Bird’s Eye Views

And Street Views Too

Today we head down to the South Bank so we take a bus to St. Paul’s and hit the streets.

South Bank lies along the River Thames across from the city of Westminster. This entertainment and commercial district lies between the Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges.

On the map below I circled in yellow the 2 bridges bordering South Bank, St. Paul’s Cathedral where we started walking, and the London Eye, our first destination.

London Eye

This now famous Ferris Wheel was originally intended to be a temporary attraction when it first opened to the public in 2000, but a year later, a 5 year lease became an application for permanent status. (

The observation wheel consists of 32 passenger capsules carrying up to 25 people each. There’s a bench in the middle for sitting and plenty of room for walking around.

Enjoy the views!

Tucked away in the middle of the green trees below, is Buckingham Palace.

That’s St. James Park in front of the palace.

The waterway running through St. James Park is the Tyburn River.

The beautiful semi-circular building below is County Hall. From 1922-1986 it served as the seat for the local London government. Today County Hall is a tourist complex, containing Sea Life London Aquarium, London Dungeon, the London Film Museum, Namco Funscape, 2 hotels, and a McDonalds. (

After a delightful view of London from the Eye, Andy and I take the Queen’s Walk heading east past Blackfriars Bridge into Bankside.

I added green circles on the map below to pinpoint the Queen’s Walk (the red line), the Millennium Bridge, Bankside, and the Globe Theater.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

As we continue walking past the Globe, I turn around and capture the column of the Tate Museum of Modern Art in the background.

Just beyond the Globe in Bankside we continue heading east. The Shard looms in the distance.

I turn around and take this picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral behind Southwark Bridge.

Continuing our walk along the Thames, we take Clink Street to Borough Market, as indicated by the blue mark-ups below.

As we approach the narrow cobbled walkway of Clink Street, we are greeted by this giant mural of Shakespeare.

Jimmy C, an Australian Street artist, painted this portrait on a brick wall in 2016 to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th birthday. (

Jimmy C is known for his portrait of David Bowie in Brixton.


Clink Prison and Museum

Clink Street gets its name from the prison attached to the medieval Winchester Palace, supposedly from the sounds of clanking manacles. Under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester, prostitutes, brothel owners, drunks, brawlers, and petty thieves were thrown into the Clink, an unpleasant prison mostly below sea level, awaiting trial. (

In 1546 the brothels or “stews” were abolished by Henry VIII. When his daughter, Mary I, restored England to Catholicism in 1553, the prison housed Protestants awaiting execution, often by burning. In 1558 when Elizabeth I came to the throne, the religious climate had changed and recusants, Catholics who maintained their faith, were imprisoned here along with Brownists or Independents, who were extreme Protestants, the predecessors of the Puritans who eventually set sail on the Mayflower in 1620. (

Winchester Palace

One of the largest and most important medieval buildings in all of London, Winchester Palace was built as a home for the Bishop of Winchester, a powerful and major landowner who traditionally served as the king’s royal treasurer.

The city of Winchester served as the capital of the Saxon kings of England. Bishop Henry of Blois, the brother of King Stephen, founded the palace in the 12th century to house the bishops of the diocese in comfort when visiting the city for royal or administrative business.

All that remains today is this gable wall of the Great Hall with its  rose window and 3 doors leading to the buttery, pantry, and kitchen. Below the Hall was a vaulted cellar with a passage to a wharf on the River Thames. ( and

The palace remained in use until the 17th century when it was divided into tenements and warehouses.

These ruins were rediscovered in the 19th century following a fire, and finally revealed in the 1980s when this area underwent redevelopment. (

Borough Market

Located on the southern end of London Bridge in Southwark, this wholesale and retail food market is one of the largest and oldest. The present buildings were built in the 1850s. An archived website of Borough Market claims the existence of a market on this site since 1014. (

We order freshly-ground venison burgers for lunch and sit at a picnic table in an open food court. Andy takes his seat and his foot hits a tall rectangular package. He picks it up and it’s an expensive bottle of Johnny Walker, not something you leave out for a returning owner to find…. So Andy takes it to the nearest food booth and the worker places it on top of a refrigerator in plain sight.

