2 Feb · Rosie J · No Comments

Wow, Awesome! Part One

The two words that mean you know a day is going well. I was asked about how the weather had been in January this year and realise looking back that I have been out of the country for a good deal of the month and so, can only go by the weather forecasts. No snow in the South so far this year.

So, start the year as we mean to go on with a London Highlights tour, or two to be precise. Two half day highlights of London with what turned out to be a delightful first time visitor. What shall we do, where shall we go? There are must see sights in London but how you see them and your experience of them will always vary, depending on your interests, your mobility and, (dare I say it.), the weather.

Having been out of town for a good part of the month, Friday was the chance for the first early morning drive into London in the Roller (from the registration as opposed to the make). Being the depths of winter, the sun doesn’t rise much before 07:30 in the morning and so for an opportunity to drive across the river as dawn rises. I must say, as I drive into London from the West, looking east along the River Thames, seeing the rising sun’s reflection in the glass of the Palace of Westminster that I felt a slight tremor of anticipation. Today is gong to be a good day.

I always worry about meeting a new friend. (I never like to refer to people as tourists, visitors, customers, clients or passengers but think friend is by far the best way to describe a new acquaintance). By worry, I mean the concern that an actor feels before going on stage. After all life is a stage and the men and women you meet are just the players.

Morning rush hour was not particularly kind that morning and so arrival was with plenty of time to be polite but not quite enough time to relax and caffeinate.

The skill of the London Blue Badge Guide comes from two years of training and an armoury of options to draw upon at a moments notice. We do not have the luxury of months of itinerary planning, do not rely upon a set route and therefore able to maintain spontaneity with every tour. It means we can offer something fresh, delightful and insightful every time.

Using a cooking analogy, the recipe for a London highlights has five major ingredients: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge (we can discuss London Bridge another time). Seasoning: The weather, the individual’s interests and the mode of transport AND the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. These will all have an affect on what can be done and in what measure.

If you’ve never been to London before, then a visit to Buckingham Palace to view the changing of the guard, is an absolute must and for this reason, with two half days to play with, our instant itinerary focused on West London. A quick drive through Kensington passing the palace, through to Knightsbridge and to Buckingham Palace Road and a place to drop the car. Out on foot for photos of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and a walk up Whitehall to see the mounted sentries and a quick glimpse of the changing of the Horseguards. Time is precious now and so a fast pace to St James’ Palace and a few minutes wait for the Old Guard to march to Buckingham Palace. Once they pass us we turn and follow toward Buckingham Palace. (I defy anyone not to walk in step with the drumbeat). We’re lucky today, the pace is good and so gallop over to the Wellington Barracks and watch the new guard form up. The band strikes up and off they go. With so little time and so much to do, we trust the guardsmen to change without us to inspect them and begin our stroll back to the car. “Is the London Eye near here?” My new friend asks. Indeed it is and we turn away from the car and head to Trafalgar Square.

With the magic of technology, I am able to extend the car’s waiting time in its parking spot and so to Trafalgar Square where we focus our attention on the “fourth plinth“, currently boasting a fine blue cockerel. Being a contemporary installation, there is all manor of hidden meaning to this Coq Sportif standing majestically in a square celebrating victory over the French not to mention the British love of the double entendre… A large blue cock standing… Enough of that you can work the rest out for yourself.

“What do you know about the National Gallery?” The answer necessitates a visit. Where shall we start. We have 2400 paintings spanning a period of 800 years to choose from. Let’s start at the end and see how we get on. We head straight for Van Gogh and the impressionists. A few Victorian conversation pieces and then to the dominant duo, Turner and Constable. From there we turn a corner and work out some meanings behind the Marriage a la Mode series by Hogarth and in doing so I see something more to the paintings that I’d missed before I.e. the faithful dog that appears in portraits.

Enough of this, back out into the sunshine and across the Thames on the Hungerford Bridge to the Official London Eye, now sponsored by Coca Cola. A shortish wait to begin our journey and the gods smile upon us once again as we are afforded a unique standpoint from the London Eye to view Winston Churchill’s Memorial Flotilla pausing outside the Houses of Parliament to lay a biodegradable wreath in the river in memory of the great man.

Unfortunately, the magic of technology does not stretch to the top of the London Eye and my request to extend the parking does not get through from the top of the Eye and on return to the car we find a small note from Westminster Council asking for a handout (also known as a Fixed Penalty Notice). I am philosophical. We have had a lovely morning and after all, The City of Westminster needs all the financial help it can get, so I’m doing my civic duty.

Back to the hotel and we have completed Part One of our two half days – ending with those magic words, “wow, that was awesome.”

to be continued

Rosie J

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