It was a typical grey and rainy London day, but we were all prepared with umbrellas and raincoats, and the students were real troopers with not one complaint among them from the weather. You'll have to excuse the poor quality of some of my photos, though, as I have only brought my phone with me and all the grey does not make for good pictures.
We began by the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place for Parliament. Here you will find the famous clock tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben even though Big Ben is just the large bell in the tower itself.
We arrived at the Horse Guard Parade building just in time to watch the end of the changing of the guard. There are two types of the Queens Life Guards, the Life Guards who wear red and the Blues and Royals who wear blue and they switch off shifts at 11am Monday-Saturday and 10am on Sundays. We stood across the street from the actual ceremony so that we could watch the old guard file past on their way to back to the Hyde Park Barracks.
To watch a video of the Life Guards walking past us, click here.
From there we walked around St. James' Park to have a view of Buckingham Palace, but we didn't go very close so I'll post photos after a later tour when I have better shots.
|From St. James' Park, looking back toward the Horse Guard and London Eye|
The long road leading to Buckingham Palace is called the Mall, but pronounced mal. St. James' Park runs along one side and several important buildings along the other, including Clarence House (home of Prince Charles), St. James' Palace (built on the site of a former leper hospital dedicated to Saint James the Less), and Marlborough House (the meeting place of the Commonwealth countries).
|Lions at the base of Nelson's Column|
For our next event, we had to split into two groups and I was in charge of the later entry, so I had some extra time to kill. I headed back to the Admiralty Arch to try to find the nose.
Next I met up with my group of students and led them to the Royal Academy of Surgeons for a guided tour of the Hunterian Museum. We were very lucky to schedule when we did, because this museum is closing in two days and is not set to reopen again until 2020.
No pictures were allowed, but the pieces were absolutely fascinating. The museum houses the collection of surgeon and anatomist John Hunter, who throughout the course of his life meticulously studied and dissected thousands upon thousands of human, animals, plants... whatever he could find. Our guide was a retired orthopedic surgeon who led us through the history of surgery and made my feel extremely grateful that we live in the age that we do. He got a great kick out of my dress and asked me where I got it because he wanted to buy one for his daughter, also a doctor. Then at one point when I was viewing an area independently, another employee came over to comment on the dress and told me not to stand in one place too long or people would start to think I was part of the display. :-D
There were jars upon jars of specimens, all several hundred years old. The museum originally had about 4,000 pieces on display, but more than 1,000 were destroyed when it was hit by bombs during the blitz. To get an idea of what it is like inside, click here. But be warned, some if it is not for the faint of heart.
After seeing the students on their own for the evening, I went to our office to meet another one of our London staff members and since I had a bit of time to kill before dinner, we went for a drink to get to know each other a bit. Across from Tottenham Court Road station, our nearest Tube stop, is The Flying Horse, which is the last remaining pub on Oxford Street and dates back to 1790.
After a quick drink, I ran through the rain down to Leicester Square to meet up with one of my oldest British friends. Kayleigh and I met the summer before my first year of college in her hometown of Bargoed, which is about 30 minutes north of Cardiff. My youth group at the time used to travel there for short term trips to support a church there in activities for young people. The last time we saw each other was the summer of... 2006? when she came to Texas for a visit. Our lives have changed quite a bit since then, but it was a perfect coincidence that she happened to be in London this week and we were able to meet up. We had a long dinner and I got to meet her lovely children, including her two daughters who entertained me with stories of their visit to the aquarium and were vying for my attention on the walk back to the Tube station, serenading me with Disney songs they knew. So cute!