Within 10 minutes a man walks by and glances at Andy’s feet. Then he looks up and turns around and notices his package in the food booth. The worker nods at us and, reunited with Johnny, the man walks over and profusely thanks Andy.

After lunch we walk a few feet to a pub adjoining the market and order a pint and a short-pint.

We enjoy the bustling atmosphere.

…And, after buying some cheese, bread, cured sausage, and heirloom tomatoes, we decide to walk to the Shard.

The Shard

Designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, this 1,017 foot skyscraper offers panoramic views of London for up to 40 miles on a clear day.

The Shard has 11,000 glass panels covering 602,779 square feet. It takes 17 window cleaners 3 months to clean the whole building! (

We weren’t planning on going up to the viewing deck on the 72nd floor, but, Andy and I looked at each other, looked up at the Shard towering against a bright blue sky, and said why not? It’s a perfect day!

So glad we did!

The journey starts in 2 sets of high speed lifts that carry you up from level 1 to level 68 in sixty seconds. From here you walk up to level 69 which is an enclosed observation deck with a bar.

A stairwell leads to level 72 which is an open observation deck and the highest you can go, unless you are a window washer…

Oh, there’s a bar on this level as well. Champagne seems to be the cocktail of choice.

Andy and I are so glad we came up here! The views and experience are well worth it, especially on a clear day.

Back in Islington, we enjoy the charcuterie spread we purchased at Borough Market…

Another deliciously perfect day!

Hopping Off…

Piccadilly Circus

It’s a bit busier than earlier in the day…


A Pleasant Pub in Soho

Back in Islington…

We share appetizers for dinner at Pasha, a Turkish restaurant a few doors down from Andy’s flat.

Oh, soooo good!

An After Dinner Walk Through the Neighborhood

And later… St. Mary’s churchyard, aka “Dewey’s Walk”

Dewey and Andy

What a lovely ending to a full day of sightseeing!

Royal Views

Crowning Highlights…

Lambeth Palace

This is the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, located on the south bank of the River Thames. The Houses of Parliament lie on the opposite bank. (

The current archbishop is Justin Welby. He was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March of 2013. (

Crossing Lambeth Bridge… a magnificent view of the Houses of Parliament and in the distance, the steeple of Westminster Abbey…

From left to right… Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the River Thames, Westminster Bridge, and the London Eye…

A few minutes after crossing the Thames on the Lambeth Bridge, we drive by a courtyard. Peter, our tour guide, mentions something about St. James Park so I guess this is where we are but I cannot pinpoint this area on my maps.

According to Peter, Elton John lives on the top 2 floors of this apartment building overlooking this square, but again, I cannot verify this.

The Albert

This famous pub, located at 52 Victoria Street, was built in 1862 and named after Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.

According to Peter, the Albert was a favorite hangout for Members of Parliament because when they needed to return to vote, the House of Commons Division Bell rang inside.

A network of 384 bells rings throughout the city of Westminster to let the politicians know they have 8 minutes warning before a vote, or division, is about to happen. (

According to Google Maps, (yeah, I checked it out) it takes 4 minutes to travel by car from the Albert to the Houses of Parliament.

The Boy with Yellow Socks

Not far from the Albert, we encounter this painting of a boy wearing a blue coat and yellow socks. This image, on the side of a school building marked the separate entrances for boys and girls in charity schools, called Bluecoat Schools.

