Amy: Today was our first day in London, and we certainly made the best of it. After leaving the hotel and marveling at the cool but temperate weather, we walked back into Victoria Station, which is the nearest tube station to our hotel. It's about a ten-minute walk, and it was much quicker without dragging the baggage. We decided we would buy a bus pass for the day. After figuring out the ticket machines and the bus maps, we hopped on our first double-decker city bus. We sat up on top, and we watched the sights roll by before we hopped out in Trafalgar Square. This is the famous location of the many flying pigeons. (Sidenote: Can anyone verify if Trafalgar Square is the location in that jewelry commerical for the three-stone ring where the man asks the woman to marry him again, and then all her family is sitting on the steps?). Anyway, it was cool to finally be in famous places that we recognized. We took pictures in front of the first of many statues of men with or without horses.
We decided to visit the National Gallery, located in Trafalgar Square. We saw lots of famous pictures, including Van Gogh's Sunflowers, and paintings by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Seurat, and Degas. Jason and Amy were trying to remember back to their days of auditing art history at Williams, and realized they had forgotten most of what they learned. The recurrent theme in the featured art seemed to be depictions of Jesus.
After about an hour in the museum (I think our museum tolerance is about the same), we realized we were quite hungry. We ended up in a cute pub, which turned out to be a chain. Carolyn was adventurous and had cottage pie and a jacket potato (shepherd's pie without the corn). Jason and Amy had a sandwich and lasagna, respectively. After filling our bellies, we hit the pavement once again, and strolled through St. James Park. The sun had come out at this point, and we were happy to be outside. We saw Picadilly Circus up the hill, and decided to walk up there. Picadilly Circus appeared to be like a mini-Times Square, so we stared at the display screens for a while. We took a mini-detour at a coffee shop for the free internet. Carolyn and Amy discovered that English coffee shops don't tend to serve cream, which will take some adjusting.
Then, we wandered back down the hill to St. James Palace, and saw a mini-changing of the guard, which Jason caught on computer video. This palace is the home of Prince Charles. The guards really cannot talk or react to you, but luckily the police can give directions. We went on to look at Buckingham Palace, the official residency of the Queen. There were beautiful gardens on the outskirts, which Carolyn was excited to show her mother pictures of. We also watched as tour groups of children walked around cheering for their World Cup favorite team (tonight was the finals) - "Italia!" "France!" We realized that the city is overrun by lots of large tour groups, and we are glad there are only three of us in our party.
We spent a while trying to locate the War Rooms, where the British used to plan for the military, but declined to enter the museum when we realized there was admission (most of the museums are free), since we were quite tired at this point. With aching feet, we made the last circle and saw Westminster Abbey (the official Church of the Parliament), Parliament itself, and Big Ben (which is actually the name of the bell, not the clock - "Look kids, it's Big Ben!"). It was interesting to wander inside a side portion of the church and saw many tombstones with interesting inscriptions.
After quite a long day, we hopped a bus and headed back to the Hotel of the Unaccompanied Minors (Jason really wanted me to call it that, although we did see some people closer to our age at breakfast this morning). After a quick nap, we headed out to a local pub, the "Jugged Hare" (which Carolyn and I have alternately called the Jagged Hen, the Bagged Hare, and the Jagged Hare) to watch the World Cup finale. We were able to get a great table and ate dinner while we watched the game. Jason and Amy shared a traditional steak and mushroom pie, which was very tasty. The Italians sitting next to us were quite excited when the Italian team won during the penalty kick round following overtime.
Tomorrow we are off to visit Sarah in Wantage!