We got out of the apartment quick this morning, as we wanted to use up the last of our 24 hour bus tour. The closest stop was at the Hyde park corner, near Marble Arch, so we took a nice park walk on the way out. We were lucky to have the bus arrive after just a short wait, and it was mostly empty, so we got our choice of seats on the top. The weather was perfect, and this was the bus tour that we were hoping for.
The loop around London was beautiful, and really made up for the hot, slow bus ride the day before. We stuck with the tour up past Baker Street, down through the theater district, past several famous residences, all marked by the blue plate explaining who lived there and when. We stuck on the bus until we made it to the London Eye. This was now the third time we have come to the Eye, but the first time we have actually had tickets. The loop around the Eye is only about 30 minutes, which seems rather short for the cost, but the wait in line helps round it our to about 90 minutes, which makes it a better value for your time.
It was hot in line. We hung close to trees, seeking shade, and caught a few fortunate clouds overhead to keep us from cooking. In front of us, one older woman collapsed in the heat, which was sad to see, except for the fact that it helped move the line forward. Once up to the base, we could see that there was a wedding going on in one of the capsules, which was slowing the whole thing down. Once they were off, and the flower petals were cleaned out, the line started moving a lot faster. The skies cleared up in time for us to get in our pod, and we had an excellent view all the way around the city.
You couldn’t see the Tower or Tower Bridge, but everything else in town had a commanding view. I was glad to get a glimpse at the Battersea Power Station, from Pink Floyd Animals fame, as well as a hundred other movies and shows. It is one of my favorite bits of London architecture, very imposing yet unused. Apparently it is being converted to a shopping center, which is better than getting torn down, which has been threatened. We made snapshots all around and then just sat to enjoy the view as we slowly crept up and down around the ring. It was pretty amazing and worth the line, and three days of figuring out the tickets.
We walked down river a bit, and crossed over on the pedestrian way of the Golden Jubilee Bridge, which led us right back to Trafalgar Square. We had lunch in the cafe in the National Gallery, which was another great museum cafe, sat for a bit, and to cool off, Yulia accidentally knocked a glass of water over my leg. Fortunately I was wearing shorts, and it was on one leg only, as if it was in the center of my lap it would have looked much more conspicuous. We headed up to look at the exhibits, and just had enough energy to walk through about a quarter of the place before we were galleried out. We saw some amazing Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, and one Davinci, along with a lot of smaller works.
We had two items remaining on our checklist before we we done with our trip, The first was to swing by the Sherlock Holmes museum. We took the tubes up to Baker street, and looked around until we found it. The line was huge, and with our tight schedule we didn’t want to take the rest of the evening waiting there, so we looked around a bit and headed over to Oxford Street for our second task: shopping.
We really hadn’t had a chance to look into stores the same way we did on our trip to France, but I think this is partially because you have a boutique culture in France that you just don’t have the same way here. The shops on Oxford Street were pretty cool, starting with some really huge discount shops that weed so busy that we couldn’t even walk around, and getting more and more swank as we went further down the street. Yulia managed to find a few nice things in one shop, and we checked a few more out then headed off to dinner. We found a French pub near our apartment, and had some good food for our last night.
Back at the apartment we got checked into our flight online, and I was able to buy upgrades to World Traveller Plus, for pretty cheap. This got us much better seats, and better service to boot. We were packed and ready to go home.
We have been on the move for 20 days total. That’s a long time to travel in such close quarters, but when so much of the year is spent apart, it is good for a family to compress mentally, even while we compress physically with each other. We’ve had surprisingly few problems with the trip, and even more surprisingly few problems with each other. (But a few) It will be some time before we take a trip this large again, but it worked out well this time, and was worth the risk and cost.
I have said before, I have two very good traveling partners, and they make this time worthwhile.