We woke on day 4 preparing for a London city tour. Breakfast was, again, typical European fare - bread, bread, meat, and more bread. No beer this time, or for the rest of the trip, unfortunately.
After breakfast, we had a brief walk to Hyde Park where we met our tourguide, Simon. Simon first walked us through Hyde Park, which was massive. While walking through, we saw Kensington Palace, one of the royal residences. Even from afar, it was massive. As we walked further, we encountered a Princess Diana memorial park and some of the royal guards on horseback, which we would see more of later. Exiting the park, we walked through Hyde Park Corner, one of the busiest roundabouts in the UK. Pretty cool, but nothing you couldn't see elsewhere.
Following the park, we took a short walk to Buckingham Palace.One of the reasons we had gone to Buckingham that day was to see the Changing of the Guard. Well, luck was not with us on this day. The Queen was making her first trip to Ireland the next day, and an Irish radical group had sent in a bomb threat around the Palace. We were unaware of this as we were around the Palace, but found out later that night. Tough luck. Precautions were being taken everywhere. The Changing was cancelled and the Mall, which was a big street leading to Buckingham, was shut down completely.
Following Buckingham, we visited more parks, gardens, and ponds. The flora and fauna was, admittedly, very cool.
We then went to Downing Street, which is the UK equivalent of Capitol Hill, and saw the Admiralty and other military and governmental buildings. There was a large courtyard that was being prepped for Queen Elizabeth II's birthday, which was about 3 weeks after we visited.
Following Downing street, it was a short walk over to Westminster Abbey.We didn't get to go in, but just seeing it from the outside was an awesome experience.
Next came Big Ben and the Parliament buildings. We, again, didn't go in, but photo opportunities abound!
Following that brief stop, we took the Tube over to the Tower of London. The Tower of London isn't a tower at all. Rather, it is a large fort that served as the nerve center of London back in the 1400's. Public executions were held nearby, there is a church and school inside (the church is still operational and houses the tombs of some royalty) as well as a museum housing many historical English artifacts. Serving as guardians and tourguides of the Tower were military called Yeoman Warders. The outfits they wear are pretty outrageous, but their service is not. In order to become a Tower guard, a Yeoman Warder must have served at least 30 years in the Royal Military. The Warders and their families live within the walls of the Tower, and know everything about the Tower, even down to the names of the resident Ravens.
The main artifact in the Tower is the Royal Crown Jewels. Crowns dating back to the 14th century are contained in the museum. Unfortunately, the Warders were hawking the room containing the jewels real well so I wasn't able to take any photos of the crowns. I did, however, manage to snap this "illegal" picture of royal maces:
Immediately outside the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge. This, contrary to popular belief, is NOT the London Bridge. It is, however, more famous than the London Bridge. We got lucky here, though, as the Tower Bridge opens an average of once every three days. Well, it opened while we were there. The little things...
After the Towers, we headed to lunch. Following lunch, we walked across the Tower Bridge and explored the area. We then took the Tube home and took a nap to prepare for the night's activities.
That evening, we went to a club called the Picadilly Institute. It was very nice and we all had a fun time. It was a great way to cap off a great day.
With the fact that this was such a packed day, I'm going to leave the following, and last day in London, for another post. To cap it all off, here are some miscellaneous pictures from the day. Again, please feel free to leave any questions or comments.