Click the map above to see a larger version. Our apartment is located on the dark blue “Picadilly” Line. We’re in the lower left corner just off a station called Northfields. On a typical day we take the Picadilly Line to the (green) District Line and then on to stations like Westminster, Victoria, St. Paul’s or Tower Hill. It’s very easy to get around if you keep you wits about you and refer to the map constantly.
Tag Archives: Subway
I haven’t decided yet about the “underground” or “tube” or what I keep calling the subway system. It’s super efficient – miss a train? Wait less than three minutes and another will come along. Cheap – about $5 to go anywhere and return. Where do you need to go? – it goes there or connects to a way to get there.
And our apartment here in London? We’re honestly about 50 feet from a tube station – again, Amber did a super job picking this apartment for us! We’re on the Picadilly line which goes directly to and from the airport too – so it was super convenient when we landed at Heathrow.
But at rush time the tube system is like herding cattle. Masses of people rushing and racing through doors, up stairs, down walkways. And noisy?!?!?!? It’s no wonder no one tries to have a conversation – it’s often very rattle-y, creaking, squealing, and of course “wooshing” along.
It can be a bit scary too. Other trains fly by at what seems to be about 12″ away. There are sometimes huge gaps between the cars and the platform (“mind the gap”) and at times the cars are about a foot above the platform. So sometimes there’s a huge step out, and down! And of course you have to be FAST as the doors only open and close for a short time – so you’ve got to be ready and RUSH in or out of the doors.
I still find the map system for the tube confusing, but much better than when I first got here. Poor Amber keeps having to point out my misunderstandings. Thank goodness she’s so patient.
And the worst thing? As we’re traveling back to our apartment after a long day of walking everywhere, the tube is rumbling and swaying and I start to fall asleep! LOL
Once again it was down into the tube station and off to the heart of London. Since it was Amber’s 28th birthday we decided to take her to jail – the Tower of London that is. We did manage to find a public bathroom that charged 50 pence each (that’s about $.75). I was surprised – but I have to admit, there was hot water, soap and towels! There was a Starbucks after that – where we found free bathrooms! Oh well.
The Tower of London is an 18-acre site that’s been a castle, king’s residence and prison/execution site. I wasn’t too interested in the areas like the torture room, but the Tower is also known as a fortress/stronghold, and it’s there that the crown jewels are stored and on view for the public. Ohhhh – diamonds, pearls, sapphires and rubies. I loved all the glitter. They had things displayed like they do in jewelry stores – all sparkly.
We wandered around the Tower for quite a while and found a nice exhibition about armor – it was fascinating to see what the men and horses wore. I have no idea how either of them could have moved while wearing all that metal. One particularly large suit of armor for a tall man was 130 pounds.
And just for fun, I counted the steps up and down while at the Tower. This does not include walking up/down for the tube, or steps forward/backward – just real steps going up and down. For the Tower: 499 steps.
Next we walked to the nearby Tower Bridge. This is the bridge that opens and closes for large boats that go up and down the Thames. The engines inside have been replaced by electrical ones but you can still see the mechanics of the old steam engines. By this time of the day the sky was turning a beautiful blue and I took far too many pictures of the Tower Bridge.
Following this Amber and I were tired of walking, but Patrick persevered and went onboard the HMS Belfast – the last big-gun armored warship of World War II. While he was touring the ship, Amber and I really did keep walking further along the Thames – hoping to get a glimpse of the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde. We walked for 30 minutes and didn’t even come close… so after we set foot on the famous London Bridge we reversed and headed back and waited for Patrick.
Lastly, back on the tube system and a return to our apartment. Patrick is off working on his Guinness count and Amber is planning tomorrow’s ventures.
We started our day on the tube as usual but this time we headed in to London early and survived the commute crush. Egad – how do people do this day after day? We crammed ourselves on to a car and at the last minute Amber got left at the station! We were all messed up then. Patrick and I were on one car – and we both had a set of apartment keys, but Amber was on another totally separate “train” and she was the only one who knew where we were going – and she had the map books showing our routes as well!
Luckily, Patrick figured we’d just get off at the next stop, wait for the “train” behind us and hope to find Amber on it. Thankfully it all worked out just fine. Whew. And I have to admit, the people crammed into the second “train” smelled a lot better than those on the first train. It was standing room only, everyone all smooshed in together for mile after mile.
We arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral just as the steps to the upper levels opened. This has to be The Best church I’ve ever seen – including Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey. First, the place is huge – 515 feet long and 250 feet wide. Second, it’s tall – the top of the dome is 360 feet high and the only church dome higher is at St. Peter’s in Rome. And third, it’s beautiful. It’s hard to describe the interior. While there *are* stained glass windows – most windows are clear glass that let in a lot of light. The arched ceilings are covered in amazing tile work that looks like tapestries woven with gold threads. Pictures aren’t allowed inside, so I have no pictures of my own to show. No picture will do it justice anyway.
At St. Paul’s the three of us climbed 259 steps up a wooden spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery. This is a railed section up inside the dome where you can stand, whisper something to the wall, and people on the other side of the dome can hear you. And it worked! Amber and I sat in the Whispering Gallery while Patrick trudged up an additional 119 more steps to the Stone Gallery – which is on the exterior of the dome. Then, ever onward, he walked up another 152 more steps (530 total) to the Golden Gallery that gave him an amazing 360 degree view of London. Patrick took over 100 pictures while up there and we’re hoping for some great panoramic pictures!
St. Paul’s is England’s national church and there has been a church on the same location since 604 AD. There was a great fire in London in 1666 and the church was rebuilt then.
Historically in the 1900’s, St. Paul’s was considered Britain’s symbol of resistance since it withstood 57 nights of bombing by the Nazis. Winston Churchill’s funeral was held here in 1965 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diane took place at St. Paul’s in 1981.
We had planned on a quick 30-minute visit (not knowing how fantastic it was going to be) but St. Paul’s was so amazing that we were there for an hour and a half.
After St. Paul’s we walked across the Millennium Bridge made famous in Harry Potter The Half-Blood Prince. This is a pedestrian-only bridge that crossed the Thames.
Even though it wasn’t noon yet, we jumped back on the underground and rode to a stop near our final destination for the day: The British Museum.
The British Museum was established in 1753, has 94 galleries and walkways totaling 2.5 miles. Rick Steves says it’s the “greatest chronicle of civilization… anywhere” and we all think he’s right.
We were there for 2.5 hours and were exhausted. We saw mummies, Chinese jade, great Assyrian art work, historical clocks, coin making, Roman and Greek statues, a statue from Easter Island – and yes, we saw The Rosetta Stone. The oldest object in the museum was a rock hand tool – 1.8 million years old. The Assyrian winged bull statues were among the heaviest things in the museum at 17 tons each. It was an amazing place and we didn’t do it justice. I’d estimate we saw about 10% of the items and actually studied less than 1%.
Throughout this whole day you have to remember that we were walking. Again, things like elevators or escalators seem to be almost non-existent. We walk down to the tube; transferring a couple of times means it’s up and then back down, then up and back down, then finally up to the street level. And the “up and down” can be two or more floors – all on concrete. St. Paul’s Cathedral was a climb up stairs to the Whispering Gallery, a nice walk across the Millennium Bridge, and back, then down underground for another tube ride, and back up. Then all around the British Museum… and finally back down to the tube again and a long ride home.
You can bet that we’re sleeping well at night now that we’ve adjusted to the time change!
Today was our second full day in London and we started off slowly. We decided to wait until about 9:30 in the morning before taking the tube into town because we thought most of the commuters would be at work by then. We took the Picadilly line to the Acton Town station, and then the District line to the Victoria station and got off there. It was interesting on the way because as we got closer and closer to town, the trains got more and more packed with people. By the time we were on our last leg of the morning’s journey, the car was so packed we didn’t even think we be able to get to the doors to get off at our final station. It was also interesting because there was a lady with a stroller and also a young child with her. As near as we can figure there are no handicapped facilities at these tube stations and there are stairs everywhere, and I haven’t seen any elevators and virtually no escalators. When we got to our final station the lady with the stroller and child were also getting off. The poor lady had to try to drag the stroller up two flights of stairs with a child in another hand. Luckily a gentleman helped her and grabbed the front of the stroller and help her carry it up the two flights of stairs. But sadly, at that point the man veered off in a different direction and the lady was left to carry the stroller up the third flight of stairs by herself as no one helped her.