The students wore blue coats because blue dye was the least expensive pigment to buy. The socks were dyed yellow with saffron to prevent rats from nibbling at the students’ legs. Fleas from rats were known to cause bubonic plague. (

From the 16th century-1773, such schools were set up by philanthropists to educate the poor. Compulsory education started in Britain in 1870 and was made free in 1890. (

St. James Court

This high-end hotel with plush lodging debuted in 1902. Located in central London, it is just footsteps away from Buckingham Palace and St. James Park, conveniently close to Westminster and Victoria Station, and Heathrow International Airport is only 45 minutes away. (

This Victorian splendor was the favorite place for dignitaries to stay when visiting the Royal Family back in the day.

Located 300 yards from Buckingham Palace is Wellington Barracks. This is where the Foot Guards, responsible for guarding the royal family and other state leaders, live. (

Buckingham Palace

Our tour bus skirts along the side of this famous and historical residence. The gold statue is the Victoria Memorial.

What naively amazes me most is that the Queen lives in the middle of the city of Westminster. I know, how dense can I be? For some reason I pictured Buckingham Palace in a country setting apart from the bustling city.

The Queen’s Gallery

The Queen’s Gallery, open to the public, exhibits works of art from the Royal Collection on a rotating basis. The Royal Collection consists of works owned by the King or Queen “in trust for the nation” rather than privately owned. (

The Royal Mews

As we approach the Royal Mews, another Original Tour bus passes by in the opposite direction. Yeppers, we are really embracing the tourist experience today… but we are having so much fun.

Since the 1820s, the state coaches and other carriages have been kept on the grounds of Buckingham Palace along with the horses and state motor cars. Coachmen, grooms, chauffeurs, and other staff live in flats above the carriage houses and stables. (

Grosvenor Gardens

The green space below is Grosvenor Gardens, 2 triangular gardens between Buckingham Palace Road and Grosvenor Place.

I wonder which diplomat is parked on the street…

Buckingham Palace Gardens

Traffic is backed up today and Westminster Bridge is closed because the Queen is hosting a garden party. Here…

…beyond the trees and shrubs…

…beyond the brick wall and barbed wire…

Hyde Park Corner

Leaving Buckingham Palace behind, we approach Hyde Park Corner and get a glimpse of  Wellington Arch to the right.

This famous landmark, built in 1825-1827, was originally intended to be the outer entrance to Buckingham Palace. Its original design, however, was never completed because the final cost exceeded the estimate submitted by Decimus Burton, the designer of the arch, and the Treasury refused to allocate more funds to add a crowning sculpture.

In 1846, after a lot of political hoopla, a controversial equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington was erected on top of the arch for a trial period. (In 1815 Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, and the Seventh Coalition triumphed at the Battle of Waterloo to end the Napoleonic Wars. Admiral Nelson, who defeated Napoleon in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar, after all, had a  commemorative statue on Trafalgar Square.)

This oversized statue was considered ugly and disproportionate to the rest of the arch. (

What do you think?

The government wanted to take the statue down but the Duke of Wellington threatened to resign as commander-in-chief. Because of his immense prestige, the government and Queen backed down.

Matters were resolved in the early 1880s. The arch was disassembled and moved to a new location on Hyde Park Corner when a road was built to relieve increasing traffic congestion. A new and acceptable version of Wellington on horseback by Joseph Boehm was erected in 1888 near the original arch across from Apsley House.

In 1912 the newly assembled arch was crowned with a new sculpture created by Adrian Jones. Entitled, “Peace Descending on the Quadriga of War”, a giant winged female figure holding a laurel wreath descends upon a chariot drawn by 4 rearing horses (hence quadriga) and driven by a young boy apparently unaware of peace hovering behind him. (

Hyde Park Screen

Hyde Park Screen was designed by Decimus Burton and completed in 1828. The screen with 3 arches and ionic columns was erected as a grand approach to Buckingham Palace and as a Corner entry to Hyde Park. (

And here’s a picture of how the arch, screen equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington, and Apsley House stand in relation to each other:

