London Baby!!

I must admit that I have had a rather bleak outlook on living in the UK. Even though I have had a chance to visit a lot of nice places and have made great friends at work, the environment, weather and being away from Cornel were depressing me. This past weekend was enough to change my mind about the UK and have even had me considering making a trip back for a visit. What changed my mind? Well, ...London, Baby!!!

Cornel flew to Manchester to help me celebrate my last weekend in the UK and we decided to go to London. It is only a few hours from Manchester, but the train cost over 100 pounds per person so we decided to take the bus. There was only one drawback to the bus, and that is that it left at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Being the sane minded individual that I am, you would have thought that after picking up Cornel at the airport at 10 p.m. we would have gone straight home and to bed to rest up for the trip, and on any other normal weekend this would have been the case. This particular Friday, however, was the big office going away party at a bar near downtown Manchester, and of course I had to go. I left the party early to go to the airport, but after picking up Cornel my friends called to let me know that they were going to my friend Christina's house for the after-party, so we hopped in a cab and off we went until 2 a.m., which made getting up for the bus at 4 a.m., very difficult.

We managed to make it to the bus on time and slept pretty much the entire way down to London. Everyone had told me that going on the bus was a nightmare, and that it was worth the money to go by train. So, I offer the following suggestion if you are brave enough to take the bus: arrive at the bus station completely sleep deprived and hung-over, this will make anything, including the bus seats seem like a bed at the Ritz.

As soon as we arrived in London, I noticed that the atmosphere was completely different and there were people (normal people) out in the streets enjoying their Saturday afternoon, locals as well as tourists. When we arrived at Victoria Station in true London fashion we took the Underground (subway) to our hotel.

Cornel had picked an amazing hotel across the street from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, since it was still early, we couldn't check in so we left our luggage and headed straight to the Tower of London. From here, you had amazing views of Tower Bridge and the financial district including the egg building. We went into the Tower Shop where we saw a knight's armour, and I had to take a picture. I had seen many knight armours before, but never one so well endowed, this must have been some knight!

We went into the Tower of London and took a Yeoman Warden (Beefeater) Tour and had a great time. Some of the stories were interesting and we enjoyed walking the grounds. We also saw the infamous black ravens of the tower,

and Cornel took a picture with our tour guide (and they were coincidentally dressed almost the same!)

We walked the grounds a bit more and arrived at the building where they housed the famous crown jewels. They wouldn't allow you to take any pictures inside the building, but we did sneak one in of the guard outside.

After the tour, we walked the grounds some more and enjoyed all of the views the different towers had to offer. On our way out we even made a new friend!

We left the tower and made our way to Tower Bridge, which I'm sure you'll recognize from every movie ever made in London.
We walked down to the Tower and enjoyed the views.
After the Tower Bridge, Cornel and I hopped on one of the double decker tour buses and saw a bit more of London including the London Eye. We made our way to Picadilly Circus, which apparently is where they filmed the Matrix. I however, have not seen any of the movies and the symbolism was lost on me, but I enjoyed taking pictures none the less.

We continued walking through Trafalgar Square and through the gardens on the Diana Memorial Walk. At the end of the garden we came across Buckingham Palace. It was not as beautiful as I imagined, but was still incredible to see. And of course, we had to take a picture of the guard outside.

After the palace, we walked down to Westminster Abbey where we had a great view of Big Ben and the Parliament Palace, and of course Churchill.

We went down to the Westminster Pier and got a closer look at the Eye and the aquarium.

We made our way down to see the house of Gordon Brown (10 Downing Street) but with all the security, we only managed to get a view of the sign. On the way we did get a chance to see a guard on duty, and since he is not allowed to move, we couldn't resist the chance to take a picture with him!

We decided to go back to the Hotel and get ready for dinner. On the way we came across the red telephone booths, and being the picture nut that I am, I had to take one!

We managed to make our way to the Underground and get back to the hotel.

We showered, and we realized that we were too exhausted for dinner, so we rested up for the next day. We woke up rather early and opted out of the full English breakfast (or heart-attack on a plate as I like to call it), and had just pastries and coffee.

We headed down the Pier and enjoyed a nice cruise down the River Thames. It was a gorgeous morning and the views were spectacular. We docked and continued our tour of London.

We wanted to go the famous Madam Tussaud's wax museum, but the line wrapped around the building, and we decided to save that for another day. Just down the street from the wax museum is the famous Sherlock Holmes house, so we made our way down and posed with the constable outside the door. I think I look smashing in a hat and smoking a pipe.
Our bus left at 5:30 so we had a lot to do in very little time, so we left Sherlock Holmes and took the underground to go and see the famous Shakespeare Globe Theatre. The views from here were also amazing.

After the Theatre, we walked down the bridge to see St. Paul's Cathedral. It was more beautiful than I had imagined.

After this we wanted to see the famous London Dungeons. We enjoyed a nice walk down the pier towards London Bridge enjoying the sights, including an old Pirate Ship and haunted prison.

On the way to the London Dungeon, we came across the "London Bridge Experience", a mix museum/history/haunted house since the bridge was built upon the graves of plague victims. There was even a bit of Arizona, when they talked about how the original bridge was bought and put up in Lake Havasu. Once we left I noticed that Cornel's hand was nearly bleeding from the nail marks I had made through the haunted house, I guess his were screams of pain and not fear!

We left and continued our walk and came across a pretty shopping center. This was our last stop before we made our way back across Tower Bridge to the hotel to get our luggage and head back to Victoria Station to go back to Manchester.

We had a great weekend and have already started making plans on what we will see the next time we are in London. The Jack the Ripper Tour, Madame Toussaud and Kensington Garden are first on our list. We'll see if we can squeeze in afternoon tea with the Queen.

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