London, England
November, 2000

First, the London Tour.
We had most of the bus's upper deck to ourselves, especially when it started to rain. Cheryl and Mitch moved under cover and another girl moved into their seat.  We stopped for a light and the roof filled with a puddle of water -- guess what happened when the bus started moving again.  Meanwhile, Max was enjoying the very back seat and having all of the "open air" area to himself.  He was pretty wet at the end of the tour since it started raining hard.
We turned left to go around the block counter clockwise but the city had other plans for us.  I think this is called form follows dysfunction.

It looks really neat the way the building curves right along with the road.

London has lots of very unusual statues.
The Millennium Wheel along the Thames River

London attempted a grand celebration for the year 2000.  Unfortunately, the Millennium Dome was running deep into the red, the Millennium Bridge, an attractive pedestrian bridge that crosses the Thames, fluctuated like Galloping Gertty and had to be closed, and the very large Millennium Hot Air Balloon Ride, broke loose in the wind and blew away. 

The Millennium Wheel, however,  was successful.  It is enormous.  Each car holds about 20 people.  It is constantly turning as riders load and unload.   I think the trip around is about 45 minutes or an hour.  I bet the view is great from the top, but our time was limited and we didn't want to spend the hour. 

From the same spot where we took the picture of the Wheel, we could turn around and take a picture of Parliament.  Saint Mary's Cathedral rises in the back. 
Our schedule didn't give us enough time to see the famous "changing of the guard", so we stopped by to watch the horse guard change.  I'm not sure which is harder -- standing all day or sitting on a horse all day.  The horse was a little restless by the end of the day too. 
What a ceremony -- it reminded us of the part in The Wizard of Oz when the witch's monkey soldiers are marching into the castle with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion bringing up the rear .... oh-re-oh---re-ohhh-ah ...
Most of the intersections in London are marked with "Look Right" signs, or "Look Left" on some one-way streets.  Prior to this visit, I would say that I looked both ways before crossing a street.  I learned that actually I look to the left first and while turning my head to the right will start to take the first step onto a two-way street.  It turns out that most people do this.  It's quite a start to look to the right and see a car coming right at you along the curb lane.
By time we left England we had developed a new habit which was, look both ways first -- get confused which way traffic is really going -- look both ways again and cross quickly.  On one hand my brain was using the rule "switch my way of thinking" while my body was starting to naturally look the new English way.  So now my brian would say switch it, and I couldn't be certain if I had looked the right way first.  We saw lots of people mess up and several near misses.  Pretty scary.
Piccadilly Circus.  There are several circuses in London.  Piccadilly is the most famous.  So what happens at the circus?  What is it?  Is it shops, theaters, a circus, what?  Well a circus turns out to be nothing more than a large circle, better known in Great Britain as a roundabout.  A circus is large enough to have a small park or fountain in the center.
Piccadilly, however, looks a lot like Time Square in New York City.  There are six to eight roads branching off of the circus, it's surrounded by shops, theaters, restaurants, street performers, subways and lots of pigeons.
Just a few blocks down the street is Trafalgar Square.  There's a large statue memorializing the Napoleonic War British naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson and the square is named for the Battle of Trafalgar, where Admiral Nelson was mortally wounded.
Mitch and Max could hardly wait to get there -- but not for the history.  This was a place to feed the pigeons.  We bought a small can of pigeon food from a street vendor, and in came the pigeons by the hundreds, (maybe thousands).

You can see the can in Mitch's hand

and a pigeon on his head
In this shot you can see hundreds of pigeons as they all take off at exactly the same time.  Take a close look at the pigeon in the center of the picture.  Even though you can't shoo these people-savy pigeons away, this trick works like a charm -- take off your jacket and throw it high into the air. 
Yes, that's not a pigeon in the center -- it's Mitch's jacket.  You can see how all of the pigeons take off almost vertically.  We've discovered this works with American pigeons too.
Ya, I have you on camera too.
Just another day at the office.

It looks like a good street performer can bring in a healthy income.  We watched for ten minutes and saw about 6 pounds thrown into his can.  That's $9.60 U.S.  Multiply that by 6 and he's getting almost $60 an hour.  From what we saw elsewhere in Europe it looks like street performers work the lunch and evening crowds so they may only work five or six hours a day.

The Tower Bridge leading to the Tower of London

The famous fortress of the Tower of London.
Built in 1078 by William the Conqueror as a royal fortress, it has also been used as a palace, a prison and execution site.  The Crown Jewels are kept and displayed here.  Guess what they said about taking pictures of the Crown Jewels
The fellow in this photo is dressed as a Beefeater -- one of the king's guards.  His job now is to give tours of the Tower of London.

Like most tourists, the Tower of London was on our "must-see" list.  We've read a lot of history, including quite a bit about the British monarchy, so we're somewhat familiar with the key players and important events -- and what the heck, a gory British story of battling kings and executions is always pretty interesting.

Unfortunately, after spending an hour with this fellow, we had enough "gore" to last a lifetime.  He vividly pointed out the rooms where executioner's victims spent their last days --  victims like Anne Boleyn, religious martyr Sir Thomas More and the innocent 17 year old political pawn, Lady Jane Grey.  He described in morbid detail how Lady Grey spent her last days, how her young husband was dragged screaming to the executioner's block, where the heads were placed and on ... and on ... and on ...  By the time his tour was over we felt drained, sickened and convinced that the British monarchy is one of the most dysfunctional families in history.
These are the real guys guarding the Tower -- I don't know what they're guarding against though.
A Crow.  Now I know we've had crows on our webpage before, but this one, along with his six buddies have quite a story.
We don't recall the specifics of the story, but because of a curse, a threat, or something, the old monarchs believed that if there weren't at least five crows living within the castle walls, bad times would come.  One year some of the crows left or died and a list of troubles began. Famine, flood, death of the king, disease, we can't remember.  Anyway, some more crows were brought in and life returned to normal.  Since then, there have always been seven crows kept in residence -- five, plus two spares.  They are fed well and their wing feathers are trimmed so they can't fly out over the castle wall. 
This is the actual armor of King Henry VIII.  Inside the Tower is a museum with an outstanding collection of weaponry, armor, crowns and jewels.  You can even see where the royal bathroom was -- would you believe that the "toilet" was a wooden bench across a hole that angled through the castle wall?  Anything that went into the hole ran outside 


We had one evening left in town and too many places to see.  Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum won the vote so we hopped on the subway and headed north.  The line didn't look long at first, but then we noticed it passed by the ticket window and wrapped around the other side of the building.  On top of that it started raining.  So after half an hour we jumped back on the subway and headed for the Museum of Science.  We've heard that Madame Tussaud's is entertaining, but not worth the lines.  We do know that the Museum of Science was well worth the visit.  If only we had a full day.
 
There was a wing of the museum that housed nautical displays with hundreds of models of ships and propulsion systems, a floor dedicated to flight and aircraft, an area on energy, (petroleum, and nuclear), and an excellent display of mathematics and geometric patterns. This list is the sections we didn't see.   During the last 15 minutes I, (Ed,) cruised through quickly to see what we missed.

We did see about half of the museum including a great display of steam and hyrdo powered machines with some as old as the Castles we had visited.  Here is a large steam engine which, in it's day, powered a large English textile mill.  This steam engine was actually running, only at a slower speed.

This museum is certainly as good as the Smithsonian and provides a better collection of early industrial machinery.  We were surprised that it does not show up in any of the tourist literature. I guess it's a well kept secret.
 
 
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