Note: This travelog was written in 2010, so many details have long been forgotten since we took the trip.
Saturday, November 11, 2000: After an overnight flight via Newark, we arrived at Gatwick Airport around 10:00 AM and took a train into London. We dropped off our luggage at the Charing Cross Hotel and set out to explore the city. First stop: Buckingham Palace. Before digital cameras, we took photos very sparingly, so this was the first photo we took. The Union Jack was flying, which is a new protocol that began the week after Princess Diana's death. If the queen had been in residence, her standard would have flown instead.
|Of course, we had to get a photograph of the clock tower that contains Big Ben.|
|It was a typical dreary British day, but that didn't bother us since we had our sharp raincoats with us. Here's Tom in the Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Thames River.|
|Tom insisted on getting this shot of the Houses of Parliament as we crossed a bridge over the Thames. He is wise.|
|Across the Thames, we got another nice shot of Parliament and the Clock Tower before crossing back over on the Westminster Bridge.|
|It was Armistice Day, and we happened upon some crowds celebrating. Everyone was wearing red poppies pinned to their coats.|
The timing of visiting on Armistice Day was good news for us, because that meant that we pretty much had the Cabinet War Rooms museum all to ourselves while everyone else was watching parades. The entrance to the museum is the dark door in the center bottom of this photo, since the museum consists of the actual rooms used during World War II.
|From the Cabinet War Rooms, it is a short walk to Downing Street. That dark building in the center is No. 10, home of the British Prime Minister.|
|We made our way to the East End theater district, where we passed the theater where Les Miserables was performed, but we weren't here to see that.|
|It's all about "Mamma Mia!" This was the reason for our weekend trip to London. We booked a package deal that included one night at the Charing Cross Hotel and two tickets to the 3:00 PM Saturday matinee performance at the Prince Edward Theater. It was the first time we saw it performed and we had a great time. After the show, we dined on swordfish and salmon at the Prospect Grill, then wandered around London a little more before returning to our hotel.|
|Sunday, November 12, 2000: We had breakfast at our hotel, checked our bags in the lobby, and headed out to enjoy another day in London. We were getting a lot of mileage out of our London Underground weekend pass. Our first stop was the Tower of London.|
|The ravens are a famous sight at the Tower, so we got a photo. The Crown Jewels are also a famous sight, but we didn't get any photos of them. It's really pretty shocking how underphotographed our visit was, because these two are it.|
|Near the Tower grounds, London Bridge crosses the Thames River, looking quite regal and British.|
|After a little Christmas shopping at Marks & Spencer, our next stop was Piccadilly Circus, a must-see when in London, so we saw it. This was Tom's first visit to England; Debbie had been here in 1985.|
|Here's Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery in the background.|
|Right across the street is our Charing Cross Hotel, which looked quite lovely in the sunshine. We picked up our luggage, ...|
|... and hauled it a little less than a half-mile along the Strand to the Savoy, which was our home for the next evening. After staying in the Paris Ritz the year before, we wanted to stay at a London landmark, and the Savoy was the clear choice. The entrance to the Savoy is tucked about a block off the Strand and is surprisingly unimpressive during the day.|
|We paid the big bucks for a river view room, and here's the view. If you look closely, that's Waterloo Bridge on the right and St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance on the left. Yeah, the view is not nearly as impressive as a river-front room would have been, but that was completely out of our price range. We spent a little money in the Savoy gift shop, where we bought the Savoy Cocktail Book and the black wool scarf Tom wears every winter.|
|We had afternoon tea at the Savoy, a grand old tradition dating back decades. Again, we didn't get any photos, but we found some online. Here's the ornately decorated tea room.|
|This is what you're served for tea -- enough pastries, sandwiches, and petits fors to completely stuff two people. Again, not our photo, but this is exactly what we got, minus the champagne. Of course, we had several cups of tea each, even Debbie.|
|Later that evening, we had clear skies and a full moon. We walked along the Embankment and spotted the brand new London Eye and knew we had to go there. Of course, we didn't take a photo of it, so here's one we found.|
|We're not sure where we got this shot of St. Paul's Cathedral, the Royal National Theater, and Waterloo Bridge, but we're guessing that it was near the Embankment by the Savoy.|
|We got our tickets and only had to wait a few minutes to board. The London Eye is one of the world's largest Ferris wheels, with a height of 443 feet. It features 32 enclosed capsules holding up to 25 people.|
|The capsules contain plenty of room to view the scenery from all sides. A kind stranger took our photo for us. Tom's brother later captioned this, "The Senator and His Wife," and we are still amused by this.|
|We got a shot of Parliament from the London Eye near the top of its 30 minute revolution.|
|Afterward, we enjoyed a little more of the beautiful London evening and picked up some beer and snacks to enjoy in our room. As you can see in this stock photo, the entrance of the Savoy is much more impressive at night, with the neon glowing in the sign and the hotel and theater brightly lit. The next day, we headed back to Gatwick for the trip home.
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Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy