London day 3

In my classic tourist exhausting style I’ve had another full and wonderful day n London. One of these days I’m going to book a long enough trip where I can do some day trips. This isn’t one of those as there is much to see. So far I’ve not repeated many experiences from prior visits and still the checklist is long!

So, what did I do today? It feels like everything but I focused on the City with the Rick Steve’s City Walk and had a blast.

I started by walking down toward Westminster which is only a 5 minute or so walk from my hotel. Since I was there, I opted to tour the Abbey and shelled out the slight gasp of £18 for admission. 20140224-200914.jpg
Put your cameras and tour books away, pick up the free audio guide and enjoy. Friendly docents help you orient and welcome you to the church. A very nice reception.

Despite my entry early in the morning it wasn’t too crowded and I enjoyed being awed by the space and royal atmosphere of the Abbey. The tombs of monarchs makes me glad I was never a royal as so many of them met untimely and violent ends. Oppose your cousin, nephew, etc? No worries. Declare them a traitor, throw them in prison and a speedy execution later you’re on the thrown.

I didn’t spend too much time wandering the cloisters as it’s a loaded day but you could easily spend a few hours here. Instead I continued up Whitehall essentially retracing my steps from the Westminster Walk.

Today the Horse Guards were in position so definitely worth a pause.
It was close to the change time and this particular horse was antsy. Makes me wonder how many secret signals the guard is giving versus the horse just have conniptions. Although I’d stomp around if I had to stand there for hours.

In a few moments I reached the Strand where it branches off Trafalgar Square and the start of the City Walk. The audio guide version is a little shorter and starts further up, but my first goal was Somerset House and the Courtauld Gallery.

Now, I’m a fan of Impressionism and have to say this museum is worth a stop and a pleasure over the crowds in the Tate Modern. Plus the art on display is among my favorites. From Cezanne, Manet, Gauguin, Degas, Renoir, Matisse, Van Gough and more the Courtauld is a delight. It’s small, intimate, inexpensive and even better – half off on Mondays.

After the museum I immersed myself in the Walk with a stop in Twinings Tea Shop.20140224-203611.jpg
The tasting bar in the back was a great experience where I learned about different teas and sampled some Darjeeling and Oolong. 20140224-203534.jpg
Back into the tour I found myself at Ye Olde Cheshire Inn for lunch. 20140224-204032.jpg
This tavern dates from the 1600s and is worth a pint or some fish and chips in my case. It’s a series of dark rooms cobbled together with fireplaces and drinking nooks. Very atmospheric as you imagine the time of Dickens and eras prior.

A bit further up the street the Punch Tavern (of Punch and Judy fame) provides a bit more Victorian atmosphere.

Meanwhile the dome of St Paul’s draws you close.

St. Paul’s is definitely worth the admission and I found myself spending more time than anticipated enjoying this cathedral. The American chapel was surprisingly moving (caught me by surprise). Take your time here admiring the alter, dome and overall impact of this place.

Feeling energetic I braved the climb up the dome. After 257 steps you reach the Whispering Gallery. This puts you at the base of the dome and provides fantastic views of the church below as well as amazing acoustics within the dome.

Another climb brings you to the Stone Gallery and impressive views of London.

The final level at the tippy top was closed. For which I’m sure my legs are grateful. Although stairs are not out of the future as first you have to descend and then there is the crypt!

Ascending from the crypt I was delighted when what I thought was a recording turned out to be evensong practice. I managed to record about two minutes which upload when able.

From here I continued down to the banking district where I abandoned the tour to visit Leadenhall Market where I fell in love with a cheese shop. Fine wines and cheese tasting is about my favorite thing ever so I indulged a bit here.

Good thing I spent some time here as it also choose to rain. Today’s weather has run the gamut of sunny and warm, to windy and chilly to chilly with rain. And more rain is on schedule for tomorrow.

Instead of eating out I visited a grocery market on the way to a tube stop and picked up a sale to accompany my remaining cheese and wine. Tonight will be capped with a quiet night in my room and early (or earlier) to bed.

There’s still so much to see!

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