Christmas is in the air in London, that’s for sure. Carolers in various places as we move about the city. It’s quite festive and fun.
Today we made our way to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It’s cheesy, as you might expect, but you can’t go to London and NOT visit 221B Baker Street.
Even William The Sheepie got in on the fun.
We walked around the neighborhood and found our way to The Windsor Castle Pub which is the meeting place of the London Handlebar Club.
From there we found our way to the Victoria Albert Museum to make up for missing it yesterday.
It is a fantastic place but as usual, not my cup of tea for photography. But I did enjoy seeing it. And I made my best effort to get an interesting photo of the ‘Rotunda Chandelier’ sculpture using my circular fisheye.
After running around town during the day we made our way back to the neighborhood near our hotel for a late lunch/early dinner. From there it was back to the hotel to freshen up and then we made our way back to the Tower Bridge and had a nice photo walk down the Thames to the Millennium Bridge.
A great, but tiring day.
Today was the end of our glorious sunshine. Clouds have rolled in, but fortunately no rain to speak of. We took The Tube to South Kensington to visit the Natural History Museum with the intention of also visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Natural History Museum is a fantastic building with an amazing collection of animal specimens ranging from insects to dinosaurs. I think the dinosaur exhibit is the most popular, especially with the kids.
I was struck by the beauty of the building itself. No tripods allowed, but I found a railing where I could perch my camera and shoot some longer exposure shots which yielded some good results.
When we left the Natural History Museum it was out intention to go to the Victoria Albert Museum, but we noticed that the Science Museum was right next door so we popped in there for a visit. I was curious to see the newly opened information age exhibit.
There were some very cool displays featuring technology that I was happy to see.
I will say it is odd going to a museum and seeing technology like the Tandy TRS-80 that I used when it was new as a museum exhibit behind protective glass.
After we were done with the Science Museum we determined that we were a little too beat to try and tackle the Victoria Albert Museum so we headed back to the hotel to rest after having a late lunch. After we rested up a bit we caught The Tube out to Westminster to get some long exposure night shots.
We walked around and took in the sites and then made our way back to the hotel for some snacks and now for some sleep.
After yesterday’s adventures we slept good. Woke up, had breakfast and with another sunny day stretching out in front of us we decided to make our way to Greenwich to see the sites. This starts with a quick Tube ride to Westminster
Then a walk past the London Eye to get to the ferry
And then it’s a 45 minutes ferry ride down the Thames to get to Greenwich.
Along the way we spotted a dazzle ship. Apparently these are part of an art installation where the ship is painted in specially-commissioned ‘dazzle’ designs to pay homage to artists’ wartime contribution.
We visited the Painted Hall in the Old Royal Naval College which was really interesting to see.
This gave me the opportunity to take some wide angle shots using the technique of setting a timer on the camera and placing it on the floor facing up. It’s the best way I have found to get some of the amazing details present in ceiling paintings.
From there we made our way up to the observatory so we could stand on the Prime Meridian
Then we went down to the Maritime Museum which was interesting, but no photography allowed. But there was a large ship in a bottle on display in front of the museum
We grabbed a late lunch and then headed back to our hotel. We’re taking it easy tonight as we have run ourselves just a little ragged. Tomorrow should be a good day for hitting some of the museums.
We were so tired after arriving in London and that, combined with the sun going down by 4:00 pm we could not manage to stay awake after about 5:30 pm. We knew going to sleep that early might result in some problems, but interestingly enough we managed to pretty much sleep through to 7:30 the next morning. It was still dark outside so we both thought it must be like 2 am or so. We were very relieved that was not the case.
We got dressed and had breakfast and were greeted by a sunny day with big blue skies.
We found our way to the Tower Of London
We didn’t take the tour as we wanted to fully exploit the sunny day. We moved on from the Tower Of London to the Tower Bridge.
Here we decided to take the tour. We were especially keen to see the new glass floor in the upper walkways of the bridge that had just recently opened.
After touring the bridge we took a rather leisurely stroll down the Thames just to take in the sites.
Later that afternoon we had plans to meet up with some friends for dinner. We set The Shard as our meeting point.
From there we all moved on to have dinner at Rabot 1745, an amazing restaurant where everything on the menu is cocoa-centric. Basically using either sweet chocolate or cacao in the making of the dish. Even my martini had cacao flavored vodka.
After a fantastic dinner we walked with our friends and explored the riverside after dark. It was then we noticed that The Shard was treating the city of London to a light show.
All in all, a very successful first day if our utter exhaustion and blistered feet are any indication.
Just a quick update to document the first day of our trip to London.
It has been a rather odd, disjointed journey just getting here. No real major breakdowns, but some bizarre missteps.
First was getting dropped at the wrong terminal by the Parking Spot shuttle. We quickly sorted it out and proceeded to take the tram to the correct terminal, but not before getting off one time at the wrong stop.
Once we got to the correct terminal I discovered that my suitcase was 8 pounds over the limit which would have resulted in a $200 baggage fee. We quickly shifted some of our belongings and got both bags under the limit by increasing the weight on Cynthia’s suitcase.
We got checked in and proceeded to go through security. In the mad dash to shuffle belongings I got my shaving cream into my carry on where it was immediately confiscated because terrorism.
After clearing security we found our gate. We still had plenty of time so we went and got some dinner.
