Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trip Report: Trip to London Part 2

Jarrett Morgan | | | | |


London: Part Deux

This is part 2 of our holiday trip to the UK and London in December 2016 and January 2017. Make sure to check out our London trip part 1 and here is a little background info as a reminder:

Travel Agency: Go-Today
Flight: Delta Airlines
Destination Route: Austin to Atlanta to London
Return Route: London to New York to Austin
Hotel: London House Hotel

Day 3 (Continued)

So last I wrote, Jarrett and I had returned from Bath and Stonehenge.  It had been a long day, and we were EXHAUSTED. Yeah, that’s right.  I’m a millennial and I capitalized a word, because I cannot put enough emphasis into how exhausted we were, particularly me. After a nice dinner at a tiny Moroccan place near the hotel, Jarrett and I headed back to the hotel for a “nap.” It was too late for us to try to get any tickets to view the celebrations by the Thames; the city limits the amount of people that can attend those celebrations with the fancy fireworks, and you have to get them months in advance.  However, we planned on going to Primrose Hill with a bottle of champagne to welcome 2017.

London Eye Fireworks for New Years. From traveljee.com
London Eye Fireworks for New Years. From traveljee.com

Day 4: New Year’s Day

Unfortunately, my nap ended up lasting several hours because next thing I know, I wake up to find that my phone says it’s 1:00 a.m. I elbowed Jarrett to tell him we missed the New Year celebrations, and he replied with a very tired, “I know. I tried waking you up several times, and you kept telling me ‘no’ and falling back asleep.” So, we both then got up, had some leftovers and champagne, and called it a night again.

So there you have it. Yours truly ruined our New Year’s celebration in London.  I don’t think we’ll ever get over that.

Westminster Abbey

When we arrived at Westminster, we saw a long line ahead of us.  Fortunately, the staff at Westminster are very efficient, and we were in the Abbey within 20 minutes.  Knowing there was so much history in this building, Jarrett and I made sure to purchase tickets for a guided tour at the front desk.

from  a stroll by the abbey a few nights before
Westminster Abbey at Night

We are glad we purchased the tickets because our tour guide, a verger, was phenomenal.  He guided us into various chapels where many famous monarchs are interred, including Edward the Confessor and Henry the III.  My favorite chapel though was the one where Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I are located, side by side and across from their great-grandmother, Margaret Beaufort.  However, the big crowds do not allow you to enjoy them peacefully for long.  Fortunately, there are pictures to remember that visit by.  Towards the end of the tour, we saw the tombs of notables such Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.  After the tour ended, Jarrett and I went down to see the most ancient sites within the Abbey. We were hoping for something like the tombs underneath the churches in Italy. Unfortunately, there were not very many for us to see. Nevertheless, the place is magical and I am so glad we got to go inside of it and walk around it several times.

A quick and sneaky photo from inside Westminster Abbey
A quick and sneaky photo from inside Westminster Abbey

Hampton Court Palace

Address: Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU, UK

On the same morning, Jarrett and I boarded the train and headed to Hampton Court Palace.  I am a big Tudor history geek, so it was on my “must” list. The palace is gorgeous and huge; it covers both the Tudor and the George II era.  I regret that we got there in the early afternoon because we needed more time than we had to properly explore the palace.

Inner Courtyard at Hampton Court Palace
Inner Courtyard at Hampton Court Palace

The staff at Hampton Court is spectacular.  During the Christmas season, they have guided tours where the tour guide acts as one of Queen Catherine Parr’s ladies in waiting. At the time, Queen Catherine is at another palace, anxious over King Henry VIII’s declining health.  The tourists follow along as other “noble staff.”  Through the tour, our tour guide tells the staff about the brief history of the palace at the time, all the rumors and intrigues that plagued the court, and all the nugget of historic gems hidden within the palace.

The Great Hall in Hampton Court Palace
The Great Hall in Hampton Court Palace

We toured the Georgian section of the palace individually.  I love art and had to appreciate all the treasures in there, while Jarrett was more interested in the history.  Somehow, we both still managed to finish touring the area.  Unfortunately though, we did not get enough of the palace. By the way, if you go during the winter season, Hampton Court Palace also has an ice rink. Plan accordingly for a great day and night at the palace.

William's State Chamber in the Georgian Apartments
William's State Chamber in the Georgian Appartments

After the palace closed, we headed to town to find a place to eat.  We found Poyntz Arms - Shepherd Neame, a nice and cozy place with excellent food and drinks.  It even has a nice big dog walking around, so for us, it was just perfect. 

Day 5: Warwick Castle

Address: Warwick CV34 4QU, UK
Opened: 1068
Architectural Style: Medieval architecture

Somewhat late in the morning, we boarded the train for Warwick.  I am not as knowledgeable when it comes to The Wars of the Roses, but ever since I watched The White Queen, I also wanted to appreciate the history from that period.  It is also a castle in great condition and I knew Jarrett would love to tour it to see its military prowess. 

Heading into Warwick Castle
Heading into Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is currently owned by Merlin Entertainments, the company that owns Madam Tussauds. Even before that, the Castle had been sold to Madam Tussauds itself.  It is officially a theme park, and it does an excellent job of showing historical artifacts while at the same time interacting with the tourists. It covers different eras ranging from the 1100s to the 1900s, from William the Conqueror to The Wars of the Roses to the Edwardian Era.  They have guided tours, interactive buttons, screen shows, games, and gardens. 

