2003 Discovering Britain & Ireland – Day 26

LONDON – eyes looking for Harry Potter

Thursday – after a rather exciting night – breakfast at the Ramada is a continental one with croissants, Danish pastries, cereal, juice, yoghurt, toast etc.

Makes a light change from the 5kg efforts we had on tour and that is good but as the saying goes – you don’t know what you had until you don’t have it anymore!

I get out my plan of attack that I worked on back in Australia – and here we go –  out the hotel door turn left and up to Queens Gate – right into Prince Consort Road – stop at the Royal Albert Hall.  More Kodak moments.

Opened in March 1871, the hall is dedicated to the memory of Prince Albert – Queen Victoria’s husband. Around the outside is a great terracotta frieze depicting ‘The Triumph of Arts and Sciences’. For your History Lesson click on the link above and enjoy!  What a great place.

Time to move on – lots to see and do today! Turning right into Exhibition Road and there is South Kensington Underground. It is about a 10 minute walk if you take out the time I spent at Albert Hall.

 First stop – Westminster Station and the tourist priority – the British Airways London Eye! 

A tip if you want to travel on this – book a time to go on this fabulous viewing object . It gives you the opportunity to walk around and not stand in line for ages.  Even saying that – there are loads of tourists and I stand in line waiting for my time. As you can see in the picture on the right the London Eye is a great big ferris wheel type object.

I get a little bit apprehensive and wonder if I am doing the right thing. It looks very, very high up to the top – but too late now here comes my cabin and I’m on it!  It is another overcast day – I am beginning to think that blue sky doesn’t exist here.

The little cabins are fully enclosed with something like perspex so I can’t fall out into the Thames and off we go. Up and away ever so slowly and the views are breathtaking. I am not a bit nervous and of course the cameras are clicking away.

Great views of Palace of Westminster (Parliament House) and Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral; Westminster Abbey; up and down the Thames – in fact all over London.

There are also dusk and night tours but that is too late for me this trip. Maybe on the next?  Money well spent – the tour takes about half an hour.

Back on the ground I walk over Westminster Bridge and head off for Big Ben (which I saw last time I was here) and the Houses of Parliament.  Why? Because I want some more photos that’s why. Like anything good – you can never have enough.

The carving of this stone and the intricate work is incredible and in places the stone seems just like lace work – such craftsmen all those years ago.

Definitely have to take the ultimate tourist photo in London – Boudica in her chariot.   How many tourist books has this photo been in?  Between AD 61 and AD 63 Boadicea led her Iceni people to a glorious war against the Romans but you can read more at the above link.

Centre photo is King George V and on the right is King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) in front of the Houses of Parliament.

I get side-tracked and walk along the Thames on the side opposite the Houses of Parliament just looking at everything – more photos – I can’t remember what photos I took on the way up the river so I take more coming back down.

The weather is still hot and steamy – last time I was here it was raining – – back over Westminster Bridge to the Houses of Parliament – and Big Ben.  Continue to walk around and around. The Houses of Parliament are open to tourists but I decide not to go inside – yep – not enough time.

As per my plan of attack I take an unguided tour of Westminster Abbey. Cost ₤6.00. Visit time: 11.00am.

The Abbey has been the burial place of Britain’s monarchs since the 13thcentury and the setting for Coronations and many royal weddings and it is crammed with an extraordinary collection of tombs and monuments honouring some of Britain’s greatest public figures.

Lots of photos outside but no photos allowed inside so I do the next best thing and buy a book! What a great place.  Take lots of time looking around – and by the time I have wandered up and down and around there are also lots of tourists. Continuing on my way, I will not be shoved along, so I just take my time and amble along and look at everything.

The tomb of Elizabeth I and her half sister Mary – sisters buried together after such a turbulent beginning.

Coming out of the Abbey – next thing is a cruise along the Thames.

Get on board this quaint little boat which is loaded down with tourists.  One woman with an extremely loud mouth is sitting on the railing – right beside a sign that says ‘do not sit on railing’ and of course the railing gives way and she nearly falls into the river. Everyone has a secret smile to themselves and it would have made a great photo.

Sailing up the Thames we pass Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – a detailed reproduction of an Elizabethan theatre that has been built on the riverside a few hundred metres from the site of the original Shakespeare’s Globe where many of his plays were first performed.

Open to the elements the theatre operates only in Summer. The plays are done ‘in the round’ which is the original format of Shakespeare’s day.  Make a note to attend one of the plays when next in London.  I knew all that High School Shakespeare would come in handy.

Still on the boat and we go past the Tower of London – – – I do not visit The Tower this time – although I really would have liked to have taken the Yeoman Warders Tour.  Same old story – I just don’t have enough time – so it will be definitely on the list for next time.  This list is getting longer by the minute!

Moored in the Thames is HMS Belfast, a World War II cruiser built in 1939.

It opened as a naval museum in 1971.

 Under Tower Bridge where on the return trip we see the bridge opening and of course more photos.

On the cruise back I also get some good photo opportunities of the bridges that span the River Thames.

Return to land and grab a bite to eat. Next stop – Kings Cross Station – Harry Potter’s Train to Hogwarts on Platform 9 and ¾ .

Down into the tube station and arrive at Kings Cross where I find platform 9 and ¾ which is outside the regular ‘muggle’ platform areas.

I suppose this is because everyone wants to take photos and they don’t want people clogging up the platforms.

Even though it is not on the proper platforms like in the movies I still take a photo and go inside onto the platforms to look around. There are signs everywhere saying photography is forbidden – but I seek out a railway attendant and ask him if it is OK.

He smiles and says ‘what I don’t see I don’t know’ so a couple of snaps later I thank him and am on my way.  I love train stations like Kings Cross.

They always seem to have a character that reminds me of times gone past and Agatha Christie movies – it doesn’t take much to get my imagination going.  People getting on trains heading to  misty little towns – spies lurking in corner seats at the back of the carriage – – but I digress.

This is the actual platform that was transformed into 9 and ¾. Looks like the ‘Hogwart’s Express’ is waiting. Does this mean that I am not a muggle?

It is getting late at this stage so I decide I better head for home as I have another big day ahead of me tomorrow. Get some prepacked meat and salad from a supermarket in Kensington and arrive back in my little room.

More noise of cars being hijacked by the police but I am too tired to worry.

Highlight of the day: The London Eye

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