked straight south, I had turned my phone off, then when I found we were win the wrong spot I only left it on momentarily to get us in the right direction.  The sharp diagonal up was it 'catching' up when we were back on track after the church service.  So overall it was extremely accurate in logging our approx. 10 miles for the day.  The duration is not correct as I had my phone off during tours and such. 

Good-bye, London!