big bus tour map_reducedMum phoned me at 3.00 am in the morning of Friday 24 May 2013 – took a while to get back to sleep. Feeling a bit wrung out this morning. Big_Bus_Company_DA1We are off to do the Big Bus Tour – early start – early breakfast – got there in plenty of time – took the green line bus. Sandra wanted to stop at St Paul’s Cathedral. I said I did not want to because I wanted to go on the full tour and ID what we wanted to see. Big mistake! I am not known as “wrong way” for nothing. We got off the green line bus and went on the red line bus. That is when all the trouble started. They offered English speaking tours. That was the wrong thing to do because the girl who was speaking was hard to understand and hear above the roar of the bus engines. Compounding all of this was the constant rain – we sat in the bottom section of the bus and saw very little of what we wanted to see had we sat at the top. Doing so would have meant getting wet and it was quite a cold day. Anyway we continued on and passed the Tower of London, went over Tower Bridge, went past the houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. At around lunchtime I started to get fidgety and needed coffee and something to eat. We escaped from the bus in Piccadilly and found a pizza express place – ordered red wine and pizza (I made the mistake of asking the waiter to recommend something) – it turned out to be very spicy and my lips were burning (too many jalapenos in it I think) – paid and went searching for something sweet – found it in a shop nearby and ordered organic cappuccino coffee. We were well fed and relaxed but realised that in opting to do the bus tour we missed actually stopping and seeing anything. Never fear – Sandra came to the rescue by buying 2 days of the Big Bus Tour – that means having spent today looking at what we would like to see we shall start in earnest on Saturday. St Paul’s is first cab off the rank.

We had to get off the red line bus and find a green line bus. Luckily we overheard a faint announcement about Russell Square and the British Museum (which is on the green line) and I walked up the driver (the bus was moving at this point) and enquired about where to get off for the green line bus (he was kind enough to stop and let us off before we got too far down the road). Then we waited and waited and waited – the stop was just opposite the Australia House (I was singing “Australians let us all ring Joyce for she is young and free” – Sandra told me to shut up). I thought the green line bus was never coming. One did eventually. We started to make our way back to Kings Cross station and we were asked to get off that one (we were the only passengers) and go on the bus in front. As we walked to the bus in front it took off – Sandra ran alongside and banged on the window – they stopped and took us on.

These types of tours are very popular but they do not work as well as you might like. The audio is very loud and adjusting it is difficult. A person talking all the time tends to put you to sleep (I sat across a bloke who was asleep presumably from all the talking). You get very loud music in-between the comments. If they are going to make it work it would be better if points of interest are pointed out and suggestions made as to stopping, have a look, re-join the bus say in 2 hours and the like. If you sit in the bottom section of the bus you are not able to see what is being commented on anyway. On arriving at Kings Cross we went shopping at Marks and Spencers for something to eat tonight (I am finding that if I have a late lunch I am not hungry enough for tea). Managed to buy some proper coffee as well! There is a launderette near Kings Cross station. We will use it when we get to our next hotel (Arriva – 55 Swinton Street – very close to St Pancras station – we will need this when we travel to Paris later on) on Sunday.

Sandra and I were talking about how it will become necessary to stay on in London if we are to see everything we want to. If that transpires we will probably spend less time in the south of England or Germany a miss. Paris is definitely on the cards. We have agreed that our timetable is totally flexible and I am all for that. Looks like another week in London is on the cards!

tubemapI love the underground system. On the escalators people stand on the right hand side to allow the others to walk up on the left. Everything is well signposted. You could find your way around quite easily. The buses are not as easy and it is going to take some investigation to find out how to get about. We will probably use the underground to get to the places we want to see.

I see that Sydney belted Collingwood.

Managed to get my Pennytel working and phoned Brian and Linda Martin – Linda has just had an eye procedure and was feeling a little bit worse for wear. I spoke to Brian for a while. I have been having problems with my Woolworths global roaming card – I was not getting a service using the iPhone 3. I decided to change the sim card to my Samsung I9300 and that fixed it.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Will need to take the Vodafone dongle into the city today – for some reason I cannot top up online. We got in just in the nick of time – thank goodness it was not raining – the sun was nice and there was a cold wind blowing so having a jumper and raincoat on made it very cosy indeed.

nelson crypt

St Paul’s was out first stop – paid for tickets (we did not have the London Pass at that time) – got an audio assist and interiorwent looking. Very good presentation and spectacular! You are not allowed to take photos in the cathedral. You get an appreciation of the spectacular architecture and the work that went into the building. Went into the lower part (the crypt) where Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington are interred. Go here for more information and images regarding St Paul’s Cathedral.

Back on the red line bus and travelled to the Tower of London. Went looking for a London Pass and decided to have lunch and coffee.

20130525_133005_lgeThe Tower of London is another interesting place (huge not spectacular). The feature for me was the commentary by one of the Beefeaters (at the front addressing the crowd) who had a wicked sense of 20130525_133034_lgehumour. Without that monologue it would have been boring as we walked from point of interest to the other. Everyone wanted to see tower green where private executions took place (see that green patch in the image on the right – that is called “tower green” – there is a monument at the front [where people are sitting on the bench] made of glass and a cushion in the middle [presumably the cushion was for kneeling on]). Most interest was focused on Anne Boleyn – the description included her expecting forgiveness and not making arrangements for her burial – she actually believed that she would receive forgiveness – she was also executed with a two handed sword (this is consistent with the movie that starred Eric Bana as Henry VIII and Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn. We were told that Anne is buried in the chapel behind tower green (we were shown where). She is buried next to another of Henry’s wives who was also executed.

Vodafone have a shop in St Pancras station – met a West Indian chap called “Ken” who helped with loading the sim card for the dongle. Then to the cash machines for some folding stuff!

Frustration with Pennytel – the access to the server comes and goes. They just do not understand the problem. Anyway I can live with it. I have access to Skype and also to Google Voice which I discovered when looking for an alternative voip.

The London Pass is quite pricey but effective in getting you in to see some of the sights without paying any extra. The only limitation is the number of consecutive days (6).

Experienced frustration with the inability to transfer funds in our cash passport! Their website has a page for the transfer of funds from AUD to GBP (in UK) and any other currency depending on where you are. What they did not tell me was that the web page does not refer to my type of card. Watch this space.