Today was our fourth day in London, and third full day to tour around. I’ll start this post with a London tip, but it’s actually relative to travel in general; even the best (or in our case semi-mediocre plans) are subject to change! Don’t get stressed over your plans that aren’t going the way you wish, but do “go with the flow”, and make alternate arrangements if possible, or even go spontaneous for a change and see what happens! I call the spontaneous travel a bit of “serendipity”, which occasionally happens when you’re not looking for expecting the ordinary.
On this blog post, If you just want to see the Globe Theater and Greenwich photos, skip to the end of this post. But for the full day leading up to our change of plans, please continue on!
Steve (DOS) and I started out the day with breakfast at our hotel, the Churchill Hyatt Regency. We enjoyed the buffet breakfast while discussing what we were going to do for the day and how to get there, armed with our London Travel Card, (for entrance fees to many attractions) and Oyster card (a pre-paid transportation card for the “Tube” and Bus).
Our schedule was to take the London (double-decker) red bus towards Buckingham Palace and see the changing of the Guard, followed by a tour of Westminster Abbey, and then head over towards nearby Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament for some photos, and a late lunch in a pub along the way. I could label this post, “Three Strikes and you’re out” but we made the most of it; i.e. go with the flow and don’t worry about your original plans. Trust me, you’ll be much happier than thinking you failed at your “mission for the day!”.😀
We did get on one of those fancy red double-decker buses, and even sat on the top deck. This was a public bus route, and not the Hop-on, Hop-off private (tourist type) buses which we plan to do one day before we leave London. Anyway, we lasted about three blocks before claustrophobia sank in for me (UNO), and I had to get off the bus. It really wasn’t jam packed at 10:45am, but there were people behind me having “zoom” conference calls (one man speaking in Arabic – yes I know a couple words) that were very loud and annoying. Coupled with the frequent stops of the bus due to traffic lights and others getting on and off the bus, our time came pretty soon to depart the bus!
The “Tube” can be crowded too, but somehow the public bus is a bit too confining for me; I guess the Tube goes much faster so it’s much more bearable, and it’s also quieter too, at least for people talking.
After we got off the bus, we then walked towards Buckingham Palace, which unfortunately was all detoured-up due to the celebration of the Platinum Queen’s Jubilee 70th Anniversary Celebration from the previous weekend. We knew they had a huge long-weekend celebration the weekend prior to our arrival, but figured it would be over by the Monday we arrived. We were detoured into St. James Park, which went a bunch of directions, so we just kept walking until we saw the crowds of near Buckingham Palace.
The celebration was over, but the many roads leading to Buckingham Palace were still cordoned off with barricades and construction workers, most likely un-doing the celebration festivities of the previous week.
Still, there were hundreds if not thousands of people there hoping to watch the “Changing of the Guard”, which we nick-named “Four men on a horse”, and a couple police officers”. LOL – there were several waves of guards going by at different times, but it definitely wasn’t a continuous parade like I/we thought it would be.
Strike One – no Buckingham Palace visit or even up-close photos, except for this zoomed post we were allowed to quickly take while crossing the street with the throngs of other confused tourists.
They really didn’t have any signs pointing to were to go; just “Detour” with no signs of where to go, or people to direct you towards an exit, which sent you thru acres of beautiful gardens, but not exactly where we wanted to be. The Citimaper app which we normally use to navigate also was not working due to no internet availability in the area; we were using DOS’s cellular UK plan, but either there were too many people using the internet, or it was intentionally blocked by the UK police as being so close to the Palace.
Anyway, it was a bit frustrating, but after walking and walking, we finally found our way out of the park to a Main Street. Hint to UK: Please have much better signage and/or people giving directions; there was none of either and in this tourist destination, and it was a bit like a maze trying to get out of that park. Finally we saw some signage as we exited the park.
Strike Two: When we finally got out of the gardens and moved on towards Westminster Abbey, we were semi-proud of ourselves for finding the way. That is until we got up to the side entrance, and saw a sign showing the operating hours, and of course today being Wednesday, Westminster Abbey was CLOSED!
I know, I know, we should have verified the hours, but it’s closed on a Wednesday? Anyway, we got a few nice exterior photos, and plan to go back tomorrow.
Strike Three: (sort of, partial strike). After failing at our planned touring of Westminster, we got our first glimpse of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It had been years since I was down this way, but I remember well on my first trip to London how much I enjoyed Big Ben; it was larger than life, and one of those attractions that really lives up to its name.
Of course Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey are iconic and larger-than-life as well, even if we couldn’t tour them today. 🤣
Big Ben was originally called the Clock Tower, and was completed in 1859, and is 316 feet tall. Big Ben is technically just the largest bell of the five bells in the tower, and the whole tower itself was renamed the “Elizabeth Tower” in 2012 in honor of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee for her 60 year reign. Almost everyone you talk with, however, as well as printed brochures and advertisements still call the Clock Tower “Big Ben”.
