After leaving Tower Bridge, we explored the area around the River Thames. A live band was playing in a little park area and hundreds of people strolled leisurely along the water or chilled in the grass. It was still a bit cool but the sky was clear and the afternoon was delightful.
From here, we used the Big Bus map and mobile GPS to walk to several of London’s most famous landmarks. First was Trafalgar Square, where we paused to admire the beautiful fountain and watched children chase giant bubbles. Next was Westminster Abbey, the famous Gothic church where Charles Darwin, Issac Newton, and several other notable historical figures are buried. It was closed when we arrived, so we spent some time exploring the grounds and taking photos.
From the bus, we had pretty good views of the London Eye, The Shard, and Big Ben, but we wanted to get a bit closer to the latter.“Big Ben” actually refers to the bell within the tower, called Elizabeth Tower, and it holds the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. Truly a magnificent sight! Strolling past the Houses of Parliament, we noticed several men standing on the sidewalk. One of them walked over to us and asked if we could move farther down the street. Turns out a Netflix TV show was being filmed in the area and we walked right in the middle of the shoot!
As dusk began to fall over the great city of London, we ended the Along the Way with J&J self-guided walking tour with a visit to Buckingham Palace. The area was still bustling with tourists, so we spent a little time people watching. With several other curious folks, we walked up to the ornate iron gates to see if any movement could be detected from the palace guards. On the way back to the hotel, we strolled dreamily down the wide road known as “The Mall”, which is closed to motor traffic on Sunday until later in the evening. It was a tranquil and relaxing end to our first day in one of the busiest cities in the world.
Now going on a day and a half without sleep, we were exhausted and famished! Victoria Station was just as busy in the evening as earlier in the day, and there were several food vendors still open inside. We stopped at a little “take away” kiosk and ordered a couple of British “pasties”, a baked pastry stuffed with your choice of yummy goodness. Jay had ground steak and cheese and mine was stuffed with veggies. We devoured them on the way to the hotel…they were scrumptious! Finally, after a long day of travel and exploring, we were back in our room and ready to relax. Or were we?
A half hour after getting back, we realized the pasty, however tasty, had not satisfied our hunger. So, back out we went, in search of an almost midnight snack. Luckily, we found a falafel joint close to the hotel and ordered up a double to split with a side of “chips”. In less than 20 minutes, we were back in our room…this time for good! Thirty-two and a half hours after beginning the countdown to our arrival in Europe, we lay down to sleep around 11:30 p.m. local time. Check back soon for more about our time in England!