January 20 - 24, 2001

Photos & Text © 2001 by
Len Schwer
Revised 7 April 2001

To London and the Travel Inn
  The train ride from Edinburgh to London's King Cross Station takes about 5 hours, so our 9:30 AM departure from Ard-Na-Said brought us to London at about 2 PM. The train ride after leaving Edinburgh passes through some very pretty country including a stretch along the North Sea. The train passes through New Castle and I managed to take a quick picture of two of the bridges across the river, although the sunlight was blocked by the clouds. We had intermittent rain on out ride to London and saw some light snow on the ground as we approached the northern edges of the greater London area.
  From London's King Cross Station we turned in out four day Tube vouchers for London Visitor Travelcards, i.e. passes that allowed us unlimited access to Zones 1 & 2 (most of London) for $25 each. We opted for the Circle Line as it took us to Westminster Station without a change of trains and having to drag our luggage. I had planned our trip to arrive in London on a Saturday so as to minimize the probability of traveling in crowded tube cars with our bags.
  After arriving at Westminster Station it was only a few blocks walk
across the Thames to our room at the Travel Inn County Hall. The County Hall used to be the seat of government for the county surrounding London. Margaret Thatcher decided a county government was not necessary for London and abolished the organization. The building has been taken over by Marriott Hotels on one end and Travel Inn on the other with the London Aquarium in the middle.
  Our room was very large and everything in the building was fairly new. There were two oddities about the Travel Inn: 1) the phone could only be used for room-to-room calls, unless you bought a special phone card from the front desk, 2) the beds only had one sheet. After the first night I asked at the front desk and received a second set of sheets for our beds. I only recently found out from a UK friend that the comforters on the bed are changed after every guest, so the second set of sheets are not needed as opposed to the States where the comforters are probably never changed! The central location and low price £80 made the Travel Inn an ideal place for us to setup our London base.
Train to London
North Sea View
New Castle Bridges
Travel Inn double bed for Len
Travel Inn day bed for Boy Wonder
Clothes rack, storage and desk

London Tour
Golden Tours - Historic & Modern London
  Sunday was our first full day in London and we had scheduled an all day tour of London as a way of getting an overview of the city and making sure we visited all the real tourist type places. This was a great tour despite weather, rain meant no changing of the guards, and the fact that there were Sunday morning services in Westminster Abby meant we could not tour the inside. Although rather expensive at £51 ($77) the tour lasts the entire day, we were picked up and dropped off near our hotel, and lunch was included. Plus our guide, a young fellow named Clive, had an excellent combination of in depth knowledge with a brilliant sense of humor. So our group of about 16 (all American) tourists had a great tour of London despite the weather and missed opportunities; I always feel that since everything is new to me, even driving around on the bus, to kill time in lieu of the changing of the guards, is very interesting!
  Our first tour stop was Westminster Abby. As mentioned, the in-progress Sunday service precluded us from going inside the Minster, but we did tour around the Abby as Clive filled us in on the history of the Abby and some of the famous people buried in and near.
  Our bus parked near Buckingham Palace for a photo opportunity, but because of the rain the spectacle of the Changing of the Guards was not going to take place. However, we did witness the change of some other form of guard, but no band and bright red uniforms for this guard.
  After the Palace stop we had an early lunch break at the Albert's Pub. This was our first pub food experience and it was quite good. Augie went for the fish & chips and I had a nice lamb & potato stew. The Albert Pub is near Parliament and is part of a series of pubs within an 8 minute walk of the Parliament where a bell sounds when
there is only 8 minutes left for the Members of Parliament to walk back and cast their vote by walking through the appropriate doorway to be counted Yea or Nay. The British are very practical people.
  After lunch we drove around the city in an effort to make up for the time we would have spent at the Palace if the guard had changed. We stopped at St Paul's Cathedral so we could snap a picture, and say we had been where Princess Diana was wed. St Paul's is a landmark in London and was chosen as one end of the Millennium Bridge, a footbridge that spans the Thames, but since shortly after it opened, it has been closed because it moves too much as people walk across the bridge.
  Our next adventure was a brief downriver ride on the Thames to pass under the Tower Bridge on our way to the Tower of London. Because of the rain we sat inside the tour boat and the heat of all the bodies steamed up the cabin windows, so there was not much of a view. However, the Tower of London tour was quite good. Our guide, Clive, seemed to have a great grasp of the many historic events that occurred at the Tower, mostly executions. This is where the world famous Beefeaters are the guards. They are all active military personnel who are nearing the end of their military careers and finish their terms as part of the Beefeaters. The Tower of London is also where the Crown Jewels are stored and there is an extensive series of short videos that detain people en route to view the Jewels. The various crowns that makeup the display are very interesting, but I like the way they use a moving sidewalk on each side of the glass exhibit case to keep the crowds moving past the exhibit; there is an easy return walk so you can view the jewels as many times as you like.
Westminster Abby Entrance (clock)
Westminster Abby B
Westminster Abby Courtyard
Westminster Abby Flying Buttresses
Westminster Abby F
Westminster Abby Courtyard Walkway
Westminster Abby postcard view
Albert Memorial (camera tilted)
Buckingham Palace
Palace Guards
Palace Guards B
Albert's Pub
Alberts Pub
St. Pauls
Queen Ann
Tower Bridge
Augie & Tower Bridge
Our Guide Clive
Tower Tour
Tower of London
Tower Cannon
Beefeater & beef eater

