My original plan for our first full day in London was for us to go to the Tower of London. However, I saw that Friday was supposed to be sunny while the rest of the weekend was supposed to rain, so I decided to be brave and change things up in order to take advantage of the nice weather while it lasted.
I’m glad I did! We ended up walking over 36,000 steps, or 16 kms. We started out by tracking down a cell service provider so Neil could get a U.K. cell phone plan. Then we walked down Oxford Street.
We came across this statue of William Shakespeare in Leicester Square. The inscription reads: “This enclosure was purchased, laid out and decorated as a garden by Albert Grant ESQ M.P and conveyed by him on the 2nd July 1874 to the Metropolitan Board of Works to be preserved for ever for the free use and enjoyment of the public.” The statue of Shakespeare is modelled after the one in Westminster Abbey. Here, he holds a scroll that contains a quote from Twelfth Night: “THERE IS NO DARKNESS BUT IGNORANCE.” (So terrifyingly fitting these days.)
There are beautiful buildings just about everywhere you look in London. I made Neil stop on Irving Street so I could take a picture of these ones.
We walked around Trafalgar Square and then spent a couple of hours in the National Gallery. We could have spent days in there! We didn’t have time to go to the nearby National Portrait Gallery, but I’m hoping we can go there the next time we go to London.
A view of Trafalgar Square from the steps of the National Gallery.
In addition to the many priceless paintings, the architecture of the National Gallery building is itself a work of art.
Some beautiful impressionist paintings by Monet and Renoir.
We met up with one of Neil’s coworkers at Mildred’s for lunch. Then we proceeded down Whitehall Road with the goal of walking past some of London’s most famous sites.
Whitehall Road takes its name from the Palace of Whitehall, which was the main royal residence between 1530 and 1689 (including King Henry VIII.) With 1,500 rooms, it was the largest palace in Europe. Unfortunately, it burned down in 1698 with only the Banqueting House surviving.
The weekend we were there was the same as the celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday and the Trooping of the Colour. I had a hunch that we wouldn’t be getting anywhere near this part of town on the day of the event, Saturday, so we decided to see the sites when it wasn’t as crowded.
We came across Horse Guard’s Parade where the big military march would be taking place the next day.
A regal looking pair.
We walked all the way down to Parliament Square and came across Sir Winston.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. (Fittingly, Sir Winston is keeping his eye on them.)
Westminster Abbey is another site we will have to return to in the future.
Walking past Westminster Abbey.
The gates of Buckingham Palace.
We’ll try to do a tour another time.
The Canada Gate.
What was surprisingly touching was the Canada Memorial in Green Park, just to the North side of Buckingham Palace. It commemorates all the Canadian soldiers killed in WWI and WWII.
It was really beautiful and peaceful. An inscription at the centre of the memorial reads, “In two world wars one million Canadians came to Britain and joined the fight for freedom. From danger shared, our friendship prospers.”
We popped into the Buckingham Palace gift shop where I had my choice of corgi souvenirs. You’ll be pleased to know I picked up one that was wearing a royal robe.
Hurray, a walk through Hyde Park! And I come across my first garden of the trip!
Did I mention that 2016 was the year of the English Garden? Surely that wasn’t a coincidence.
There were so many geese along the Serpentine, including these fluffy goslings.
We were so happy to find the Diana Memorial playground and fountain. People (mostly kids) are encouraged to splash around and play in the fountain. Our feet were seriously hurting by this point.
We walked by Kensington Palace, which is where Prince Will, Princess Kate, and Prince Harry reside.
These royals sure appreciate a beautiful gate!
And a beautiful garden.
A beautiful private residence. I noticed that there were lots of little garden areas for people to enjoy.
Here’s a cool pub I wanted to check out, but we were running late to meet up with one of Neil’s coworkers for dinner. Next time! I do admire how any pub worth its salt will trim itself with a copious amount of potted plants.
Neil and I met up with his coworker in Brixton. He took us to Pop Brixton for a drink, where a collection of stacked shipping containers has been used to create a community market of independent restaurants, galleries, and shops. It was a really cool place to check out. I had my first aperol spritz there.
We ended the evening at a local pub, The Ivy.
That was the end of day two! 38,091 steps in total.