We started the morning planning to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. According to Rick Steve’s we needed to get there about an hour early which meant that we wanted to arrive around 10:30 in the morning. We did just that, and got there in plenty of time to get a nice viewing spot for the whole activity that was to come. It was surprising how many people showed up since it isn’t even tourist season yet. I hate to think what it would be like during the summer months. We waited out in the cold and the wind for an hour for the ceremony to begin and then frankly we were a little disappointed. The guards came in marching from a distance with wonderful red uniforms and gold hats or the tall poofy black hats and they marched into the Buckingham Palace area but they were behind tall black fences and gates. So anything we wanted to watch was behind a wall of people, fences and gates. That might’ve been okay but the ceremony went on and on and on while we were cold and the wind was blowing and it wasn’t very exciting. Finally we walked away after 45 minutes – and the ceremony was even over.
We then hiked down The Mall toward Trafalgar Square (cool lion statues!) where we wanted to see the National Gallery. When we got there we were all tired and hungry so first we found a restaurant named Garfunkle’s and ate there. I got a huge omelet so I could load up on protein. The National Gallery is free (!) and there are a gazillion floors and little rooms everywhere and we basically got lost. We wandered around for quite a while on tired feet and sore knees and pretty soon we were saying “Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s another Renoir… keep moving”.
We did get to see Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the Virgin and Child with St. Anne and John the Baptist – which was about 3’ x 4’. I’d kind of pictured it on an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper! Patrick got excited when he saw Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres – apparently he’d studied that particular painting when in school. I’d recently watched a TV series about impressionists so I thought it was particularly neat to see paintings by Monet, Manet and Cezanne. I’d also recently read a book about the origin of different colors for paints – so it was great to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and see how the yellow color had degraded over time.
Finally, we left the gallery and headed back to the tube. Three lines later we were back at our apartment where I stayed in and Amber and Patrick made a water and chocolate run to the local Tesco Express. Right now Amber and I are using the computers while Patrick is working on his daily intake of Guinness at the pub next door. I think we’ll all sleep well tonight.
Amber and I started Monday with a short walk to Lammas Park because the day before I’d seen lovely tree-covered walks but didn’t have my camera with me.
At 9:00 a.m. we headed for London. We took the Picadilly Line (blue line) to the District Line (green line) to Westminster Station (only nine miles but took about half an hour). We got off the tube, walked up the stairs and BAM! There was Big Ben and the House of Parliament. Big Ben brought back memories of a Dr. Who episode when a spaceship crashed into Big Ben and landed in the Thames. The House of Parliament was bigger than huge and quite impressive. We stayed outside of the House of Parliament but went in to Westminster Abbey (15 pounds each to enter).
Rick Steves (travel expert) says that it’s “the greatest church in the English-speaking world” but we think he underestimated it. It was more than awe inspiring. Although we had read that there were over 3000 tombs inside the Abbey, we were all still surprised at the number of people buried there – they were everywhere! Even the Westminster Coffee shop (serving Starbucks coffee) was built on top of some tombs. Sadly, no pictures were allowed inside.
I found this on a website and want to include it here: Westminster Abbey is officially called the Collegiate Church of St. Peter. It was originally the abbey church of a Benedictine monastery. The building adjoins the Houses of Parliament in Westminster borough near the north bank of the Thames. The Gothic structure is grandiose in size and appearance. It is built in the form of a Latin cross. The twin towers at the front on the west are 225 feet high. The total length of the church exterior is 531 feet. The body of the building is 102 feet high. The transept (which forms the cross) is 203 feet long and 80 feet wide.
Even though we’d planned on visiting the British Airways London Eye later in our trip, it was so close and the weather pretty good – so we walked across the Thames and went up and round on the now-named Merlin Entertainment’s London Eye. This giant ferris wheel is the world’s highest at 443’ and is the highest public view point in London. It was fantastic and worth the 18 pounds each. Twenty-five people are allowed in each capsule but I think we had maybe 20 at most. Thankfully, the long lines moved quickly! It was an experience getting on and off – each person in line is “wanded” for security reasons… the capsules keep moving as people get on and off… and after each capsule empties a security crew quickly enters and looks for suspicious items – even using mirrors under the benches.
Lunch was at a quick stop at McDonalds which was PACKED. It was mass-production at its best and you quickly bought food on the main floor and then went downstairs to eat while sitting on rows and rows of round stools – and virtually no free space.
After lunch we walked back across the Thames in the drizzle and wind and found the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. We all thought this was just OK, and I think if I were older it might have meant more to me.
We were all tired by then and quickly found our way back to Westminster station and came back to our little apartment. The tube was getting more and more crowded with people – and this Monday happened to be a Bank Holiday so virtually all businesses were closed. I hate to think what the tube will be like on a normal work day!
Whew. Our feet are tired and we’re ready to catch up on some more missed sleep.