26.03.2013 - 26.03.2013 2 °C
Today was our introduction to England's capital city, London.
We emerged from the Underground and were immediately greeted by the imposing 13-ton clock Big Ben. After snapping photos in the middle of the street like the tourists we are, we headed across the Thames. We admired the Palace of Westminster, the United Kingdom's parliament building, and took a peek at Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives. Our attention was also grabbed by the London Eye, the most popular paid attraction in the city. I would've loved to have taken a ride on it, but it was £20 a person, so we simply admired it from below. We also saw the Queen's Guard, all mounted on horses, shivering in their tasselled hats and large cloaks. One of these unfortunate fellows had the task of trumpeting, which I'm sure was unpleasant what with it being near freezing and all.
The highlight of our day was visiting Westminster Abbey. We waited in line for about half an hour, shivering in the icy London air. The shock to our systems upon leaving Turkey has made us much more susceptible to the cold. Eventually, we made it into the abbey. I remembered the vaulted ceiling and general grandeur from watching a bit of the most recent royal wedding on TV. Obviously, it was a much more awe-inspiring when I was standing right in the middle of it all. We weren't allowed to take pictures, so I tried my best to soak it all in. We all got free audio guides, which were necessary in order to know where you were going. We couldn't just wander through the church as we pleased, but instead followed the slowly shuffling crowd from place to place, listening to the guides as we went. Apart from the nave of the abbey, the building is mostly chapels, tombs, and memorials. The largest and most intricate of the chapels was the Henry VII Chapel, or the Lady Chapel, which had a beautifully elaborate ceiling and housed a war memorial. There was also the Poets' Corner, full of notable names such as Shakespeare, Austen, and Handel. We spent quite a bit of time seeing how many names we could recognise.
After the abbey, we visited the small museum included in the visit. We saw some of the fancy outfits that the kings and queens of decades past had worn, as well as an assortment of ceremonial regalia. The latter turned out to be replicas used for practice. On our way out of Westminster we glimpsed the famous Coronation Chair, which was really all we could do as it was covered to protect it from the renovation efforts going on around it.
When we had seen all we could see, it was 2:30 in the afternoon. It had been about three hours of neck craning and jaw dropping. We had lunch/dinner at home, feeling the task of searching for a restaurant in the cold was a little too daunting. Thanks to my aunt, we had Kraft Dinner, which she had brought in her suitcase. It was a great and much longed for taste from home for Abby and I, and my parents did their best to appreciate it as well.
We wound down after that. Abby and I played a couple games with our aunt (I won one, Auntie Helen won the other), while Mom and Dad discussed some of our future plans. We'll be headed to a little town just north of Brighton, but that's not until next week. For now, we're just excited for our next day in London.