Saturday, November 03, 2012

London, Day 1 – October 31, 2012

London, Day 1 – October 31, 2012

After breakfast at the hotel, I went out for a walk, heading first toward Westminster Abbey and then up Whitehall toward Piccadilly Circus.  I had not planned to go through the Abbey, but when I got to the Abbey, I decided that since I was there, I would go through it, rather than return later.  The line took a bit longer than expected, but soon I was inside.  The tour fee included an audio guide; however, no photos were permitted inside the Abbey.  After a time, I noticed that the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (from World War I) was located directly in the center aisle, just inside the west door of the nave.  I asked one of the Abbey volunteers whether Kate Middleton had walked around the tomb, and she said yes, indeed; no one steps on that tomb.  Then she went on to tell me that when the present Queen’s mother was married in the Abbey, her brother had been killed in the war, and as she entered the Abbey, she stopped and laid her bridal bouquet on the tomb.  Since that time, every bride has left her bridal bouquet on the tomb, although some have sent it back to the Abbey after photos were taken.  Even Diana, who was married at St. Paul’s Cathedral, sent her bridal bouquet to be laid on the tomb.  Although I had been to the Abbey on previous occasions, it is always very impressive.  However, it seems smaller than other cathedrals.  For example, earlier this year, I was at the Canterbury Cathedral, and the Abbey seems smaller than that one. 

After leaving the Abbey, I walked up Whitehall toward Piccadilly Circus.  I stopped briefly at Downing Street for a photo, and again at the horse guards.  When I got to Nelson’s Column, I noticed that the road leading directly toward Buckingham Palace (the Mall) was clear of traffic, and people were lined up at fences along the road.  I asked a very nice policewoman what was happening, and she informed me that the Queen was welcoming the President of Indonesia, and they would be traveling up that road to inspect the troops.  I decided to wait along with the crowds to see the ceremony.  I had to wait for more than an hour, but eventually, the Queen’s Rolls Royce slowly drove past with the Queen inside.  The police said that the Queen would return in about 20 minutes, so I waited to see her again, and about 20 minutes later, I noticed the Queen’s horse carriage, along with other horse carriages line up to take her back to Buckingham Palace.  Soon the Queen passed in her horse-drawn carriage, and I was able to get a photo of her.  She waved to the crowd as she passed.  It appeared that all of the Queen’s palace guards and horse guards participated in the ceremony – several thousand of them.  The ceremony was very elegant and impressive.

After standing in the cold for almost two hours, I returned to the hotel to warm up and have high tea, which was wonderful.  I decided not to go back out, but to take an evening off in the room.

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