After getting settled in at our Airbnb rental, we skipped out on the much-needed sleep opportunity and went out to explore London. We hit up some of the most touristy spots for our first day, strolling over to Buckingham Palace, through St. James Park to 10 Downing Street, over to Parliament and then Westminster Abbey. We wrapped up our own little walking tour with a long walk along the Thames.
We didn’t book tickets to go inside Buckingham Palace because 1) we are only in London for three and a half days and only have so much time, 2) it was expensive, and 3) we’re going to several palaces across Western Europe, and this particular one didn’t appeal to us as much. Maybe one day! But now I’ve been to London twice and both times, I’ve only walked around the exterior (my first time, there was a procession going on).
The Victoria Memorial in the Buckingham courtyard. This is Fred’s first time in Europe, and this was the first monument we came across, so it will hold some special memories for him (at least for the moment).
Next we strolled through St. James Park. We were running on next to zero hours of sleep in 20 hours, and it was about 7am in Vancouver, and airplanes stress me out, so I’ll admit I was feeling a little uninspired on our first day.
St. James Park woke me up.
It’s a beautiful park full of weeping willows, daisies, and more birds than you’re going to see anywhere else in the city. I’ve never really considered London one for natural beauty (that being said, I apparently have an unpopular view of the city as a whole), but I loved walking through the park. It’s a true gem.
The London Eye in the distance.
There are so many ducks in St. James Park. Mallards, pochards, others I can’t name… the place is full of ducks, pigeons, and their poo. (It’s still beautiful, though, I swear.)
Two swans and their brood.
We walked arm in arm through the park. It was peaceful, relaxing, and just what two sleep-deprived, exhausted tourists needed.
St. James park is home to more than 600 species of wildlife.
A little plaque about the former home of St. James Park’s birdkeeper.
We exited the park on its east side, where other tourists had gathered to film an adventurous, fat squirrel looking for handouts.
There was a lineup to see Churchill’s War Rooms. If we ever come back to London, we plan to check it out. Today, though, we simply wandered down the street and around government buildings.
Insane in the chow mein. Really.
10 Downing St. was gated off today, but I pointed to Fred through the gates to where it was located. He was quickly distracted from our misfortune by a statue of General Hague, and soon our walk over to Westminster Abbey became a game of “how many statues can Fred identify before we read the plaque.” He was unsurprisingly very good at it, whereas I only could identify Gandhi, Mandela, and Churchill. British history is his thing.
A very crooked picture of Westminster Abbey.
We didn’t go up Big Ben or into Westminster Abbey; we just admired the views.
Our walk along the Thames brought us to the back of the Parliament building. Because I’m the Sherlock fan and I’ve already been to most of them, we’re skipping all the Sherlock-related things to see this trip. This doesn’t mean I won’t have to take a picture of where Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes once jumped into the Thames, though!
That walk along the Thames finished up all the sights we wanted to see before finally collapsing on our bed and falling asleep. We still walked half an hour over to the Covent Garden area so we could check out Jamie Oliver’s Italian for dinner, but what’s a little walk when that’s all you’re going to be doing for the next six weeks?
Tomorrow, we’re off to the Tower of London and (!!!) the Victoria & Albert.