June 17, 2013
I woke up around 4:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I spent a few hours uploading photos and planning out another “death march” (Jeff’s words). After everyone finally woke up (around 9) we got dressed and stopped into Starbucks for breakfast. We decided to check out the neighborhood where we are staying by taking a walk around. We are staying in the City of London, which is a smaller district of Greater London. Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_London
Just up the street is Temple Church, a church that dates back to the 12th century. It is surrounded by the Inns of Court, the professional associations for barristers (attorneys) in Wales and England. We wandered through the area, which is like a little village where barristers work and law students live and attend classes. After Temple Church, we continued our walk along Fleet Street where we saw several landmarks including the Royal Courts of Justice, the Temple Bar Monument and St. Bride’s Church.
About mid-day, we arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s is where Charles and Diana got married in 1981. We wandered the church – which is huge and intricate at the same time. We climbed 257 steps from the cathedral floor to the “whispering gallery” at the interior of the base of the huge dome and then another 119 to the stone gallery. There we could go outside to take in the views of the city. Just when we thought we could not climb another stair, we found the cubby hole to a stairway that led another 152 steps to the “golden gallery,” a tiny balcony ledge surrounding the exterior of the dome crown on the outside. Kiki didn’t enjoy the “see through” stairs, but we all made it up (and back down again). St. Paul’s was fantastic but exhausting, so we wandered next door to Paternoster Square and grabbed some take-out lunch.
After lunch, we hopped on the tube to the Tower of London. We spent a few hours exploring the 16 acre grounds and the various buildings. The Tower of London is a historic castle that dates back to the Norman conquest. It has been used for many things over the centuries, most notably a prison. Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned here by her Catholic half-sister Queen “Bloody Mary” I before she ascended to the throne. It is also home (literally) to the beloved Beefeater guards.
The Tower of London is also where the Crown Jewels of England have been stored for safe keeping since they were stolen and then recovered from Westminster Abbey in 1303. The line for the Crown Jewels was too long to get us in before closing time, so Jeff offered to show us his instead. We took a pass on “Jeffs Jewels” and tried to catch the Tower Bridge “experience” which allows you to go out on the upper level of the bridge. We arrived just as they shut and locked the door. That was a good sign that we needed to end the day, so we hopped the tube back to our local station and had some dinner in a neighborhood pub before heading in for the night.
(Kiki’s estimate of stairs climbed today- 900 million. Up AND down.)