London Stories and Tips

Wandering the Southbank and Visting the Tower

Gabriel's Wharf Photo, London, England

We had a slow start this morning and slept in a bit. We had breakfast about 9:30. The breakfast comes with and in the room as well, a tray of tea and juice and a mix of rolls and sweet rolls served in our room every day. We got on the way about 10 and determined the location of the airbus stop and the times.

The weather looks promising, *finally* so we took the tube to Waterloo station to see about the London Eye. Yes, there are actually blue patches and hundreds and hundreds of people in line for tickets and for the ride. We passed. We decide to walk along the south bank of the Thames, the "Millenium Mile" to Southwark. It's not all that pretty along the river really, rather industrial, with lots of tour boats and barges. There doesn't seem to be any pleasure craft on the river which is odd really. There's a lot of money in London, a lot of upscale condos but no private sailboats! Perhaps the Thames current is too strong for a leisurly sail.

We came across an open air second hand book sale and browsed the tables. We found Gabriel's Wharf which is a little square of shops but being Sunday, most of them are closed. A little farther in a rather sorry looking little garden, a man, who saw our cameras, told us about the free public viewing deck on the Oxo tower which was just there. We went up there for an 8th floor view over the City of London and the river and that was great. I love to go up high places for a view. Neither of us are into modern art so we skipped the new Tate Modern on the Southbank, built into a massive old power plant.

We reached the new Globe theatre but Carole who isn't really into Shakespeare wasn't interested and I didn't want to leave her waiting for an hour or more while I went though it so we just browsed in the shop at the visitor center and had lunch in the café there. We decided instead to go to the Tower of London as we were pretty close. We walked a bit farther, where there is a replica of the Golden Hinde, Sir Walter Raleigh's ship that he sailed around the world in and let me tell you, seeing that small boat doesn't instill you with the confidence that you'd ever manage to return home on a voyage like that with next to no navigational aids. (Before the discovery of longitude, remember!) Behind that was Southwark Cathedral, mostly under scaffolding. The south bank was historically a very unsavory part of London but at least the waterfront is all spiffed up now with shops, galleries, the Tate Modern and a new millenium footbridge linking the Tate with St. Paul's.

We took the tube from London Bridge to the Tower. Traffic outside of the relative peaceful hour or two walk along the waterfront seemed very intrusive. There was a longish queue for tickets to the Tower and it was probably the most expensive attraction we've paid for but the line moved fairly quickly. We didn't bother joining the several hundred deep crowd waiting to be guided around the grounds by a Beefeater, or Yeoman Warder, though if he and his followers were nearby we would stop and listen to his exaggerated tales of blood and guts! We did notice that he was stopping people from videotaping his stories so we wondered if it was because there was a video for sale in the shops. I forgot to look. (See the review in this journal for more detail on the Tower). We spent a couple of hours there and could have spent a couple more quite easily if our energy wasn't flagging. I'd recommend going there first thing in the day, not after a 2 hour walk!

A quick browse in the crowded gift shop, a few photos of Tower Bridge and we're back to the underground for a very slow and painful trip back on the Circle line. Lots of delays so it was almost a 20 minute wait and by then the train was packed. The train went so slow between the first few stops, including a few unscheduled stops in the tunnels that it felt more like it was being pedalled! Made it back finally and trudged down the road.

I am absolutely staggered that my feet only hurt a little today. I should feel like I'm going to be crippled for life about now! I was yesterday with not nearly as much walking and standing. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and it was quite good actually. It's vastly different from when I stayed here before and a vast improvement in ambiance and food.

Home tomorrow. Not looking forward to the trip but very much looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. This was a long trip. London, then a week in Manchester doing side trips, a day in Stoke shopping, Glasgow and Edinburgh and a tour in Scotland and back to London again. We've been gone a month and it was about a week too long. We did enjoy everything though, immensely! We did independent stuff and organized tour stuff. We had a great time meeting up with friends. The weather could have been better but at least held good for the bus tour.

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