London Title Image

Next stop on our three week adventure was London. This would be our second visit to the capital of the United Kingdom and there was a lot we still needed to see that we didn't have time for last time. First off, we had to get from Bayeux to London.

Day 8

Today was the big train travel day. We caught a morning train from Bayeux back to Paris, arriving at the Gare Saint-Lazare station. Traveling by train is a lot different than by plane. You show up at the train station whenever you want and we hang out on the platform when the train's arrival time get close. When the train pulls up, you quickly find your car and climb on, storing your bag in the luggage area if there's room. If there's not room, you look for somewhere to stash it for the ride. Then you sit back and relax for however long the ride is, reversing the steps when the trains gets to where you're going. There's little to no security, especially in the small towns. But everything seems to work fairly well. You do have to pay attention though since the train doesn't stop for very long. If you're not ready or you dawdle too much, you SOL.

A little less than three hours later, we were in Paris again. A relatively quick Metro ride from Gare Saint-Lazare to Gare du Nord and we were ready for our next train ride - the EuroStar to London. This time it was almost like being in an airport. We had to go through security, then through UK Customs and Immigration. Though, you couldn't start that process until a certain time before your train. Unlike in the US, all of this was pretty much self-serve: put your passport on the machine, wait for it to compare you to your photo and then you were good to go.

The EuroStar travels at 300 km/h (186 mph) except within the Channel Tunnel, where a reduced speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) is required for safety. It doesn't really feel like you're traveling that fast while you're sitting on the train. The ride was smoother than most car rides. A little over two hours after boarding in Paris, we were stepping off the train at London's St. Pancreas International Station. It seemed like a whole lot less hassle than flying.

With a full day of being on the train, we found our hotel (about a fifteen minute walk from the Kings Cross Station), had some dinner and spent some time relaxing. Tomorrow we would be on our feet a lot and those puppies needed a short break after all the walking we did in Paris and Normandy.

Day 9

Our first visit to London was four years ago (May 2019) and while we crammed a lot into the four days we were there, we missed a LOT of things to see. So, this trip we endeavored to see more of those things and tried not to do too many repeats. Since we had left Normandy yesterday, our plans for today had us visiting the Winston Churchill War Rooms and then spending time just wandering around the Westminster area.

On our last visit, the Elizabetand Tower and Big Ben were shrouded in scaffolding. Since we too the Tube to Westminster, the first order of business was getting a photo of this iconic structure. Then we wandered around the Westminster area waiting for the museum to open. Whoever came up with the idea that museums needed to open at 10 AM was clearly never a tourist.

Elizabethan Tower Elizabethan Tower and Big Ben - The foundation stone for the clock tower was laid on 28 September 1843. It took sixteen years to build the tower and install Big Ben (the clock). Big Ben was installed in the tower in April 1859 and it successfully began keeping time on 31 May 1859. The clock is accurate to within one second when striking the hour.

Across the street from Parliment and Westminster Abbey is Parliment Square. The square is surrounded by various official buildings: parliment to the east, government executive offices to the North, the Supreme Court to the West and Westminster Abbey to the south. The square contains statues of twelve statesmen and other notable individuals. It is also where many demonstrations are held.

Churchill Winston Churchill - Parliment Square - Prime Minister from 1940-1945 and 1951-1955. This statue was unveiled in November 1973.

Mahatma Ghandi Ghandi and Benjamin Disraeli - Parliment Square - Indian Independence Leader (foreground). Unveiled in March 2015. Benjamin Disraeli (background). Prime Minister 1868 and 1874-1880. Unveiled in April 1883.

The Windston Churchill War Rooms is a museum under the Cabinet Offices and His Majesty's Treasury across the street from St. James Park. Westminster Palace (where Parliment sits) is about a block away. The museum comprises the Cabinet War Rooms, a historic underground complex that housed the British government command center throughout World War Two. It also contains a biographical museum chronicaling the life of Winston Churchill. The Cabinet War Rooms were abandoned in situ the day after Japan surrendered in 1945. Everything was left intact including cigarettes in ashtrays and sugar cubes hidden in a desk. Today, the rooms have been left largely untouched from when they were abandoned other than to install plexiglass barriers and air-conditioning to preserve furniture and documents. It was like taking a step back in time to 1939 when the War Rooms were first opened. We spent a little over three hours here and we could have stayed longer if it wasn't so crowded.

