Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Monday, 2nd October – London

We have been very busy in London, and have enjoyed each day, but this morning realized we only had 2 days left and we hadn’t visited many of London’s most famous places, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square… As we keep saying – plenty to do on our next visit. But still, we felt we ought to at least lay eyes on these places so we bought a ticket for one of those Hop-On Hop-Off open-top double-decker buses. Very touristy, but probably the most efficient way to “do” the highlights. And in fact we did enjoy it. You get a very different perspective from the top of a bus – you see over all the cars and people in the streets and notice the buildings and landmarks much more. We ‘hopped off’ at Trafalgar square but the fountains were turned off while the filters were being cleaned, and Nelson’s Column was surrounded by construction fencing as well, so we hadn’t missed much there! Our next hop-off was Buckingham Palace, where we peered through the gates with everyone else. A flurry of excitement was generated in the crowd when a horse-drawn carriage with 2 formally attired footmen drove through the gates, but I doubt if it was anybody royal, given the lack of security.

We had lunch and got back on the bus, by which time it had started to sprinkle, and then pour. Our luck with the weather has run out a bit in London (not that it matters much here). Nearly every day here has started out sunny, but there has been rain and very dark clouds at some stage of every day. Fortunately the open top of this bus was partly enclosed, and we continued in the rain. We decided no more hopping off however. But by 5 it started to clear, just as we reached the Tower of London, and the Tower Pier. The bus trip included a Thames River Cruise, so we got off for the last time and managed to catch the last cruise of the day, which went down to Greenwich and back to Westminster Bridge. The sun came out and we spent an extremely pleasant 90 minutes. The trip to Greenwich goes past the old docklands area, which is now the site of hundreds of very expensive warehouse conversions and waterfront apartments, interspersed with very old pubs and sites of historical interest, such as the Pier where Elizabeth I knighted Sir Francis Drake, and the area where provisions were delivered during the Black Death, when no-one dared enter London itself. Our guide was born in Greenwich and has worked on the river for over 50 years and knows every brick and canal like the back of his hand. He also had a great sense of humour, and made the trip especially entertaining.

We disembarked & walked to the Victoria Palace Theatre, for our last (and best) London Show – Billy Elliott. It’s a musical based on the film, with music by Elton John. Fantastic show – very funny & very moving, with some amazing dancing. I hear it’s coming to Oz soon – don’t miss it!