Statue of Achilles

The 18 foot Statue of Achilles honors the soldier and politician Arthur Wellesley 1st Duke of Wellington. It was installed by order of King George III in 1822. (

Arthur is quite the popular bloke…

More Hyde Park…

Joy of Life Fountain

Marble Arch

Marble Arch is modeled after Rome’s Arch of Constantine, built in the 4th century. John Nash designed the arch in 1827 as a triumphal gateway to Buckingham Palace. In 1851 it was moved to its present site at the northeast corner of Hyde Park. (

The Dorchester

To the east of Hyde Park is one of the world’s most prestigious and expensive hotels. The Dorchester opened its doors in 1931 and, despite being modernized, it still retains its 1930s furnishings and ambience. (

The rich and famous, writers and poets, artists and painters started staying here since it opened, attracted to its luxurious experience.

Queen Elizabeth II attended the Dorchester as a princess on the day prior to the announcement of her engagement to Philip Mountbatten in 1947. Her fiancé held his bachelor party here as well. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton frequently stayed here in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1985 the Sultan of Brunei purchased the hotel.

More recently George Clooney, Elton John, and Ellen De Generes have called for a boycott of all Brunei-owned hotels after Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah makes homosexuality punishable by death.

The Brunei Investment Agency owns 9 hotels throughout the world including the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles.

Green Park

Nestled between Hyde Park and St. James Park is Green Park.

This 40 acre triangle has no lakes, no buildings, no playgrounds, and only a few monuments, unlike its neighboring parks.

The story goes that, back in the 1600s, King Charles II’s wife, Catherine, caught her husband picking flowers for another woman here. In response, she demanded all flowers be removed from Green Park. The park still has no formal flower beds, however naturalized daffodils bloom each spring. (

After a few more street views…

…we hop off at Piccadilly Circus.

Whew… This was an exhausting post to research, verify, and summarize! I’m sure you are tired as well and glad this entry is over!

Moving On Up…

Views From The Top

At Ludgate Hill, stop  11, a few people from the top deck of the tour bus hop off and no one else hops on. Andy and I make our move upstairs.

I find a seat but Andy has to kneel beside me in the aisle. Peter, our tour guide doesn’t say anything, however… probably because he is taking up 2 seats himself! It’s just a matter of time though before more people hop off and we can sit side by side.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

For more than 1400 years a church or cathedral dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle has stood here on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London.

Saint Mellitus and Saint Augustine founded St. Paul’s in 604 AD after Pope Gregory the Great sent them on a mission to Britain. The earliest Cathedral buildings were relatively short-lived structures repeatedly damaged by fires and Viking attacks. It was the Cathedral begun around 1087 AD by Bishop Maurice, the chaplain to William the Conquerer, which would provide the longest standing home for Christian worship on this site for almost 600 years.

St. Paul’s was a Catholic church until the English Reformation. In the 1500s Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of Rome and the Crown took over religious rule.

Lightning struck the Cathedral spire in 1561 causing irreparable damage. Restoration that began in 1633 was never finished and left the building in serious disrepair once again by1650. Leading architects were consulted as to how best to restore the medieval structure until Christopher Wren’s proposal to add a dome was approved in 1666. A week later, the Great Fire of London destroyed what was left of St. Paul’s, leaving Wren with the task of designing and building a whole new cathedral. After 9 years of fastidious planning, construction began in 1675 and the last stone was laid in 1708, although the first service took place in 1697 celebrating the peace between England and France.  (

The iconic dome, built by Britain’s famous architect  Christopher  Wren, is 365 feet high and was the tallest building in London from 1710-1967. (

The funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were held at St. Paul’s. Both the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Queen Elizabeth II were celebrated here. And of course in 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in this cathedral. (

The building below, the HQ of Midland Bank, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and erected in 1935. The architect commissioned the sculpture William Reid Dick to add 2 statues to the structure, suggesting one be a boy with a goose. (

And why was this? Well, interestingly enough, Midland Bank is on Poultry Street, a name that commemorates an actual business from the Middle Ages. Yes, that’s right, domestic fowl were raised and roamed through here. (

Another interesting building we drive by is much newer and, instead of statues, the front of the structure itself is designed to  resemble the front of an ocean liner.

