Day 11: A bright light woke me up early Sunday morning, June 3rd. It was the reading light on my side of the bed. Donna woke up early and wanted to read. The light switches in the room were all weird, and she could only get the light on my side of the bed to come on. About 7 AM, we went down for breakfast. We sat with Noreen and Jasmine. It was the last time we'd have a meal with the folks we'd traveled all over Britain with. Most of them would be leaving the country that day. 
The London afternoon tour we'd signed up for didn't get started until 1 PM. The plan was for us to meet up with the bus at the travel agency's office. I had it figured out that we could take the Underground to the nearest station and just walk there. Back in the room, we started to get anxious about catching the bus. Plus, we had time to explore before taking off, so we decided to start walking. In the lobby, we met up again with most of the tour as they waited for their bus to the airport. Noreen waved goodbye, saying, "Have fun, kids!" 
 That day's tour was not a Trafalgar tour, but one run by a different company. We had to meet up with the coach at the company's office at 1 PM. Fortunately, it was just a couple of blocks from Victoria Station. I'd been wanting to ride the Underground while in London. This was our chance. Walking up Kensington High Street that Sunday morning, we passed Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church. It was destroyed by German bombing in 1940, but rebuilt in the 1950's. At the Underground station, we paid 4 pounds each for 1-way tickets to Victoria. I wondered what kept people from getting on and just riding wherever they wanted, but the Underground had machines that read your tickets before and after getting on. We went down a stairway to the platforms. There wasn't much of a wait at all. The schedule listed a train running every 10 minutes or so. When the trains arrive, an automated voice announces where it's going. We caught our train, and moments later we were zooming along. A couple of women with a baby stroller were sitting down from us. After a couple of stops, we arrived at Victoria Station. I would've taken a picture while on the train, but the ride was over so quickly. Out on the platform and up the stairs we went. 
Victoria was one station for the Underground and bus services, and another big station for trains going all over Britain. Inside the big station, it looked like it had expanded so much it took over the adjoining streets. I imagined every famous person in Great Britain probably went through Victoria Station at least once. We walked a couple of blocks over and found the tour office with no trouble at all. The blocks were pretty short. We still had time, so Donna asked for directions to Westminster. Claudia, the dark-haired girl at the desk, said to go to "the top of the street" (not the next corner) and take a right. We passed several expensive-looking businesses, including the House of Fraser. There was some construction on the street. We walked under a huge crane. Further down, we came to Westminster Cathedral. It had a different look to it than most of the churches we'd seen, almost Middle Eastern. The cathedral was different from Westminster Abbey, which was a couple of blocks down the street. We couldn't go in because it was Sunday, and there was a service going on. There's a huge Methodist church right across the street from Westminster Abbey. Around the corner was the Church of St. Margaret. Peeking out from behind the spire of St. Margaret's loomed... Big Ben! We were in Parliament Square. Big Ben was tall and decorated with much more shiny metal than I'd expected. We walked down towards the Thames River. Beyond, the London Eye observation wheel dominated the skyline. 
Planes and helicopters circled overhead. Vendors sold memorabilia, including "Simpsons" t-shirts. We went down into the Westminster Underground station, and took the tunnel under the street to Whitehall. There wasn't any place to sit. Back up in Parliament Square, we found a shady place to sit near the statue of George Canning, who served as prime minister for 119 days in 1827. Nearby, in front of the Middlesex Guildhall, was a statue of Abraham Lincoln, the first statue of Lincoln erected outside the United States. A statue of Winston Churchill stood across the street. On the way back, we looked down a side street and considered hitting a pub before the tour. However, it was Sunday, and every place we passed was closed. We cooled off in the tour office. Slowly, a group of tourists arrived to join us. Right before 1 PM, we loaded on board a coach and took off.  
Our guide was an outgoing buy named Trevor. He seemed to like his job, and enjoyed talking about London. The first thing we did was head for the City of London– a separate entity from Greater London, sometimes called the Square Mile. This was the heart of London's business center. About 8,000 people live there, but about 300,000 work there. Across the river, we could see the headquarters of MI-6, England's international spy center. The coach also took us by the ordinary office building that used to be the headquarters of MI-5, which conducts domestic intelligence. The location of MI-5 was, for years, a state secret, unknown to everyone... except London cab drivers. It made me think of the old British TV show "The Avengers." Since John Steed investigated international and domestic crimes, the joke was that he worked for MI-5 ½. 