Just as a coincidence, DOS and I are here the week after the Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee, celebrating Her Majesty’s 70th year reign. Anyway Big Ben was having maintenance updated on it with some scaffolding remaining due to the ongoing work (totally understandable due to its age and the elements), and it temporarily won’t “strike, i.e. ring the bells” on the hour like it traditionally does as they don’t want to alarm or scare the construction workers at the site. I know this is temporary and not a huge “strike” as it was great to see this iconic landmark, even without the ringing of the bells.
So now we have to change our change plans for the rest of the day! Fortunately, it turned out to be a beautiful day weather-wise, with scattered clouds and sunshine, but no rain. We first walked along the Thames River, and as it was such a beautiful London day, we decided to use our one-day Uber-Riverboat pass, which was included with the London Travel Pass. And what a great day it was to use this too!
To us, the Uber Boat is one of the best transportation methods in Central London for tourists as most of the attractions are on or near the Thames River, and it’s more or less like a Hop-on/Hop-off Boat as you cruise along and see the sites. You can then use your Oyster or pay-as-you-go credit card for the Tube or Bus fare to get to and from the Thames River Bank area.
DOS and I took the Uber Boat mainly for some relaxation of our tired legs by this point, but I spotted the Globe Theater on the starboard riverbanks, and we both immediately decided to get off there and have a look. The Globe Theater tour was actually on our list of things to do while in London, and passing it on the boat was a welcome sign to tour it then.
We also got a look back at the other side of the Thames River where we could see St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I’ll attach a gallery of photos below, but suffice it to say, The Globe Theater was quite a historic an interesting place to see, both for the Shakespeare buffs, or just the tourists who enjoy history like us. We showed our London Tour pass at the ticket counter, and received a ticket for the next available tour at 1:30pm, only 20 minutes later. While waiting for our tour to start, we read thru the brochure they gave us, and while we knew this wasn’t the original Globe Theater, we didn’t realize that this one was a labor of love reconstructing it and re-opening in 1998, after years of fund-raising, permits, historical research etc.
We had a great tour guide, (just don’t say McBeth inside the theater or you’re cursed; he waited until we were outside the theater to tell us the legend of McBeth and theater curse), but for the tour itself, we sat in the premium seats and faced the stage. There was actually a technical rehearsal going on, although most of it was working on some of the stage curtains and props from backstage.
Touring the Globe Theater was truly fun with a mixed bag of history of the stage and of course Shakespeare. The theater still has nightly shows of not only Shakespeare but other shows as well, which we would love to see on a future trip when we have more time. We will just have to remember to rent a seat cushion as the wooden benches were not real comfortable! Still it beats the standing-room only section on the floor of the theater, where up to 1,000 people crowded in during Shakespeare’s day and paid a penny a person to stand up near the stage!
Here is a gallery of some of the photos we took on our tour at the Globe Theater in London.
After the Globe Theater tour, we walked back down to the river bank, and took the Uber boat again, this time a few stops east to Greenwich. As in the observatory that’s known for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is the world standard for time. It was getting late in the day by this point, and the museum closed at 4pm (we arrived around 3:15pm), so we quickly browsed thru the museum, and then on to the University of Greenwich and Royal Navy Academy grounds.
DOS and I were very impressed with the town of Greenwich, the history, the academics, and of course the observatory (which unfortunately we didn’t have time to tour), and would love to spend a day or more in this quaint area, which feels far away from bustling Central London, but still has the culture, history, and class of the Mother City, without being overwhelming with people. It is summer, so perhaps it was less busy than normal with the regular University hours being reduced for the less busy summer months.
By this point, DOS and I had had a very busy day, and were starving by this point as we had been on the go all day, but stumbled upon a pub (one of many in this university town) that was in a market square area, and had a late lunch and a brewski. I must say, I really LOVE the British pubs and their availability everywhere for a pint, lunch/dinner or both! What a great British tradition!
After our late lunch, which was really more like an early dinner, DOS and I walked around the town of Greenwich a bit more before heading back to the Thames River to take our Uber Boat back to Westminster, where we would transfer to the Tube back to our hotel.
We had watched quite a few You Tube videos on London tips and customs, and we were warned about taking the Tube during rush hour, which was roughly 5:30pm to 7:30pm and in the morning from 7:30am – 9:30am, not that it was unsafe, but it was ultra-busy, which it was! OMG was the tube busy at 7pm as we headed back to our hotel. Fortunately it was only a couple stops, and really not that bad as we found a place to stand near the doorway.
I’m going to sign off at this point, but here is a gallery of photos from Greenwich, which was really a great visit for us. Even without making it to the Royal Observatory (we got a photo from afar) it’s nice to say we were at the place where time is official and the world relies on its measurement as Greenwich Mean Time.