[ENGLAND – PORTUGAL EXCHANGE 2012 — DAY 9]
Introduction: This was probably one of our busiest days (although most days were usually very busy). In the morning we got the No 9 bus which is my favourite bus as it is so old and went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. After a few mishaps losing Nona we had some lunch and spent a fair bit of the afternoon in the National Gallery; obviously looking at paintings but also a fair part of that sheltering from the dreadful weather outside. It wasn’t too bad though and we sang and danced to ‘Singing in the Rain’ through most of it anyway. For the evening after calling by the M&M shop we spent the rest of the evening with Val. First having cocktails at The Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square and then dinner at The National Theatre on South Bank. We even attempted a let night walk a short distance on the Thames.
The No 9 Bus
The plan for the day had been planned in advance. We discussed it the day before, thus knew what we were doing. We wanted to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and even checked with Val that it was still on for that day.
To get there we had to get a bus back to Trafalgar Square again and then walk down to Buckingham Palace. This involved several buses, but the best part is we got my favourite bus the No 9. It is my favourite purely because it is the old buses mainly on it with the doors at the back and proper conductors. I had got the No 9 before but typically I had always got one of the few new ones on the route! We started downstairs and then sat at the front upstairs to get the best view for Laura’s sake.
The No 9 bus as it approached us
Getting on the No9 bus
Us upstairs on the bus
We went past The Royal Albert Hall on the way
The Changing of the Guard
We then walked down to Buckingham Palace. Being August 2012 and being between the Olympics and Paralympics nothing was easy as it should have been! There were signs for Buckingham Palace which seemed to take you almost up to Hyde Park, there were some people cutting through though onto the Mall not too far from the end. This wasn’t too bad, not like it usually is but better than the other route as we could walk straight up towards Buckingham Palace down what is usually the road.
We had got to Trafalgar Square at 10:30am as planned so when we got to Buckingham Palace we were there early enough to get a good place. It wasn’t as busy as it often is in the summer. Half way through the changing of the guard Nona got bored so disappeared to Starbucks. Laura and I however stayed on to watch the rest. Both while waiting for it and getting there I taught Laura all 40 Monarchs in the correct order since 1066. She was really good at remembering it all! It just seemed appropriate at the time. We were hoping they should walk straight past where we were standing however although just a couple did the first main group went the opposite direction to usual! At first I was confused then remembered they were going to Horse Guards and that was closed via the Mall due to the Olympics. Because of this, we left our place and tried to head around the other side. Typically the next group left and walked straight past where we were originally stood. I felt so bad as that was why we stood there in the first place! We tried to get as close as possible. It then hit me where they were going and why they didn’t follow the first group: They were going to the gate house thing on the opposite side of the Mall a little further up. Laura and I legged it to there just in time to see them walk straight past and we were at the very front.
The archway to the Mall
Walking up the Mall to Buckingham Palace
Me and Laura at Buckingham Palace
The band arriving
When they walked straight past us
Some of the cavelry arriving
At the gate house thing as they left again
Signs to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus
After staying on a little longer for photos we phoned Nona to find out where she was. She said we just had to follow the signs to Trafalgar Square, we would soon the see the Ritz and she was just around the corner from there. We were a little confused as we were sure the Ritz was in the opposite direction but seeing how she got there that way and knowing what the Olympics sign posting is like so we tried anyway. When we arrived at Trafalgar Square we called again and was so funny because Nona kept saying to us we obviously couldn’t have been following the signs to Trafalgar Square, we replied laughing: “No I think we did as we followed them to much we ended up at… Trafalgar Square!” lol. In the end we gave up and asked a policeman on the street who said we were miles away! The end conclusion was Nona would walk towards us and we would meet half way around Piccadilly Circus. While there we could be a bit touristy for Laura. Finally Nona arrived and even then trying to find her within that confined area was still difficult. The reason in the end for this difficulty was because Nona didn’t realise we had walked down the Mall and coming out further down, we didn’t think that this would affect it but clearly it did.
One of the photos we stayed on to take
Laura at Piccadilly Circus
Laura at Piccadilly Circus’ underground station
Leicester Square and Lunch
We were hungry so we went down to Leicester Square as this has the biggest variety of places to eat that we could think of. It also was not too far from where we are. There was another reason we wanted to go there too: We were meeting Val at the Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square so this gave us an opportunity to find out where it was first. After lunch at Burger King (because we are cheap and this trip was costing a lot) we walked towards Trafalgar Square again as we had planned before to visit the National Gallery.
We walked past The Prince of Wales theatre on the way; which currently is performing ‘Mamma Mia’
The National Gallery (and phone case buying)
The timing of this walk down to the National Gallery perhaps wasn’t the best as it just started to drizzle. We did on the way find a shop for phone cases and even more amazingly enough they had some for Laura’s Blackberry there too. We spent ages choosing phone cases and Laura in the end got two and I got one. Poor Nona has a very limited selection for hers. As soon as we stepped out it just tipped it down! We went back to the same shop and bought some very touristy umbrellas! We (mainly Laura and I who were huddled under the same umbrella) started singing and dancing to ‘Singing in the Rain’ the whole way there!
At the National Gallery itself we wanted to get as much seen as we possibly could. So we started in the most western wing with the old 13th and 14th Century painting and worked our way across to the famous 20th century of Van Gogh and Monnet. When we had finished we sat around in the group booking areas as the weather had got even worse (if that was possible) and almost sounds like a storm brewing outside. When it sounded like it had calmed down we decided to make a dash for it.
[There are no photos from this because a) you can’t take photos in the Gallery and b) well it was too wet!]
The M&M Shop
There a little time to kill until we met Val so we walked back up to Leicester Square and visited the M&M shop just around the corner. I must admit I had not been inside before. We spent a little time walking around but most of our time in basement area which you could mix your own M&M colours. Half were familiar like reds, blues, greens, etc, but there was also colours like teal, gold, silver, white, aqua, etc. After spending perhaps far too much money there we walked back over to meet Val at the Hampshire Hotel.
Outside ‘M&M World’ [admittedly taken earlier in the day when walking to Leicester Square]
The pick’n’mix section of the shop
An Evening with Val
We were sitting outside to find that Val was inside even though we were early. This was perhaps one of the few times which I have met Val and actually been early! We went inside and had a few cocktails together. I’m not sure who was the most embarrassing; us or her! We may have been spinning around on the spinny chairs but she was basically chasing a strawberry around her glass, it was halarious to watch. Then we walked and got a bus to South Bank singing and dancing still to ‘Singing in the Rain’ again.
We had dinner at the National Theatre after spending a little while in the book the bookshop there which Laura loved. Val actually ordered for all of us as we had no clue what to have, and meant we could share and try it all. We then walked a little distance down South Bank in the dark. Perhaps a not as far as we could have gone as Val thought she had forgotten her umbrella, so went all the way back to the toilets in the National Gallery… only to find it was in her pocket all the time!
Finally we got the bus (or several buses, getting a tad lost while changing in Oxford Circus) to get back to the hotel.
Drinks together at the Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square
From our night walk, looking towards St Paul’s Cathedral
Another photo from our night walk on South Bank