July 6, 2007

After breakfast at Pip’s, the five of us (Paul, Rosemary, Matthew, Caroline, and Jason) set off for a jam-packed day in the city. Using our Oyster cards for the first time we took the 381 bus to Tower Bridge, then walked over the bridge. We decided to save the Tower of London until tomorrow, so we carried on along the Thames Walk, stopping at St. Magnus’s Church to view the interior and then heading up the hill to the Monument for the Great Fire of London.

At the Millennium Bridge we split up, with Caroline and Jason heading to St. Paul’s and Paul, Rosemary, and Matthew crossing the bridge. At the south end of the bridge is the Tate Modern gallery, which we decided to visit. The gallery is very large—it is in a huge old former power station and there are four floors of displays—so we decided to view only one floor. We picked the second floor, which is the permanent exhibition of surrealist and expressionist art. It was quite an experience. We spent quite some time in the museum, so we ended up eating our lunch just inside the front entrance.

Once lunch was finished we carried on along the south bank walk and crossed over the Westminster Bridge to get to the Parliament buildings. We discovered that Parliament was not in session, so only a tiny part of the buildings was open to the public. So we decided not to bother with that, and to go across the street to Westminster Abbey instead. Upon entering we were amazed by the size of the building. It is the main burial place for England’s kings and queens. It didn’t take as long to tour the Abbey, but it was still amazing to see the variety of people other than royalty who had been buried and commemorated there over the last few hundred years, and to feel the history that is linked by coronations going back to the 14th century.

As we left the Abbey and were standing outside deciding where to go next, Caroline and Jason turned up. We made our way to the Churchill Museum. On our way there we passed 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives. Naturally it is barricaded with a permanent police guard these days and nobody can walk down there any more. The Churchill Museum included the Cabinet War Rooms, which was the underground bunker that housed Britain’s main headquarters for the Second World War operations. Everything was left as it was on the last day of the war. There were audio presentations explaining the uses of the rooms and the people who lived and worked there. In the middle of that was the Churchill Museum, which chronicled the life of Winston Churchill from start to finish. It was amazing what he had done in his life, including even oil painting which was actually very good. The museum told you everything you could ever possibly want to know about Winston Churchill.

We were out of there just before the 6 pm closing time. Caroline and Jason took off on their own again, and Paul, Rosemary, and Matthew went over to Trafalgar Square for the Tour de France opening ceremonies. By now the crowds were large and we had difficulty in finding a good spot. Finally we found a place that wasn’t too bad, so we decided to stay put there and watch the festivities. The teams were introduced and after leaving the stage, cycled around the square a bit. Rosemary tried photographing the riders as they went past us.

Once the ceremonies were finished, we headed back to Pip and Val’s. By that time it was 9:30 pm; we walked around the neighbourhood but none of the local restaurants were serving food any more. So Pip cooked us up a massive amount of sausages, beans, and potatoes. Rosemary declined and went off to bed after having just tea and a muffin, but Paul and Matthew made a good try at eating it.

Today was the first day of our trip where we had no rain.

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