We arrived at Heathrow Airport in May 2007. Of course, we had heard about Heathrow but we were astounded by the sheer size of it. We stayed right across from Kensington Gardens, home to Kensington Palace, the building that Princess Diana called home. From here, we walked down Queensway and over to a local pub for some fish and chips and fine English ale. Later that evening, we toured Kensington Palace.
We boarded one of the famous double decker busses and went to Piccadilly Circus and then walked to the official residence of the Queen of England, Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. There are 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 19 State rooms.
We enjoyed the ceremonial pageantry of the Changing of the Guard. From the palace, we went on to see the Wellington Arch at the south side of Hyde Park.
Buckingham Palace is a working building and the centerpiece of Britain's constitutional monarchy. It houses the offices of the staff that support the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.
Evern though the Palace is furnished with priceless works of art and has one of the major art collections in the world, it is not an art gallery. It's not a museum either.
The Royal Mews is an important branch of Lord Chamberlain's Office and provides road transport for the Queen by both horse-drawn carriage and motor car.
From Buckingham Palace, we walked to Harrods Department Store which occupies a 5 acre site and over a million square feet.
Harrods founder Charles Harrod first extablished Harrods in 1824. Beginning in 1851 he took over a small shop at the current store site. He started with a single room employing 2 assistants and a messenger. His son, Charles Digby Harrod built the business into the thriving retail operation selling medicines, perfumes, stationary, fruit and vegetables. In 1898, Harrods debuted England's first escalator. It was actually a leather conveyor belt unit with a mahogany and sliver plate glass balustrade. In 1985, the Fayed brothers purchased Harrods.
In July, 1997, Dodi Fayed became romantically involved with Diana, Princess of Wales. They had stopped in Paris en route to London, after having spent nine days together on holiday in the French and Italian Rivera aboard his family yacht, the Jonikal.
On August 31, 1997, Diana and Dodi died in a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma underpass in Paris. Dodi's father erected the memorial to Dodi and Diana at Harrods. The picture to the left is a photo of that monument first unveiled on April 12, 1998.
In 2010, Harrods was sold to Qatar Holdings per Al-Fayed, Dodi's father .
The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben looked grand presiding over the River Thames.
The name Big Ben is often used to describe the tower, the clock and the bell but the name was first given to the Great Bell.
Dodging the rain (everything is so green!), we saw Westminster Abbey, the Prime Minister's Downing Street home and St. Paul's Cathedral.
That evening, we took a dinner cruise on the River Thames and passed under the London Bridge and the new Millennium Bridge. We also caught a night view of Big Ben.
Using our London Pass, we visited the 900 year old Tower of London. We got there via the London Underground on the Circle Line. We got on at Notting Hill Gate and got off at the Tower Hill station. It was our first time on the Underground. It was easy figuring out what lines to take.
The Tower of London is actually a fortress encompassing a green area and many buildings. The Jewel House holds the Crown Jewels and a gleaming collection of crowns, swords, platters and other gem encrusted precious metal objects. There are several towers to explore as well as the Chapel of Saint John.
The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeomen Guard Extrordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In principle, they are responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower as well as safeguarding the crown jewels.
As seen in the picture to the right, the very recognizable black and red "Beefeaters" patrol the grounds. At the south end of the green, a contingent of ravens waddle around and seem to play to the tourists. People in period costumes roam the grounds and speak in an old English dialect. To see our Tower of London Slide Show please click here.
The Tower Bridge is right next to the Tower of London. You get a great view up and down the Thames from the two high level walkways.
Close to the south end of the bridge is a small pub,The Anchor Tap. We had lunch there and met three lovely sisters who, although they live in widely separate parts of London, meet for lunch every Saturday in a different pub. Good food, ale and conversation were had by all. Afterwards we strolled along The Queens Walk past the HMS Belfast and into several shops. Near London Bridge we saw Southwark Cathedral. Also in that area was a type of farmer's market where all manner of prepared and fresh food was being sold.
Windsor Castle, which is an official residence of The Queen, is the largest occupied castle in the world. A royal home and fortress for over 900 years, the castle remains a working palace today.
We walked around the state apartments, extensive suites of rooms at the heart of the working palace. For part of the year you can also see the semi state rooms, which are some of the most splendid interiors in the castle. Within the castle complex there are many additional attractions, including the Drawings Gallery and Queen Mary's doll house.
The Thames river flows through London as it does through the royal city of Windsor. The Thames is 215 miles long and was first referred to as 'liquid history' by the MP John Burns in 1929. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom behind the River Sevem.
While best known for flowing through London, it flows alongside Oxford, Reading, Henley on Thames, Windsor, Kingston upon Thames and Richmond.
The photo, at left, of the Tower Bridge at night, was taken from the middle of the Thames.
At right, we are near Piccadilly Circus, the road junction and public space of London's West End.
It was built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with the major shopping street of Piccadilly. It gets its name from the Latin word meaning "circle" which is a round open space at a steel junction.
Currently Piccadilly links directly to the theatres on Strastesbury Avenue as well as the Haymarket, Coventry Street and Glasshouse Street.
The Circus is known for its memorial fountain and statue of the Greek god Anteros.
Florence Nightengale, the founder of modern nursing and celebrated English social reformer is honored by the statues in the picture to the left.
She opened the first nursing school in the world. The Nightengale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in honor of her. The International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday.
She was born into a wealthy upper class family. She rejected proposals of marriage to remain free to pursue her nursing activities.
She became ill in her mid thirties but continued working until her death at the age of ninety.