On the Move...

It's been a while since my last proper post and so, to break the silence, I'm going to take us on a short trip to the UK capital; London. My eldest had expressed a keen interest in visiting the city (bit not, necessarily, The City), spurred on by the good reports he'd received from his friends. So, taking advantage of a planned trip to their grandparents for the Christmas holidays, we booked a hotel and made our plans.

Interestingly, although this would not be my first trip to the capital, it would be the first time I had visited the place as a bona fide tourist and so it was not difficult to accommodate Ethan's desire to see all the usual sites; the Tower, the Palace, the Eye, the Bell etc. The route was set and so it began.

  A slightly different perspective of Tower Bridge

A slightly different perspective of Tower Bridge

Our first stop was the infamous Tower of London; a place steeped in bloody history. It is also extremely expensive to get into and so we busied ourselves with the cafes and gift shops that adorn its' perimeter before moving on to the banks of the Thames and the general direction of Tower Bridge. From there we were afforded an excellent view of the far more modern, but no less iconic buildings on the opposite bank...

   The Italian-designed Shard towers above impressive glass offices and unusual City Hall whilst the oddly impassive HMS Belfast sits quietly on the South Bank

 The Italian-designed Shard towers above impressive glass offices and unusual City Hall whilst the oddly impassive HMS Belfast sits quietly on the South Bank

The bridge itself is quite a structure with both a wonderfully symmetrical general structure and surprisingly intricate details...

  Detail on Tower Bridge with, not only St. George's Cross but also a adornment reminiscent of the famous Royal Airforce roundel pioneered in WWII

Detail on Tower Bridge with, not only St. George's Cross but also a adornment reminiscent of the famous Royal Airforce roundel pioneered in WWII

Moving on from the bridge, and now on the South Bank, we made our way westwards to London Bridge Station and the next leg of the day's journey. This way took us through the linear passage of Hay's Galleria, beneath the steel and glass roof and past a smattering of Christmas-themed stalls selling to a surprisingly sparse collection of consumers...

  Hay's Galleria with a relatively quiet indoor market

Hay's Galleria with a relatively quiet indoor market

Perhaps one of the most real London experiences, for two young lads raised in two very different city's, is the London Underground where people from all walks - tourist and native, beggar and businessman - get to, literally, rub shoulders on a regular basis. 

  Even when the tube is quiet, it still has a frenetic sense of movement about it

Even when the tube is quiet, it still has a frenetic sense of movement about it

The tube (aka London Underground, in case you were wondering) spat us out at Hyde Park corner from where a short stroll through Green Park, with its distinctive black poplars, took us to the gates of Buckingham Palace and the obligatory gawk at redundant opulence.

  Definitive proof that the British Mail really is Royal!

Definitive proof that the British Mail really is Royal!

That brought us, neatly, to lunch and so, after securing coffee and sandwiches at a handy stall, we headed into St. James's Park for an impromptu (the best kind) picnic. Generations of feeding by the tourists and, i'm sure, the locals alike have made for extremely pro-active scavengers within the resident bird population and lunch proved to be a constant battle with the local avifauna for retention of resource rights. However, we prevailed and were soon off again, through the very attractive park. Along the way, we passed a local character who had fully embraced the overzealous nature of the birds to an extent that would have made Hitchcock proud...

 Banzai!

Banzai!

From St. James's Park, through the arches of Horse Guards Parade, across Whitehall and onto Horse Guards Avenue for our first glimpse of the huge circular edifice that was the Millennium Wheel but is now, sadly, the Coca Cola Eye (really?)!

  Looming over the city like an extinguished Eye of Sauron

Looming over the city like an extinguished Eye of Sauron

This was, of course, the main attraction for the day and both wee bairns were excited at the prospect of a turn on the wheel (by virtue of their grandparents and uncle - thanks). We tried to time our arrival so that the sun would be going down as we reached the apex (for the photographic effect) but, alas, in my panic to get it right, we actually alighted our pod about 15 minutes too early. Still, an excellent experience for all.

  The neighbours' pod at the apex

The neighbours' pod at the apex

I actually got my London in twilight shot at ground level as we left the wheel behind us and headed along the bank to Westminster bridge (thankfully, before it became that bridge). This, at least, allowed me to capture the full phallic form of the famous clock (room for a freudian slip, if ever there was one)...

  Big Ben takes centre stage as the sun disappears below Londons' horizons

Big Ben takes centre stage as the sun disappears below Londons' horizons

And that, pretty much brought our very long and tiring (especially for the 5-year old and 10-year old legs that accompanied us) day and it was back on to the tube for a quick trip to Covent Garden and a bite to eat.

  No photos please...

No photos please...

So, there it is; a decent-sized chunk of London in around eight hours. How does it compare to the Paris of previous blogs? Well, in all honesty, I would say that London has more to offer on a tight budget (excluding the Coca Cola Eye) but they are both superbly elegant and incredibly photogenic cities. Viva la difference!