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Monday, March 14, 2011

Traveling England - London

Arrived in London – We went directly to the “Tube” Station(Subway) and tried to buy tickets at one of the electronic Kiosks but found that they couldn’t read our credit cards. Apparently most bank cards in the UK have chips in them so the card readers don’t recognize the magnetic strips. We found a booth in the rail station that books hotels & hostels and they set us up with a Bed & Breakfast called the Wellington that isn’t far from the Victoria Tube station. It is fairly centrally located and you can walk to most everything but, it is still quite a bit of walking. The room was nothing special but fairly comfortable. We took a quick nap and then headed into the city to see some of the sites. We headed over to The Tower of London, which is a fortress built by William the Conqueror, and walked around it and made our way down to the banks of the Thames river where we walked along the well-kept boardwalk until we reached the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge is very colorful & worth seeing, we happened to arrive around sunset, so we got to see it in the daylight & by the time we had crossed over the sun had set and we were able to see it at night with all of the lights on. We then walked along the opposite side of the banks of the river and stumbled on a street performance of a play but only stopped briefly to catch a glimpse. It was free and we watched it for a few minutes but, we arrived late & didn’t know what the play was about, so we continued on to the London Bridge that was also lit up. Walking along the banks we ended up going down quite a few streets that had an old typical London feel to them with the street lights, cobblestone roads, and of course plenty of pubs. We kept walking until we got to the Waterloo Tube Station where we boarded and went to the Westminster Tube Station, so that we could check out the London Eye, the largest Ferris wheel, which was lit up with bright lights and we were also able to check out Big Ben and Parliament at night when they were lit up. After that we headed back into the Westminster Tube Station and caught it back to the Victoria Tube Station where we walked back to the Bed & Breakfast to get some sleep.


Day two in London started out by eating fiber granola bars because we missed breakfast. We headed to the tube station to head over to parliament and big ben to see it in the day. The parliament building was a lot bigger than expected when walking around it during the day. On the east side there were protestors camping out protesting the war in Iraq and Tony Blair which I thought was a bit unusual as it seemed a little late in the game for that, unless they started when the war started and are just very diligent. Across from parliament is Westminster Abby, which dates back to the 600’s and is an incredible large cathedral. It is very impressive from the outside and we didn’t go inside because it is Sunday and closed to the tourist. We will probably head back Monday morning to check it out inside. After walking around a bit we jumped on the tube and headed over to St. Paul’s cathedral over by the Tower of London. It was pretty big, but not near the size of Westminster Abby. After not being able to find a donor kebab stand for lunch, we settled for McDonald’s. After it rained pretty hard for about half an hour (we took an internet break in Starbucks) we headed back to the other side of town to check out Hyde Park. This park is impressive by its size and also very nice to take a walk and enjoy the good weather. It reminds me a lot of Central Park in New York because it is so big and a lot of people go there to get away from the city, even though its still right in the middle of the city. While walking a lot the waterfront seeing people feed the pigeons, ducks and swans, we saw a kid about 10 years old trucking along talking on a cell phone. He had a bright blue shirt with big yellow letters that read “I’d do me”. It was comical. After enjoying Hyde Park for a bit we kept moving and went to the front of Buckingham Palace. We saw the guards that don’t move an eyebrow and it was bit, but not all that impressive, at least from the angle that we were at. On our way back we stopped at a few souvenir shops and looked at a few things. We also found a kebab stand which we returned to later in the evening to eat. It was good at first, but overall I think everyone was disappointed when comparing them to the kebabs we had a couple years ago in Australia.


We checked out our hotel in London and headed to the Victoria Tube/Train Station where we could use the internet to check out a few things we wanted to see during the day and look for the next nights accommodation. We then walked to the Hertz rental car station near the Victoria station and picked up our rental car. After a few minutes to get familiar with the manual gear shifter on the left hand side and the driver seat on the right hand side we were ready to head out. We started out heading to Windsor Castle, which is about 1 hour outside of London. It is a nice little town with a lot of shops and restaurants to eat at. We paid 16GBP to get into the Windsor Castle grounds and walk around. The size of the Castle is fairly impressive and we spent a good hour just walking around the grounds. Also on the inside there is the St. George Cathedral that we were able to go in and look around. It also was fairly impressive with all of its ornate detail and stone carvings. We also watched several times as the typical British Guard with black hat & pants, red uniform, and gun did his march up & down the courtyard. We then headed out of Windsor and made our way to Stonehenge. It took us about another hour to get there from Windsor. It was a nice drive and as you approach you can look out over green rolling hills with pastures where sheep are grazing. Right up on the hill are the formations of rocks and it is fairly easy to see Stonehenge sticking up on the hill. We walked around for a few moments and then headed out towards Devon & Cornwall which are providences where it is supposed to have some great views. We drove to Exeter and stopped at a gas station where we decided to keep going out towards the coast. We drove until about 9pm & then found a hotel to stay at in Truro.