LONDON - UK

February 2, 2009

We awoke to a blustery day at Marmaris Yacht Marina, packed and ready for our trip to London. But news was buzzing among the Brits of a serious snow storm in London, the first of its kind in 20 years! Since London is not accustomed to storms of this nature, highways, trains and airports were closed. We wondered if our flight would be cancelled.

We were planning to stay with our friends from Aliesha. Dick was emailing us with the updated conditions in London. He was unsure whether he would be able to pick us up at Gatwick airport, even if the plane managed to land there, as the roads from his hometown, Marlow, to the airport were treacherous.

Luckily our flight was later in the evening so we took a chance and went to Dalaman airport by taxi-share. Our plane was 2 hours late departing but we did manage to land and were ever so happy to see Dick waiting for us at the airport. It seemed that with the roads totally clear of traffic, he had a record run to the airport, so all was well!

We enjoyed visiting with Dick and Pam and catching up on news. They have a great flat about 1 hour outside of London and we were treated to stupendous hospitality and great company.

February 3

Dick and Pam dropped us at the train station on their way to a family gathering and we headed into London for a day of sightseeing. Some of the snow had melted but it was still very chilly and we were bundled in all the warm clothing we had brought with us.

London is huge, Europe's largest city with a population around 7 million. We had in mind to see all the major sights possible in the day! The majority of London’s sights are situated north of the River Thames, which loops through the centre of the city, so mastering the public transport system, particularly the Tube, is a top priority.

Our train arrived at Paddington and from there we took a train to Piccadilly Circus Square. We emerged onto the street and had our first view of the bustling snowy London streets, packed with vehicles, mostly double Decker buses and cabs.

Piccadilly Circus is center of fashionable London, crowds and dazzling neon lights. We found our way to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery.

Picadilly Area with Double Decker buses

National Gallery  

The National Gallery houses more than 2300 European paintings from the 13th century to 1900 including Raphael, Rembrandt and Michelangelo, Renoir and Van Gough.
There was a small gathering of people outside the gate, which posted a sign saying that there would be a delay in opening the gallery because the staff could not get to work due to the snow.

So we decided to walk to Buckingham Palace. We picked our way over the icy walkway along the "Mall" paralleling a busy street patrolled by police on horses.

We stopped at the Queen's Stables where the statuesque guards stood at their posts



Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837. It is now both office and home to the British monarchy.

We marvelled at the architecture, fountains and grounds around the Palace.

We had arrived just in time to see the
Changing of the Guards
. Many people were crowded along the outer wall in anticipation. But, alas, the Queen's chosen Life Guards cancelled the event due to a little snow on the ground!!


Map in hand, we decided to find our way to Westminster Abby.
We walked along the streets, fascinated by the spectacular red brick gingerbread gothic style buildings.

Westminster Abbey

is London's oldest and most important church. Originally built in the 7th Century it is the resting place for Britain's monarchs and setting for coronations and royal marriages.

This single building embodies much of the history of England and is a piece of remarkably glorious medieval architecture

From Westminster Abby we could see Big Ben towering over the Parliament Buildings.

Big Ben is the international icon of London. The 316 foot clock tower was completed in 1858. It rings on the hour.
Big Ben itself is actually the name of the 14 ton bell that chimes. The original bell cracked in 1857. Big Ben weighs over 13 tons. The clock mechanism, alone, weights about 5 tons. The figures on the clock face are about 2 feet long, the minute spaces are 1 ft. square; and the copper minute hands are14 ft. long.

House of Parliament

Palace of Westminster consists of the two houses, Commons and the Lords. It is a majestic building with ornate decorative architecture. The Parliament buildings are a massive structure, guarded closely at each of the entrances.

The area surrounding the House of Parliament were like scenes form a fairy tale picture book, domes, spires and towers plunging into the cloudy skyline.

Next on our list was a visit to Tate Britain. We found a bus that ran along the Thames River that took us straight there. From the bus we could see the shoreline of the river, including the London Eye.

