Monday, April 2, 2012

The Great Catch-up Post, Part I: Tenby to London

Yikes, so much to catch up on!  The week after I last wrote was spent, as you might imagine, in a flurry of packing and repacking and quick trips to the shops to grab last minute items so that we could unpack and repack again.  Oh, yeah, and Josh went to work and Aaron went to school.  I think.  They were gone away during the day doing something that left me free for the above mentioned frenzy.

First stop:  London, England

We picked Aaron up from school a little early on Friday afternoon so that we could catch the train from Tenby to London.  We had taken the train a time or two before, but it was this journey that convinced me that rail travel is really the way to go.  After a quick stop to switch trains in Swansea, we were comfy, had access to food options and (clean!) toilets and didn't have to worry about anything beyond whether or not the outlets at our seats were properly charging our myriad of devices.  5 hours passes rather quickly in such luxury!  We arrived at Paddington Station around 9pm, gathered our bags, and made our way to the hotel in London.  The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel (one of Aaron's favorite things to do!), then made our way to the  Marble Arch  and then to the bus stop at the edge of Hyde Park so that we could begin our double decker bus tour to see as much of London as we could possibly pack into one day!

Marble Arch was designed in 1825 by John Nash as a ceremonial entrance to the courtyard of the (then) new Buckingham Palace.  The arch was moved to its current location near Hyde Park (2nd picture) in 1850.

On the tour bus, headed towards our first stop of the day. The tour guide warned us that due to road construction in preparation for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this summer, the normal route past Buckingham Palace wouldn't be followed.  We hopped off the bus at the stop near The Grosvenor Hotel instead and walked up Buckingham Palace Road.

As the skiff of snow on the ground might indicate, it was a bit chilly!


Fortunately, we weren't the only tourists in town, so by the time we made it around Buckingham Fountain, played a game or two of tag in front of the Canada Gate, and recrossed Constitution Hill, several(hundred) of our soon-to-be closest friends were already gathered, generating enough body heat to keep us quite toasty!  (Pictures above in order mentioned.)

The Changing of the Guard, at last!  I don't think any of us really knew what to expect, but a half-hour program complete with swing music was a complete, albeit pleasant surprise.  Aaron enjoyed a shoulder-top viewing of the proceedings while I viewed it all from the screen of the iPhone held aloft by the Italian couple in front of me.  Josh snapped as many pictures as he could through the gates and over the heads of our nearest and dearest.

After the crowd dispersed enough that we could move, we made our way back to the bus  stop near the Grosvenor Hotel for the quick ride to Piccadilly where we found a cute little pizza place for lunch.  


Re-energized, we walked down and around the corner to Trafalgar Square.  There was a Free Syria rally going on when we got there.  Aaron was more interested in how they got the giant TV on the back of the lorry than he was in the images on the screen so we were able to snap a few photos and leave the family discussion on Middle-Eastern politics for another time.  Bookended by The National Gallery and Admiralty Arch the square is in constant motion.  


We headed south along Parliament Street, past the Horse Guards on the right and the London Eye on left (across the River Thames), stopping a few times for some iconic shots before reaching Parliament Square.

Look kids, Big Ben!  Parliament!  (Westminster Abbey!)  Tummies were starting to get hungry and tempers were starting to flare, so we waited at the stop just past Parliament for the next bus. 

Along with our energy, the light and temperatures were was beginning to drop.  We were quite content to let the rest of the city slip by with a few pictures and promises to come back to explore more thoroughly another time.  (Pictured:  Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Hungerford Bridge, London Eye, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London)

Back at the hotel, we got a recommendation for local take away and enjoyed a feast of Middle Eastern delicacies in our room before turning in for an early night in preparation for our day of travel to the States.

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