Wednesday, July 1, 2015

London Day 1: Almost too hot to handle

England Day 6

London Day 1: On the agenda today was Westminster Abbey, procuring our 7 day Travel Cards, Churchill Rooms, walking about and possibly Wimbledon. 

No more full English breakfasts for us.  It was now pastries and coffee in the apartment.  Not quite as satisfying, of course. 

I didn’t buy advance tickets for Westminster Abbey.  I called them early to ask when the Verger tours would be held.  She said the first one was 1030am.  So we left the apartment around 930am, a little later than I wanted.  It was a pleasant walk there from the apartment.  When we arrived and saw the lines, it was kind of shocking.  We passed the entrance and kept going to the street on the Houses of Parliament side and the line went down about ½ block there.  The advance ticket line was really short.  I kicked myself for not having bought tickets online.   

After some debate because husband and I have been to Westminster Abbey before and nephew really didn’t care one way or the other, we decided to skip it, thinking we’d do it later on in our stay (we never did get back there).  Instead, we grabbed the bus to Victoria Station to get our 7 day Travel Cards.  This bus was the only one we took this day that was not stifling.  After we got our travel cards, we debated between going to the Churchill War Rooms or the Museum of London.  We decided on Churchill and it was a good decision. 

We stopped in at Westminster Cathedral since it was right there.  If this had ever been completed, it would be spectacular and a major tourist attraction.  As it is, we enjoyed seeing how these massive buildings were constructed. 

Westminster Cathedral

We took a very warm bus to Westminster and wandered past 10 Downing Street pointing out the Prime Minister’s resident to nephew.  It’s not quite the White House, which he visited earlier this year, but equally important in world politics.  We were hot by time we made it to the Churchill War Rooms and had a short wait to enter.  We used our 2-4-1 and saved 16GBP.  Nephew got the student discount.  It was well air-conditioned, which we were tremendously happy about!

The audio tour at Churchill is really well done, in my opinion.  The War Rooms are a frozen-in-time snapshot of how World War II was won by a dedicated group of patriots. They are fascinating.  We all enjoyed the Rooms.  Two out of the three of us, however, were frustrated with the Museum.  It’s not in any kind of chronological order so it’s very hard to follow.  I describe it as you start with Churchill at war, then he’s born, then he dies, then he loses the Prime Minister-ship, then he gets married and has kids.  Aargh.  Husband figured it out and felt he really “got it” this time (it was our second visit).  Nephew and I didn’t get it and just wandered lost and confused.  The information is very interesting but the way it’s presented leaves a lot to be desired. 

The Rooms were pretty crowded and there were no facilities within them.  So geaux before you go (lol).  We spent a little money in the gift shop before heading out.

We walked through the Horse Guards Parade grounds on our way to Trafalgar Square. 

The secondary sights on today’s agenda were the Impressionists at the National Gallery and the Audrey Hepburn exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery.  We had time because we hadn’t gone to Westminster Abbey.

But we were hungry so we stopped at the Admiralty Pub.  It was not air conditioned but still pleasant inside.  We ordered at the bar, standard pub food, and were served by a pretty waitress from Latvia.  It was a nice break.

Next we went to the National Gallery and were heading straight for the Impressionists but couldn’t get through to the galleries.  The doors were locked with signs stating “Industrial Action.”  To these three Americans, that sounded like a chemical spill or something.  Husband asked and it was a union strike so the rooms would not be open today.  No one knew when they would reopen.  Bummed, we headed to the National Portrait Gallery around the corner.  No industrial action but I was off by a day for the beginning of the Audrey Hepburn exhibit.  Bummer #2.  We decided against buying tickets to the exhibit since we could not commit to a day and time that we would be back. 

Since we had a little break and it was so hot, we decided to head back to the apartment and relax until we went to Wimbledon for the after-5 tickets.  We started off on the bus but it was so hot in there (claustrophobic really) that we ended up bailing and just walking.  The apartment was cooler so we all relaxed for a while.

We headed out around 4pm.  We had no trouble getting the tube to Southfields for the Queue at Wimbledon.  The walk to the beginning of the Queue was pretty long.  And there were lots and lots of people in line by time we made it there.  We waited in the hot sun for at least 1.5 hours; thankfully I had sunscreen.  Husband got us ice cream.  Finally the line started moving.  We paid 18GBP each for “after-5” tickets.  It was pretty exciting to be on the grounds!  There were tons of people everywhere. 
Our queue cards

Everyone was out on this hot day

We're in!
As we walked in, the first match we caught was Safarova on Court 16 (I think) against an Asian opponent.  It was cool to see them so close. 
We kept going and could see that Azarenka was playing nearby.  This turned out to be next to the Resale Tickets Booth for Centre, 1 and 2 Courts.  I asked who was on Centre Court and it was Serena Williams.  Venus Williams was on Court 1.  We snagged three tickets for Centre and caught half of the first set and all of the second set as Serena beat Timea Babos.  Pretty cool.

Our Centre Court view!

She is amazing to see

Easy going for Serena

I made it to Centre Court!
There were no more matches on Centre Court so we tried to find more live tennis.  Every court was packed and since these were the last matches of the night, we weren’t able to see any more action.  Seeing Serena on Centre Court and just being on the grounds made it a great day for us!  We spent some money in the gift shop then took the long walk back to the tube.
No more tennis today
Husband and I were famished by time we made it back to the apartment but nephew didn’t want anything to eat.  We left him to relax and found our way to Maverick Cocktails and Pizza.  They were still open (it was around 1030pm) and serving!  I got their 12GBP special (a cocktail and a pizza) and hubby got beer and pizza.  It was filling and nice to sit and chat while watching busy London go by.  We had left overs for tomorrow, too.

Before going to bed I checked the weather.  The high today was 95F (35C).  Someone said it was one of the hottest days in London’s history.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the heat but we were hoping for cooler days ahead.  Forecast for tomorrow was 80’s (26C).

Next:  Lost in the tube, treasures, all about London, the oldest church, pubs

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