Category Archives: Travel

London Eye

Back at the London Eye after our Thames cruise, we lined up ready for our flight. The line was long but it seemed to be moving at a steady pace. There were two lines running into one at the pods. In one line there were school kids on a class excursion and the other line was for the rest of us. We hadn’t been lined up for long when the person in front of us was asked directions by someone else. She stopped to help her and the line in front of her moved. At that moment a snobby looking family jumped the queue into that spot. We were not impressed. The worst part about that was they ended up in the same pod as us.

The Eye rarely stops at any point which means you have to get into the pod while it is moving. That isn’t too hard so long as the people in front of you move away from the doorway. The ride took quite a long time to complete. At one point the Eye actually stopped. That happened while we were at or near the very top of the ride. Kim was getting a little crabby at that point because she was so tired and didn’t want to be there anymore. Eventually it started moving again. We got our photo taken at the bottom before we disembarked. As I said, the Eye doesn’t stop moving for you, not even so you can get off, so when the doors open you have to move. The snobby family was at the front, but they didn’t move when the doors opened. Kim just barged pass them and I followed.

I wanted to have a look at St Pauls Cathedral which was a bit of a distance away from the London Eye and back on the other side of the river. We were able to see it on the cruise and from the Eye. We walked over the foot bridge next to the train bridge which ran into Charing Cross station. We were nearly over the bridge when Kim broke down crying. She had reached her limit of endurance and was crying because of it. We had been keeping a very fast pace for the entire trip which was nearly 4 weeks old at that point. It is no wonder that she was exhausted. I gave her a hug and told her that we didn’t have to go any further, we could go back to the hotel and rest, but she said we couldn’t. She was right; we couldn’t let the opportunity of being in London pass us by. Kim seemed to get a second wind then which carried her through the rest of the day, and it was a big day. We got to the other side of the river and caught a taxi to St Pauls Cathedral. As we were driving along Kim saw a lady wearing a shirt with a belt and that was it. Perhaps she forgot the rest of the outfit? We will never know.

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Thames Cruise

I had pre-booked tickets for the London Eye the day before to try and speed things up, which it did. We decided to also do the 4D London Eye experience, as the ticket office thought it best that we do the Thames cruise first and then the Eye when we returned. The cruise wasn’t going to leave for a while so the 4D experience was just the thing to fill in some time. It was a very good 3D/4D display. Ever since the 4D experience I have associated some of Coldplay’s music with London because they had one of their songs playing during the show. I was also thankful that Kim told me to put the lens cap on my camera before the show started. I put the camera away when she mentioned that which was good as 4D means there is a real element to the show and that was smoke (fog/clouds) and bubbles.

After the 4D experience we made our way down to the jetty to board the cruise on the Thames. It was a cold day, but we sat on the open air deck as that would give us the best photo opportunities. Our guide who gave us running commentary was fantastic. He obviously had pride in his work as he knew just about everything there was to know about the Thames and the buildings that line it. He also didn’t mind taking the piss out of things as he bagged out the English contribution to the Eye. They supplied the wooded benches. The cruise took us from the London Eye down the Thames past the Tower Bridge and back again. As we turned around past Tower Bridge the wind started to hit us up on deck. Our guide said he couldn’t stand the cold anymore so he headed downstairs to the warm comfy seats. We didn’t last in the cold much longer than our guide.

Trafalgar Square and Big Ben

Wednesday 20th, October. The morning started with a full English breakfast in our room. I can’t remember all that was there but, I know I liked it. It was a good way to start the day as it was going to be another huge day walking and sightseeing in London.

Our first objective was to get to the London Eye which was just down the road and over the Thames. We walked down the street from the hotel to Trafalgar Square where we saw the National Museum building and Nelsons Column along with some other things in the square. I was hot that morning and only had my vest on with short sleeves. Kim on the other hand was rugged up and was still cold. I think she was colder just because she was looking at me in my vest wondering why I wasn’t cold. It wasn’t long after that, that we left Trafalgar Square and headed for the river. In doing so we crossed the road into the shade where I started to really feel the cold. It didn’t take long for me to put my jumper on.