The Monument commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666 and celebrates the rebuilding of the City. It was built between 1671 and 1677 at the intersection of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill. (

The fire began in a baker’s house on Pudding Lane on Sunday September 2nd and finally extinguished on Wednesday September 5th, after destroying most of the City of London. Fortunately very few lives were lost. Unfortunately, however, lives were lost.

As part of the rebuilding of the City, it was decided to erect a permanent memorial of the Great Fire near the place where it began. Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke drew up plans for a Doric column containing a stone staircase of 311 steps leading to a viewing platform. (

The Monument is 202 feet high… the exact distance between it and the site where the fire began on Pudding Lane. (

As we approach the London Bridge, the modern building, nicknamed the Walkie Talkie, looms above.

As we cross the River Thames we get a great view of Tower Bridge, which I always thought was London Bridge.

I don’t even realize we are on London Bridge as I was expecting something more spectacular. It turns out several bridges named London Bridge have crossed the Thames in central London. The one we’re on opened to traffic in 1973. It replaced a 19th Century stone-arched Bridge, which in turn superseded a 600-year-old stone-built medieval structure. This was preceded by a number of timber bridges, the first one built by the Romans. ( Fire was why London Bridge was always falling down.

Just beyond the bridge this brightly painted establishment pops into view.

Since 1884 the Shipwrights Arms has served pints on the corner of Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street. Shipbuilders once frequented this pub with the interesting sculpture holding up a ledge. (

Peter told us the story behind the statue, but I can’t remember it nor can I find any information about it anywhere… yet.

There’s the Shard again, a 1,016 foot high (309.6 meters) 95 story skyscraper… the tallest building in Western Europe. (

Now we cross the River Thames again, but this time on the quaint Tower Bridge.

As we travel across the Tower Bridge, 3 modern buildings can be seen from left to right: the Crash Helmet, the Walkie Talkie, and the Gherkin.

A close-up of the Crash Helmet…

Built between 1886 and 1894, Tower Bridge is a combined drawbridge and suspension bridge. Two bridge towers support an upper level horizontal walkway on each side. (

As I continue reading this online entry, my confusion with the London Bridge is validated:

The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. Because of this, Tower Bridge is sometimes confused with London Bridge, situated some 0.5 mi (.80 km) upstream. (

More views of the Walkie Talkie and the Shard…

Just across the bridge is the Tower of London.

This fortress was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman conquest of England. It is a complex of several buildings set within 2 concentric circles of defensive walls and a moat. The White Tower was built by William the Conquerer in 1078 as a resented symbol of oppression. (

The Tower of London was a grand palace in its early years, serving as a royal residence. And although not it’s primary purpose, it was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, but especially in the 16th and 17th centuries. (

The Tower has served variously as an arsenal, a treasury, a zoological garden, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and currently as the home of the Crown Jewels of England. (

Just past the Tower of London we come across a remnant of the Roman Wall that once enclosed the city of London.

The Wall was originally built by the Romans in the late 2nd or early 3rd century around the current city of London. Londonium was settled and established around 43 AD as a major commercial center in Roman Britain ( Britannia) until its abandonment in the 5th century. The Wall, however remained and was maintained until the 18th century. (

In 1984 the Museum of London traced the path of the Roman Wall from Tower Hill to the Museum and marked 21 locations of remnants along the 2 mile walk. (

From Tower Hill Street we take Lower Thames Street to Victoria Embankment to Waterloo Bridge.

The Boomerang is another nicknamed modern building.

