As soon as we were ready we went and waited at the bus stop and hopped on a bus to Trafalgar Square.
The Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square
I had bought tickets on-line for the Original Bus Tour, so we were soon onboard a bus, off to see the sights of London. Advice for anyone contemplating a Hop-on, Hop off bus tour in London: the Original Tour has different routes, only the YELLOW route has live guides onboard the bus, on the other routes you have a recorded voice pointing out the various sights to you, where possible, always choose to jump on a Yellow Route bus, in our experience the live guides are excellent. Our guide “Rosie” was an absolute gem. We stayed on the bus all the way from Trafalgar Square to the Tower of London, seeing all the major sights along the way.
Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square
Houses of Parliament
I had pre-booked tickets for the Tower, so we could by-pass the looooong queues and go straight to the priority desk to have our tickets stamped and moments later we were inside.
We queued for a while for the free Yeoman Warder’s tour, all the while the crowd of people around us grew bigger and bigger. I was sure they would split the group between at least a couple of Beefeaters, but stupidly they didn’t, which meant that unless you were one of the fortunate few standing close to him, you battled to hear him speak; although the poor man tried valiantly to be heard. Unbelievably an American woman standing directly in front of us took a phone call while we were trying to listen and then relayed the entire phone call to her friend…. You just can’t take some people anywhere!
We followed the tour to the second stop but then gave up, we couldn’t make out a word that was being said! So we bought a guidebook and continued on our own. We saw the main bits of the Tower (I think you need a full day to see everything I’d like to see!) including the site of the beheadings, the Crown Jewels, traitor’s gate etc.
Lunch was eaten at the large cafeteria. After lunch we took some more photos of Tower Bridge (my favourite!)
and then headed off to catch the tube to our London Walk. We decided that, seeing as the Olympics is about to start and London is currently ALL about the Olympics, we should go and see what all the fuss is about.
We have done numerous London Walks and so far have never been disappointed, but this one left me a little under-awed – probably because my expectations were way too high (nothing to do with the guide who was cute!) You see, I had hoped to get inside the Olympic venues – in retrospect I realise there was no way that was going to happen. Duh!
We DID get as far as the outside of the venues and did a nice stretch of walk along the Greenway in East London, where we happily managed to straddle the Greenwich Meridian (I thought you could only do that in Greenwich, I was wrong!)
and we learnt more facts about the current and past Olympics than I could ever hope to remember. What sticks in my mind is how “green” the 2012 Olympics will be, which is wonderful. Also, thanks to the Olympics there are ambitious plans in place for the regeneration of areas in the East of London (where the major part of the Olympics will be held) which have historically been rather dismal. These plans will continue long after the Olympics have ended and will hopefully do a lot to uplift the area. I gather that there are mixed feelings among the locals about the wisdom of London hosting this event – some are very positive, others not so much! I hope it all goes well for London and look forward to watching it all unfold on TV.
The Olympic village
The aquatics centre (the weird red structure is the The Orbit...
The main stadium
We walked up to the viewing deck in the John Lewis store at Stratford Westfield Mall that has amazing views over the Olympic park and bought a couple of souvenirs in the Olympics 2012 department of the store.
Then it was off to Buckingham Palace. The road immediately in front of the Palace was closed to traffic – no doubt very annoying for the drivers, but a bonus for us as we managed to get some lovely photos without a steady stream of cars going by.
Due to road closures we walked via an incredibly circuitous route from Buckingham Palace to a pub near Piccadilly Circus where I stupidly offered Cal a taste of my pear cider and spent the rest of the evening trying to wrestle the glass back from him (ha,ha….what can I say, the boy has exceptional taste!!) we then went and had a lovely supper in an Italian restaurant (Paula can only have so many pub meals before she needs some Italian!) before catching a bus back to our hotel.
I have to admit that the road closures are a bit of a pain and London is positively heaving with traffic! There are loads of tourists about, but it really only affected us in terms of the AWFUL traffic congestion and the tour at the Tower – otherwise I felt that London was coping well with the influx.