Saturday, December 7, 2013
We’re arrived too early to check into our room, but Premier Inn allows guests to leave luggage in their holding area-we’re baggage free!
The Underground is a very convenient way to get around London; from the nearby Angel Station, we take the tube to Tower Hill Station for a visit to the Tower of London. The queues for tickets sales are fairly long; look for coupons offering two for the price of one!
The infamous Tower of London is a historic castle that sits on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. Over the past 1000 years, it has served as a royal palace, a grim forbidding prison, a place of execution, a mint and even a zoo!
From the open plaza, the skyline of the city offers views of the medieval stone castle intermingled with the modern buildings the current times. There’s even a holiday ice rink situated in the moat where you can skate the day away with the castle serving as a magnificent backdrop!
The entry from Middle Tower offers close-up views of the siege engines used during war-time.
We continue through the Byward Tower for the walk along Water Lane. Here you will see Tudor styled timber-framed buildings and catch a view of the Tower Bridge from the top of the steps.
We arrive at Tower Green, the site of where many executions took place. The courtyard area is partially surrounded by the Lieutenants Lodgings at Queens House. The Beefeeaters are ceremonial guardians of the Tower and act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction too!
The Crown Jewels stay under armed guard in the Waterloo Block. No photos are allowed in this area.
The White Tower is the oldest part of the Tower.
The Torture of the Tower is located in the lower chamber of the Wakefield Tower.
Wired animal sculptures can be seen through the Tower of London; they represent the Royal Beasts held captive by kings and queens.
The East Wall Walk takes us pass Lanthorn Tower to Henry III’s Watergate.
It’s easy to spend a whole day here; there’s just so much more to see. At this point, we’re all kind of castled-out; it’s time to exit the Tower. We continue walking on the east side of the tower along River Thames. There are fabulous views of the Tower Bridge and the skyline surrounding central London.
The tunnel under the Tower Bridge takes us under and over to the Tower Hill Station where we take the tube to Oxford Circus Station; the West End shopping district.
This exit is aptly named because it’s quite the circus here with the sidewalks filled to the brim with holiday shoppers! Oxford St is lined with a Twelve Days of Christmas themed décor and lights. This is a shopper’s delight with every store imaginable lining both sides of the street!
Carnaby St is an auto free pedestrian only shopping street that is jammed with retail stores and holiday shoppers. It’s a madhouse here-how much stuff can people buy?
Regent St is also just as festive and packed with people. There’s a huge Apple Store and Niketown. You can’t miss the Tudor styled building that is Liberty; a department store selling English luxury items.
To get a break from the crowds, we continue north on Regent to Portland Place. The sound of Christmas carols leads us to the Church of All Souls at Langham Place. We peeked inside and it’s a full house, we just missed the last seating for the day.
Further down Portland, we walk pass the BBC Broadcasting House and the Langham Hotel. There is a huge mob of groupies and paparazzi waiting outside of the hotel to catch a glimpse Lady Gaga. Ah, the everyday life of a singer/celebrity!
On Poland St at Kings Arms, a television crew has set up for a filming of the HBO series; Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
We make our way back to the Oxford Circus Station to take the tube to Parliament Square. We have tickets for a late tour at the Palace of Westminster. FYI-do this tour only if you are interested in knowing about the British administration and government; otherwise it’s really boring especially at the end of a long day.
The brisk night air woke me up! The city certainly comes alive at night with holiday lights everywhere! At Parliament Square, people are gathered around a candlelight memorial set up at the foot of a Nelson Mandela statue.
You can see Big Ben:
The Palace of Westminster from the west and east sides:
From a walk along Victoria Embankment, you can see the London Eye, the London Aquarium and the waters along River Thames. Along this walk, it was disappointing to see all the trash (McDonald’s food wrappers, paper bags, soda cups, etc) strewn on the streets by tourists visiting the city.
Our day concludes with dinner at Frontline Restaurant at Northfolk Pl.
We had a full day of sightseeing and walking some of the busiest streets around the West End shopping district. Thanks to Sister #10 for leading the way!