These little green huts, no larger than a horse and cart, stand on the public streets. Called cabmen’s shelters, there were 61 of these buildings around London between 1875 and 1914. (

By law, taxis could not leave the queue area while parked and waiting for passengers. This made it difficult for cabbies to get a hot meal and, in the days of horse-drawn cabs, stay out of inclement weather. With the help of other patrons, the Earl of Shaftesbury set up a charity called the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund to construct and run these small kitchens and sitting areas at major cab stands. An attendant cooked and sold food and non-alcoholic drinks. (

Crossing Waterloo Bridge…

The Cheese Grater… an appropriate name for the shape of this building…

The London Eye… Parliament… Big Ben…

Waterloo Train Station is the largest and busiest station in Britain. Opened in 1848 by the London & South Western Railway it was just called Central Station. In 1899 a complete rebuild begins for the next 22 years.

Below is a glimpse of the Victory Arch, unveiled in 1922, commemorating the railroad staff who died in World War I. (

A closer look at the Eye from York Road…

A cool building we pass near the Westminster Bridge…

The General Lying-In Hospital was one of the first maternity hospitals in Great Britain, opening in 1767 on Westminster Bridge Road. It closed in 1971.

A Lying-In Hospital is a maternity hospital, lying-in referring to the month long postpartum rest. (

But due to traffic congestion and the arrival of royal guests to the Queen’s garden party, we cannot cross the Westminster Bridge and take Lambeth Palace Road to Lambeth Bridge.

I really need to take a break here! With the help of date-and-time-stamped pictures, 2 maps of London, and online resources, I have pieced together our tour as best as I can.

Stay tuned for the rest of our tour!

Hop-On, Hop-Off

Or Just Stay Put…

Andy and I take a bus from Islington to Trafalgar Square to purchase tickets for an open-top bus tour of London. Here we are on the upper level of a double-decker leaving Islington.

How quaint… This store only sells brollies.

We get off the local bus at Covent Garden and walk through Leicester Square.

Located in the West End of London, Leicester Square was laid out in 1670 and boasts the largest LEGO store in the world. ( I took a picture of a replica of Big Ben in the window, but the glare from the glass ruined the shot. So, here’s one I found online taken in the evening:

A park lies in the center of the Square.

We head for Piccadilly Circus…

Circus comes from the Latin  word for circle referring to a roundabout intersection of roads. Regent Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Coventry Street, Haymarket, and Piccadilly form circular junctions here.

Piccadilly comes from the name of a 17th century frilled collar called a piccadil. Robert Baker was a famous tailor who became rich making piccadils for wealthy patrons and nobility. In 1612 he built a mansion here. The locals, however, disliked Robert Baker and called his mansion Piccadil Hill behind his back. ( and

This is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain named after a Victorian philanthropist. The centerpiece statue is often mistaken for a replica of Eros, the Roman god of romantic love. The statue is actually Anteros, the brother of Eros. Anteros symbolizes selfless love in honor of the fountain’s namesake the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, who was a magnanimous individual. ( and

It’s mid-morning and we get to watch Yoda being “suspended” in air. The magic takes place under his long flowing robe. He still needs to put on his left-hand glove.

As we continue south toward Trafalgar, the steeples of Westminster Abbey tower over some trees in the distance.

Trafalgar Square is located in Central London in the city of Westminster. Its name commemorates the British naval victory over France and Spain in the Napoleonic Wars in 1805. Since the 13th century this site contained the King’s Mews. Mews is a British name for a row or courtyard of stables and carriage houses with living quarters above them. George IV moved the mews to Buckingham Palace in the 1820s.

Nelson’s Column stands in the center of Trafalgar Square to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson who died at the Battle of Trafalgar. It is 169 feet high and is guarded by 4 lion statues. (

The National Gallery is an art museum on the Square, founded in 1824.

More magical suspension… Don’t their arms get tired?