Because of the cramped quarters in the war rooms, low lighting and the number of people visiting, I didn't even attempt to take any photos here. Even if I had tried, it would have been near impossible to capture the most important part of the museum - the atmosphere of being in the war command center. The map room contains the locations of all British troops and ships on the last day of the war. The pinholes in the maps show the movement of those armed forces. Churchill made four broadcasts from the BBC broadcasting room here, including those when German bombs were raining down on the city. Churchill spent most of his time in this bunker. He, Mrs. Churchill and most of the cabinet had bedrooms here.

If you are ever in London and are interested in history, this museum is a must see location. You can read more about the Chruchill War Rooms at their website:

After our morning underground, we wandered about town, mostlyl in the Picadilly Circus and Covent Garden areas of the city. One thing that is blatantly obvious when visitn London is the plethora off statues and monuments. It seems everyone and everything that has ever happened in British history has some sort of accolade to their accomplishments or to the event.

Horse Guard Parade
			Ground His Majesty's Horse Guards Parade Ground - A large parade ground off Whitehall in central London which is the site of the annual ceremonies of Trooping the Colour, which commemorates the monarch's official birthday and teh Beating of the Retreat. It is also where jousting tournaments were held in the time of Henry VIII. It has been in use since the seventh centry.

Waterloo Place Waterloo Place - A view up Waterloo Place and Regent Street looking towards Picadilly Circus. The Union Jack banners were left over from the King's coronation.

Chinatown Gate Chinatown Gate - The Chinatown Gate is a grand entryway into London's lively Chinatown district.

Landseer's Lion Landseer's Lion - At the base of the Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square are four lion sculptures. These were created by Edwin Landseer, a famous painter, after the original sculptures by Thomas Milnes were determined to not be impressive enough.

Horse Guard Horse Guard - On the Whitehall side of the Horse Guards Parade Ground, this poor soul had the assignment of guarding this entrance. Just like the guards outside of Buckingham Palace, neither the guard nor the horse moved while we were there.

Women of World War II Women of World War II - Situated in the center of Whitehall at the end of Downing Street, this war memorial commemorates the wartime contributions of over seven million women, including 650,000 who joined military services.

Monty Fieldmarshal Viscount Montgomery - This statue of 'Monty' is located in front of the Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall. Montgomery is well-known for his commanding of the British Eighth Army in Africa during World War 2.

King Charles Arch King Charles Arch - This triple arch over King Charles Street was built in 1908 to connect New Scotland Yard and the Scotland House.

Covid Wall National Covid Memorial Wall - The National Covid Memorial Wall stretches 500 metres along the River Thames directly opposite the Houses of Parliment. There are more than 220,000 individually hand-painted hears, each representing a person who died in the UK with Covid-19 as a direct cause of death.

Burghers Burghers of Calais - This bronze sculpture commemorates an event of the Hundred Years War when Calais, a French port of the English Channel, surrendered to the English afer and eleven month seige. The sculpture was completed in 1889.

King George V King George V / Lady Chapel - Located in the Old Palace Yard across the street from Westminster Palace, is a sculpture of George V, King of teh United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India. It was sculpted prior to World War II and hidden in a quarry during the war. It was erected and dedicated in 1947.

Day 10

Today we got out of the city for the day. We took a train to the port city of Dover. The goal for the day was to walk along the White Cliffs of Dover along the Engish Channel. The cliff face reaches a height of 350 feet above sea level. The striking appearance is due to its composition of white chalk accented by streak of black flint. Across the Straight of Dover, France is 20 miles away and was clearly visible.

During World War 2, Fan Bay Deep Shelter was constructed in the cliffside. This is a series of tunnels that supported artillery batteries. The tunnels include rooms with bunk beds for the soldiers, a hospital, toilets, washrooms, storage facilities and even a store. The tunnels were abandoned in 1950 and filled in with debris. In 2012 the National Trust "rediscovered" the tunnels and have been working to restore them. Unfortunately, the tunnels were closed on the day we visited.

