July 8, London
I didn't get a great sleep last night, I woke up at about 3 am for a couple and a half hours then went back to sleep off and on until about 8:30am. I think Brenna slept like a log. We got ready and had a hearty breakfast of oats n raisin cereal, bacon, eggs, sausages, and hash browns at the hostel then headed off on the Tube to Hyde Park to start our day. We walked through Hyde Park to Wellington Arch to begin our walking tour. We saw Apsley house where the Duke of Wellington lived. He was also known as the Iron Duke. He wasn't well liked and after having all his windows broken by angry citizens on several occasions, he had them covered with iron, hence his nick-name. Next it was down the tree lined, reddish pavement lane towards Buckingham Palace which was the location of several assassination attempts on Royals over the years. To the left was a park which at one time was a burial area for lepers and a hunting ground for the Royals and where Charles II would go visit his mistresses. We arrived at Buckingham Palace as they were doing the changing of the guard ceremonies. There were lots of tourists crowded up to the gates with their umbrellas out because of the rain that was now falling. The palace is not the most spectacular Royal Palace around. Originally the palace was a house built for the Duke of Buckingham. After spending so much money on his new digs, he wanted to show the house off, so he invited the King to see it. The King liked it so much he wanted it for himself. The King got it for a super low price, who would say no to the King? Poor Duke Buckingham went bankrupt and the King had a new house which is still used by the Royal Monarchy today. We also heard a story about an unemployed Irish bum named Michael Fagan who broke into the castle one night in the early 1980's. He wandered all over the palace setting off numerous alarms making the security guards think the monitoring system was broken. Instead of investigating, they just turned off the alarm system and would call for repairs in the morning. In the meantime, Mr Fagan found his way to the bedrooms and went to lay down for a sleep. As it turned out, he got into a bed which Queen Elizabeth was sleeping. After pressing her panic alarm and getting no response, the Queen remained calm and had a short conversation with Mr. Fagan. After a few minutes, he asked her for a cigarette. She told him she didn't smoke but her doorman did, so she said she would call for a smoke. When the maid answered, she asked for a smoke. But Queen mother, you don't smoke. The queen replied no, but the Irishman sitting on the edge of my bed would like one. Puzzled the maid went into the Queens room, saw Mr Fagan and screamed which finally alerted the doorman and security. Mr Fagan was arrested. It turns out that because the Palace is a public building he could not be charged with any crime and he was let go in the morning. Next we saw the house which Prince Charles uses and the house where Princes Phillip and Harry stay. We then made our way to Trafalgar Square which is the centre of London and has a statue commemorating Admiral Nelson who is now buried at St Paul's Cathedral. There are fountains, staircases, statues, and lots of people just hanging out. From there it was past number 10 Downing Street, home of the British Prime Minister, then to the Parliament building where Big Ben is located. Big Ben is actually the bell located in the clock tower so you don't see Big Ben, you hear Big Ben. Next door to the Parliament Buildings is Westminster Abbey where the recent Royal weddings have taken place. That was the end of our tour. Afterward, Brenna and I made our way across the Thames and went for a ride on the London Eye which is like a huge Ferris wheel and we viewed the city from up high. Next, we retraced our steps all the way back to Wellington arch, taking photos of all the sites. We then walked to Piccadilly Circus, an area full of bars, theatres, restaurants, Chinatown and shops. We began looking for a Subway for supper, and eventually ended up back at Trafalgar Square. Being Sunday, most places were closed or closing (it was 9 pm) so we ate at Mcd's L. We decided to walk back to our hostel along the south banks of the River Thames. It is a long hike but interesting. Brenna and I wanted to get some pictures of London Bridge lit up at night, so we went a couple miles out of our way to take the photo. I took one photo but it was blurry and then the battery died. We had to go all the way back to the hostel, charged the battery and headed back out. We got a photo of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the London Bridge lit up at night and returned to the hostel via the north bank of the river. We finally arrived back at 1:15 am with tired, aching feet. I calculated that we must have walked about 30km, over a 13 hour day.