The town of Warwick below the castle
The town of Warwick below the castle

The Castle exposes you to architecture from across the centuries as well. What stands out to me was the Red Room, which was a formal waiting room; the dining room with its furniture from various exotic places; the main hall, which was actually rebuilt in the 1800s, yet appears medieval; and the motte, believed to be there since the Norman period. It is like traveling in time in one place.

The Motte at Warwick Castle
The Motte at Warwick Castle

The Castle is filled with wax figures from Madame Tussauds, including figures King Henry VIII and his six wives (though that is just because the company had nowhere else to put them).  I think if more museums had the budgets to become theme parks like Warwick Castle, more people would visit them.  Even though it was rainy the entire time we were there, we had a wonderful time.

Wax King Henry VIII and his 6 wives
Wax King Henry VIII and his 6 wives

In the evening, following the Castle’s closure, we headed out to find some food.  It being so early in the year, it was dark pretty early and the town felt eerily desolate.  Jarrett and I managed to find a nice place to eat at though:

The Roebuck Inn


Ancient 1470 hostelry with black beams and white walls serving hand-pulled ales and hearty cooking.
Address: 57 Smith St, Warwick CV34 4HU, UK

I enjoyed the fish and chips; we cannot recall what Jarrett had but it was scrumptious.  We both also discovered Strongbow Dark Fruit, which is flavorsome. We cannot wait for Dark Fruit to make it to the United States.  So, if you find yourself in Warwick, make sure to check out the Roebuck Inn.

The Roebuck Inn in Warwick
The Roebuck Inn in Warwick

Day 6: Magic of London with Afternoon Tea

I am not sure whether I recall the order of the events of this day properly.  However, I will do my best to recall the experience.

Tower of London

Address: St Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, UK
Hours
Monday        10AM–5:30PM
Tuesday        9AM–5:30PM
Wednesday   9AM–5:30PM
Thursday      9AM–5:30PM
Friday           9AM–5:30PM
Saturday      9AM–5:30PM
Sunday        10AM–5:30PM
Built: White Tower: 1078; Inner Ward: 1190s; Re-built: 1285; Wharf expansion: 1377–1399

On our final day, we took our final Premium Tour, Magic of London with Afternoon Tea.  We started the day bright and early with a tour of the Tower of London.  There is so much to see there and such little time!  After a summary tour of the place, including the sites of execution of historical figures such as Anne Boleyn, we joined the line for the Crown Jewels.  You have to get in line as early as you can to see the Crown Jewels because otherwise, you will end up waiting for hours.  The items are magnificent to see, and many had me wondering how in the world monarchs ever wear them. As a history buff, though, I was sad to hear that most original crown jewels were destroyed after the abolition of the monarchy in 1649. So, most of the exhibited jewels only date back to the period after the Restoration of the English monarchy.

The Royal Throne in the Tower of London
The Royal Throne in the Tower of London
After the crown jewels, I headed over to the towers where the Princes in the Tower are said to have been held.  The rest of the tour is now a blur to me. I still regret I did not have time to actually go into The White Tower or into the rooms where Anne Boleyn spent the time leading up to her coronation. 

The Bloody Tower. The murder site of 2 princes in the tower
The Bloody Tower. The murder site of 2 princes in the tower

Walk through the Palaces

Since there was no Changing of the Guard that day, we took a walking tour of London.  We walked by St. James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace.   I will say that having recently watched The Crown, I was able to recognize some places very easily, including Clarence House. 

A glimpse of Clarence House
A glimpse of Clarence House

Cruise along the Thames

Following the walking tour, we took a one-hour cruise along the Thames River. The boat was a modern catamaran with indoor cabins, so it was a nice relief from the cold and wet weather, which our tour guide swore was not London’s typical weather nowadays. I am not sure I can believe him because it was cold and wet the entire time Jarrett and I were there though.  Anyway, it was nice to be indoors, warm and cozy, as we watched the historic city of London. From it, you can see, as the website quotes, “The Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe, St. Paul’s, The Shard and The Tower of London and Tower Bridge.”

London from the River Thames
London from the River Thames

Tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral

The tour at St. Paul’s was a little faster than the one at Westminster. It has plenty of gold and marble, and an amazing dome at the very top.  It is such a sight to behold. I am sorry to say though that at this time, I do not recall much of our visit. Probably because it was too short.  Such a shame, considering the rich history of the building.

The Dome inside St Paul's Cathedral
The Dome inside St Paul's Cathedral

Afternoon Tea

Once our tours were done for the day, we went to a restaurant within a hotel for our evening tea.   They served us traditional tea with a great variety of sandwiches, as well as champagne.  It was a great way to end an entire day of tours.

A stop for afternoon tea
The view from Park Plaza Westminster Bridge 

Overall, London and the towns around it offer plenty to see.  So much, that six days was simply not enough.  I definitely recommend it for a vacation.  Just keep in mind that you might need a vacation after that vacation. While you're at it, let us know about your previous experiences or your dream trip to the UK. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date.

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