Saint Martin-in-the- Fields is an Anglican Church dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, once the patron saint of France. He is best known for using his military sword to cut his cloak in two in order to give one half to a beggar clad only in rags during winter. (

Below is an equestrian statue of George IV:

Since 1999 this pedestal below, called the Fourth Plinth, has displayed various exhibitions by various artists. The current artwork, entitled The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, is a sculpture of a lamassu, a mythological winged bull creature with the head of a man who stood guard over the city of Nineveh for over a thousand years. The Iraqi-American artist, Michael Rakowitz, has recreated the ancient Assyrian statue destroyed by Isis in 2015. The piece is constructed from 6,000 tin cans of date syrup, symbolizing the rebirth of the lamassu out of ordinary objects from everyday life. (

After purchasing tickets on The Original Tour line and walking around the Square…

…Andy and I wait for the bus at Stop 6 a few steps west of Trafalgar Square. When we purchased our tickets we are told that the tour buses arrive every 5-20 minutes. And we wait, and wait, and wait, and wait some more along with pairs and clusters of other folks. One tour bus company stops every 10 minutes, but we are all waiting for the The Original Tour. Guides nearby explain to us that traffic is especially busy today. Meanwhile we keep waiting and waiting and wondering and wondering and the gathering crowd keeps growing and growing. FINALLY the tour bus arrives! But there are no seats on the open-top level. We are just lucky to get seats together!

So, off we go past Trafalgar Square and onto the Strand where we drive past the Savoy.

The Savoy, which opened in1889, was the first luxury hotel in Britain. It introduced electric lights throughout the building, electric lifts, bathrooms in most of the lavishly furnished rooms, and constant cold and hot running water.

But before he built this famous hotel, Richard D’Oyly Carte, an English theatrical and musical agent, built the Savoy Theatre in 1881 to host a series of operas written and composed by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The Savoy Theatre was the first public building in the world to be entirely lit by electricity! Eight years later Carte used profits from producing this duo’s operas to build an opulent hotel next to it to attract foreign clientele as well as British visitors to London. (

Besides hosting and entertaining members of the Royal family, the Savoy has been the venue of choice for many famous personalities.

George Gershwin, Lena Horne, and Frank Sinatra were booked here as entertainers.

The Beatles, Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Bob Dylan, Judy Garland, Bette Midler, Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth, Barbara Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry Truman, and John Wayne have stayed here.

Winston Churchill often took his cabinet here for lunch. Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh met here. Artists Claude Monet and James Whistler stayed at the hotel and painted or drew views from their room of the River Thames. Richard Harris lived at the Savoy for the last several years of his life. While being carried out on a stretcher before he died, he joked, “It was the food.”

Other notable guests include: Julie Andrews, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Lionel Barrymore, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton,  Maria Callas, Coco Chanel, George Clooney, Marlene Dietrich, Christian Dior, Errol Flynn, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Cary Grant, Jimi Hendrix, Audrey Hepburn, Elton John, Al Jolson, Sophia Loren, George Bernard Shaw, U2, H.G. Wells, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. (

Continuing along the Strand we pass Saint Clement Danes whose bells ring out nursery rhymes.

As we pass the side of the church, you can still see the shrapnel marks left behind from the bombs of WWII.

Twinings Tea Company

The original Twinings on the Strand has been here for over 300 years. In 1706 Thomas Twining opened Tom’s Coffee House in this same storefront. As an apprentice for an East India Company, he learned the trade business firsthand, importing goods from exotic locales, especially coffees and teas. Tom’s Coffee House specialized in serving and selling coffee to the male aristocracy, but his specialized tea blends also became quite popular, so popular in fact, that within a decade Thomas Twinings ceased serving coffee altogether and sold dry packaged teas. This allowed women to enjoy a cup of tea at home since coffee houses were male-only establishments. (

I was surprised to discover that tea was not always the national beverage of Britain. In the 1660s a Portuguese Queen first introduced tea to the country. Its popularity took over with the expansion of East Indian trade and merchants like Thomas Twinings. (

In 1837 Queen Victoria granted Twinings a royal warrant, assuring the company the honor of providing tea to the royal family ever since. (

Dragon statues, like this one, mark the boundaries around the city of London. (I cheated here with this picture. Do you notice there are no glaring reflections from the bus window? Remember we are sitting on the lower level of the tour bus. This picture was taken a day later while Andy and I were walking through the city.)

