Sunday, August 12, 2007
A Long Walk in Stately London
We woke up early this morning, said goodbye to Vera and Raja and Radim drove us to the Prague airport to take our flight to London Stansted. We spent the last of our Czech money on breakfast and trinkets in the airport before heading on a very clean and neat Easy Jet flight. It was first come first serve seating, and we were early so got good seats at the front of the airplane for the quick 2 hour flight. It is hard to imagine that in such a small space, so many different cultures, languages, and histories have developed. The world gets much smaller than you think it is when you take these little hopper-flights around Europe.
We were feeling cheap and took the coach to our hotel in central London instead of the trains (our rail passes not working here in the UK). It was a long, poorly ventilated, and jerky trip but we made it without any puking, so I was at least content. The hotel is a few blocks from Victoria station in a otherwise relatively quiet, residential part of London. Unremarkable, if not somewhat disappointing room, but we didn't pay much, so there you go.
Didn't stick around long in the hotel before going off for a walk to Buckingham Palace, the Royal Gardens, and beyond. The palace kind of takes you by surprise, walking up Buckingham Palace Road, it is just a gritty city street, then around the bend and it opens up into this gold-guilted, majestic space. It was really quite spectacular. Even after having seen castles and palaces in Paris, Stockholm and Prague, this was really very impressive. Reminds you very much that this is a living-breathing monarchy that was once the centre of the entire industrial world.
After catching my breath back, we walked through the gold-guilded Canada gates and into St. James Park. The Mall (a main roadway) is closed to cars on Sundays, so it was quite a pleasant walk for the boys, who were ever-interested in the bird life. Eventually, however, the park had to end. We headed past the massive 19th century monument to the Duke of York, past the Britsh Columbia building (repleat with BC flags and coats of arms) and into Picadilly Circus. Walked along to one of the worlds largest toy stores. We all had fun there, though it was way too crowded with people. Picked up some neat little things for the boys, which they carried as treasures for the rest of the night.
Found a good little Indian restaurant for curry and lassies, and then carried on walking, first through Soho and Chinatown to Leicester Square, then to the famous Trafalger Square, which is dominated somewhat by the large Canadian embassy. All these Canadian monuments (we saw several Canadian war memorials and tributes, as well as these fine buildings) makes you realize how important Canada must have been to the UK as a colony and ally over the past few hundred years.
Finally caught a double-decker bus back to Victoria Station and turned in at the hotel, the boys having had one of their longest walks since Paris. Need to rest, as tomorrow is our last day overseas.