London Log: Day 4 - Westminster, Winston, Galleries, and City Cruise
I am so behind in my London Log because we have been busy! I started this while still in London, but now it is July 24th, and I must record before the memories fade!
Wednesday was . . .
Two "W" things: Westminster Abbey and Winston (Churchill) War Rooms.
Two Galleries: National Gallery and Courtauld
Two "C" things: City Cruise, Covent Garden, and Charing Cross Road #84
I listened to a YouTube video that said that The Regency Cafe was the #1 rated restaurant in London, and it was only a 12 minutes away from our hotel room. We went there on our way to Westminster Abbey, but it was JAMMED packed! It is a little hole in the way, mom and pop type of place with traditional English food. We were sorry to miss it, but we had to get on to our exciting date at the Abbey!
We got there early (since we had planned to eat breakfast), and we stopped to get a coffee for George at a street barista, and we struck up a lovely conversation with a woman from Anaheim! She has lived here for 30 years and works as director of promotions for the Abbey. She recommended we go to the cafe outside the cloisters of the Abbey. We knew that there was a cafe inside, but we did not know it opened BEFORE the Abbey. Score! We had our first traditional English Breakfast! This one even include blood pudding which I later learned was actually pig's blood!
The breakfast was pretty amazing, and I didn't mind the blood pudding whatsoever!
We got into the London Pass line which was longer than the regular line to buy tickets, but I think they let all the London Pass people in first. I had put my app on and had my London Pass ready to go, but then it was asking me for a verification code. What? I must have accidentally deleted the tickets while it was open! No worries, George had the London Pass letter. I had made copies of all my letters that included my codes and confirmation numbers for just such an occasion! My hard copy was kept by the woman in the London Pass office when we went to pick up our copies of the guidebooks, but I told George to bring his. Brilliant! Only George only brought it on Tuesday and did not see any need to bring it on Wednesday. Woops! Well, I had also sent all the confirmation letters in on email, but my iPhone had deleted mine. George had his, but every time I went to make his screen bigger so I could read the numbers, it started to scroll down to the next email (the disadvantages of me having an iPhone and George having an android). I started getting very anxious as the line was starting to move as the doors opened. But never fear! We got the numbers off his phone and written down for future disasters just as we came to the front of the line. (After stressing about it, I prayed instead of panicked.) What is weird is that I had every other confirmation number ALSO in our itinerary, but this was the only one I did not put in there.
Anyway. "W" is for Westminster, but it is also for WOW! We could take no pictures, but it was so solemn and lovely. I was able to see some of my favorite peep's graves or memorials (and I am not going to list them because there were LOTS). There are not words to describe the wonder of being in that place. I especially liked that they pause once an hour for all the visitors and clergy to stop for silent prayer. How cool!
The second WOW of the the day was the Winston Churchill's War Rooms. That was fascinating, and there was no line when we went in at about 11 am. We met some people at Blenheim Palace later on in the week, and they said they did not go in because the line was so long. So glad we did it in the morning. The earlier one can do these things the better. These War Room were the center of military operations during World War II and the Blitz. Hundreds of people lived underground for six years! Many worked and then went home, but many stayed in the bunker and slept. All the original things were all intact. The audio commentary was fascinating and included excerpts of interviews with people who had worked there. The exhibition was very good, and it made me wish we had more people like Churchill to lead our world like he did during World War II.
After this, we headed up to the National Gallery. It was room after room of beautiful paintings. I was spellbound. I did follow Rick Steves' highlights because you could spend hours and hours in there! I would stop at a painting that he recommended and then I would listen to the audio commentary we got with our London Pass. One fun thing: we saw the Della Francesco Nativity painting that Cora and Bricker looked at in an episode of Downton Abbey. Our laugh of the day was this:
Here was are in the one of the best art galleries in the world, and these teenagers are all sitting looking at their phones and not even looking at the paintings! We saw this in more than one room in the National Gallery! Youth is wasted on the young. I was the same when I was young. My mom took me to the Prado in Spain, and I was bored stiff. I would die to go to the Prado again!
We both laughed so George snapped this picture with me standing in the background! After we did that, we had a very long conversation with the guard. He said this happens all the time. He says that people also just walk into his room, turn their video on and just go in a circle filming the paintings and not even looking at them! We all three had a very good laugh!
We had planned to have tea there, but we decided to move on to the Courtauld since we had such a big breakfast.
The Courtauld Gallery was a precious delight. It is much smaller with hardly any people. I would say that 90% of it contained paintings we really enjoyed. It had Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. You can read about it HERE. This was a lovely gallery and possibly my favorite of the six that we visited (Tate Britain and Modern, National, National Portrait, Queen's, and Courtauld).
The weather was great, and we were not so sure about how it would be on Thursday so we decided to walk to Westminster Pier for a City Cruise (part of our London Pass). There was a huge line, but we managed to get our 24 hour ticket and knew we could use it before 4:30 on Thursday if we did not make it on the boat, but we did. There was a ton of teenagers, but there was also a lovely Muslim family from Birmingham that we talked to. I should also mention that we walked along the north bank of the Thames, and every bar was filled with young London professionals in their dress shirts and pants drinking and visiting after work.
We went to dinner at Wagamana Noodle Bar at the Tower. They are a chain in London, and we had hoped to eat there at least once. It was great!
We decided to walk over to see Covent Garden and other things as we made our way to 84 Charing Cross Road. I had read the famous book by Helen Hanff about it, and sadly, it is no longer a rare book shop but a McDonald's! It has a different address now, but George noticed that there was a plaque on the wall commemorating that this is indeed the spot of 84 Charing Cross, and the McDonald's worker said there were always people coming to look at it. Funny!
We were on our way home on the Tube, but silly me decided that if we got off at Hyde Park Corner station, we could walk through Hyde Park even though we had walked so much already! Hyde was filled with people, but it was exciting and beautiful (then we found out there had been a major clash with police the day before)!
Here is our sunset walk:
Of course, we had to walk to the Peter Pan Statue for another Literature Geek Out about J.M. Barrie's classic! It is also the site where Mary breaks up with Tony in Downton Abbey!
We walked 10 miles, and I wished we had taken the Tube for some of our connections, but it was such a beautiful day! We figured when you added on all the walking we did in the sites we visited, it was closer to 12 miles! Lots of walking for our Wednesday!