Hever is pretty much isolated so the only way to get to the train station was via taxi, it's about a six-mile drive. It's not exactly New York City if you know what I mean -- we got to know all of the local taxi drivers that week! Paul was our favorite, he's the guy who picked us up from the airport and gave us our first tutorial on English culture. What a nice fellow. That taxi ride to the train station was six quid one way, plus two quid tip, so $16.40 one way. Don't forget we needed to take a taxi back every night as well, so each day we spent $32.80 just getting the six miles to the train station and back! Anyway, the train ride into London is about 40 minutes. There are lots of commuters in the early morning, so we waited until the 9:08AM train every day to avoid the crush. The train is expensive but thankfully you can buy a 7-day pass that covers all of your public transportation costs (train, tube, bus) for much less than it would be to pay as you go. You just buy it from the conductor on the train.
The train dropped us off at London Bridge Station and once we deboarded and walked into the station it was like, "Whoa. We. Are. In. LONDON." Just complete disbelief and amazement! We were so excited! We wandered over London Bridge (walking over the Thames -- holy crap!) and in no time we found ourselves standing in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. Theoretically we weren't supposed to visit St. Paul's until later in the week, but itinerary be damned! It was really just gorgeous, and for me it was exciting because St. Paul's is where Lady Diana and Prince Charles were married. I remember my mom waking me up in the middle of the night to watch the royal wedding long ago, it's still a treasured memory for me as I'm sure it is for many other people.
After St. Paul's we walked around quite a bit and ended up in Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. At Trafalgar Square there was a demonstration going on, something to do with global warming (I've learned that the English are way more environmentally concerned than we are here). I guess there are demonstrations in Trafalgar Square all the time, it's sort of "demonstration central" for Londoners. The National Gallery was amazing, such beautiful art. We spent hours there. Thankfully it was November so there weren't all that many tourists. I didn't have to wait in line to see Van Gogh and da Vinci. My first da Vinci! I was overwhelmed.
When we left the National Gallery it was dark out, so we wandered around and saw London by night. Beautiful. We saw the London Eye and Big Ben, and we wandered over by #10 Downing Street (there were more protestors across the street but I couldn't quite hear what they were yelling, I think they were against the war). Then we stumbled back to the train station and straggled back to Hever. What a great day! Pictures below...
Our cozy hotel suite.
The view from the train platform at Edenbridge Station. Notice the morning fog.
This is me standing outside London Bridge Station. I was so excited to see the red double-deckers!
St. Paul's Cathedral
On the grounds of St. Paul's.
Pat taking a photo of the giant columns of St. Paul's. To give you some perspective, Pat is 6' tall. St. Paul's is gigantic!
Pat and me standing at the front of St. Paul's.
The front doors. Lady Diana walked through these to marry Prince Charles. Actually there's quite a bit of graffiti carved into the doors, too bad. (People are idiots.)
Pat looking very cool!
Everything is painted in such bright, deep colors. I suspect it's because of the soft light there. Colors look so much more saturated in cloudy weather.
We had a friend named Sean O'Neil who passed away a few years ago. Sean was very proud of his Irish heritage. He would have loved this!
Typical rustic London street.
Cleopatra's needle. I grabbed this shot from across the street during a millisecond gap in the traffic.
Another beautiful London street. It seemed to me that the whole city was right out of Dickens.
Cool old Vespa
That's Admiral Nelson standing on his column in the background. I don't know who the guy on the horse is. I just thought it was a neat perpsective.
Part of the protest going on in Trafalgar Square that day. The English have no qualms about expressing their feelings for George Bush.
Pigeons flying over the National Gallery
This woman had created this amazing chalk drawing on the sidewalk in front of the National Gallery.
One of the protestors in Trafalgar Square
Admiral Nelson as seen from the (pricey) cafe inside the National Gallery. Funny story: when Gene ordered a hamburger the waitress took great pains to explain to him that there was no ham in it! I guess they just call them burgers there. I ordered the same thing and at eight pounds it came to $16.40! It was delicious though.
Another view of the same thing. I couldn't decide which image I liked better, so I'm showing both.
The London Eye and the full moon
Those double decker buses again!
Another view of the London Eye
Big Ben by night
To read about Day 1 click here