On our second day in London, we made an early start to take advantage of the orientation we had received during our “London in a Day” coach tour, playing a virtual game of Monopoly to revisit many of the places we had found the previous day.
We found “the Tube” makes it incredibly easy to get to your starting point, donning our sturdy walking shoes for a long day’s trek around London. On foot, you can really take in so much more of a new place and see things you would miss otherwise.
St Brides Church Fleet Street
Our first stop was Fleet Street, and specifically St Brides Church, known as the “Wedding Cake Church”. Tucked away behind a facade of modern buildings, this was the parish church of my ancestors back in the late 18th century. Stepping out of the morning Fleet Street rush into St Bride’s lane was like stepping back into the cobble-stoned streets of the early 19th century where many of the old shopfronts still remain.
Upon arrival at the church, we were disappointed to find that it was currently closed for restoration. However after a chat with some of the workmen while we were wandering through the graveyard, a kindly parishioner was more than happy to give us a private tour, including the crypt below where many of my forebears are interred.
Our next stop on the Monopoly board was Westminster, where we took in the Houses of Parliament, before our tour of the adjacent Westminster Abbey. The advice to get there early to beat the queues was invaluable. Arriving at around 9am, half an hour before opening, we had the chance to wander around the deserted grounds, taking in the quiet solitude of the historic Abbey which has been the site of every coronation since 1066 and the final resting place of numerous monarchs, politicians and celebrities.
However, by 10 minutes to opening time the crowds were queued out the gate and around the block awaiting entry.
Once through the security checkpoints, you can either join a guided tour, or as we did opt for a self guided tour. Simply push the number of the item in which you are interested on your audio box and your personal info-log will commence. This is not only cheaper, but also gives you time to linger in the areas in which you are most interested, rather than being hurried along in a group tour.
We were awe struck by the magnificence of the huge gothic structure and cannot describe the experience of standing on the spot where countless monarchs were crowned, married and eulogised.
Or visiting the tombs of Edward the confessor, Elizabeth I and her sister Mary who are ironically laid together in death. Across the Abbey lies their cousin Mary Queen of Scots, whose son James V ensured her tomb mirroring her cousins was no less magnificent. We also found the graves of Oliver Cromwell and Handel to name a few.
Exiting the dark confines of the Abbey crypt into the dazzling sunshine of a London summer’s day we opted to continue our virtual Monopoly game on foot. We headed up Whitehall past Number 10 Downing Street, where we lucked upon a display by the Queens Cavalry getting ready for the changing of the guard. Having missed much of the pomp and ceremony in the rain the day before, it was fabulous to have the opportunity to get close to the cavalry preparing to leave the Barracks.
Our walking tour soon found us back at Trafalgar Square, where we enjoyed our Pret-a-Manger lunch, while people spotting by the Lion fountain before taking in a spot of culture, browsing through the National Gallery.
With the help of our trusty Iphone GPS, we then rolled the dice up Pall Mall to Picadilly and Regent Street past all the high end shops ( sorry don’t think I can justify $1000 for a pair of knickers love).
It was behind Picadilly Circus I lucked upon Golden Square, where the home of my infamous ancestor, Joseph Hunt still stands. It was here he was arrested in 1823 for the murder of one William Weare before his transportation to NSW.
Some fellow tourists on our guided tour had recommended a visit to Hamley’s toy store in Regent Street. While it is not an official tourist attraction, it is well worth a visit for kids and kids at heart. The multi story store has an amazing range, entertainment and enthusiastic staff demonstrating the latest toys.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Back on the tube we headed back to the Victoria and Albert museum, where we spent the afternoon taking in some of the amazing exhibits. Relaxing with a beverage in the courtyard, we were highly amused to watch the Londoners cooling off in the fountain from the massive heatwave. It was 24 degrees and we were both wearing jumpers.
Tired and footsore, we headed back down Gloucester Road to our hotel, after a full and enjoyable day taking in many points of interest we would have missed without walking.