We woke up the next morning and started at 9am with a tour to see the major sites of London. Our tour guide was a British man, Simon, who knew a lot about London and was able to answer all our questions. He also had these walkie talkie/radio things that we all carried around our necks so that we would be able to hear him at all times. While once again we were pointing out our foreignness with bright blue head phones and giant boxes around our necks, it definitely made traveling in a large group and hearing everything about each spot much easier.
The tour started at our hotel and we took the metro to Westminster to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately, we only had a couple minutes to snap some picture before we had to move on.
The next stop was outside of Westminster Abbey which was gorgeous. It was also really cool just thinking about what it would be like to be there for the royal wedding. Nearby, we saw a couple more government buildings including the Supreme Court building.
Next, we were lucky to see the changing of the guards. Since the queen’s birthday is in a couple of weeks, they were practicing for a big show, so it was really cool too see that. From there, we made our way to Buckingham Palace. We stopped at Camilla and Charles and got an up close look at the guards right as they were changing. Just when I thought the guards never said a word, one of the guards literally screamed at a girl in our group who was taking a selfie with the guard as he passed. “GET OFFTHE FENCE!” echoed through the crowd of people, which was extremely frightening, but also hilarious. One of the members of the group even caught the exchange on camera, which was pretty hilarious to watch over and over again. But yes, it scared the crap out of all of us so we quickly left after that.
Outside of Buckingham Palace, there was a ton of people. I was surprised to learn that when the queen is there, the flag on the palace changes from the British flag to the queen’s flag. I don’t think anything like that would happen in the US at the White House because of security but it was cool to know that the queen was actually inside the building we were looking at. Here we watched the changing of the guards as they marched down the street and through the gates. Very cool to see up close.
From there, we took the metro to the London Tower, which used to be a royal prison. It was weird to think that the building we were walking by has literally been there for hundreds of years and is full of history. We also got a great view of the London bridge (yes, we couldn’t help but think of the Fergie song) before our tour wrapped up. Our tour guide, Simon, we great the whole time and of course I loved listening to a British accent all day.
After the tour, our afternoon was free. About half of the group decided to have lunch at a nearby pub, which was pretty good and very nice. Here is where our love of British men in suits got a lot worse. I don’t know what it is but the British men sure do know how to dress and it is extremely attractive. Since most business men were taking a lunch break, we got a very nice look at some men in suits.
The group we were with then decided to walk to where Diagonal Alley from Harry Potter was filmed since it was nearby and a tour guide had recommended it. We walked a couple blocks following his directions an ended up at a market. Confused, one of the group went inside a shop to figure out where to go. And yup, this was it. With the streets cleared and a bit of movie magic, this was Diagonal Alley and we couldn’t even recognize it.
A bit disappointed, we decided to get a tangible Harry Potter fix and headed to Kings Cross Station. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I was absolutely giddy and taking a picture at the “platform” was a definite must. The men who were running the line and taking the professional pictures (which you could and I of course had to buy) were absolutely hilarious and got really into character. There was also a little Harry Potter shop where I got my very own ticket to Hogwarts. Absolutely loved it.
From there, the group we were with split up and we decided to go to Harrods, a giant British department store and shopping center. After an interesting run in with a blind man who were worried was trying to pick pocket us, we made it there which was Meredith R’s paradise. The store was also promoting Great Gatsby, which from a marketing perspective was brilliant. The store is all about glamour and high fashion which goes perfectly with the movie. While the prices were definitely out of our price range, we got a few chocolates and it was still cool to walk around a look at everything. The store was huge.
After Harrods, we had lunch at a little restaurant we stumbled across called the Brass Monkey. Even though it took more than half an hour for Katie to get her nachos she ordered (Mexican food withdrawals) it was pretty good.
Our next and final stop was the Apollo Victoria Theatre to see Wicked! Meredith R had suggested we go see a show and the tickets were pretty reasonably priced and definitely cheaper than at home. I have wanted to see the show and just hasn’t taken the plunge to buy tickets in the past, so I was really excited. Even though all of us were exhausted from such a busy day and struggled to keep our eyes open at some of it (can’t be stationary for too long or else the tiredness will set in), it was a very good show and I’m glad I finally saw it.
From there we took the metro back to the hotel. If anyone was wondering if we were foreign, it was confirmed as Katie yelled “Y’all!” through the station to have us wait for her since her ticket wasn’t working all day and she had to talk to the ticket inspector to get in. Definitely got our attention. Back at the hotel, we got ready for an early morning and, unfortunately, goodbye to London.