We also saw the 40-story office building Londoners have nicknamed "The Towering Innuendo." 
I thought we were going to stop at St. Paul's Cathedral, but all we did was drive by it. We went down the hilly Fleet Street, famous for all the newspapers that had offices there. Fleet Street became synonymous with print media. The newspapers have all moved away, but the nickname remained. Charles Dickens once worked nearby. The coach took us through Parliament Square (which we just walked through), and Trevor pointed out some tents at one end of the square. It was an anti-war protest that had been camped out there for years. He talked about the London Eye, and said that since it was sponsored by British Airways, a ride on the wheel is called a "flight." There is a statue of Oliver Cromwell around the corner from Parliament Square. Appropriately, Cromwell is facing a model of the head of Charles I, set in a wall across the street. 
We rode under Caring Cross Bridge and past Cleopatra's Needle.We crossed to the other side of the Thames, then returned by coming back over Tower Bridge. We could see the HMS Belfast anchored just down river. From there, we went to the Tower of London. 
The original White Tower was built right after the Norman Conquest, and the grounds expanded over the centuries into a huge complex. It was much bigger than I imagined. Inside the walls, it was like a little town in itself. The moat has since dried up, but you can still see where it was. We walked past Traitor's Gate, where prisoners were taken to the Tower. We went to see the Crown Jewels, and they were breathtaking... as soon as we got to them. The crowns and jewelry are secured inside the Tower grounds in a building called Jewel House. The interior is designed for hundreds of people to see the jewels, so they have queues set up in front of video screens so that people will have something to watch while they wait in line. That day, however, there were no crowds, so we got right in. Or would have, if the lines hadn't been held up by people standing still watching the videos. We got around them finally. The cases of the Crown Jewels themselves are surrounded by moving sidewalks, so people don't linger too long. They were absolutely gorgeous. I think my favorite was Queen Victoria's tiny crown, not much bigger than a softball. 
Inside the White Tower, there were displays and exhibits in every room, but it didn't seem crowded. The collection of swords and muskets was wonderful. One suit of armor had plating I'd never seen before. The Tower of London is another place I could spend all day at. 
We hurried back to the coach, which then took us to our boat cruise on the Thames. That was fun and relaxing. We puttered up the river and back down again for about an hour. It was neat to see the city from the river's vantage. The tour guide pointed out a row of expensive office buildings next to the new London Bridge; they were all owned by the government of Kuwait. Back from the cruise, we walked past the Battle of Britain memorial, commemorating those that were killed in the great air battle defending the British Isles. 
By then, it was after 5. Trevor had the driver drop some people off on our way back to the tour office, so he obliged us by dropping me and Donna back at the Kensington High Street Underground station. From there, we walked back to the hotel. We confirmed with the Trafalgar rep that the bus to catch our plane at Heathrow left the hotel at 8:30 the next morning. Once we had all the details worked out, supper was a priority. Donna was going to take a hot bath. She suggested I go find some take-away (not "take-out") food for us to eat in the room. She didn't care what it was. Back out on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, I started walking the opposite way from where we'd gone before. I walked past the Kensington Olympia convention center, contemplated Lebanese restaurant, then found Red Planet Pizza on North End Road, across from St. Mary's Protestant Mission. I ordered a veggie pizza for her and some chicken wings for me. Two girls wearing what looked like stewardess uniforms waited for their pizzas with me. On the way back, I stopped in a little store and picked up a couple bottles of Guinness. The food really hit the spot. We stayed in the room the rest of the evening. On TV, it was fun to watch "Doctor Who" –in England! We watched a show about a vegetable competition at some little county fair, and then I watched a program called "Coast." It was a documentary series about the British coastline. The show started with the northern coast of the Shetland Islands, at a place called Muckle Flugga. (It's funnier if you say it with a Scottish accent.) We packed and repacked the suitcases, trying to protect the breakable stuff we got. I had too much. I finally declared it done and went to bed. The next day was going to be a long one. 
Preparations -- Day 1 -- Day 2 -- Day 3 -- Day 4 -- Day 5 -- Day 6
Day 7 -- Day 8 -- Day 9 -- Day 10 -- Day 11 -- Day 12 -- Epilogue
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