Sunday, December 18, 2016

Family Vacation in the U.K., 5th October 2016, Day 6: Sightseeing in London

As stated in my previous post, we had a London Pass that we had purchased from the Visit Britain counter at the UK Visa office in Mumbai. This pass is meant for free visits to more than 150 places of tourist interest in London. Each day's pass can make your pocket lighter by upto INR 4000/= Now there is an upper limit on how much one can see, and this is about INR 10000/= worth per day in entry tickets, etc. However, before one can reach that upper limit, the day usually gets over! On this, our second day, we had planned to cover 4 attractions. In the end, we managed only 2 1/2! 

The first of these was a visit to the iconic Tower of London. To reach this, we took a tourist bus that took us free (as its cost was included with our London Pass). It was a rather long journey, but the continuous commentary in one's ears through an automated ear-phones inside the back of the seat in front of you - makes the trip interesting. We passed through the outskirts of London into the center of power - viz. Westminster, which has its own municipality. En route, we saw, again, some of the famous landmarks of London, as also, some not-so-famous places, such as the "Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese" pub that dates back more than 300 years, and where writers and playwrights of the time came to sip a cup of tea or have something stronger while they tried to tickle their muse. If I am not mistaken, this included stalwarts like Lord Byron.

Eventually, we arrived at the Tower of London. The square structure that contains, on one corner of it, the actual tower, is only a part of a complex that houses troops even today. In addition, the tower also has the Royal Armoury and the Crown Jewels - which makes this place unique.  

The armoury was simply too interesting, but far more than it was the Crown Jewels exhibition that did not allow photography. We saw the Royal Jewels down the ages, as also various decorations worn by the previous monarchs on their epaulettes, chests and so on. Of course, we saw the Queen's crown with the Kohinoor diamond. It was a genuine pleasure to see these original jewels, golden kitchenwear and cutlery, and some were absolutely remarkable.  

From the TofL, we walked some distance to the London Tower Bridge. This is the structure we see on London postcards! There was an exhibition on Tier 2 of the tower bridge titled "Bridges of the World". But the most remarkable thing was on the highest level - the Tier 3, which has a glass-floor corridor that you walk through from one end to the other and from the other end via the second, parallel bridge to the end you began the walk on. From there, you descend to the first Tier - or the main road, and then out ...

What follows are a few of the best photos from today's visit to the TofL and the Tower Bridge.

The Tower of London

Our guide

One of the more decorative cannons on display

A full armour worn by a previous king, James II

A golden revolver - usually a gift

And, a golden machine gun

Some of the cannons and cannon balls on display

A live performance

Taking a breather before walking down the London Tower Bridge

At the Bridge, Tier 1

The Bridges of the World exhibition, Tier 2

Reclining on the glass floor

And then, everyone looks up for a group snap against mirrors on the ceiling
 The half that I referred to in the beginning was a visit to Oxford Street, where the family shopped till we dropped at the H & M stores. Indeed, this half was the one they most enjoyed. ;-)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Family Vacation in the U.K., 4th October 2016, Day 5: Sightseeing in London

We had purchased a 2-day London Pass from India, which would enable us to visit many locations within London free of cost. However, in the end, over the next few days, we only managed to see 5-6 attractions, as each one took quite a bit of time. London is indeed one of the best cities from the point of view of tourism. We managed to see the following places today: Piccadilly Square, Trafalgar square and the Nelson Monument, The Elizabeth Tower housing the Big Ben, the Westminster Abbey, London Eye, and St. Paul's cathedral. We also managed to do the London River Cruise and London by Night. All in all, a great day was had by us all. 

There is little to say, so I will simply add some photos of the places we visited.

Piccadilly Circus

Trafalgar Square with the Nelson column

Fun at the Trafalgar Square - I

Fun - II

Fun - III

Portrait - I

Portrait - II

Outside Buckingham Palace 

Elizabeth Tower, more commonly known as the Big Ben

Westminster House

Outside Westminster Abbey

A plaque inside the Abbey

Sir Winston Churchill

London Millennium Eye

Inside the Eye

View from the Eye of the River Thames

St Paul's cathedral

The Shard - London's tallest building

Tower Bridge

London Tower

Harrod's by night

Enchanting London eye at night

The Shard by night

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Family Vacation in the U.K., 3rd October 2016, Day 4: Oxford, and arrival in London

Our family had a memorable day today. We saw so much, and all this without actually staying overnight at any place. We arrived in our Insignia at the Enterprise office in Oxford around half past nine. I had already negotiated an arrangement to leave our luggage with the Enterprise office here and then explore Oxford on foot. The team gladly took possession of the car, which we had planned to deliver here. We left our luggage with them, which they very kindly agreed to. After this, we made our way on foot to explore this little but important educational centre on foot. Our sojourn took us to various college and university campuses in Oxford. The most interesting of the lot was the Trinity College and the Christ Church College. At the Trinity, we also visited the cathedral inside. We also visited the Bridge of Sighs, and did a full tour of the Oxford Castle Unlocked;  we ended our trip with a bit of punting on the Oxford River just past the Magdalen College. 

What we could not see were the famous Ashmolean museum and a few other museums that this city has. What we did observe, however, was that Oxford is a tight little city that is highly bicycle-friendly (we would learn later that Cambridge, another educational place in the U.K. is even MORE bicycle-friendly, but for that, wait for the installments to come). 

The Oxford covered market was where we had our lunch and browsed for different kinds of things. While the three of us had pasta, Nishrin had a sandwich to tide over hunger. 

What follow are some interesting pictures we took in Oxford.

The presenter at the Oxford Castle Unlocked

Hannah on the detention board

Inas, ditto

A prison cell

Trinity College

Trinity College grounds

The College cathedral

Entrance to the Oxford Covered market

Hannah under the Bridge of Sighs

Punting A

Punting B

Punting C
hunger. In the evening, we returned to where we had kept our luggage, and then we went to Oxford station to catch a train to London. We arrived at the Notting Hill station via a tube train ride that we took from - I can't remember for sure, but I think from the London Victoria station. 

The Notting Hill Gate hotel was just a few minutes away from the tube station. We checked in into a very small, cramped family room with 2 double beds and hardly any floor space or storage space to keep our luggage. The reception staff was extremely unhelpful, and the room itself had nothing to recommend it to anyone coming to London for a trip. We went to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner, the Zizzi's restaurant. Food here was really interesting, and perhaps, this was the only thing that went right for us after we entered London. We slept soon after, as there was nothing to do. Tomorrow, we would begin our sightseeing in London.