Wednesday, September 18, 2013


We spent a total of 6 nights in London and only scratched the surface.  I suppose you could spend weeks and still not see it all.  It’s a great city, but if you come, bring money.  It’s very expensive.  Oh you could go a little cheaper and eat takeout food all the time, but who wants to do that.  With the exchange rate at around $1.60 to the Pound it makes matters worse.  As an example we had a lunch in a pub, just fish and chips, a glass of wine an a beer, $50 and that’s a budget meal.  But we knew all this going in so we were somewhat prepared.


It’s crowded in London, especially around tourist sites.  When we were at Big Ben, the sidewalks were undulating with people.  And this isn't the tourist season.  We went to Piccadilly Circus to see a show and the place was mobbed.  I estimated that 95% of the people there were tourist, the other 5% were the police.  Speaking of police, there is a strong visual presence of police in uniform and I sure many we never see.  We felltsafe here though, the people are friendly and helpful.  Sometimes in the tube it’s so crowded, you better be friendly.

So, what have we been doing you ask?  Well we went to a play and saw 39 Steps a great comedy/murder mystery. The cast of 4 was busy as they played many rolls, changing costumes often during the performance.

After the show we had a dinner at the Bengal Clipper, an Indian restaurant along the Thames.  Completely a new experience for us having never eaten Indian food before.  We had two waiters, the first of which spoke little or no English while the second was at least able to give us some idea of what was on the menu.  We lucked out and ended up having great and filling meal.

I had obtained some very difficult to get tickets for the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London, so after dinner we headed that way across the tower bridge.

The Ceremony of the Keys starts every evening promptly at 9:53 pm and ends at 10 pm.  It is the locking of the gates at the tower by the tower guards, the guys in the tall big furry hats and lead by the Sergeant Major who is called a Beefeaters.  A very exacting and timed ceremony ending with a bugler playing a tune which ends exactly when the clock in the clock tower starts to strike 10.  Very impressive.  The tickets are free, but you must send away for them far in advance.  No photos allowed.

When growing up my family lived in England for a year.  I was 8 and 9 years old at the time so most of the experience is somewhat hazy, but I did remember where we lived and where I went to school.  Not being far from London, we took the train and paid a visit.  When living there in 1957/58, Woking was a pretty small place.  Now there are high rises and a shopping mall in the town center.  With directions from the local police to get me started, I did recognize the way to go to get to our house at #4 Horsell Park Close.  From there I was able to retrace my childhood steps to the school I attended, which happened to still be standing.

After lunch at a local pub, ($90, it’s not less expensive in the suburbs) we stopped by the church we attended and they were having a open house.  We were given the royal treatment and offered a tour of the bell tower, a place as a child I was never allow to go.  So we were lead up the very narrow spiral staircase by the bell ringer.  Reaching the top he was trying to unlock the door but had forgotten part of the combination to the lock.  With the staircase so narrow and I being at the end of the line, I was elected to climb back down, find someone who know the combination, and climb back to the top with the information.  We were rewarded with a fine view of Woking and on the way back down we got a tour of the bells and the bell ringer rang the bells for us.

On our last full day in London we paid our second visit to the Tower of London.  We saw the crown jewels, which are unbelievable.  You can see some photos HERE and read about them too. After viewing the jewels and some of the gold tableware from different coronations of kings and queens, Cathie wanted to go shopping.  Luckily our visit to the Tower wasn't finished.

The best part of any visit to the Tower, at least in my opinion, is a Beefeater tour.  The cadre of Beefeaters at the tower are all Sergeant Majors in the British Army.  Before being able to volunteer and be assigned to the Tower, they must serve at least 22  years, reach the rank of Sergeant Major and have clean disciplinary record.  Needless to say, they are what you might call an "old salt". They along with their family live on the Tower grounds, providing security and during the daytime giving tours for the throngs of visitors.  The tour was informative and funny.  If you ever visit the Tower, it's a must.

Our B&B is located in Belgravia, considered a pretty upscale neighbor.  Many countries have their embassies in this neighborhood.  Our B&B was located in a 17th century house, narrow with 4 levels if you include the basement where we were.  Although the location was excellent, within walking distance of many sites, the B&B was sub par.  I won't go into details, but we wouldn't stay there again.  Lastly here are some photos of  the neighborhood.


We left London on Tuesday and we are now in the small village of Crayke, just north of York. We are staying at a farm B&B, which is excellent.  Annette, our hostess is beyond belief.  More about this part of our trip later. Take a look at our B&B HERE.

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