Thursday, June 4, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

One of the biggest surprises about England was the fact that in the summer the sun rises around 5 AM and doesn't set until 9:30 PM! When I first awoke to the sun in my face, I checked my watch and thought I'd forgotten to change the time. There was no way it could be that early! But it was a good thing because it helped me get motivated to get up and go out no matter how tired I felt.

By Wednesday May 20th I was starting to enjoy the breakfast that came with my room. I ate enough most days to be able to skip lunch altogether. I was still uneasy being without my iPhone but the Internet access in the hotel lobby got me through. I tried not to be too hard on myself when it came to jet lag and being tired, so Wednesday morning I went back up to my room for a little nap before setting out on the town.
Despite drizzle and threatening clouds, I took the tube down to Trafalgar Square to go to the National Portrait Gallery. After much research, I knew this to be the place to see all the famous Tudor portraits in person and I was so excited! When I saw the building that said "The British National Gallery" and no other museums nearby, I figured I was in the right place. (It corresponded with my handy-dandy laminated walking map of London!) After walking through room after room of the gallery and finding only Henry VIII's portrait of Christina of Denmark, I began to think something was fishy. Then I overheard some other lost tourist be directed to the National PORTRAIT Gallery - just around the corner!
Sure enough, it was around the outside to the left and it held everything I was looking for! There was an entire Tudor wing and I was in heaven! Of course I couldn't take any photos inside of the museum. Granted, most of the portraits are reproductions, but I was still in awe seeing them in person. It was, however, a cool mistake that I did go to the other gallery, as I got to see the portrait of Christina of Denmark, ordered by Henry to see if he wanted to marry her or Anne of Cleves. And it was NOT a reproduction. It was the original painted by Master Holbein himself!

My feet, my achilles tendon and my formerly broken ankle were beginning to ache but I knew I wasn't too far from Westminster Abbey and Parliament so I pressed on. I also knew I was near the former palace at Whitehall (and York Place before that) but as hard as I looked, I found only the Household Cavalry. (The is the regiment to which Prince Harry belongs.)

Despite my Whitehall setback, I continued walking and eventually stumbled upon Westminster. The area was packed with demonstrators, police and press. I made my way around them and took a ton of photos. Familiar view of the Abbey...

And my preferred view on the side with the rose window...

Those are the only photos I will post though because, sadly, I was having some sort of issues taking a level shot. Vertigo or something. Gave new meaning to "flying buttresses."
I'd walked about 5 miles from my last tube stop and was starting to think I would have to go back to the hotel to rest because of the intense pain in my feet and ankles but after sitting a while in the park on the Thames, I decided to ignore the pain and walk across the river to the London Eye. What can I say - it was calling to me! Look at the pic!
Owned and operated by British Airways, you can ride in a capsule on this huge ferris wheel and see the entire city. Even better (and just my style) you can take a Champagne flight and see the sights! It was pricey -- but fun. I rode in a capsule with eight people on holiday from Scotland and we watched the sun begin to set on London. A little drinking, a lot of photos and thirty minutes seemed to fly by! (pun intended)

Complete exhaustion came over me when I disembarked and I still had to walk to the nearest tube station. I caught the tube at Waterloo on the south bank of the Thames and went back to grab dinner and go to bed.

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