(December 4, 2009) London: Westmisnter and Thames
For the last visiting London we will visit what we haven’t
on the previous days as St. Paul’s Cathedral or something missing in
Westminster area. This is also a day for a cruise through the Thames
taking advantage of the public transport and visiting the Shakespeare’s
Globe, which has got a ferry stop in front.
At afternoon we would go to British Museum and, if
didn’t go the previous day, the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square.
We could also pass by Picadilly Circus for seeing it by night.
The points marked at map are:
0- Victoria Station
1- Buckingham Palace
2- Westminster Abbey
3- Big Ben
4- Trafalgar Square
5- British Museum
6- Picadilly Circus
Our morning routine: bus and then train, it’s just
this time we’ve done things well and we are in Victoria at 10:30 AM. As
the change of the guard is at 11:30 AM we use the spare hour in
visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral.
For this, we go out from St. Paul’s subway station
after changing lines in “Oxford Circus”. Then we can be in front of the
impressive façade of this cathedral although, guess what, it has one of
its sides covered by improvement works. This spoils the pictures of
this frontal façade, so I’m putting here one from 2005.
Notice that, as in Westminster Abbey, the symmetry is broken
by a clock in one of the towers. What is the hidden message after this?
Don’t know, and don’t mind about it.
We walk around the cathedral amazed by its
magnificent architecture. Then we walk St. Paul’s Church Yard down
because my map is showing another underground station nearby: “Mansion
House”, which fits better in our plans as it is in the same line that
Victoria and even “St. James Park”. This will let us reach Buckingham
Palace quicker. Besides, leaving the cathedral from this way let us get
beautiful views of the building from its “poop” (a naval simile just to
avoid using words like “butt”).
Going to Buckingham Palace from St. James have the
advantage – apart from walking less – passing by what seems to be the
guard headquarters as we can see the guard getting ready for the
change. Today, for first time since we’re here, the sky looks clear and
I guess they already know this from the forecast when taking the
decision of changing the event from yesterday to today.
We can see from far the area in front of the palace crowded
with policemen leaving the clear needed for the event. So it’s finally
to be today, after coming here every morning, the last day we will be
able to enjoying the changing of the guard of Queen Elizabeth II’s
We join to the tourists mass looking for a place
in one of the doors they’re going to use. There are two of them: one on
each side. The music starts exactly at 11:30 AM. Percussion and wind
instruments are used, as in any march. Strings instruments like violin
are not for strong men!
After the instruments, the formation of guards are coming,
those hats seem to be designed by someone some centuries ago and, as
these British institutions are not willing for changes, they’re still
using. These hats must get the heads warm, but tell me about it in July.
The guard formation split in two groups, one for each door at both
sides. Behind the bars the guards ending their shift are waiting for
them and all of them are forming squares, including the horse guard,
wearing in red.
Ten minutes later the incoming horse guard appears riding
organized to join the men in the palace’s courtyard. When the doors are
closed after them is time to go. There are still a looong and sloooow
process of exchanging of positions. We watched it before and it is so
tedious for us we want to spend the time somewhere else.
So we take “The Mall”, a broad avenue ending in the Admiralty
Arch, a huge gate with three arches which head to Trafalgar Square. We
were here last night but now we can see the square at daylight and much
less crowded, with the Nelson's column in front of the two fountains
with the National Gallery building and St. Martin in the Fields church
Here it is the Christmas tree which lightning
watched yesterday. Although its lights are now off at daylight.
After some pictures with the highlights of this square as the
fountains, the column or the church, our idea is getting into the
National Gallery. Admission is free, as in British Museum, but there
photos are allowed and here they are not.
We’ve come for a quick visit, going to the main paintings. We
Van Gogh’s sunflowers and amaze with the naval Turner’s images. In the
“Spanish” area I must show to my parents the “Rokeby Venus” overall. We
explore Italian Renaissance and Rembrandt, but we cannot leave this
place without seeing the best painting in this gallery in my opinion:
Jan Van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini portrait”. We go expressly to this
masterwork to the furthest hall through medieval altarpieces.