Before we crossed the bridge to take us to the other side of the Thames we passed Big Ben and the Westminster Building. We took some photos and made our way across the bridge to the London Eye.

Lion King

Back at the hotel we were just starting to relax when the phone rang. It was reception asking us to turn the electronic door lock off, as there was someone at the door for us. We turned off the lock and there was someone at the door with a tray of juice bottles, glasses and an ice bucket. The deal I had booked the room under included either a bottle of wine or some chocolates. When we checked in I mentioned that we don’t drink but, a glass of orange juice would be fine. They sent us 8 bottles of juice! They also came in with a beautiful desert that said congratulations in chocolate. We didn’t want to eat it right away as we were getting ready to go out again to see the Lion King on stage. So we left it for later on to have with a late diner.

One thing I should mention here before the story goes too far. When we got into our room that morning we had some clothes that needed washing. The Sofitel did offer a laundry service, but they were asking a huge price per item, so Kim thought she would just wash our clothes in the bath and hang some of the clothes over the towel warmer to dry. There were two pairs of trousers and some smalls. The trousers were on the warmer and the smalls were on our travel clothes line strung up between the two doors to the bathroom. Before we left for Lion King the clothes line was taken down but it was still hanging on one of the door knobs. When we did leave the room I didn’t put the electronic “do not disturb” lock on the door, but I did turn the master switch off so all the power was off in the room.

We had done so much during the day that by the time we left for Lion King we didn’t have enough time for dinner. In fact I was watching the clock in the taxi as there was a deadline to pick up our tickets. The cabbie was wonderful. He took all these back streets and ally ways to get us to the Lyceum Theatre and he got us there in good time. I had no idea where to go to get our tickets but, I found someone to ask and he said that I could go in but, Kim couldn’t go with me. I told her to stay there and I would be right back. Thankfully the tickets were there and it all went smoothly. Our seats were just about perfect to watch the show. We were on the right of the left side, up in the balcony only a couple seats away from the edge. You could see every thing from there. The theatre was filling up fast with other people, families and children. I didn’t think that there would be so many children there, but I guess it is really a story aimed at children that adults also enjoy. The performance was spectacular! The performers actually came out into the audience at times which really put you in the action. For me, just like the film, I found the first half a little slow, but you need the first half to set up the second half. I must say however, the stampede in the first half was probably the best part of the show. They really did that well.

During the intermission we headed back downstairs to the souvenir shop and bought a heap of stuff. We would have done that at the start of the show but, we were running late and by the time we got there the place was packed with other people doing the same thing. During intermission we were the first down there, the first to buy anything and the first to get out of there. The second half of the show was wonderful and the cast got a huge ovation at the end. I am so glad we got to see this show in London. It really was a great experience and it will be remembered for some time.

When we left the theatre we stopped in a small store and got something to eat for dinner. We ended up having sandwiches for dinner which was a little bit of a come down when you think of where we were staying. (One of the best up market hotels in all of London) We returned to the hotel tired but pumped from a huge day in London. I unlocked our room and opened the door, and then I stopped. I thought to myself “I turned the power off when we left, why is there music playing and some lights on?” While we had been out the Sofitel staff had been busy setting up the room and turning down the bed. It was all very romantic with the subtle lighting and soft music playing on the TV. Kim was mortified as we had open bags on the floor from when we got into the room earlier in the day, and we had washing hanging up. It was a little embarrassing, but I’m sure they have seen it all before. There was a subtle hint about the washing with a laundry card on the side table for us to fill out.

We sat in this lovely room with the nice lighting and music playing eating our store bought sandwiches and drank the orange juice supplied earlier in the day. We finished off with the desert which had been given to us and it was sublime. What we thought was a mud cake with strawberries and other berries on it with a chocolate swirl, was actually something much better. It was chocolate moose with a biscuity base. That with the berries and chocolate was amazing. We each had half and when we finished we were both wishing we had more. We even ate the chocolate writing off the plate because it was so good.

Wellington Arch

We continued in the direction of our hotel passing all sorts of lovely buildings and parkways. We stopped at Wellington Arch and took some photos. It sits in the middle of a huge round-about and that is where we first heard a police siren. It seemed like the police car was going around and around the round-about with his siren blaring. It was probably multiple police cars at different times, but from that point on if we heard a siren we said they were still going around that round-about.