Tate Britain holds the greatest collection of British art in the world from 1500 to present, including classic and impressionist works.

It was getting late in the day, and colder. We had hoped to do a boat trip down the river, but it looked like the River boats were not running due to the weather. We decided to end our day back at the National Gallery. The gallery was open by then and the exhibits were awesome. The Gallery turned out to be my favourite so it was disappointing that we were so exhausted from walking for miles all day and unable to spend more time there. I was on brain overload and just couldn't absorb any more culture that day! So we headed back to Marlow to meet up with Dick and Pam.

Feb 4

Windsor Castle

Today we spent with Dick and Pam. They took us to see the Windsor Royal Castle and what a sight it was! Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, one of the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen.

We were given a free tour by a Castle Warden. We were shown around the grounds and briefed on some interesting historical facts.

Then we visited the Queen Mary's Doll House which housed a tiny replica of the Castle complete with intricately detailed furnishings and decor.

The highlight of the sight was seeing the State Apartments in all their glory. Lavishly decorated with ornate furnishings, paintings by Masters and unbelievable tapestries, the drawing rooms, bedrooms, banquet halls and chapel took our breath away! Much of this was restored after the fire in 1992.

There were many guards frequenting the Castle grounds, their stoic faces devoid of expression; they are forbidden to speak.

We were fortunate enough to be at Windsor Castle for the Changing of the Guards.

A full on parade of about 100 guards marched from the Castle walls.

In Windsor town, we headed down the charming streets in search of a old fashioned English Pub. A brigade of guards passed us in the street.

Ahh! Ready for a hot bowl of soup and a cold beverage with our friends!

Back at the flat in Marlow, we discovered the forecast was for another heavy snowfall scheduled for late that evening. This could mean the cancellation or delay of trains running to London. We needed to catch our morning Eurostar train to Paris so we decided to head into London and spend the night at a hotel to be on the safe side.

Feb 5

Our decision turned out to be a good one because the snow did fall and the trains were cancelled! But we were able to walk to St Pancras Station and catch our train to Paris. This Eurostar "Bullet" travels at a speed of 185mph and takes only 2 hours to get to Paris! As the scenery whizzed by, we got glimpses of a very pretty farmland countryside. We arrived in Paris at noon in time to see some sights.

Feb 8

After a great time in Paris we returned to London for another day before we had to fly back to Turkey. We made the most of our time seeking out some of the sights we had missed before.

We took the Metro to the Tower Bridge area and walked along the waterfront. It was kind of cold and a bit rainy, not as nice weather as we had a few days before.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is one of London's main thoroughfares for crossing the river and, despite its medieval appearance, was actually built in 1894.

We walked across the bridge but forego an expensive tour of the Royals jewels housed inside.

Tower of London

From the bridge, the Tower of London was visible on the Riverbank. Founded by William the Conqueror in 1066 and enlarged and modified by successive sovereigns, in its time it has been a royal palace, a fortress, a prison, an armoury, a treasury and an astronomical observatory.

At Dead Man's Hole beneath the bridge, we were reminded of the fact that the Tower was once an object of fear in its 900 year history for those who committed treason or threatened the throne. The site where we stood was once used to retrieve the many corpses that were thrown into the river from the Tower.

We found many interesting sites in our walk around the area. Left is a Beefeater displaying the Queen's Royal Emblem.

It was interesting to note the various architecture, new modern buildings intermingled with the classic and historic old landmarks.

St. Paul's Cathedral

There has been a Cathedral on this site for 1,400 years and the present Cathedral - Sir Christopher Wren's great masterpiece - is now fast approaching the 300th anniversary of its completion. St Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral

Another full day, another infinite number of miles walked! We headed back to our Fairway B& B, stopping at the grocer for our evening meal of cheese, baguette, fruit and wine.

The following morn, we took the train to the airport and had an uneventful flight back to rainy Marmaris.