We began our day with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of part of London. We started off inside the double-decker bus, but Patricia and Abby moved to the crowded, open, top where it was pretty chilly. It was only about 40 degrees when we started. I went up later. The tour covered a lot of tourist highlights, as you might expect. Nevertheless, it was good for Patricia and Abby to get a sense of the crowded streets and the mix of London architectures while on the two-hour tour. Going everywhere on the Tube allows one to skip that crowding (although the Tube has its own kind of crowds) and it is easy to lose the sense of London that comes from simply walking or busing around. I particularly liked crossing over the Thames several times because I was rarely on the south side of the Thames when I travelled here.
The bus tour also prepared us for the evening’s Ghastly Ghost Walking Tour because we covered some of the same ground, on foot, to learn about a few of London’s ghosts and we were prepped for the cold.
We hopped (figuratively) off the bus near Parliament for our visit to Westminster Abbey (officially, the collegiate church of St. Peter, Westminster). There is a good bit of construction in the area, and I can report that Big Ben still has not returned to its full functionality; only two of the four clockfaces seem to be working.
Westminster seems to have become more organized since I last visited. Now there is some directional control inside the huge Abbey. That helps, but not everyone follows the signs. It was only moderately crowded Saturday afternoon, and it was fairly easy to stop and take pictures. And that’s a good thing because Abby was all over the place reading inscriptions, taking pictures, and exploring the space.
We visited an exhibition inside the Abbey called the Queen’s Jubilee Gallery. It is located high above the main floor in an area that had been closed off for some time. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the Jubilee Gallery.
It is a great exhibit with information about the building of the Abbey and old documents, including an “original” of the Magna Carta. A fun part of the gallery experience was that we asked a docent (we think they are called “wardens” like at the Tower) and he could not stop telling us things. He explained so much that we really learned a lot. In fact, well over an hour later, as we were on our way out of the Abbey, down on the ground floor, Bruce spotted us, stopped us, and asked if we were going to visit the Chapter House. We had not planned to, but after he told us several things to look for, we had to see it. [It was great, by the way.]
Just as at the British Museum, we could have spent far more time in the Abbey than we had available. We did manage to find the tombs of several early royals such as Henry the 7th. Several of those tombs are inside what I can only describe as cages. It is almost as if people are afraid the old kings and queens are going to escape from their tombs and try to take over again.
We had a nice, somewhat early, dinner and a short rest before Abby and I headed out for the long-anticipated “Ghastly Ghost Walking Tour” which started near the Tower of London.
We spent 2 hours walking from spot to spot, learning about the area, and listening to ghost stories. I think Abby enjoyed it a lot. George, our guide, had a lot of information about the areas we visited and was very patient with our questions. There were about 20 people in our group and he kept us all entertained as we moved from point to point. The ghost stories sounded good, but they were all fantastical. Of course, London is an old place, so there are plenty of stories from which to choose.
There were shockingly few Abbey/Abby jokes during Westminster Abbey. The Abbey has been my favorite place so far. I’m a sucker for stained glass, and there were a lot of stained-glass windows there. Bruce, the docent, said that most of them were actually painted glass. That’s okay if they’re not stained glass though, I still think they’re quite lovely. I really enjoyed looking at the tombs and the memorials. I found them really interesting. There were really old ones and very ornate ones. I loved looking at how the building itself was, too. All the spires and towers were really quite amazing to see. I truly loved going to the Westminster Abbey, and I really want to go again soon!
We also went on a ghost tour. I really liked it, and the guide was very funny. I’m not sure if I believe in ghosts, but it’s certainly fun hearing about them! The tour was two hours long and it was very cold outside. I loved the tour but was glad to be back inside when it was over!
Added about 75 pictures to the pictures page.
Here is a map that tracks most of where we went on Saturday. You can expand it (upper right corner) so you can zoom in.