Here’s my original photo taken from the lower level of the bus:

Google Maps shows the boundary of the city of London and where the dragon statues are located.

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is Sweeney Todd, not Roger, of the barber shop below.

You may be familiar with the Broadway musical and film named after this fictitious barber who pulled a lever on his victims while they sat in his barber chair, causing them to fall backward through a trap door into the basement of his shop. If the fall didn’t kill his victims by breaking their necks, Sweeney Todd would finish them off by slashing their throats with his straight razor. After robbing the victims, Todd and Mrs. Lovett would bake the bodies into pies and sell them to unsuspecting customers at Lovett’s pie shop.

The character of Sweeney Todd first appears on November 21, 1846 in the weekly publication The People’s Periodical and Family Library. For the next 17 weeks the serial continues until the story ends on March 20, 1847. Penny dreadful is the term applied to this type of popular serial literature in 19th century Britain. Each installment was cheap, probably costing no more than a penny, and the subject of the story was of a sensational and dreadful nature highlighting the exploits of detectives, criminals, or supernatural characters. (

So, there you have it…

Punch Tavern

If the gold logo on this tavern looks familiar, you may be thinking of the puppet show featuring Mr. Punch and his wife Judy. And you would be correct, as it takes its name from Punch Magazine which takes its name from the Punch and Judy puppets. (

In the 1840s the pub, the Crown and Sugar Loaf, was renamed the Punch Tavern because of the popularity of Punch Magazine and the fact that the magazine offices were nearby. (

Meanwhile, Andy and I keep hoping people from the upper level will get off the bus so we can make our way upstairs…

Mind the Gap


I arrive late morning at Heathrow Airport. Andy sends me a royal greeting and meets me at the airport.

My seat mate on British Airways gave me a cryptic piece of advice about getting around London and the UK. As I purchase my ticket for the Heathrow Express and board the train, I understand what he means.

Getting around London is easy… Taxis, trains, the tube, and buses…

We take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. (Yep, the same one as the bear…)

From here we take a taxi to Islington where Andy lives.

And there’s Dewey, the wonder dog, my Dewster…

I drop off my stuff…

…and we head out for a walk through Islington…

…along the canal.

Folks live in these houseboats and can “park” here for 2 weeks at a time.

Islington just off the top edge of this map where the blue circle encloses Upper Street and the canal.

Here’s the bigger map, though not a good picture, showing where Islington is in relation to the rest of the city.

We stop for a pint and some food to share… a charcuterie board and trifle chip at a pub called The Narrowboat.

The rest of my first day is a blur from jet lag. All I remember is that Andy took Dewey out and picked up some beer, wine, hummus, and nibbles from the local grocer and I fell asleep.

I can’t believe I am in London!

Hello… Goodbye

Next Stop… Jernigan Land and the Airport!

State Route 160 takes us through scenic countryside:

Fort Garland


La Veta

Then the big cities, like Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Castle Rock and finally the burbs of Denver catch up with us as we travel I-25 North.

Early afternoon we arrive at the friendliest and least crowded spot to park the RV for the next 11 days, The Campbell Campground, aka, Patty and Mike’s driveway. Jeff’s son, David, also lives in his own apartment there too.

Meanwhile, my bags are packed and I’m ready to fly to London to visit my son, Andy! After saying hello to everyone, I quickly say goodbye and Jeff drives me to the Denver International Airport. I am booked on a British Airways flight that leaves at 7:35 PM.

Nine hours later I arrive at Heathrow Airport.