Once we got to Green Park I knew we weren’t too far from the hotel. Kim was still feeding the Squirrels and taking photos. There is a Diana memorial walk through Green and St James Parks with ornate markers in the walkway signifying that fact. I tried to get a good photo of them but they didn’t really come out. I found out that Kim had taken a photo of one during the day and it looks fantastic. Once again she had no idea exactly what she was doing, she just liked the lighting.

It wasn’t long after we exited the park when the rain returned. We managed to shelter under a store front with several other people. We stayed there as the heaviest part of the rain passed by then we kept on moving. We did stop again at another store before we made it back to the hotel. We didn’t realise at the time, but we were on Piccadilly as we exited Green Park. Our hotel was basically on Regent Street. These two streets converge at Piccadilly Circus, which was a place I wanted to see and photograph. Sadly we never got there. We were always close, but never close enough.

Hyde Park

Our first stop after freshening up was Harrods. Avril wanted a new Harrods apron and when we told Kim’s mother that she also wanted one. We went down stairs and had a cab hailed for us. It was a little harder for the valets to hail cabs at that time as there was construction work going on right outside the hotel. To get the cabs attention they would climb the barricades and hang from poles with their arm out. They certainly earned their money! The cabbie asked if we were going to spend up big at Harrods to which we replied no.

The Harrods building was big, grand and old, but the interior was modern. Each area had its own theme to it. I can’t remember them all but I do remember one area looking Egyptian in design. We wandered through the stores many floors looking at what they had. There were many things that would have been nice to buy but they were far too expensive. We found the aprons in the cooking section of the building. Kim wanted to also get a small kids apron for Lila so both Avril and Lila could wear them while they cooked. To get that apron we had to go downstairs to the gift area, we found we could have got them all in that area. Kim also got herself a Harrods carry bag with kittens on it.

When we left the store we were feeling a little hungry so we walked along trying to find somewhere to eat. To our left was Hyde Park which we wanted to have a look at, but first we would eat. We found a small café and had lunch before venturing into the park. We later found out there was a nice café in the park which we could have eaten at instead. As we walked towards the park we came across a bike hire system. As we had hired bikes in Vancouver we were keen to do the same thing in London and ride around Hyde park. The way it worked was you had to put your credit card in and pay then take your bike from the electronic bike stand. Unfortunately for us the system was having a fault today and you couldn’t hire the bike from there without another membership card. So we didn’t get to ride the park, but we might do it another time if we ever get back there.

Hyde Park actually has a dirt horse track around it. People had to walk across it to go through the park. We walked up to the edge of the lake and took some photos then we started to head in the direction of our hotel again. As we walked alone out of the park Kim was feeding the Squirrels. She actually got to pretty much hand feed one squirrel and I got it on camera. She was forever looking down in search of nuts for them. I think she hurt her neck a little doing that. Overhead the day was still nice and sunny, but behind us we could see there was a change coming and coming fast. We hadn’t made it out of the park and the sky opened up with rain. We sheltered under a tree for a few minutes and the rain cleared. We continued walking for some time and finally got back to Green Park.

Sofitel St James London

After leaving Buckingham Palace we walked into Green Park and took some photos. We walked through the park and began to head back to the hotel in hopes of getting a room and a shower. It was a nice walk along the busy streets of London back to the hotel. I saw an interesting hotel along the way which required the taxis to reverse into it to pick up their fairs. We found our way back to the Sofitel St James and asked about our room. It wasn’t quite ready but we were welcome to wait, which we did. It didn’t take long and we were in our room relaxing and cleaning up. Our luxurious King room was at the very top of the building. The room was well proportioned with the king sized bed dominating the main living area. There were double doors that lead into our bathroom which had a full bath and shower. There were three windows in our corner suite, but the view was hard to see. The room had two features that were unique on our trip. One was a master light switch at the door. The second was an electronic door lock, instead of a more traditional manual lock. This lock also acted as a do not disturb sign as the staff were unable to enter when it was on. We didn’t spend too much time in our room as we still had a lot to see and do in London.