London Day 3: A Lalala London

Our bodies were aching when we woke up today.  The extreme weather was already taking a toll on us.  Our bodies were not prepared for this kind of weather.  Daily temperature in Manila was sizzling 36C.  It was so hot that we took a bath 2-3 times a day and used our air conditioners all day!  On the other hand, the temperature in London is the opposite.  London was experiencing temperatures of just 9C.  The weather was very damp and windy.  Imagine the contrast of that.  We’re lucky we didn’t get anything serious but colds.

My fake smile at Goodge Street Station
We took the tube to get to Westminster station to see the iconic Palace of Westminster which houses the parliament of U.K.  We were about to get out of the station of Westminster when the bells of Big Ben rang.  The sound is so powerful that it made my chest vibrate.  It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.  Even though it was the second time that I’ve seen it, (the first time happened yesterday) it still struck me.   Just by looking at it, one can feel its deep history.  We went further towards the bridge of Westminster and had a million dollar view of the palace, London Eye and River Thames while a Scottish man was playing a bagpipe at the background.  How did I know he’s Scottish? Easy. He was wearing a skirt. I mean kilt.

"Look up young man, look up"
The two sisters with Ben

The Palace of Westminster along the mighty River Thames
Happy kid right here
The London Eye
A street performer on Westminster Bridge
Just around the corner is the City Cruises’ station.  It’s a boat company that plies the river Thames all the way to Greenwich (pronounced as gren-ich).  Imagine if Filipinos would start pronouncing Greenwich Pizza as gren-ich.  That would be weird.  Anyway, we used the cruise to go to Tower of London.  It was just quarter to ten in the morning when we rode it so the boat was almost empty. It was a great way to see the river which played a major role in the history of the world.  We saw views that we can never see on the road.  It started to drizzle (what’s new) and the wind got stronger.  So, it became even colder.  Just great I thought.  The only thing that was missing was the snow and it’s wintertime.  Nevertheless, we still stayed on top of the boat and enjoyed the trip.

The tower of London is the most visited site in the city.  It used to be an official royal residence, prison and fortress. The castles were turned into museums so the public can get a behind the scene look on how the royal families lived during those times. It’s like a treasure chest of British history.  A lot of events that took place inside the walls of this castle were important in shaping what we know as the United Kingdom today.   It’s the site where most members of the royal families were beheaded including the famous Anne Boleyn. The few buildings that survived the Great Fire of London that almost wiped the whole city can also be found inside.  Everything in that place is interesting.

Have you been inside a real castle?

Waterloo Barracks

The Queen's House is a survivor of the Great Fire

Don't let the Bearskin fool you. Queen's guards are full operational soldiers.

The White Castle
The main attraction would be the Jewel House.  It’s every woman’s paradise.  It houses the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.  Precious stones of all forms and sizes can be found inside.  Most are “gifts” from British India of course.  I think the total worth of the collection can feed the whole continent of Africa.  But who cares about Africa.  The royals needed golden spoons to eat.  For security reasons, photography is not allowed inside.  What a disappointment for my aunt.  She would love to have those replicated in Binondo.  While all of my companions were drooling on what they were seeing, I was watching this tourist who kept on taking pictures of the displays inside.  Was he planning to steal the jewels? I don’t know.   One thing is for sure though, he was asking for trouble.  Few minutes later the guards approached him and asked what he was doing.  He did what terrorist like him would do, deny.  The guards forced him to open his camera and let him delete everything in front of them. Talk about humiliation.  

The queue to the Jewel House

Every woman's dream
After the Tower of London, we went shopping in Oxford Street. If New York has 5th Avenue, London has Oxford Street.  It’s Europe’s busiest shopping street and one of the world’s most expensive streets.  We needed a break from all the sightseeing and have some retail therapy. While my sisters and I were waiting for my aunt, the most beautiful thing happened. Finally, the sun came out!  The feeling of the heat as the sun hit my face felt like heaven.  It lifted our spirits. I never thought I would miss it. 
The world famous Oxford Street

This place is always full of life

Hallelujah! The sun finally showed up!

I'll never take you for granted ever again
Like most cities in Europe, London is a bicycle friendly place.  Public bike hires by Barclays are scattered all over the city.  Londoners seem to love them so I said why not try it.  Maybe I can teach my sister how to ride a bike.  The nearest bike station from our hotel is just a few blocks away located at University College of London.  I spent two hours teaching my sister the basics of riding a bike at this quiet street behind our hotel without any progress.  It’s either I’m not a good teacher or she just sucks at it.  I’ll go with the latter.  We were about to go home when a marker on one of the flats on that street caught my eye.  It says, “Robert Nesta Marley, singer, lyricist, and Rastafarian icon, lived here”.  How crazy was that?  As for my sister, she first learned how to ride a bike on the street where Bob Marley used to live.  How many people can claim that?


Want more? London Day 4 is shopping day!

  1. Take a free tour inside Big Ben. Due to high demand, clock tour tours must be scheduled far in advance. 
  2.  Directions to the Palace of Westminster.
  3. Take a peek inside UK’s parliament. 
  4. Big Ben strikes on the hour and four smaller bells strike every quarter hour.  Experiencing it is a must when in London.
  5. The Elizabeth tower is popularly known as Big Ben. 
  6.   Taking a cruise on the River Thames is another way to see the city.  Join CityCruises for they provide free on board commentary solely based on tips.  Open top bus tours usually come with complimentary cruise tickets.
  7. Take advantage of Days Out Guide’s 2for1 or 4for2 promos. It’s legit. 
  8. Visit Greenwich. Do not miss the location of the Prime Meridian. GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time. Plus, it’s a world heritage site.
  9. Go to the Tower of London as early as possible like what we did to avoid the crowd.  Remember, it’s the most visited site in London. A lot a whole day for it.   
  10. One of the free attractions of Tower of London besides the creative re-enactments held at various sites, is the free Yeoman Warder (AKA ‘Beafeaters’) guided tours.  Do not dare miss this. It’s very informative and entertaining at the same time.
  11. The Tower of London keeps 7 ravens as captives. Legend has it that if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.
  12. The Tower Bridge is not the London Bridge!
  13. Witness the Tower Bridge lift up.   
  14.  Shop at Oxford Street even just for experience. 
  15.   Take advantage of the Barclays Cycle Hire and get around the city on a “Boris bike” while listening to Inner Circle’s hit song.

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