Day 27 - 22/07/2002 - London UK
It was nice to wake up somewhere other than a hotel - staying at Dennis' makes it feel like I am almost at home again (especially since we will be able to relax and be based here for a few days).
Decided to use the London Sightseeing Bus (The Original Tour company) - there are a few of these companies charging a relatively high price of almost AU$40, but this one included a AU$20 River Cruise ride which made it very good value.
On one of our bus legs, we had an excellent commentator, Jim, who was using his English humour along the ride - we thought he was very funny and entertaining - it made a big difference, so I contacted the company to give them some positive feedback (I think it is just as important to give positive feedback and negative feedback when appropriate).
Went over the Tower Bridge and walked around the Tower Of London. A bit confusing ... The Tower Of London is not really a "tower", is more like a bridge, London Bridge (which I thought was a major tourist attraction) is a small insignificant bridge, while the main bridge is actually called "Tower Bridge" (which is often confused for London Bridge). We did not go into the Tower Of London (Crown Jewels etc) today because it was nearly AU$30 to get in and we didn't think it was worth it while there were so many other things to see for free - I thought, if I collected the money from all the visitors, I could buy the crown jewels myself.
For lunch, got some sandwiches, which again were not heavily overpriced (the price was similar to Sydney which was contrary to what I had been told to expect). They also had a deal where you could get a can of coke, packet of chips and a piece of fruit for 1 pound ... I thought "what a bargain", but then I realised that it is actually paying around AU$2.50 for things that I did not need.
Went to visit some churches and was disappointed to find out that you had to pay to go inside! The two churches combined were asking approx AU$30 to go inside ... I have a concern with people charging people to go inside churches. Anyhow, you could always find out when the church services are being held and attend for free, but I still didn't like the idea of charging people to get access to the church building. I ended up asking one of the officials if I could look through the door to see if it was worth coming back on another day and he ended up letting me go in for free anyhow. Overall, St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey were very pretty and nice, but I still think some the churches in other parts of Europe were far more impressive (and FREE!)
The river cruise was one of the highlights of the tour and I think it was almost worth the price of the whole bus/boat tour combined. It was well organised with timely commentary and music. We got to see Big Ben, British Airways London Eye, the bridges and many of the other sites from the water. We also went past the new city hall (to be opened by the Queen tomorrow) ... the press reported that when the mayor was asked what he thought of his new building he said "it looks like a glass testicle!" (you can decide for yourself from the photo).
Went to Buckingham Palace and thought what everyone had told me ... it that all it is? It is relatively small and unattractive considering that it houses the riches woman in the world.
MOVIE: Buckingham Palace [MPG 290KB]
Went to Piccadilly Circus (shopping area) to meet Greet, Dominique and Alexandra (friends who live in Belgium that I met Australia on another holiday). We had a drink and then headed off to a "Jack The Ripper Tour". At the train station, Greet noticed a sign that said "Female Toilets" and she laughed, asked me "I wonder what they look like ... toilets that are female" - her English is very good (in fact it is much better that most English speaking people because she is a translator) and she was quite right, the sign should have said something like "Women's Toilets".
The "Jack The Ripper" tour was good, it was very informative and gave me a lot more insight into this mystery. It was quite horrifying to walk through the same streets where the murders occurred and the walk over then spots where the bodies where found. It was a very ugly area back then and unfortunately it is still a very ugly area now (it was interesting to see this side of London). The streets were filled with drunks and drug addicts ... our tour guide warned us "just do as I do and ignore them" which was reasonable advice until our tour guide decided to bash up one of the drunks that was following our tour group - several times (we thought it might have been better if he just left him alone). Our guide had a lot of knowledge about the mystery, and at the end of the tour he provided us with some reasonable evidence as to the identity of the killer ... there was a lot more to this story than I originally realised.
MOVIE: Jack The Ripper Tour [MPG 165KB]
We had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant, which was great because I had been craving Thai food for a while. Quality and price were both similar to Sydney. We ate mixed entree followed by Spicy Seafood, Red Curry and Noodles (like Pad Thai) with some nice wine (and a Martini) while Alexandra entertained the rest of then occupants in the restaurant - she seems to get a lot of attention wherever she goes (including some attention from a giggle little boy that was on our Jack The Ripper tour - he would not stop giggling and it was quite infectious and made other people laugh - which is not a bad thing).
After seeing Greet and Dominique today, it felt really good to spend time with people from a previous tour/holiday ... I felt like we were really close friends (despite the distance between our homelands and the long time periods between seeing each other) ... I know that it is worth keeping in touch with people that you meet on holidays and I will continue to try and do that with the people I meet during the rest of these holidays.