London by Bus

Day 3:  London

OMG what a noisy city at night London is.  There are constant sirens and they all seem to stop close by.  Either that or they just turn their sirens on for the time they are passing by my hotel, and then continue on their way in silence…

Anyway, it’s Sunday morning, which gives me the perfect opportunity for a slow start, and to take advantage of that I’m heading to  Bumpkin for Sunday Brunch.  A typical English Breakfast with Champagne.  Although its 10am when I arrive its absolutely empty, which feels kinda weird. The English breaky consists of scrambled eggs, a field mushroom, roasted tomato, baked beans, bacon, a sausage and a slice of toast. And yes I did eat it all to myself. Bumpkin pride themselves on using seasonal produce and so the meal certainly didn’t taste like a big greasy fryup in anyway. Of course there’ll be no lunch for me today.

For the rest of the day I’ll be occupying my time with a ….

City Sightseeing Tour

I don’t really like to resort to these types of tours, but when your time is limited, sometimes it’s just the best way to take in a lot of sights in a little time.  Plus with the interrupted sleep last night, I’m still not feeling on top of the world, so I booked a ticket on The Original Tour bus which covers over 80 stops,  on three different sightseeing routes and countless photo opportunities.

Today I’m going to start of with the Red Route which takes in the capital’s most famous sights, some of which I no doubt saw yesterday, but it will be good to get a closer look, take more photos and stop off to go inside if I so desire.

The bus is actually quite slow going probably due to it being a weekend. London is trying so hard to give me a summer’s day but there’s no hiding the clouds and the freezing wind, certainly not conducive to sitting up top on a double decker bus!

The view from the top of the bus
The view from the top of the bus

Marble Arch

Marble Arch was designed in 1825 to be the ceremonial entrance to Buckingham Palace.  It’s based on the design of the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  It was deconstructed and relocated at its current position near Hyde Park corner in 1851.  Historically only members of the royal family have been allowed to pass through the arch.

Marble Arch
Marble Arch

Red Telephone Boxes

You can’t possibly think of London without thinking about red telephone boxes.  The telephone box has become an icon of British design, alongside the black taxi and the Routemaster bus.  It is part of this nation’s heritage and identity.  But as with all things these days, technology is taking over and the red telephone box is under threat, with numbers declining.  From a peak of over 70,000 in the 1980s, today there only 11,000 red telephone kiosks surviving in public service.

The good old red telephone box
The good old red telephone box

St Paul’s Cathedral

A cathedral to St Paul has stood on this highest point in the city, in some form, for over 1400 years.  The current building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and is quite spectacular.  Story has that Chris was quite lucky – when he was originally commissioned to fix St Paul’s up when the restoration took place, there was no money in the budget for rebuilding, which is what he wanted to do.  He was only allowed to renovate it.  He’d just put up all the scaffolding around the church when the great fire of London spread and the church burnt down, leaving the only option to rebuild!

St Pauls - this versions only about 300 years old
St Pauls – this versions only about 300 years old

Tower Bridge

Not to be confused with London Bridge, and many do, as our cycling guide mentioned yesterday.  Now I’m not a fan of the Spice Girls, but in the movie – you know the bit where they are driving across the bridge and the gate goes up and the bus flies across to the other side?  Well that was based on an actual event.  There are traffic lights at either side of where the gates on the bridge go up, but on one occasion in 1951 the warning signals failed when a bus driver was on his way across.  He was already past the signals and he couldn’t go back, so he had no option but to go for it, flying over the gap and landing safely on the other side.  Now that would be a bus trip you’d never forget.

Tower of London Bridge
Tower of London Bridge

Tower of London

The Tower of London has been many things in its time.  Royal residence, grand palace, an armoury, a treasury – even a zoo.

But it’s most popularly known as a prison and the place where many executions were carried out.

Executions by beheading were considered the least brutal of execution methods and were accorded to important State prisoners or people of noble birth.  Killing the lower classes was usually achieved by hanging from the gallows.  The more serious the crime the more severe the punishment.  Burning to death at the stake or the barbaric method of slowly killing by inflicting unimaginable pain was by ‘Hang, Draw and Quartering’ – these methods of execution might be delivered to any class of victim.

Tower of London
Tower of London

Death by beheading with the use of the axe could be a terrifying prospect.  The executioners often took several blows before the head was finally severed.  If the executioner’ axe was sharp and his aim was true, beheading was quick and relatively painless.  If the instrument was blunt, the axeman inexperienced or careless, then the execution might take several strokes to sever the head.  This was certainly the case in the execution by beheading of the brave Countess of Salisbury who was struck eleven times with the axe before she died.

Various traditions were observed at executions by beheading.  A raised platform was built (scaffold) and covered with straw.  A minister of the church would be available to offer religious comfort to the victim.  The victim would be expected to pay and forgive the executioner.  It would be hoped that the headsman completed his job swiftly and with care.  The condemned prisoner was usually given the opportunity to address the spectators – with the King’s permission.  The heads of traitors were displayed on top of spikes on London Bridge.

Following execution the severed head was held up by the hair by the executioner. This was done, not as many people think to show the crowd the head, but in fact to show the head the faces of crowd and it’s own body!  Killing by beheading is not immediate. Consciousness remains for at least eight seconds after beheading until lack of oxygen causes unconsciousness and eventually death.

I don’t actually spend that much time here.  It was probably not a good idea to come on a weekend cause it’s really busy and there are queues to see everything which is a shame, because I’m sure it would be a good place to spend a couple of hours.  Patience is not my strong point.

Boating along the Thames

From the Tower of London, I jump on board a ferry for a ride down the Thames.  The ride is included as part of the City Sightseeing Bus price, which is a nice way to break up your day of touring.  And there’s hot chocolate on board to take the edge of this cold ‘summer’s day’.  The ferry goes all the way down to the Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, where you can get off and rejoin any of the sightseeing bus routes.

One of the many ferries trawling the river
One of the many ferries trawling the river

I jump on the yellow route for a while, but when I get to just near Oxford Street I can’t contain myself and decide to do a little bit of shopping.  I can’t believe two days of sightseeing is already done and dusted.  Obviously there is so much to see, you just can’t fit everything in.  Probably a good excuse to come back.

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