Day 2 - London Explorer Day, National Gallery of Art,
We began our day with a six-hour walking tour of London. We arrived a little early, so we walked around and saw a few sites.
The tour was called 'London Explorer Day', and our tour guide was Helena. In the pictures, Helena is wearing the purple toboggan and pink coat. We were lucky because this is the last time that the London Explorer Day, so we were told, will be held. The day was cold, but the sun was out, so it actually made for a nice tour.
We met our guide at Big Ben at 10:00 a.m. There were about 20 people on the tour. We saw some famous places like Parliament, Churchill's statue, Westminster Abbey, Queen Anne in the Gate, St. James's Park, Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guard, St. James Palace, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and Whitehall Street.
Helena was very knowledgeable and had the timing down for us. Instead of taking us up to the palace gates, she had us stand along the road leading up to the palace. That way we were able to watch the guards come marching up the road. Mark took some pictures. Unfortunately, the batteries went dead, so he was quickly changing them as the guards came marching by.
We then got on a river cruise down the Thames. It was a nice relaxing ride to the Tower of London.
One of the most memorable parts of the tour was the Tower of London. The tower has been many things, including a palace, zoo, and prison. We had the opportunity to see the crown jewels. Very interesting. After the tour was over, we spent another hour just walking through the towers. From the outside, the tower seems small, yet foreboding. However, once inside, the towers and grounds seem quite impressive. We went inside several towers. One of the towers is where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned for many years. As we walked up the very narrow, steep stairs, one can begin to appreciate the history that this landmark represents. Of course, we saw the Crown Jewels, something everyone should see.
After the tower, Mark and I came back to the apartment, picked up our Ceremony of the Keys tickets and dashed back to the National Gallery of Art. Great pictures. Great artists. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Vincent Van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer, Monet. A person could spend days in the museum. Unfortunately, our time was limited. We decided to grab a bite to eat at the National Gallery's cafe. Big mistake. The waitress was ditzy. I'm being kind. The food was sad. Enough said. No pictures were allowed.
About 8:30 p.m. Mark and I headed back to the Tower of London. We were going to the Ceremony of the Keys. The Ceremony of the Keys is a great event, and I'd recommend it to tourists. The thing to remember about the ceremony is that you need to get tickets in advance. So, plan well ahead--about two months. We were fortunate in that only about 50 people were there. Normally, there's perhaps three times as many. I'm sure the season influenced the attendance at the event. Pictures are not allowed, so Mark was not able to take pictures.
The head "beefeater" checked us in and then walked us down to the main entrance to the tower. He explained what would happen. He also told the short people to get in front. Thank goodness. I was very, very lucky. I was on the front row and right in front of the entry way. So, I was able to see the guards come marching down and the keys exchanged. It certainly was a fun event.
At around 10:15 p.m. Mark and I headed back to the apartment. What a day! Our feet were sore; our legs ached. But, the day was certainly fun.