Europe 2007 Day 7 – Free London

Today Daniel and I set off early to take in some of the free things London has to offer. Our first stop was Parliament and Big Ben. After taking some free photos, we headed over to Westminster Abbey and noticed the large queue to get in the place. I guess I am used to seeing the place as part of the tour because I never remember having to wait in the line to get in. Also, it violated our free policy to go into the chapel and we didn’t want to sit through the religious services to get in for free. I took Daniel into the gift shop and had him thumb through the guide book to see if there was anything he wanted to see in person and he declined. I have already been inside twice so it was no great loss for me.

We then headed over to the London Eye. I had always wanted to go up in it, but had ever gotten close enough to see how much it would cost and how long the queue would take. Today the weather was very nice with just some light clouds, so the crowds were out in force. It was expensive to up in the London eye (15 pounds) and then you only got a time to begin queuing up. We will try again before we leave to see if the crowds die down, but neither of us wanted to fork over that kind of dough.

Continuing our free tour, we then hoofed it to Buckingham Palace. It was actually a pleasant walk next to St. James Park. I don’t think I went this way either time I went to the palace. After resting a bit and taking some goofy photos, we set off for Hyde Park. Daniel wanted to see the Peter Pan statue to remind him of his Storybookland days. Let me tell you, this was one long walk. We walked along Green Park until we got to the Wellington Arch and then proceeded through Hyde Park along the Serpentine. I had to pull up at one of the waterside cafes to get a snack and some water just to keep going. I was huffing and puffing while Daniel just kept going and going.

We finally arrived at the statue only to discover it was a very popular statue for Americans to come and take photos. There are an exceptionally large number of Americans in London this week due to the NFL game that was on Sunday. Most of them all have their Giants or Dolphins gear on and just wander around making noise and generally being obnoxious. This one guy at the statue took almost 20 photos of the statue from different angles. Some zoomed in, some zoomed out, some with him posing on one side, and then again posing on the other side. I thought Daniel was going to freak out. It reminded me of some of the super annual passholders who take thousands of photos at Disneyland to document every last detail. Finally, I was able to jump in with the Gorn and take a few snaps.

Next stop was the Albert Memorial. We passed a point where we could see Kensington Palace, but we decided it was just too far to go. We then stopped off at the Royal Geographic Society. There was a cone that was marking Kofi Anan’s parking space and we saw an exhibit on the Bombay Africans (free slaves that were taken to India and the middle east for safety). I resisted the temptation to ask where the spot where Phineas Fogg took off around the world in 80 Days. It was still all free!

The Science Museum and the Natural History Museums were all very cool inside. I loved the Science Museum with its Space Exploration, Surveying, Modern Machinery, and Computing displays. There was even an original Apple Computer. The Natural History museum had cool stuff on Volcanoes and Earthquakes and even had a room where you could experience the Kobe 1995 quake. I was a bit disappointed since the guy in the video at the Japanese convenience store seemed to be moving around more than I was, but I guess it will do. It was quickly approaching 4pm so we hightailed it to the Victoria and Albert museum to see some historical musical instruments and some modern art. Having been to the V&A the last time I was in London, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other two. But all three are definitely worth a trip if you are looking for some free things to do in London.

It was time to head back to SoHo to meet up with Nathan for dinner. He is going to be busy tomorrow night, so this was our last chance to see him before we left London and headed out to the rest of the UK. On the way, we stopped in at Harrods and I had a Krispy Kreme at the Harrod’s food halls, mainly just to say that I did. Daniel found some awesome luggage, but at $1400 it was a bit out of his price range.

We stopped in Leicester Square to check to see if they had Mary Poppins tickets. They were still $60 each so we have some thinking to do to see if we want to try and see it tomorrow. Nathan met us downstairs of his apartment and we headed over to Marks & Spencer to get some groceries. Nathan offered to cook for us and we picked out some grub for tonight as well as for tomorrow and Wednesday before we head out of town. Over steak (turkey for Daniel), potatoes, and wine we chatted and then watched Dragon’s Den. This show features UK inventors who are trying to get funding for their projects and products. It was actually quite good so I suspect it will be coming to the US at some point. Nathan didn’t have Living TV, and neither do we so we are missing out on the Most Haunted Live TV event. We will be in Cardiff on Halloween so hopefully we can see it there.

It was then time to say goodbye to Nathan. I snapped some photos off his balcony to replace the ones that went missing on my camera. It was a nice walk home in the brisk air and probably another sleep in day tomorrow morning before we head off to St. Paul’s and other locations in our last day in London.