Here's today's set of pictures on Flickr for Monday, Sept 19, 2011.
On my first day in London yesterday, I was knackered from lack of sleep so I decided to push my 8am bus tour into a 10pm bus tour. I slept in a bit longer than I had anticipated and made it out to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard a few minutes late, but it turned out that it didn't matter because they're on every-other-day status now instead of every day, and nobody bothered to tell me. That was the only time I had allotted and I'm not sure if I can swap other things around to make room for it on another day. We'll see. Will and Kate never answered my email about a private tour of the Palace (neither did Harry or Pippa) so I was left at the gates.
So I checked out the Buckingham Palace area anyway, it's a pretty nice place. The statue of Queen Victoria in the center of the gathering area is under tarps and scaffolding. At the ticket office around the corner, I bought tickets for Wednesday afternoon to see the Queen's collection of artwork (special exhibition) and the Staterooms (which are only open to the public in August and September).
With a little extra time to kill now, I found a notation on Rick Steves' map and headed up to the nearby Baker Street station, to see the museum of Baker Street's most famous resident, Sherlock Holmes. There's a museum at 221-B Baker Street right next to the Beatles Store. Didn't have time to take the tour, but I did pose with a deerstalker cap and pipe at the front door (like everyone else).
Next stop: The British Museum. I could have spent a whole day in there, but I only had a couple hours. I followed the Rick Steves highlights tour of the museum, which started in the Great Hall and covered most of the Greek, Egyptian, and Assyrian rooms. With time left over, I supplemented that with the Greek rooms he left out, plus ancient Europe - everything from the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian statues, mummies, and sarcophagi, Assyrian carvings, Greek pottery, the Naiad temple, the Elgin Marbles, statues from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), and medals from the upcoming 2012 Olympics. I had to cut the tour short so I could visit the British Library with its wonderful collection of old manuscripts - original scores from Handel's Messiah, notebooks by DaVinci, original lyrics by The Beatles, ancient maps, and an original copy of the Magna Carta dating back to the year 1216. Fascinating stuff but they don't let you take pictures inside. I did like how they had all their old books stacked with the spines facing a glass wall that stretched up several stories, visible to people in the lobby.
The Library is just two buildings down from the King's Cross railway station. Due to Harry Potter fans wanting to know where Platform 9-3/4 is, they wisely built a "platform" outside the building on the street that consists of the platform sign and a luggage carriage half-embedded in the wall. It was originally up near platform 10 but due to construction it's now at street level, which I think is better for the tourists anyway. I got in the queue to have my picture taken "pushing" the cart through the wall.
My original itinerary said "East End" for dinner/night activities, since Fodor's said it's a "hedonistic night out bar and club crawling in Hoxton & Shoreditch" but (a) I was going to take the night bus tour starting at Victoria, (b) I didn't feel like pub and bar crawling, and (c) I had no idea where to go. So that turned into dinner and the bus tour in the Victoria area.
I had a couple hours to kill so I had dinner at the Victoria Pub right around the corner from the Victoria Station building. Had a Marston's England Pale Ale with my bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes in gravy) which was actually more tasty than it sounds.
The night bus tour went from 9:45 to 11:30 and drove us around in an open-top double-decker bus. I chose to ride up top and just zipped up my jacket. It wasn't a hop-on/hop-off bus due to the time of day but that was fine by me. Among the sights were Marble Arch, the Ritz Hotel, Picadilly Square, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Parliament, Westminster, the London Eye, the Tower of London, St Paul's, London Bridge, and the Tower Bridge, The bus had a pre-recorded commentary track, and although I had already visited or was going to visit many of these sites, the bus tour was nice to put it all into perspective.
Got to bed late the night before, woke up late, got back late, stayed up late. I'm seeing a pattern here that I need to fix - I need to not be going to bed at 4am if I plan to get up and be somewhere by 8am.
Here's today's set of pictures on Flickr.
(Originally posted 9/22/11 at 1:18am, London)