During our week-long stay in London (June 27 to July 2, 2011), we resided at the Crowne Plaza London-St. James hotel, which is conveniently located near the Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. The rooms were of reasonable size and fairly comfortable. We paid for two non-smoking standard rooms that included continental breakfast, costing about $500 U.S. per night. It was worth the price.
Also, we bought the Oyster Card so that we could travel limitlessly via the underground metro. The Oyster Card is used like a debit card; one puts a certain amount of money on it and then adds more as needed. This avoids buying multiple tickets each time the metro has to be used.
- Buckingham Palace (June 26-27)
- Changing of the Guard at the Palace (June 27)
- Westminster Abbey (June 27)
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (June 27)
- Piccadilly Circus (June 27)
- Horse Guards (June 27)
- Trafalgar Square (June 27)
- National Portrait Gallery (June 27)
- M&M Store, London (June 27)
- Soho District – China Town (June 27)
- Kensington Palace and the Orangery (high tea) (June 29)
- Diana’s Memorial Playground Park (June 29)
- River Thames (June 30)
- St. Paul’s Cathedral (June 30)
- Tower of London (June 30)
- London Bridge (June 30)
- British Museum (July 1)
- Shakespeare’s Globe (July 1)
June 27, 2011
During our first day in London, we visited the Buckingham Palace. We were not able to explore inside, because the Queen and her staff were conducting her daily activities at the time. For the summer visits, the Palace is only open during August and September when the Queen is at one of her other residences (see the Royal Collection website under Resources for more information).
In the morning (around 10AM), we were able to see the changing of the royal guards at the garrison nearby the Palace.
Next, we headed down Birdcage Walk to St. James Park and past the Guards Museum. Our wanderings brought us to Westminster Abbey. The abbey was founded in 960 under King Edgar and St. Dunstan; and was re-endowed by and enlarged by King Edward. However, King Edward passed away before it was consecrated in December 16, 1065.
Throughout history, the Abbey was expanded, rebuilt, and changed. It was a place of worship, setting of coronation since 1066, memorials, and several other royal occasions.
After marveling the Gothic beauty of the Abbey, we admired the sight of the Big Ben and Houses of Parliament across the street. Admittedly, my earliest recognition of the Big Ben was the Disney movie, The Great Mouse Detective (1986) as well as brief encounters in English literature.
We then took the metro to Piccadilly Circus—a junction that connects the shopping and entertainment districts to Regent Street. We had an English lunch (steak and kidney pudding) at one of the bistros nearby.
Afterwards, we headed to Trafalgar Square, where we took a look at the monuments and monument for the countdown to the London Summer Olympics of 2012.
We spent a few hours at the National Portrait Gallery at the Square, looking at the notable works of English, French, Spanish, and Flemish painters. I was impressed at the works of Vincent Van Gogh that I purchased a book of the works in the Gallery.
A trip to Marks and Spencer satisfied our hunger for fruits, drinks, and tea. Then, we headed towards the M&M Store.
For dinner, we went to the Soho district and had Chinese food.
June 28, 2011
We went on a tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath.
June 29, 2011
We spent the day at Kensington Palace and Gardens, a 17th century royal palace that has been used by several monarchs throughout history. We did not tour the interior of the palace but explored the gardens, which were nice but would be nicer during the spring time with the flowers in bloom.
Our purpose of going to Kensington Palace was to have afternoon high tea at the Orangery—an 18th-century building that once held several court events. We ordered three tea sets including a 3-tier pastry rack of finger sandwiches, scone with cream, chocolate cake, and heart-shaped shortbread cookie. It was scrumptious!
After the meal, we walked along the park to the Serpentine Lake to see the swans and ducks and Diana’s Memorial Playground Park.
We returned to the hotel via metro and changed to see a stage show at 7:30 PM.
Before the trip, we purchased tickets to see the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket, London. Each ticket at the time was about £54.00, which includes a restoration fee for the theatre. The show was well performed with elaborate stage setting and singing. The costumes were quite elaborate. Also, the theatre was reasonably comfortable and well decorated.
After the show, we headed to the Soho district for a quick Chinese dinner before heading back to the hotel to turn in for the night.
June 30, 2011
The following day we walked along the River Thames.
We visited St. Paul’s Cathedral and toured the interior with an audio guide that we purchased at the service desk. We climbed to the dome (Golden Gallery) up the narrow steps and looked at the beautiful sight below. Then, we explored the crypt.
After visiting the Cathedral, we had fish and chips for lunch at a pub nearby. Next, we passed the Tower of London and crossed the London Bridge and explored the other side before heading back to our hotel for the night.
July 1, 2011
Today, we went to the British Museum, which is free to the public daily from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM. The museum houses several artifacts from all over the world, warranting exploration. We purchased an audio guide at the service desk using my student identification card for £4.50. It was a great learning experience overall.
Following the museum tour, we had lunch and then went to see Shakespeare’s Globe located along the River Thames. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the tours of the Globe had ended. Instead, we visited the gift shop to purchase a few souvenirs.
For dinner, we went to the Porters Restaurant for an English meal of steak and salad. Afterwards, we turned in for the night. Tomorrow (July 2nd) was the day we would return home.
There were a few sights that we did not see, such as Platform 9 ¾, Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes Museum), and the interior of Shakespeare’s Globe. Undoubtedly, London is worth revisiting despite the food. I am amazed at the history of this city after hearing and reading about it. It truly was an enjoyable experience.
Dean and Chapter of Westminster. (2012). Westminster Abbey. Retrieved from http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/abbey-history
Historic Royal Palaces. (2012). Historic Royal Palaces: Kensington Palace. Retrieved from http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/
The Royal Collection. (2012). The Royal Collection: Royal Palaces, Residences and Art Collection. Retrieved from http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/
The Royal Household. (2012). Official Website of the British Monarchy: Buckingham Palace. Retrieved from http://www.royal.gov.uk/theroyalresidences/buckinghampalace/buckinghampalace.aspx