I’m pretty switched on about stuff, and I’m on a lot of mailing lists for deals on travel, hotels, theatre and stuff like that.
One of my key information tools on my adventure journey is that I work in an office with some Millennials.
They literally know everything that’s going on. My friend Matt mentioned that Virgin were doing a seat sale and why didn’t I have a look and see if there was anything that suited me.
As usual, it was cheap going there one day, and expensive coming back the next. But, I found I could travel from Chester to London at 7:30am and come home again 6:10pm for £20 return trip.
I booked it 10 mins later and Nikki and I began planning our fast track trip to London.
We prepared our own breakfast and made our way to the train (Chester station is only 5 minutes from my house).
Just to the left of this picture, you can see a lone head. Its Nikki, this was our Jeremy Corbyn moment…
We had an entire carriage to ourselves, and I took this shot as I was returning after getting coffee’s
We used the 3 star system that has served me well in trip all over the world and made a list of place to see.
I knew all too well that things can end up taking longer than you intend and this can have a knock on effect for the next and subsequent places you want to visit.
So, strict discipline to the clock throughout the day.
Other important thing was getting around. I much prefer to wander on foot while exploring, but to see everything we’d need to travel almost exclusively on the London Underground.
We emerge from the Tower of London tube-station.
It was a lot cheaper to book things online and print your own tickets.
It also meant you could just walk straight in, without queuing which was ace.
Once inside, we see a talk by one of the Beefeater’s.
A beefeater must have served in her Majesty’s forces for 22 years before applying to work at the Tower. It must be pretty cool, as they get to live there as well.
With limited time, head off on our own.
The Crown Jewels are obviously a must see sight, and known for their enormous queue’s.
We’d factored this into our plans and put it first on our list.
No photographs can be taken inside, but I thought they were quite splendid, regardless on your thoughts about the Monarchy.
Unsure of the protocol when speaking to the Guards, I asked if it would be ok to photograph him. He remained completely motionless.
I said “I’m going to presume its ok” then took the shot and said “Thank you”.
I can only imagine the 10’s of thousands of pictures he appears in, in photo albums all around the world.
Another section of Tower, is the fusiliers museum, a regiment who are based here (there were video’s of men training for the 2nd world war in the grounds).
Inside, it had 2 Victoria Crosses, and this Napoleonic Eagle, captured in the Peninsula war (which I heard was the inspiration for similar events in the book/tv series Sharp).
There was some stuff about a steel boot and how it had helped to stop desent in the regiment.
I couldn’t imagine what they meant, until a read it. Basicaly a shirker had an injury to his leg, which he claimed would not heal.
They made a steal boot that was locked and would completely enclose the leg. And sure enough a week later, it had healed (and he got 50 lashes).
The white tower is an incredibly beautiful building.
It has has stood in the grounds of the Tower of London for 900 years.
Inside it had loads of old suits of armour and swords, which frankly I found a bit dull.
It’s said that if the Ravens ever leave the tower, it will crumble and fall.
There are always 6 Ravens, and they have a spare just in case.
I had read that their wings are clipped so they cant fly away. I was surprised to find that they were in cages anyway, I presume this was to protect the general public as they can be quite viscous.
We got up onto the battlements and walked all the way around.
There was an interesting sign about the Duke of Wellington.
I hadn’t realised, that for a period of time, Wellington had actually been Prime Minister.
On one occasion in the house, during a debate, he took issue at something his debating opponent had said, and challenged him to a duel !.
But this is tourism after all.
As we wander along I offer to buy Nikki a gift and crown her as my Queen.
She comments that she would like to “crown” me, but in an entirely different way.
She eventually declines my kind offer and says she wants to be sick !.
Tower bridge, frequently confused with London Bridge is somewhere very special.
Its an iconic symbol of my country and so you might be surprised to hear that I’ve never walked across it.
We could see enormous queues for the Tower bridge tour (originally built by the Victorians it was steam powered until 1987).
Everything is running to schedule, so when we reach the opposite bank, we take some time to wander along the bank of the Thames.
Its getting on for 1pm, so we stop for dinner at a traditional London pub called the Mudlark.
Nikki has fish and chips and I have Pie and mash.
Washed down with a few drinks, we are suitably re-energised and continue on our way.
I took this picture back across the river (it reminded me of the sort of think you see in Lucky Man).
It features famous London buildings like the Walkie Talkie and the Gherkin.
I can only imagine how much extra it costs to make a building that isn’t the normal square shape.
Only 10 days earlier a terrorist atrocity had resulted in 5 deaths, including a Police officer.
We were passing by on our way to see another popular attraction.
A sobering moment, but democracy and freedom come at a cost.
The classic statue of Winston Churchill gives a hint of where were going next.
Outside, people are queuing for upto 2 hours, to get inside and see the Cabinet rooms.
If they’d just taken 5 minutes to book online, they could have walked straight in as we did.
The cabinet war rooms, has many rooms setup roughly as they would have been during the 2nd world war, when the war effort was co-ordinated from here.
In many ways similar to Bletchley park. This room, was Churchill’s telephone room, which gave him a secure, direct line to Roosevelt, the American president.
The venue also has a museum dedicated to Winston Churchill.
To be honest, I’m quite well read on Churchill, so I’d seen/read most of it before and there wasn’t anything in the museum that really jumped out at me.
Instead, this replica of 10 Downing streets door, which features some comments he made on becoming prime minister.
The thing I really came to see.
OK, a minor moan. Just like Bletchley park and similar venues, they have rooms with some old wallpaper, and old desk and some other stuff, and say its a re-creation of Alan Turings desk, re-creation of Churchill’s bedroom etc.
But its not really is it ?
However, at the end of the 2nd world war, the door to the Map Room was locked and it remained exactly as it was until it was re-opened decades later.
It was here, that war was fought. Completely authentic and you could feel history as you looked at it.
It didn’t take long for me to see everything I wanted to at the Cabinet rooms, and we were once again above ground.
As I said earlier, freedom and democracy aren’t free.
After wandering through St James Park, I made a point of visiting the National Police Memorial, to pay my respects to PC Palmer who had been killed in the recent attack.
This isn’t a political site, and I wont get into the one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter thing.
What I will say, is that a man got up that morning, kissed his wife, hugged his son and then went out to work, not knowing he’d never return.
It doesn’t feel like we’ve seen much, but its getting towards the end of the day.
As we walk towards Trafalgar square, you can see the sky. The weather was amazing, all day.
Our final trip is the National Gallery.
Some of the most amazing paintings in the world hang here, and its free to visit.
But its also quite modern and contemporary, apparently there’s a picture of the Smith’s in here somewhere.
Knowing we had limited time, I looked on their website, and they said if you only have an hour, these are the 30 must see pictures.
Nikki and I managed to see 20 + of them.
And then, the best bit.
The Fighting Temeraire as featured in the James Bond film Skyfall where Bond and the new ‘Q’ meet for the first time.
Well, a fab day complete, we head back to Euston station (I wasn’t looking forward to it, they have an awful pub and Macdonalds and not much else…).
But I was wrong. The pub has closed down and a load of new places have opened.
We get a beer and a glass of wine at Gino’s Italian. Quiet and relaxing, the perfect end to an amazing day.
A bottle of wine on the train home and then dinner at Artichoke in Chester.
Can’t wait for the next £10 deal, I’ll keep “monitoring” the millennials, stay tuned.