After dinner we went back to the gate and waited to board our plane. Unfortunately there was a delay because the plane at the gate which was destined for Frankfurt was having some problems and had not cleared the gate. This delayed our boarding by about 45 minutes.
Once airborne things smoothed out and we arrived in London on time, cleared customs and claimed our luggage.
We made our way to the hotel and checked in. It’s a nice hotel and we are going to be quite happy using it as our base of operations for the next two weeks.
Once we were settled into the hotel we made our way to a Vodafone store to purchase a SIM card for my phone and then to the grocery store to pick up some supplies like water, snacks and so forth.
With that out of the way we went to a nearby gastro pub and had dinner which was actually kind of lunch because it was only about 3:00 PM.
The sun went down at 4:30 and even though right now it is only 5:30 it seems like it is much later in the evening.
We’re tired and we’re going to bed, even though that means we will likely be up at the crack of dawn.
We’re off to spend the holidays in London, England! So much to see and do. We’ll be updating here frequently !
Cynthia has a low mileage (50,000) 1994 Toyota Hilux Xtra Cab and it has been sitting up in the garage, unused, for 9 years. She bought the truck new, but never really enjoyed it and eventually bought a Mazda Miata for her daily driver.
We finally got around to getting it pulled from our garage towed to a mechanic to get it back up and running. The truck needed a bit of work to get it running again, but now it has been resurrected. Cynthia has a new affection for the truck now and we will be keeping it as a utility vehicle as well as a classic collectible.
There are so many good color photos of Iceland that decided it might be interesting to process a few of my long exposure waterfall images in black and white. These are the results.
Today is our last day in Iceland. We were granted one last day of spectacular sunshine and set off to explore the city.
Since it was early (we have been waking up VERY early each day) we walked over to Hallgrímskirkja (church of Hallgrímur) to get some photos before the crowds descended.
We then walked down to Tjörnin, a small lake in central Reykjavík. Cynthia was keen to feed the ducks. When we arrived there was a sign that asked visitors not to feed the birds as it attracted seagulls which would eat the baby ducks that were hatching during this part of the year.
This was disappointing, but Cynthia decided to abide by the request in the interest of baby duck safety. Still, walking around Tjörnin wasn’t without its charm.
We walked on down to the Reykjavík Old Harbour to have a look around. Here we found several companies offering various whale and puffin watching tours in the harbor. We struck up a conversation with one of the tour guides and he was really entertaining, repeatedly telling us we could trust him because he was the captain.
The sun was so nice, the captain so friendly and since we really didn’t have anything hardcoded into our schedule so we decided to go on the tour.
We pulled out of the harbor to go around some islands where the puffins were nesting. We did see some birds, but we didn’t get very close so photography was difficult, even with my 70-400mm lens.
After visiting the puffins the captain took us on a tour of Reykjavik as seen from the harbor. This provided a unique view of the city. You can really see that Reykjavik is a city in transition. There’s a lot of construction and you can tell that Reykjavik is growing at a rapid pace.
The tour lasted about an hour and a half. I have to give Cynthia a lot of credit. She’s not big on boats, but she has been a real trooper on this trip logging three boat rides during our visit.
After the tour we decided to treat ourselves to a sushi lunch. We’ve had Sushi twice in Iceland and it is fantastic! So fresh and so tasty.
After lunch we walked over to the Reykjavik Maritime Museum. Sadly, it didn’t have much about Vikings. It was dedicated to the history of Icelandic fishing. Still, very interesting and a nice way to wind down the afternoon.
The rest of the day was just spent exploring the city. During our explorations we came across what looks to be some street art by Banksy. I suspect these are not actual Banksy pieces, but they were cool none the less.
The Gay Pride Festival was going on in Reykjavik the whole week before we got here and you can still see signs of the celebration as the whole city is decked out in rainbow flags and signage for the event.
We’re pretty tired now. Tomorrow we fly back to Houston and soon this will all be a distant memory. Iceland is a special place and we are very fortunate to have had the chance to see it and I am hopeful we will return some day.
Today we took the rental car for our last drive in Iceland. We drove out to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa to swim in the warm, mineral rich waters. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 98–102 °F.
And let me tell you, it sure feels good!
The Blue Lagoon pretty much just another overpriced tourist trap and a lot of people will say that you should not waste your time or money with it, but I wouldn’t listen to them. Cynthia and I had a very good time soaking in the lagoon and would not have missed it for the world. It’s a very good way to unwind after our epic journey around Iceland.
After leaving the lagoon we drove out to see Perlan (The Pearl), an interesting building on the outskirts of Reykjavik.
I was glad to see it. There’s a restaurant at the top which is expensive and supposed to be very good, but we decided not to eat there.
After this we headed back to town to return the rental car. We tallied up the mileage and the grand total was just under 2000 miles driven during our epic journey. Cynthia commented that many of those miles should count double due to the road conditions in some parts of the country. I would have to agree.
It was kind of sad walking away from Thor (Cynthia named the car “Thor”). That car served us well and was our home away from home as we traversed those those winding, up and down and sometimes wretchedly bumpy roads of Iceland.
We’re winding down now. We have one more day in Reykjavik before we fly home. It’s bittersweet. We have had a great time, but we are tired and ready to come home.
It’s also worth noting that Reykjavik is a bit of a disappointment after all that we have seen and done in Iceland. We hope to wring a little more joy out of the trip tomorrow, but it might just be a day of rest and getting our luggage sorted and ready for the flight home.