This proved to quite a popular option with us- I can honestly say we never missed breakfast while we stayed at the hotel ;)
This was the day we opted to visit 'the churches'. On my list were Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate. I'll explain the significance of the latter later ;)
Our first stop, was the abbey. We got on the tube, and took it all the way out to Westminster. This has the happy chance of allowing you to view St. Stephen's Clock tower, which houses the hour bell, Big Ben. When you come out of the tube station there, it is the first thing you see :)
|If you look, you can see the canopy of the tube station AND the sign to the right :)|
Unbeknownst to us, we were there on a day that was quite important. There were helicopters flying around filming, protesters on the street, and on the way back, a car with a police escort. That likely means either the Prime Minister or a Cabinet Member. So what was the important day? It was the day that Prime Minister David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, presented their "Spending Review 2010". This was the day they cut £81 billion to the budget... hence the protestors :)
|You can see the busy street here- with the marvellous views of the houses of parliament and the London Eye in addition to St. Stephen's Clock Tower. We have just crossed over to the Abbey.|
We had no idea how big of a deal it was. Primarily because it was our first full day in London- believe you me, we heard about it afterwards ;)
|You can see the tents of protesters on the left here.|
Actually, I became rather enamoured of the British news system (again)- I was finally plugged into what was going on world-wide- something I think the news outlets here could do a little more of! There were so many newspapers- and many of those had very in-depth reports on things happening not just in the UK but all over. If I had a favourite in depth paper there- it would be the Independant (the hotel gave us complimentary copies of that, very nice!). The Metro, a free paper available on the tube, was a fun read too. Definitely entertained us while riding around!!
But, we were ignorant at this point, and heading for one of my very favourite churches in the world, the ancient (established in the 10th Century) Westminster Abbey.
|I was rather taken with this sundial clock :)|
It is very unfortunate that the Abbey does not allow photography inside it's walls. Not that this is unusual in Britain- it is not. You will (if you are a man) be asked to remove your hat still, too. It is a sign of respect.
Inside are the tombs of Kings and Queens from hundreds of years back- including Elizabeth I. Amazing statuary, glorious stained glass, and the famed Poet's Corner- where there is a memorial to a relative of mine (some sort of distant relative that shared my not-exactly-common maiden name). I was a little surprised to see memorials to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow "a tribute by English admirers of an American poet" and Franklin D. Roosevelt. And amazed at the fact that although the coronation chair is undergoing restoration, the restorer is working in a little glass room on display to the world! You can see images inside on the web, but they don't do it justice!
I admired the gifts in the gift shop (where I saw a sketchbook of London and never saw it again!), explained to the kids that grass just grows that green in England, and came out of the wonderful Abbey in a hush. In fact we all did. DS will still tell you he thought it the most beautiful of the sights we saw.
After exiting the abbey, and a brief visit to St. Margaret's Church outside, we took the tube again (get a nice detailed map here) from Westminster to Monument- where we took a LONG walk underground to bank, to get on the central line to St. Paul's.
We were visiting the Church of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate. It was the church where the colonists took their last communion before coming to Virginia. It was the Church where Captain John Smith was buried, and it was the church where the condemned at Newgate prison would hear their death bell being rung.
Newgate prison was knocked down a while back, and the Old Bailey now stands on the site- right opposite St. Sepulchre's.
You can see the entrance to St. Sepuchre's above, with the wording on the placard.
Having asked permission (and had it granted) I was able to take some photos inside the church :)
|Window dedicated to the colonists.|
This stained glass window was dedicated to the colonists- paid for by an American biographer of John Smith back in the 60's or 70's- I forget which. It is quite lovely :)
The church is currently undergoing a lot of renovations- they have become quite the place for musical performances :) Meanwhile, this plaque to Smith sits on the floor until the renovations are done.
Another thing I admired in the Church, were the beautiful kneelers. In fact, many of the kneelers were memorials to the trip the colonists took to Virginia. I took lots of photos of them- and have placed those below.
All beautifully needlepointed- a rather time consuming craft! But they are very nicely made and very attractive! I suspect the ladies of the church some time ago, made them. Not that I think they are OLD, just about 30-40 years old ;)
|For some reason the kids did not want to pose!|
There is quite a spectacular view of the Old Bailey from outside the church.
and the famed lady of justice atop of it...
|Lovely sky wasn't it?|
After visiting the church, we were hungry, and wanted to eat. So we detoured... finding ourselves in Smithfield Market.
|She had to try out the phone box- dirty as it was ;)|
Finding only a lack of child-friendly restaurants there, we went back to the the hotel, where a lovely Wetherspoon pub called the "Plough and Harrow" was next door. It was the first time we ate there, but not the last. In fact, it became a favourite place to eat- it was relatively cheap, very convenient and ideally located! They have some great British Ales (incidentally those are available as a drink option with your combo instead of soda- I know DH liked this).
Having eaten, we did a little local shopping. I checked out Primark, which became my new favourite place, did a little shopping in Sainsbury's and basically enjoyed the rest of the day.
And that was Day 2 in England :)