I’m far of being an art expert, but I’m an expert in myself. The best
expert in the world about myself! And this is the painting more amazes
me from all the ones in the National Gallery. I could spend hours just
looking at the convex mirror in the center. The amount of details in so
small area of the painting and the skills of the painter to transform
its reflection to make it different than the one would come from a flat
surface are the kind of things that make having feelings for a piece of
art. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
We leave the
gallery around 1:45 PM. You can say “All that speech about art and
you’ve visited the National Gallery in one hour and a half!?”. And I
would answer: “Yes, it’s true. What can I say? I’ve visited Prado
Museum in Madrid in a few more than two hours. I must be a quick art
We walk Northumberland Avenue down until
reaching the river, it must be 300 meters approximately. We’re now in
“Enbankment” area. We must pay for the ferry, but getting a 33%
discount because of the Travelcard. With this, we have what I call “a
Thames cruise” by 3£ per person.
This trip takes us from Enbankment “station” to Bankside
Pier, where the Shakespeare’s Globe is sited. Somehow, the ferry sails
in the opposite direction to our destination at the beginning. The
explanation is it needs to do a stop just under London Eye and then
takes the right direction from there. This move gives us fantastic
views of Parliament and wheel form the river.
In the way we pass by St. Paul’s Cathedral area and we get
the picture I talked about yesterday, when explaining the two seconds
opening of every British TV series in the last century. Now I can put
the image I was thinking about. If, after looking at the picture below,
you still don’t know what I am talking about is because you’re probably
We get some views of Tower Bridge as well before
the end of our trip.
The Shakespeare’s Globe looks as new and there are some
objects in display inside. This is just a replica of the theater where
Shakespeare’s work was played.
When we leave this area it’s 2:45 PM and we must
find a place to lunch. My thought after looking at the map is to walk
to Waterloo area until the Italian restaurant we lunched the first day
in London but, after a while walking, we get into a modern pub, which
is restaurant too, we find in our way. It’s quite crowded and I think
it is because it’s Friday today. It is located in Stamford St. and its
name is “The slug and lettuce”.
It’s quite noisy due to the young people
taking drinks in the bar, but food is good and price is reasonable.
As our visits in London are completed we eat with
no ruches and talk about the experience until leaving the place at 4:15
PM, at dusk. The only thing to do now is completing our visit to
British Museum. As today is Friday the museum closes at 8:30 PM, so
we’ve got time enough as per not missing a single thing on it.
We repeat what we did the first day: taking the
tube in Waterloo. We still have a lot of areas in the museum to explore
after our first visit the day before yesterday. Among them, the most
spectacular ones: with big Egyptian statues and entire Greek temples.
Even the whole Parthenon interior is in one of the halls.
We don’t miss anything this time. We explore the halls about
Africa and Asia, with Buda statues and a hidden room full of Chinese
porcelain from different dynasties. Islamic art and etc… etc…
My mother is still trying to bring the whole museum to home in photos,
but today, with so many halls, it is a huge task.
This time we see the real Rosetta stone. Among so many objects I’m
surprised by one specific one: a crystal skull. What is this about? An
Indiana Jones promo? The thing is this object is in display but it
seems even the museum experts don’t know the story of the skull (maybe
they should watch the movie), because the only information given says:
“It was originally thought to have been Aztec, but recent research
proves it to be European.”. That’s it! They don’t know anything about
We seat for a while as my mother keeps getting pictures of every
corner. When we finally are leaving we can see a concert is about to
start in the Great Court by a teenager orchestra. We’re so tired after
this visit of two hours in the museum as the end of a journey we’ve
walked a lot.
Underground, train and bus take us back to the hotel where the
comfortable bed of this Hilton was waiting for us for a last time.