To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Friday, June 15, 2012

We set out Friday morning early and went straight to the tour office, no false starts this time.

It's very easy to figure out the public transportation in London.  I've never lived anywhere where people used public transportation if they had any options at all.  I'm sure there are cities in the US where it is easy and convenient but F and I had no real experience of it.

The Tube map looks like this.  It looks confusing but it's not hard at all to figure out.  Each line is color coded and you can see the stops on the map marked as circles.  Where you get off one line and onto another the circles are connected on the map.  Tourist attractions like the palaces and museums and such generally give directions that include the nearest Tube station and how you walk from there.  So you can always "get there from here".  A pleasant female voice calls out the approaching stops and tells you when you get there, and always when the doors open, "Please mind the gap between the train and the platform."  You swipe your Oyster card or use your prepaid ticket on the way in and on the way out, because the fares are different depending on which zones you are traveling in.  The buses are easy to figure out too.

This time we had a tour guide as well as a bus driver.  The driver and guide hadn't worked together before.  The guide knew what she wanted and where she wanted to go but there was a bit of tension; I couldn't tell whether she was being less than reasonable and expecting him to read her mind, or he was being sulky and difficult.  It didn't hurt our experience at all, was just a bit funny to watch and listen as she bit back her irritation and spoke to him placatingly.  He smiled and was pleasant to us so it was all good.  The guide was very knowledgeable and wanted to make sure we had a good time.

We rode around the city a bit and looked at things.  We saw Big Ben

and the huge lions at what we later realized was Trafalgar Square - I mean, it's possible that if you had pinned F or me down, "where are the huge lion statues," we might have been able to come up with Trafalgar Square, but it's different actually seeing them somehow.

Eventually we left the van.  We went into St. Paul's Cathedral but there was a memorial service going on, the place was overrun with schoolgirls for it, and we couldn't get in and see anything.  So we went on to see the Changing of the Guard parade at Buckingham Palace.  Here is part of it:

You can hear Ruth, our tour guide, bellowing a bit and see her distinctive umbrella walking away toward the end.

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