All of my photos are taken from the hike on top of the cliffs. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a tour of any kind that took you out for a view of the cliffs from the English Channel. The day was also quite windy so even if I had taken my drone of the trip, I wouldn't have been able to fly it. Maybe next time?

White Cliffs of Dover White Cliffs of Dover

South Foreland Lighthouse South Foreland Lighthouses - This pair of lighthouses (the one on the right of the photo is at the edge of the cliff) were constructed in the mid-1800's to warn ships approaching the nearby Goodwin Sands at the Northeastern entry to the English Channel. The Upper Lighthouse (one the left) was the first lighthouse to use an electric light. Both lighthouses are now decommissioned.

White Cliffs of Dover White Cliffs of Dover - These are the cliffs looking back toward the town of Dover. If you look close, near the center of the photo you can see one of the entrances to the Fan Bay Deep Shelter.

Dover Castle Dover Castle - Clearly visible from the clifftops, Dover Castle looks down on the township of Dover. The castle was founded in the 11th century and has been described as the "Key to England" due to its defensive significance throughout history. In the 1800s, tunnels were dug under the castle to serve as barracks and storerooms. These tunnels were converted to an air raid shelter and into a miliary command center during World War 2.

St. Mary's Church Church of St. Mary the Virgin - This Anglican church is located in the Dover town center. The church stands on the site of Roman baths and a previous Saxon church. The original church was built in the early 12th century. It was closed in 1537 as part of the Dissolution of Monasteries but reopened in 1544 as a parish church. Restoration of the church was done in 1844, with the main tower being completed in 1897.

Day 11

We spent today visiting parts of London that we missed on our last trip. We started out at the Tower of London, took the Uber Water Taxi to Greenwich where we spent the majority of the day.

London Skyline City of London Skyline - Taken from the Queen's Walk along the River Thames, this is one of the many different skylines London has to offer.

Tower Bridge Tower Bridge - Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 crossing the River Thames near the Tower of London. The bridge is 800 feet in length and consists of two 213 foot towers connected at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. A central pair of bascules (or moveable bridge) open the bridge to allow shipping to pass through.

Tower Bridge Tower Bridge - This is the East tower of Tower Bridge. The bridge provides a vital crossing for London traffic and is also open to pedestrian traffic.

Old v New London Contrast of Old vs. New London - This is another photo of the City of London's skyline where it is easy to compare new architecture to old. The Tower of London is on the right side of the photo. It was originally built in 1066. The Sky Garden (the building on the far left nicknamed the Walkie-Talkie) was built in 2014.

Girl With Dolphin Girl with Dolphin - Monuments, statues and art work is sprinkled all throughout London. It's hard to walk a street without seeing something. This sculpture was completed in 1973.

Timepiece Timepiece - This sundial, titled Timepiece, was designed by Wendy Taylor and commissioned for the Strand Hotels in Mark 1973.

HMS Belfast and
			the Shard HMS Belfast and the Shard - Permanently docked on the River Thames, the HMS Belfast is a Town-Class light cruiser built in 1936. The Belfast saw action in World War 2 escorting Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union. It also played an important role in the Battle of North Cape and in Operation Overlord supporting the Normandy landings. Today, she is a museum ship. Docked alongside the Belfast is the Croix du Sud, a French Minesweeper. The tall building in the background is called the Shard. It is the tallest building in the United Kingdom and seventh tallest in Europe at 1016 feet.

After spending time wandering around the Tower Bridge area, we took the water taxi from The Tower pier to Greenwich.

Cutty Sark Cutty Sark - The Cutty sark is a British clipper ship built in Scotland] in 1869. She was one of the last tea clippers to be built and was one of the fastest, holding speed records from India and Australia to the UK for over ten years. She became obsolete when steamships took over the trade routes.

College Way College Way - This is one of the entrances to the University of Greenwich looking out towards the Township of Greenwich. The University was once the Royal Naval College.

Admirals House Admiral's House and Duck Fountain

Painted Hall The Painted Hall - The Painted Hall was built s a grand ceremonial dining room in the early 18th century. Sir James Thornhill is the artist who painted the frescoes and ceilings in the hall, taking 19 years to complete. The images depict over 200 royal and mythical characters from the time of William III and Mary II, the founders of the Royal Hospital, which became the Royal Naval College in 1869. The benches in the middle are so you can lay down and look up at the ceiling.

