Monday 20 February
Another day of blue skies and sunshine. I really did pick a good weekend to visit London.
This being my last day, I packed my bag; triple checked that I’d not left anything behind before depositing it in the left luggage area in the hotel. My plan was to come back this way later on to re-visit the BFI shop, collect my bag and then head for Paddington. My train was due to leave at 15:45 so I had a rough itinerary for the day.
The first destination was Westminster Abbey. Virtually re-tracing my steps of the previous evening, I headed through Waterloo Station possibly amongst more people than live in Brecon! Along the embankment, before heading over Westminster Bridge.
As I was out early the Abbey was not yet open, it was due to open at 9:30, and I got over Westminster Bridge at about 8:45. Having a rough idea where I was, I knew that St. James’s Park was close by. It sits in a rather busy area, but as you go through, the trees lessen the traffic noise and whilst you don’t completely forget where you are, it does feel quite peaceful. I sat on a bench near the entrance to the park and watched the commuter’s speed walking through to their destinations.
There are quite a large number of birds in the park, I couldn’t begin to name them, some I don’t think I’ve seen before. In the middle of the park is a bridge, from which you can see Buckingham Palace.
Still having time to spare, I went and had a better look at Buckingham Palace, on the way through the park, I could see a woman taking a picture and as I got closer I could see why. I was very surprised to see three pelicans in the middle of London, but they looked quite at home. I’ve since had a look on the internet, and it seems there have been pelicans in London since 1664.
As the time was now getting towards 9:30, I made my way back towards the Abbey via Birdcage Walk, passing Wellington Barracks. Although I’d ‘gone’ before I came out of the hotel, I was now in need of some facilities!! I saw a sign for both the Abbey and a WC, following it brought me to a zebra crossing near to the west door of the Abbey but more importantly another sign for the WC pointing in the direction I had just come from! As I wasn’t in a desperate need to go and it was nearly 9:30 I headed for the Abbey entrance…and then the world got a tiny bit smaller.
I was at the zebra crossing, in front of me where the obligatory Japanese tourists who stopped in the middle of the crossing to photograph the Abbey, I zigzagged through them, turned left, looked up and who should be heading for me but a colleague who recently left Brecon to work in London. To say we were both rather shocked and surprised to see each other is an understatement. He was on his way to a meeting, so after a quick chat we said our goodbyes and went in opposite directions. Amazing that in all those people, I was able to bump into someone I knew.
I came to London in 2006 and wanted to visit the Abbey but I just never got around to doing it. So I made sure that this time I did. The wealth of history is just overwhelming if you try and think about it. Taking for example, the people who are buried here; A huge number of Kings and Queens of England & Scotland – Henry V / Elizabeth I / Mary Queen of Scots / Charles II / plus many more, and then there are the people who have shaped history – Geoffrey Chaucer / Ben Johnson / Sir Isaac Newton / Handel / Charles Dickens / Tennyson / Rudyard Kipling / Laurence Olivier / again there are many more. Then there are the events that have taken place here – the recent wedding of William and Katherine, the funeral of the Queen Mother, the Coronation of Elizabeth II and the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales to name a few.
There is a free audio guide narrated by Jeremy Irons to help you around the Abbey, this was a good tour but didn’t mention everything that was around you. Of course a comprehensive tour would take days but for example, coming out of King Henry VII chapel, I could see the tomb of King Henry V, one of England’s greatest kings but there was no mention of it on the tour.
The Abbey staff were very helpful, in one ‘rooms’ where there are several tombs, a guide told me and the other visitors all about each person who was interred there; it was very interesting. The husband of one of the women interred there had been beheaded at The Tower. Somehow she had been lucky and had made it to the Abbey! Walking around the Abbey took about 90 minutes and like The Tower of London, was well worth the visit.
I still had a couple of places to tick off before leaving London, so a short tube journey later I was in South Kensington, home to the Natural History & Science museums. First though I wanted to get a picture of the Albert Memorial, as I was slowly running out of time I had to make do with a couple of long shots from the other side of the road.
After a swift coffee in the Albert Hall it was onwards to the Natural History Museum. On the way I passed the Royal College of Music where I could hear through an open window, a budding singer, perhaps even opera singer going through her scales, she sounded very good. A whistle stop tour of the museum followed; I missed out large chunks as I mainly wanted to see the dinosaurs. The museum was packed with people, lots of school groups from foreign shores. I got a few snaps of the various dinosaurs, including the animatronic T-Rex. I had a quick scan through some of the other exhibits but will come back again to see the rest of the museum and the exhibition that runs until September which is all about the fateful trip of Captain Scott.
There was just enough time for two more destinations before heading to Paddington…the first was Harrods. I left the Natural History Museum with the intention of going straight to Waterloo, collecting my bag before getting some lunch and then the train. I still had over an hour; I’d got through the museum quicker than expected. So I walked from the museum up Brompton Road and into Knightsbridge. On the way I went past the V&A. I’ve not been in the V&A before, so I may visit next time around. Harrods was busy. Busy with tourists picking things up, balking at the price and then putting them down again!
I went through the main door on the corner which opens into the bag section; the only price I saw read £1,750. This struck me as rather expensive for a bag! Again with time pressing I didn’t visit the whole shop and instead concentrated my time in the food hall, specifically the chocolate part. After 20 minutes of wandering around trying to find the best bargain (needle & haystack come to mind) I spent £20 on 3 items, and I didn’t even get a signature green bag, the food hall bags are white.
With my time in London now all but up, I took the Tube over to Waterloo, bought some DVD’s at the BFI, collected my bag and tube’d it to Paddington with minutes to spare. I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in London and I’m planning another for a weekend in April after Easter. It will depend on what is being shown at the BFI, the programme is out in a few weeks and I can make my mind up then. I would like to see another show, perhaps Phantom.
If anyone has any ideas as to what places; museums, galleries, attractions etc, I should visit, then please let me know.