City Sights
  After our all-day tour of London, the remaining days were spent on our own visiting places not covered in the tour, but of interest to Augie and me. Probably the most interesting was the British Library where their "Treasures of the British Library" room is well worth spending a few hours looking at the many ancient bibles, including a Gutenberg Bible, Magna Charta, and modern 'treasures' like scraps of paper with the draft lyrics of Beatles songs.
  On our walk from the Travel Inn to Trafalgar Square we passed the Light Guard, can't recall what they guard, but they are just down the street from Number 10 Downing.
  Just out side the Travel Inn were a few of the classic London red phone booths and one had the glass in the door 'removed' and provided an opportunity to take a phone booth picture and avoid the camera flash reflecting from the glass. One night Augie did the Rick Steve's-recommended call home just before Big Ben chimes and gave Angela the opportunity to hear Big Ben. Our hotel was close enough to Big Ben that in the early morning hours we could hear the bell while lying in bed.
When Parliament is in session the British flag flies over Parliament, but at night you can tell if Parliament is in session by looking at the top of Big Ben. A light near the top of the tower indicated Parliament is still in session.
  Another of the interesting places we visited was the War Cabinet Rooms. These are essentially a hardened bunker under a portion of parliament where Churchill conducted much of Britain's global campaign during World War II. The rooms are displayed as they were left when the war ended and the need for such secure facilities also ended. Because of my interest in hardened facilities, everyone must have an interest, I photographed the schematic of how the ordinary basement facility was reinforced to make it more secure from bombs. In addition to a thick concrete roof slab, reinforced with train rails not just plain old rebar, numerous timbers were placed between ceiling and floor to provide addition support for the ground above.
  As part of our nightly ritual, we made our way to an Internet café. These are quite popular spots in London. On our first night in London we passed a café where the people were cued out the door waiting for access to a terminal
British Library
Light Guard
Phone Booth
Big Ben Augie Westminster Bridge
Big Ben Night
Parliament in Session
Down River from Westminster Bridge
Cabinet War Room
Roof Reinforcing
Easy Internet

The Tube
  I purchased two 4-day central zone Travel Cards for $26/each from Rail Europe that allowed us to travel to almost any point of interest in London with unlimited transfers for the four days of our stay. This was both a great bargain and convenience.
  The Tube system at fist can be a bit daunting with all the routes and transfer points, but after a few trips you quickly get the concept and come to appreciate what a great transportation system it is and why it makes London so 'livable'.
  Our 'home' station was Westminster which has a connection to the Jubilee Line which is the newest of the Tube lines. The Jubilee Line stations have a very modern appearance and maybe a bit of sci-fi
look with all the exposed supporting structure and piping of various types. The Jubilee Line also lies below most of the other lines it connects to so there are usually a few escalator rides up/down to the transfer stations. We also experienced a few very long walks along tunnels connecting one line's station to another.
  The pictures were obviously taken when there were not too many people at the station or on the trains, but generally the trains and stations are crowded. Augie read in one of the tour books that eye contact while riding on the Tube was discouraged and so he quickly learned to adopt what we called the 'Tube Position' of staring at your shoes for the duration of the ride.
Charing Cross
Tube Train
Charing Cross B
Tube Inside
Tube Position

