United Kingdom – 2023


May 15 to May 24, 2023

Click on the photo for each day to view that day's photos

Day 1 - May 15 & 16 2023

It was a long but uneventful flight to London. After checking into the hotel, I set off for a walk around the area and Hyde Park. I found Kensington Palace and Royal Albert Hall. Some interesting sights including the new, red, double decker busses, telephone booths (working!), The Churchill Arms pub, some sights in Hyde Park including: the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, the Italian Gardens, some waterfowl and finally fish and chips at The Swan.

Home to London, England and the first day

Day 2 - May 17, 2023

Today was the first full day in London. I took it easy today by getting on a Hop On, Hop Off and just riding the full circle. So, I tried to get some shots of the architecture and the iconic buildings from the top of an open air bus. London is very old and the roads were built centuries ago. So, plenty of curved roads and curved buildings. The intricate detail adorning the building is remarkable.

London is another huge city similar to New York. But, I have noticed that it is significantly cleaner, and far fewer homeless folks on the streets. Traffic is crazy, but not as crazy as New York but you have to be careful as they are driving on the "other" side of the road. If you look left and step off the curb you might be in for a world of hurt.

Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament)

Day 3 - May 18, 2023

A big day. I enrolled in a 5 hour walking tour and between that and walking to the tour, the tour and then walking back to the hotel I wore out some shoe leather. over 30,000 steps and 22 kms.

On the way to the tour, I came across a rose garden in one of the Royal Gardens. Then, first up on the tour, The Statue of the Duke of Wellington, then Buckingham Palace. Unbelievably (after my Ottawa experience with Prince Charles), King Charles III just happened to go by while I was there. I did get a photo of a hand waving but that is it. Then some guards. Interestingly, there is a garden called the Green Garden. Why you ask? Because there are no flowers. Why you ask? Because once upon a time the King of the time (I can't remember which one) was having an affair with the lady gardener. When the queen found out she had the woman beheaded, and all the flowers removed and that is how it remains to this day. In another garden, there are green parakeets. Apparently they were released by Jimi Hendrix and the descendants survive today.

Of course there are plenty of statues, Guards dressed up, some on horses. Downing Street where the Prime Minister lives is now gated and blocked so you can't get down there anymore. A couple subway station shots, then a walk past of St. Paul's Cathedral. I hope to be touring there in a few days.

The Clink Museum is a jail. Apparently Australia was settled with prisoners from this jail. Then the Southwark Cathedral, dating back to 606 AD. Then the Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake's ship that circumnavigated the globe in the late 1500's. A walk along the River Thames, over the Westminster Bridge, past Big Ben and Westminster Palace, Buckingham Palace and all the gardens back to the hotel. Whew! Big day.

Buckingham Palace

Day 4 - May 19, 2023

Today I took a bus tour from London to three different locations. First stop was Leeds and the Leeds Castle. Dated to 857 AD it was restored between the mid 1930's onward so while it is very old, there are some modern touches.

Next up was Dove and the famous White Cliffs of Dover. Allied airmen used them to help guide them back from France in WW II. I was disappointed because this was just a 20 minute stop. I had hoped to walk on the cliffs but, no luck.

The last stop was amazing. Canterbury and the Canterbury Cathedral. This is the seat of the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury. This cathedral dates back to 597 AD when it was a Roman Catholic cathedral. When the church refused to give King Henry VIII a divorce, he took over the church, created the Church of England (Protestant) and it has been the home of the Church of England ever since. But even before that, Henry II had the Archbishop at the time, Thomas Becket. murdered in the cathedral in 1170 AD.

The cathedral houses many tombs of past archbishops and other dignitaries from centuries ago, including King Henry IV and his wife.

Then there are some photos around the streets of Canterbury. Charles Dickens is said to have done a lot of writing in Canterbury at the Sun Hotel, including David Copperfield.

Leeds Castle

Day 5 - May 20, 2023

Westminster Abbey. Over 1,000 years old and the site of the coronations, weddings and funerals of kings & queens, politicians, and other important people for centuries. Yes, it is magnificent. Beautiful. The architecture, the artwork, the intricate details are incredible. Also ghoulish.

Not only do they hold the ceremonies there, they "bury" the dead there too. Inside the cathedral, in "tombs" that again are beautiful but, personally, I find it macabre. There are almost 4,000 people entombed there. Kings, Queens, military, scientists, artists, etc. Anyway, it is amazing.

