Today was another busy day in London! We set off a bit later than usual because of our late night at the performance of Wicked last night, and our first stop was the Hard Rock Cafe shop, because a few of the group wanted to purchase souvenirs there. We then headed past several war memorials and arrived at Wellington Arch. We went to the top, where we could see the mounted royal guardsmen passing through the arch, and took a few pictures. Then we hurried off to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard.
We were actually across the street from Buckingham Palace, so we couldn’t see most of the ceremony, but we could hear some of the music and did get a few pictures. It was much longer than most of us expected–we stood there in the crowds for about a half hour, and when we left the Changing of the Guard wasn’t finished. We were able to see the mounted guards leave very well, and the ones on horses are probably more interesting anyways.
Next up was St. Paul’s Cathedral. We took several Underground trains and got off at the St. Paul’s station. We ate lunch, took some pictures of the exterior of the cathedral, and then headed inside (where, unfortunately, pictures were not allowed). The cathedral was very large and spacious inside, and also very elaborately decorated. It had many fine paintings and decorative elements on the ceiling of the chapel part of it, and a great many sculptures. Many of these sculptures were of military generals and depicted them dying in battles, which was a little off-putting to me, and not really expected in a church. One of the main attractions of St. Paul’s, however, is the wonderful views from the top, so we climbed all 528 steps to the top of the “Golden Gallery”, while of course stopping off at the Whispering Gallery and the Stone Gallery on the way up. That many steps is a lot more than it sounds like, and in small spiral staircases too! We were fairly exhausted after climbing all the way up and down, although the views were worth it.
After St. Paul’s, we had a choice–we could either go to Camden Market or Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Mickey and I decided to try to do both. We headed off from the group and went to the Globe Theatre first, crossing the Millennium Bridge to get there. Unfortunately we would have had to wait about a half hour to take a 40 minute tour of the Globe and decided we wouldn’t have time. There was a show going on when we got there so we also couldn’t explore it on our own, though it seemed like they only let you see it through a tour anyways. We contented ourselves to just walk through the museum part of it, which was interesting. I think it would be a really good time to see a play there at some point, as it sounds like they try to make it as authentic to Shakespeare’s time and works as possible.
We then took several Tube rides to Camden Town, which features the open-air Camden Market and several clothing and tourist shops around it. I ended up buying a scarf, a dress, and a London shirt, and we had a great time looking around. However, it was a little intimidating haggling over prices. What happened both when buying the dress and the shirt was pretty much the same, even though they were different vendors–I asked the price, they gave one, asked my size and found me one of my size, then handed it to me. When I hesitated they both asked what I wanted to pay (and since I’m not very good at haggling and really wasn’t sure for the first one, I didn’t have a number to give). With the shirt, the man told me that since it was almost closing time he would give it to me for £10, which I accepted. I was then a little more experienced with the man who sold me the dress. When he said that since it was almost closing time he’d offer me a deal and asked me what I wanted to pay, I offered £15 instead of the dress’s £20 price, and bought the dress. I also bought two scarves for £10, and the funny thing was, when we asked that retailer what time the shops closed, he said 7:00, and the other two transactions, which both happened at ‘almost closing time’, were both at about 5:00.