British Museum
  The British Museum is preparing for its 250 year Jubilee in 2003 and they have redone the beautiful entry hall with its spectacular glass roof. Unfortunately they are also redoing many of the exhibit halls so some of the exhibits were not available for viewing. They also have a policy of not having all the exhibit areas open all day long. We wanted to visit the clock & watch exhibit, but were told it would not open until 3PM?
  The center core of the entry hall is the circular Reading Room where visitors have access to the stacks of books, but more popular are the electronic 'page turners' that allow you to flip through the books that are online.
  My objective in visiting the British Museum was to see the Rosetta
  Stone. It is quite a popular exhibit and thus it is not too easy to get an unobstructed picture. Unfortunately, my unobstructed picture was obstructed by a nasty reflection on the exhibit case from the room's windows.
  While walking between exhibit rooms, Augie noticed a statue of the Indian god Ganesha. Augie knew of this Indian cultural icon from his vast knowledge of India gleaned from watching the Simpsons on TV. The Indian character on the Simpsons, that runs the convenience store, has a Ganesha shrine "the god of wisdom, prudence, and salvation". We missed the 16th of January celebration of Ganesha.
Outside British Museum
British Museum Entry Hall
British Museum Glass Roof
British Museum Upper Level
British Museum Dome
Reading Room
Rosetta Stone
Indian God Ganesha 16 Jan
British Museum Us

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
  Both Augie & I wanted to visit the world famous Kew gardens. We had seen a segment on the gardens on the Rick Steves PBS travel show that covered London and it looked very interesting and a great place to walk about. Unfortunately the weather the day we visited was less than ideal to walk about so we confined out visit to the greenhouses.
  I was looking forward to visiting the Waterlily House, and was disappointed to learn the house was closed during the winter.
Interestingly, they start the entire water plant collection anew each spring and thus during the winter the ponds are drained.
  Kew Gardens is quite a distance southwest of London and we had to extend our Zone 1 & 2 Travel Cards to include Zone 3 to visit Kew. On the walk back to the station we stopped in a small grocery store and bought a mid-day snack of fresh baked buns to carry us through to our next stop.
Palm House Kew Garden
Inside Palm House Kew Garden
Kew Garden Reflecting Pond
Kew Station Augie

Globe Theater
  The recreation of the Globe Theater is an interesting place to visit. In addition to the theater, they have a museum that explains the recreation process and provides information about Shakespeare and his plays. The theater is located near the site of the original Globe on the south side of the Thames. The orientation lecture was very interesting and provided some interesting details of theater life in the days of Shakespeare, e.g. passing the bucket for relief and ladies of the night plying their trade in the crowd while the play progressed.
  The recreated theater was built using the same materials and techniques used in the original. Green oak was used for the wooden
parts of the structure and fastened together with a system of pegs; the foundation that recreated the Globe makes a point of noting that they planted more oak tress to replace those felled for the theater construction. The roof of the Globe is thatched, and is the only thatched roof in London, since the great London fire. The center of the theater is open to the sky and those that buy the cheap 'grounder' tickets have to stand before the stage under the opening and are sometimes rained upon during a performance. The only significant deviation from the original Globe design is the addition of electric lights, as most of the theater's performances are at night to accommodate the schedule of modern theater goers.
Globe 3 Tiers of Seating
Globe Orientation
Globe "Grounders"
Globe Stage
Heaven above Globe Stage
To be or not to be?

Last Day
  As could have been predicted, the nicest weather we experienced in London was on the day we departed. The cloudless sky warranted taking another set of pictures in front of Big Ben, if for no other reason that to photograph Augie without his hood covering his head.   We rode the Tube to Heathrow, which required only one change of trains from Westminster and took almost an hour. But this is a very cheap and easy way to get between Heathrow and London and is recommend to other travelers. Our departing flight was on time and not very crowded which made for a pleasant trip back to SFO.
Last Day Augie
Last Day Us
Last Day Len.jpg
Heathrow Red Carpet Club

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Photos & Text © 2001 by Len Schwer