Painted Hall The Painted Hall - Another view of the Painted Hall from the opposite end.

Old Royal Navy
			College Old Royal Naval College - These buildings were originally constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen, chartered by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1694. It was designed by Christopher Wren and built between 1696 and 1712. The hospital closed in 1869. The buildings were repurposed to serve as the Royal Naval College from 1873 to 1998.

Queen's House Queen's House - Framed by wings of the Royal Naval College, the Queen's House was a former royal residence built between 1616 and 1635. The house was commissioned to serve as a place where the Queen could display artworks she had accumulated and commissioned.

Royal Observatory Royal Observatory - Situated on a hill in Greenwich Park in Southeast London, the Royal Observatory played a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation. Because the Prime Meridian passed through the observatory, it gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time, the precursor to today's Coordianted Universal Time (UTC). The observatory was commisioned in 1675 by King Charles II. Sir Christoper Wren chose this spot, replacing the Greenwich Castle.

Tower Bridge Tower Bridge - Another photo of Tower Bridge taken from the water taxi on our return trip from Greenwich.

Day 12

Our original plans for today had us traveling to Cambridge with a stop in Royston to visit a cave that is entirely decorated with carvings from (supposedly) the Knights Templar and/or Freemasons. Becki saw a story about in on television so we decided to give it a shot. We were also planning on visiting the campus of Cambridge University, primarily to see the Chapel at King's College there. Unfortunately, the British rail system failed us. There were no trains past Royston due to maintenance. What would have been a fifteen minute train trip was replaced by a forty-five mintue bus ride. And none of the schedules matched up for our day. So we had to scrub that idea and fill in the day with other stuff.

I attempted to get tickets for a tour around Wimbledon, but they were sold out (who knew?). So we decided to take it easy for the day. We visited another museum we had missed on our first trip and spent well over three hours wandering through all of the galleries. We then wandered around the Thames, from the Westminster area to the London Tower area. There is still a lot of London that we didn't see. For some reason, the streets were jammed packed with people today. Way more than we had encountered on the other days. That made getting around a bit more problematic since we seemed to always be fighting our way through huge crowds. It took us three boats before we were able to get on the Uber Water Taxi from Westminster to London Tower. That seemed to be the theme of our trip so far: huge crowds.

Imperial War Museum Imperial War Museum - Originally intended to house the history of the Empire's civil and military efforts during World War 1, the museum now contains artifacts and displays for all of the conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces have been involved since 1914. The two 15-inch guns at the entrance to the museum are from the HMS Ramillies and HMS Resolution.

Westminster Palace of Westminster - The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is commonly called the Houses of Parliament after the House of COmmons and the House of Lords, the two legislative branches of the government. The building was originally constructed in the eleventh century as a royal palace and was the primary residence of the Monarchs of England until 1512. A fire in 1834 destroyed the majority of the palace. Rebuilding commenced in 1840 and lasted 30 years.

Elizabethan Tower Elizabethan Tower - The Elizabeth Tower is the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. It contains the Great Clock, also known as Big Ben, a striking clock with five bells. The tower was completed in 1859 and is elaborately decorated with symbols related to the four nations of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). The dials of Big Ben are 22.5 feet in diameter. Surprisingly, the tower fleans slightly to the Northwest by roughly 9.1 inches over the 55 meter height.

London Eye London Eye - The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, is a cantilevered observation wheel (fancy name for a Ferris Wheel) on the South Bank of the River Thames. It is Europe's largest cantilevered observation wheel. It is 443 feet tall and the wheel has a diameter of 394 feet. As of this trip (May 2023), the price to ride the Eye is 30 or $37.87.

St. Paul's Cathedral St. Paul's Cathedral - St. Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and is the seat of teh Bishop of London. The cathedral in on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. It's dedication in honor of Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site founded in AD 604. The present cathedral was completed in 1710 and was designed by Christopher Wren (who also designed Westminster Cathedral). Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit the interior or the grounds off this cathedral. Maybe next time.

Here are the links to the other parts of our 2023 trip, listed in the order we visited: