AndromedHa

London day 14 (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square)

Posted on: January 9, 2014

After a very good night sleep on the most comfy bed, we woke up feeling refreshed! Our host was kind enough to provide a mini breakfast for us – my hubby said the coffee was really good! We immediately hopped into the tube and went directly to Westminster area to see the mighty Big Ben! My husband went to London when he was young, but it was my first time there – although I saw it numerous times in movies. So, in order to officiate my visit to London, I MUST take a picture in front of Big Ben! hahaha. Tourists can take a guided tour inside the  Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) every Saturday for £16.50 and it also offers afternoon tea too for £25.00 in addition to the tour. However, only UK residents are eligible for a tour inside the Big Ben & the Elizabeth Tower. Next to the Big Ben is the Westminster Bridge. This bridge connects north Westminster and south Lambeth over the River Thames. Overlooking the other side from the bridge, we could see the London Eye, the highest ferris wheel in Europe.

Big Ben

Big Ben2

Big Ben3

Big Ben & Palace of Westminster and Westminster bridge overlooking the London Eye

After we had enough pictures of Big Ben, I led the way back toward  the Westminster Abbey that is just behind the Big Ben or House of Parlianment. This church is famous for many royal events, including the recent royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. The mighty gothic style church witnessed many coronations events and it is also used as burial site of many famous British citizens, such as Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. When we arrived there in the morning, the line up to enter the church was pretty long. Since we didn’t want to miss changing the guard procession at the Buckingham Palace, we decided to visit the church later.

Westminster Abbey St James Statue

Near the House of Parliament

The Buckingham Palace wasn’t too far from where we were.  We walked north of the Westminster Abbey and walked inside St. James Park. This quaint little park is actually the oldest Royal Park in London. There were lots of tourists who were just simply admiring the lush green trees as well as locals – mostly government employees with neat shiny suits- who were having a brunch on the park benches. St James Park

St. James Park

It was about 11.00 am when we got to near the Buckingham Palace. When we arrived at the big roundabout in front of the Palace, there were LOTS of people already!!! The sidewalks from all directions were filled with people waiting for the procession to start. A lot of people blocked my 5′ petite body, so basically I couldn’t really see what was going on. There were lots of police who shouted at the tourists to encourage them not to stand in the middle of the street and stay at the designated fenced area. Shortly after we settled in front of the Palace gate, the procession started right at 11.30 am. We saw the 2 policemen riding the horses led the Queen’s Guards coming from the Mall street. The Guards then entered the Palace front yard where the changing of Queen’s Guard occurred. I had to see between people’s head for the procession.

As you can see from my picture, it was really hard to get a good picture without the gate in the picture. At one point, my hubby had to lift me up so I could take pictures and video. The procession lasted for about 30 minutes with music intermission in the middle. We were kinda surprise when they played a James Bond’s soundtrack as the first song. Later, we realized that they actually played pop music when I heard a song from British artist (I forgot what the song was). Toward the end of the procession, a nice lady gave her place right in front of the fence since she noticed me jumping up and down trying to see the ceremony 🙂 As soon as the Queen’s Guard from the Palace got off from the gate, many people abruptly left the Buckingham Palace. Nonetheless, I felt like I was in a concert or such. I never saw that many people in one place just to see the guard changing procession. Many tourists who stayed were taking pictures in front of the Palace and Victoria Memorial (the monument at the centre of the roundabout). As soon as the procession finished, the road opened and many cars passed through, so be very careful when crossing the street. To check any schedule change for Changing the Guard procession, you can check this website.

Buckingham

Buckingham2

Guard changing procession at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham3

The Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial

We walked back to Westminster Abbey through the lush St. James Park. Entering the Westminster Abbey area, we saw a small church called St. Margaret’s Church on the west front yard. We marched straight to the line up. It wasn’t too bad compared to the one we saw in the morning. There were 2 line ups: the left one was for those who pay by cash & the right line up accepts credit card payment. We waited in the line for about 5-10 minutes and when we were in the locket, we were surprised that the entrance fee was €18/person!!! We had a doubt whether it was worth it to have a visit at the Abbey. But then this church has witnessed of many royal events, so we decided to visit at the end. If I think about it now, the ticket was pretty fair since the audio guide was included. However, PICTURES and VIDEO are NOT allowed in the Abbey… Yeah, this sucks!

Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral are the two famous churches in London. Westminster Abbey was actually designated as a monastery in its early year. Later, King Edward the Confessor rebuilt the Abbey for his burial site and the present construction was the result of Henry III’s approval as his burial site. When we entered the Abbey, it didn’t look as grand and open as the churches in Rome. Yet, the greyish medieval interior brings a solemn feel. This may be due to both happy and sad events were held in this very church. Since it was built, all Kings and Queens coronation must be held in the Westminster Abbey in order to be deemed proper and to date, there were 16 weddings held there – including the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. On the other hand, the ornate tombs of royal families and national figures of England (such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Handel, Florence Nightingale, and Jane Austin) were scattered around the church. These serve as homages for those who brought pride to England. As we walked along, the audio guide pointed us to important sites. If you want to explore the Abbey virtually while planning your trip, click the Abbey website. Some of the sites that I remember from my visit are the hall where choir sits, the tomb of Unknown Soldier framed with red poppies, the poet’s corner to remember the great British poets (Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, etc), and the King Edward’s chair or the coronation chair. Once we finished the tour inside the Abbey, we were directed to the Great Cloister with a small garden on its center. Nearby, there was a Little Cloister in which the fountain at the centre was dated back to 1871 but it was closed. Separated from the main building, there was The Chapter House, a high ceiling room where the Queen’s Jubilee exhibit was held. Also, there were Museum and The Pyx Chamber occupying 2 separate stony caves near the Great Cloister. After 2 hours exploring the Abbey, we finished the tour.

Westminster St Margaret

St. Margaret’s Church

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey2

Top (L to R): the garden view from Great Cloister; The Small Cloister with 1871 fountain; the tombs along Great Cloister walls Bottom (Lto R): The preserved painting in The Chapter House, The beautiful stained glass in The Chapter House, The Queen’s Jubilee exhibition, Awesome Ornamental Arches, The Gargoyle outside

I was super hungry from touring the Abbey but I refused to eat -another- sandwich from the tube shop. So, we crossed the Westminster bridge to the South Bank area. When we walked pass Belvedere Rd, we saw a lot of small restaurants on the side, so we decided to look around the area. We finally settled on Neds Noodle Bar and ordered a box of noodle – I forgot which one my hubby ordered but the taste was just okay. With full stomach, my hubby felt adventurous and asked me to ride a bus back to Westminster tube (we could’ve walked since it was so close hahaha…). From there, we took the tube to Covent Garden.

The most famous things to do in Covent Garden are shopping and eating! Yes, there are lots of shops and restaurants in Covent Garden. The newer part of the buildings is a semi-open area with brown brick and glass ceilings. The older part of the building is the market where you can find  local produces and souvenir shops. As soon as we walked out the subway station, we saw lots of people walking around with big shopping bags. I did my research and I said to my husband that I want to buy macaroon at Laduree since we couldn’t find Laduree shop in Paris. On our way, we stopped at Disney Store and I bought a Minnie plush wearing Queen’s robe (super cute!). When we walked inside one of the newer buildings, I saw Shake Shack stall, so obviously, we had to stop and bought a burger – just to confirm the rumor of this delicious burger. In my opinion, the burger doesn’t live up to the hype but it was delicious. On our way to another end of the market, my husband bought a cookie at Ben’s Cookie and it was delicious! We even came back for 2nd cookie and it was still delicious! Finally, I found the Laduree shop at the corner of the market, I bought one macaroon but then felt disappointed since it wasn’t as good as Pierre Herme’s one.

Covent Garden  Covent Garden

We walked further away from Covent Garden and we found this alley with unique stores! There are English pubs, candy shop, second hand book store, and other antiques stores. Later I found out from this buzzfeed post, it is called St. Martin’s Lane. We ended up eating at Chipotle restaurant (YES! It’s the one featured in the buzzfeed post hahaha….).

Covent Garden streets

Unique shops at St. Martin’s Lane

When we walked around Leicester Square, we found a Tesco store. We stopped by and bought some ready to eat sandwiches for dinner. When we walked, I noticed a lot of people with M&M World yellow bag. I told my hubby that the store must be close to where we were. Since I missed visiting M&M World at Las Vegas years ago, I insisted my hubby to find the store hahaha…  Before approaching the M&M World, we saw a crowd of people in front of Empire Cinema with fences at the front. We peeked curiously and saw blue carpet in front of this movie theatre. We were puzzled but then I figured out that couple minutes ago, the premier of World’s End was held there! From the big screen, we saw the video of Simon Pegg waving and signing some posters for the fans! Dang!!! We missed it by approximately 10 minutes!!! Wel… I’m not a big fan of Simon Pegg anyway.

Moving on from the crowd, I entered the M&M World and realized that my hubby wasn’t nearby! I worrily waited for him at the front door and finally he came bringing a big poster of The World’s End with a big grin on his face! hahahaha… He was thinking to bring home the poster but then we couldn’t fold it. So, we just took picture with the poster in front of the movie theatre and gave the poster to a passerby.

Premier Worlds End

Premier of The World’s End at Empire Cinema, Leicester Square

M&M World in London is located at Leicester Square and said to be the world biggest candy store [ref]! As I remembered, it has 4 floors full of M&M candies and merchandise. There were rows and rows of tubes filled with any color possible of M&M chocolate. At lower floor, they have M&M character posing as well known British characters, such as the Beetles, the Queen’s Guard, James Bond, and even the Princess! They also have a mix lab with its periodic table and a machine in which they can refer to the color of the M&M candies according to your personality. We only took a bunch of picture here and didn’t buy any of the chocolate hahaha… Overall, it was FUN!

M&M

M&M2

M&M’s World London

We walked on Coventry St. from Leicester Square to Picadilly Circus and we saw a tourist shop, Cool Britannia. It seems that it sells everything related to British icon. They even have a wax figure of Queen Elizabeth inside and a Mini Cooper covered with British flag. So, if you want to buy some souvenirs for friends and family, this might be a great place to browse.

The Piccadilly Circus is actually right in front of the store! You’ll easily notice it by the big screens around the corners of the buildings there. Not bad for London but don’t compare it with New York’s Times Square. Yeah… it was just not as ‘blingy’ as the NY one. The tube is right near the Eros fountain.

Picadilly Circus Cool Britannia

Cool Britannia store at Leicester Square

Picadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus & Eros fountain

Although it was around 5 or 6 pm, we didn’t really know where to go anymore. We decide to go to Trafalgar Square. From Piccadilly Circus, we walked south of Regent St. At the end of the street (corner of Waterloo Pl & Pall Mall), there is Crimean War Memorial.

Crimea War Memorial

Regent St.; Crimean War Memorial; Old-fashioned English red mail box

While walking along Pall Mall toward Trafalgar Square, we passed some embassy buildings and Canada House that was used as for Canada respresentative in 2012 Summer Olympic. There is National Gallery at the north side of the square. This museum houses thousands of paintings from many era. Since we were in no mood for museum, we didn’t go inside – although it’s free. We then looked for a seat on the square’s steps to eat the sandwiches that we bought earlier at Tesco – after all, it was almost dinner time. When we started eating, I noticed there were lots of people gathering near the centre fountain. Then I realized that they were filming something. I tried to find out who were filming but people had no clue. So, I moved closer and then I saw Lucy Liu & Jonny Lee Miller standing near the fountain. Excitedly, I screamed to my hubby that it was Elemetary !!! Since Elementary is US series, many Londoners had no idea what the film was – but I was SUPER excited!!! As more people noticed Lucy Liu, more people came closer to the fence and the filming crew had harder time to calm down the spectators. They had to do 4 takes for just 1 scene! Wow.. no wonder Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller seemed tired. So yeah, it was a nice surprise to end our day. With a little arguing, we finally took buses to go back to Elephant & Castle.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square Elementary

P.S. The filming scene that we watched is actually a part of Season 2 Episode 1 of Elementary called “Step Nine.”

M.a.J

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