This morning we arrived back in the capital of the United Kingdom and England, London for our final night in Europe and our final full two days to look around and see the last remaining aspects of this grand old city. We spent the night on the Caledonian Sleeper train from Edinburgh arriving at Euston Station at about 7am.
24 June, 2012 – London
On arrival this morning into London it was obviously too early to check into our hotel, we decided to head there anyway so we could drop all our stuff off for check in later in the afternoon. Firstly I had to pick up the stuff I left at Euston Station for storage while we were in Scotland, this was a nightmare having to carry three bags from Euston Station to our hotel which was in Trafalgar Square. Our hotel was the Charing Cross Hotel, right on top of the Charing Cross Tube station, so getting there was no trouble at all.
We decided as this is our last night we would splash out a little and stay somewhere a bit expensive, right in the centre of London and we couldn’t have picked a better location just metres away from Trafalgar Square, on top of Charing Cross Station and close walk to Buckingham Palace, and the River Thames.
After dropping off our bags, the first destination for the day was Buckingham Palace, I wanted to check the sign that tells you if the changing of the guard would be happening today or not. Simple thing to do you would think, however with the Olympics about to start all the roads were closed off and not even pedestrian traffic could get through. The first proper thing for the day we were going to do was check out the Winston Churchill War Rooms which was basically a block away from the hotel. However with all the roads and half the park fenced off we had to walk the long way all the way down to Buckingham Palace anyway and then back again on the other side.
We eventually made our way around all the road closures and to the entrance of the War Rooms, despite it taking us over an hour to walk around the really long way, we managed to arrive before it opened and had to wait about 20 minutes. It was good timing as we were the first to arrive and enter, we beat a massive tour group and could look around the whole museum uninterrupted.
It is well worth coming here to check out the war rooms and to learn about how the World War II campaign for the Allies was coordinated from underground in these bunker rooms and the conditions the ministers had to live with in order to keep control of the war effort. The museum allows you to walk around the different rooms which have been recreated and glassed off, you are also given an audio guide that automatically knows where you are and will explain what happened in each room. At the end of the museum is a shop (of course) and I couldn’t help myself buying some more World War II propaganda posters to go with the ones I already bought for the Soviet Union in Prague.
Straight after we finished looking around the War Rooms we quickly headed back up to Buckingham Palace as I was desperate to see the full ceremony of the changing of the guard. I had only seen a small part of it last time, so I was ready to stand here for as long as it took this time to see the full thing. There was already a massive crowd gathered, we managed to get a front row position, however if I’m ever here again I would want to get here even earlier to get a front position near the Queen Victoria monument on the round about.
Our view was a little obstructed but we still got to see most of what was going on, also got to see how the traffic flow is managed while they get ready for the changing of the guard, traffic is stopped several times to allow people to cross the road and to get their positions. Traffic is then brought to a halt when the procession begins, it is a well thought out and choreographed event.
After we watched the changing of the guard we headed out for some lunch and then decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. We then went and checked into our hotel at about 1pm and our room was on the corner on the top floor, couldn’t have asked for a better room than this. We then went our for a walk checking out Trafalgar Square once again and spent more time around Piccadilly Circus and checked out the many souvenir shops so we could waste a bit of spending money. There is also an m&m’s World here, this place was amazing considering it is about four levels devoted to small little colourful chocolates, the amount of stuff in here you could spend the day if you really were that keen.
We then went back to our hotel room to call it a night, but I decided to venture out on my own to take some photos of London at night, I managed to walk back up to Piccadilly Circus, this was my main goal and I was only going to go here to get some photos but on my walk back I decided I would head down to the river and got some shots of the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye all lit up.
25 June, 2012 – London to Melbourne
Well here we are, our final day! This morning we checked out of our hotel, left our bags in storage and have one more day to explore London until our flight leave later tonight. As we have seen most of London by now we were a little stumped as to what to do today so we just started out by having some good old Maccas for breakfast, can’t go wrong with that.
We then proceeded to start walking down towards the river taking it easy, after a stroll along the river we decided that we should catch a train and head down to Olympic Park to check out this newly developed area and see where the Olympics will be held.
We caught the train over to the Olympic site, the place was a buzz of people getting ready, the main focal point was the brand new Westfield shopping centre, being a Westfield it felt like we were already back home, we had a look around in there realising that these shopping centres look exactly the same as they do back at home. There is also a dedicated Olympic Shop in one of the department stores that over looks the Olympic Stadium. We went there to check it out and I was keen to waste some money on something Olympic to take back home with me, I ended up for some reason buying a large toy mascot, I don’t even know what it is supposed to be, some sort of alien, but I have one… WOW.
From here it was time to slowly make our way back into central London to collect our stuff and then make the long sad tube trip towards Heathrow Airport for our departing flight. By the time we did all of this we didn’t have long to wait at the airport, we were catching an Etihad Airlines flight from Terminal Four to Abu Dhabi, from here we board a Virgin Australia flight to Sydney before finally catching a short flight on Virgin again from Sydney to Melbourne.
The last two months of travelling through Europe has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I wish that it would have lasted longer, but like most things it cannot keep going forever due to having no more money and having to go back to work in the real world. Europe has been a blast and I want to come back here for sure to experience more of what it has to offer… Until next time…
23 Mar 2013 - Scotland