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London & Paris Day 4

by on Jul.25, 2009, under Travel

Click here to read all of my London & Paris trip posts in proper order.

Day 4 is the last day in London. You have of course read days 1 through 3 by now, if not, you should go do that (scroll down). We have a lot to do today, because who knows, I may never make it back to London. We start the day at St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s has been the site of many Royal weddings (Prince Charles and Lady Di), memorials, and the feed the birds scene from Mary Poppins. The cathedral opens at 8:30. My hope was that we could see it and make it to Buckingham Palace by 10:30 for the changing of the guards. We made it by 8:30, but one of the main attractions of St. Paul’s is climbing 530 steps to the Golden Gallery for a bird’s eye view of London, and the steps don’t open until 9:30. I pretty much had to run up the steps, if I had been 10 years older, I think I would have died. This is St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Here are the front steps of the cathedral. I had tuppence, but unfortunately the bird lady was nowhere to be found. It must have been her day off.

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You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but it is very pretty. If you walk up 257 steps, you can reach the Whispering Gallery, which is 30 meters above the cathedral floor on the inside of the dome. If you put your ear up against the wall here, you can hear someone whispering on the other side of the gallery. I was by myself, so I just listened to other people’s whispers. They didn’t say anything exciting. I should mention that these first set of steps are pretty easy to climb. They are big broad steps with lot’s of room to pass people, and they are only about half the height of a normal step. So if you go to St. Paul’s, you should at least be able to climb to the Whispering Gallery. If you want to keep going, you can climb another 119 steps to the Stone Gallery. These steps are smaller and steeper, but there are places to rest along the way. The Stone Gallery is a ring outside the dome where you can take pictures of the London skyline. Here is a picture of the Stone Gallery.

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If you are really tough, you can climb another 154 steps to the Golden Gallery. These steps are small and steep like the previous set of steps to the Stone Gallery. The Golden Gallery is another outdoor viewing platform like the Stone Gallery, but much higher and smaller. This is a picture of the Golden Gallery.

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Here is a view of London from the Golden Gallery near the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Notice the London Eye in the distance.

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After rushing up and down the steps at St. Paul’s, we had to hurry and get to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. The changing of the guards starts at 11:30, but most guidebooks recommend arriving at 10:30 to get a decent viewing location. Here are the people waiting for the changing of the guard on the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.

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This is the crowd in front of Buckingham Palace. This is almost an hour before the ceremony is supposed to start.

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I took this guy’s picture by complete accident. I didn’t even realize it until I looked at my pictures that night. It’s an asian dude wearing a Wendy’s biggie athletic department t-shirt. I find this hillarious. I wonder what that says about me? Let’s not think about it.

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Okay, here is a slightly creepy confession. I like taking pictures of people. Especially candid shots of interesting people. Unlike the last picture, I took this one on purpose. I was completely intrigued by these two girls in their head scarfs. This picture sums up a big part of the London experience for me. You are in this city filled with tourist from all over the world. On one hand, these tourist come from vastly different cultures, but on the other hand, they are doing all the same touristy stuff you are. These two girls for example were acting exactly like any two american girls would on vacation, but their head scarfs were this constant reminder that they were from a much different part of the world. Stuff like this just sucks me in for some reason. I also saw two women (I’m assuming) eating dinner at an outdoor cafe wearing full burqas. I so wanted to take their picture, but I couldn’t find a way to do it discreetly.

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Okay, the moment you have been waiting for. The reason I flew 4000 miles from home. The changing of the guard!!! was canceled because of rain. That sucks. I did get this picture of the guard retreating from the rain though. Pussies.

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After the failed attempt at seeing the changing of the guard, we went to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. I didn’t take any pictures of this. You were allowed to take pictures inside the museum, but I was so used to not being allowed to take pictures inside that I just didn’t. Anyways, the Cabinet War Rooms were very cool. They are the rooms from which Churchill and his war cabinet worked during World War II. They are underground and covered by a thick concrete and steel slab so that they could survive the air raids. The rooms have been refurbished to look exactly like they did during WWII. After the Churchill Museum, we stopped by 10 Downing Street to take a picture. This is where the Prime Minister of the UK lives. I have to say, it’s not quite as impressive as the White House.

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Next, we took a river cruise on the Thames, pronounced “tims”. In England, Thames = tims and Berkeley = Barkley. I think the English need to learn to speak english. Here is the Millennium Bridge from the river cruise.

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This is the HMS Belfast. The Belfast is a British war ship used in World War II. Now it is a museum, but we didn’t go inside. Maybe next time.

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Here is the Tower Bridge with the drawbridge up. I hear the Tower Bridge is haunted, but I don’t believe in ghost.

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After the river cruise, we walked around a bit to see some odds and ends. This is St. Paul’s again from the Millennium bridge.

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Here is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Actually it’s a very accurate reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. If we had been in London longer, I would loved to have seen a show here.

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This is Regent Street. It’s a major shopping street in London, a lot like Michigan Avenue in Chicago. I went to the Apple Store here. It was the biggest Apple Store I have ever been in.

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This is a picture of a man in a turban and sunglasses on a platform in Trafalgar (pronounced tra-fall-ger, I think) Square. I have no idea why he was there or what he was doing. There was a crowd around him, and every once in a while he would try to throw a paper airplane into the crowd, but they all got trapped in the net below him. This is one of those times in life where you look and say, “Well that makes perfect sense”, and move on. If by chance you have any idea who this guy is or what he is doing, please leave a comment, I would love to know.

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Another picture of Trafalgar square. I guess I should mention that this is a square in central London. It’s pretty much exactly what it looks like.

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This is St. James Palace. Nobody lives in St. James Palace today, but it is still officially considered the “senior-most” royal palace. Whatever that means. St. James is part of a complex of buildings where members of the Royal Family do live today. Prince Charles, Harry, and William live in a big mansion just on the other side of St. James’s Palace. Buckingham Palace is also nearby.

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I keep telling myself that I am going to limit these post to 10 pictures, but I am failing miserably. Did I mention that I took over 1300 pictures during my 9 day trip? You can see 400 of those pictures and a few videos in my flickr set here. So this was my last day in London. Tomorrow we ride the Eurostar train through the chunnel to Paris. It was kind of sad to leave London. It’s such an amazing city, and just as I was starting to figure it all out, it was time to leave. I’m sure Paris will be fun too though, tune in tomorrow to find out :)

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