Next up, the Banksy Tunnel. Talk about one extreme to the other. While the Abbey is spectacular, the tunnel is well, indescribable. Banksy is a street graffiti artist. No one really knows who he is. For years graffiti artists would paint the walls of this tunnel and the authorities would try to stop it. Clean it up, arrest people. Finally, in 2008 they gave up and now it is legal and called the Banksy Tunnel. Everyday artists simply paint over what is there so it is a constantly changing mural. Very interesting.

The rest of the day was a long walk back to the hotel with a few street shots. Including one of what I think is a 1960 BMW and one of the fountains and Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trafalgar_Square).

Westminster Abbey

Day 6 - May 21, 2023

The day started off with a walk through Hyde Park to Royal Albert Hall where I went on a tour. Quite disappointing. Royal Albert Hall is beautiful, and the history is something. Commissioned by Prince Albert the husband of Queen Victoria, who wanted a place for the arts where everyone could go. He was quite the guy, Prince Albert and championed all kinds of good causes that live on today. The Hall opened in 1871 and the mural you see when entering is just some of the people who have performed there. The disappointing part was that while we got a lot of history, we got to see very little of the Hall and even though we were told photography was OK, once we were on the tour we were not allowed to take photos.

Next up, The Tower of London. Construction started in 1066 ad by William the Conqueror. The Tower is home to the crown jewels (line was too big), and it is a palace/fortress/castle. It was the armoury for the British military for centuries. It was also a prison and place of torture and executions. The tour done by the Yeoman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeomen_Warders) was highly entertaining and informative.

After the Tower of London, I walked the Tower Bridge and took a brief tour, walking up and over the second level, then down again to get some shots of the bridge opening. And lastly, I walked around St. Paul's Cathedral and found a cool spot to get it reflected in a small pond before heading back to the hotel. I had planned on touring St. Paul's but I believe the outside is enough. I will likely be seeing plenty of churches as the trip continues.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Day 7 - May 22, 2023

The Battersea Power Station was a coal fired power plant that opened in 1935 and ran until 1983. When it was proposed, residents complained that it would be ugly so the company hired Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, a prominent architect to design something pleasant. Since it closed, the power plant has been renovated into high end shopping and the entire area is modern and sleek, anchored by the old power plant.

After a walk through Battersea Park, I took a cruise down the River Thames from the power station to the east end of London past Canary Wharf. At the entrance to the Cloud Cable Car (I was going to ride but decided I didn't have time) there is a HUGE statue called Demon with Bowl. Then the boat back to Westminster Palace (Houses of Parliament) and a long walk back to the hotel through the parks. There are signs everywhere saying to not feed the birds or wildlife but, as you can see, the signs are completely ignored. (Side note: Lots and lots of walking. The app on my phone says I have walked almost 100,000 steps and over 66 kms in the last 5 days)

Demon with a Bowl, London

Day 8 - May 23, 2023

Today was a highlight for me. A concert at Royal Albert Hall. A bucket list item for years that I never thought would happen. And not only a concert but a great one. Eric Clapton and Friends - A Tribute to Jeff Beck.

The following is just my opinion and I am sure there will be many that disagree. I think Eric Clapton is one of the best, if not the best guitarist of all time. If you have never seen him live, do. The first number was a beautiful guitar number that was haunting. You immediately know you are in the presence of greatness. Effortless. Smooth as silk. And flawless. Other performers perform. Others put on a show and they are great. I can name a dozen guitarists that I love. But Eric doesn't put on a show. He just plays. He stands there and plays. And it is mesmerizing.

I took it easy today, not venturing out until just before show time. I had a steak at the Goat Tavern, then headed to the show. No cameras in the Hall so I checked it, took a few cell shots of a couple pictures that line the hallways, (the names of the people who have performed here is a list of the best artists the world has ever known), and a few of the show. Then I got my camera and took a few night shots of Royal Albert Hall before walking back to the hotel. Awesome day.

BTW, the second last photo was a mistake. I set up for a long exposure but moved the camera so I just waved it around to see what effect I would get.

Royal Albert Hall

Day 9 - May 24, 2023

Last day in London.

Last Saturday I toured Royal Albert Hall and was disappointed that they would not allow me to take photos. Well, I complained (politely but strenuously) to them after the tour was done and they took my email address and said someone would get back to me. Right. To my surprise and delight I did get an email and was invited back today for a quick private entry to get a few shots. Thank you to Bridget at Royal Albert Hall for making it happen. I am so impressed!

Then I was off to Kensington Palace for a tour there. History galore and current residence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate). A few shots from inside the palace, then a bus ride to The Shard and some shots from the 68th and 72nd floor. Finally a ride back to the hotel atop and open air hop on, hop off bus.

London is a beautiful city. Very busy but cleaner and quieter than New York. I think it is New York with manners. Off to Manchester tomorrow.

Kensington Palace