July 18-19, 2002 Scenes from the Big Bus

London Travel Blog

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Bob and I had both been to London before.  I traveled there with my parents in 1950 when I was 12, and he was there while he was a midshipman at the Naval Academy.   I wanted to see things that I had not seen on the first visit or things that were relevant for other things that we would be seeing.   For this trip I had set out several Goals - places I wanted to go or things I wanted to see.  These were (in no particular order - and the ones I achieved are BOLD)

  • Ride the Big Bus for an overall orientation
  • British Museum - Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone and Magna Carta
  • Evensong at St. Pauls
  • Gilbert & Sullivan at the Savoy
  • A brass rubbing at St Martin in the Fields
  • Shop at Harrods
  • London Eye
  • See pictures of London and Salisbury by Constable and Turner
  • Have afternoon tea with clotted cream
  • Reduced Shakespeare performance

I booked the tickets through a bidding site, and the tickets were cheap, but the flight wasn't direct.

Big Ben
  After a flight of almost 8 hours, we landed at Gatwick a bit after 0800, and went through immigration.

The guy asked if we were on vacation, and I said that we were retired so how could we be on vacation - what were we vacationing from? Our daughter said that I shouldn't tax them with any unusual responses, but what can I say - I was groggy.

We went through the 'nothing to declare' maze and walked out into the airport. I knew we had to go to the other side of the airport to get a train to London, so we did that via moving walkways and non-moving walkways.

I saw a brochure that said Gatwick to London £8.20 and grabbed it thinking it was for the Gatwick Express. So I went to the ticket window and asked for that ticket.
Shopping street from the top of the Big Bus
The ticket agent said to go to Track 1-2. So we did, although Bob protested that the Gatwick Express was Track 4. I had some problem getting onto the escalators with two bags, but eventually we made it onto the train before 0930. I figured out during the ride that I hadn't gotten the Gatwick Express, which I think would have been £14.20 each, but only the "semi-fast" train which stops about 5 times on the way to Victoria Station in London so it takes a little longer.

We got off the train a little before 1000, and it was warm and the station was full of people of course, so we went out front where I had intended to get a cab to the hotel instead of using the tube which I thought might be a problem with the suitcases.

Quel horror!! Because of the tube strike today, the taxicab line extends along the front of the station and around the corner, and there are NO cabs in the line - people are just standing there waiting.

Bob waiting for the Big Bus
I don't want to stand and wait for several hours.

I look around and see a Big Bus (BB). I know the BB goes to within a block or so of the hotel because it has a British Museum stop on the green route from a brochure that our daughter sent. So I get us tickets £16 each. The cab would have cost at least £8 and I was intending to get the BB anyway just a little later in the day (it was one of my Goals). So I really saved money this way

The queue for the Big Bus green route was around on the other side of Victoria Station, and after we climbed on, we rode around by Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament and to the British Museum for the first time on the downstairs part of the bus. Traffic was really very slow because of the tube strike.

New City Hall
Just to go from stop 67 at Victoria to stop 78 at the British Museum took over an hour. Then we walked up to the hotel and checked in about noon.

I was concerned that Bob was exhausted (he had not slept on the plane, and he had a heart attack last winter), so I told him to take a nap, and I slept a little too and then took a shower. I also decided that I didn't want to eat lunch yet. I waked Bob about 1400 and we went out to Gower Street, with my trusty bus map, and hopped a bus (£1 each) over to Marble Arch as a shortcut vs. walking back to the British Museum and taking the green route around to Marble Arch.

There we hopped on the Red route BB, and went around via Trafalgar Square, St.
Boat on the Thames
Paul's and Mansion House to the Tower. I decided to do the free boat trip from the Tower to Westminster pier.  The boat we were directed to get on didn't have a narrative with it so I identified what we were passing by looking at the map. The Tower and Tower Bridge were easy. The new City Hall wasn't on the map. What I didn't realize was that this boat stopped a couple of places in between the Tower and Westminister. So we got off at Blackfriars pier. Oops But it worked out OK - because of the tube strike, all the boats were free, so we just got on the next boat going our direction

This one had a bunch of German school kids (judging middle school age) on it. Judged they were German as they were speaking German. Judged middle school by their behavior. (We both used to teach that age kid.) We finally got off at Westminister.

TKTS Booth - Bob looking at list
We decided we were ready for another meal, so we walked around til we found a reasonable looking place to eat (which I didn't write down - I guess I was too groggy).  We each had a club sandwich and tea for £15.00 total.  Then we got back on the BB and rode over to Hyde Park. The last bus of the day started off at 1900, so we took that one (green line) to the British Museum riding on top this time.

19 July 2002- Friday morning

We had breakfast at the hotel. Then we walked up to where we thought the beginning of the green route was around Russell Square, and finally found it about 0730. Took that bus (the second bus of the day -they start at 0700) around to Trafalgar Square where we got on the Blue route BB at stop 32. We rode the Blue BB all morning, finally getting off at stop 31 Leicester Square after doing a complete Blue circuit about 1130 (I figured we really got our money's worth out of those tickets).

Entrance of the Savoy


We bought tickets to the production of "The Mikado" at the TKTS booth and ate lunch. Then we went to the Portrait Gallery, the Art Museum where we saw the Constable and Turner paintings (Goal), and did a rubbing at St. Martins (Goal) before having dinner and going to the theatre (Goal)

July 20, 2002 - British Museum - Roman Britian

After breakfast at the hotel, we walked over to the British Museum, (one of my goals) entering the back way. I knew there would be a FREE guided tour (called an Eyeopener Tour) on Roman Britain (room 49) at 1100 (because I had gone to the site on the internet and printed out the tour schedule), so we went up to the starting point for that, and it was very interesting and informative.

The guide told us the significance of the tombs and mosaics that were there and about the silver that was found by someone plowing their field (the top item was a little damaged by the plow - these items are on loan and are considered one of the 10 most valuable items in Britain).

Bob looking at an exhibit in the British Museum
  There was a model of a Roman camp, and the guide pointed out the flushing outhouses on the perimeter of the model.

She showed us the little wooden shim-like things that they wrote on. She said that up until those were found, everyone thought that people just wrote on papyrus or sheepskin or paper like material. These wooden pieces were normally burned after use, so the fact that these were found was due to them getting wet and not burning. There was one there where someone was apparently practicing writing, and the teacher had corrected it, and written "Sloppy" on it.

There was also an invitation from the commander's wife of one camp to the commander's wife of another which was written by a scribe, and on the bottom, in different handwriting was an addendum which said something to the effect of "I'd be honored if you would come to my party".
Elgin Marbles
The guide said this was the first known instance of a woman writing.

Then we went down to the main hall with the big dome window and Bob sat down while I tried to find out where the other things I wanted to see were, and also tried to find a bathroom. (Never actually got to the bathroom.)

After I connected up with him again, we walked in to see the Rosetta Stone which I consider enormously significant because it is the source of our ability to decipher hyroglypics (and I tried to explain what its importance was to Bob). It had so many people clustered around it that it was impossible to get a picture.

Then we walked back to see the Elgin Marbles (the frieze from the Parthenon). The frieze had been around the outside of the inner temple, and consequently in the original setting could only be seen from below at a sharp upward angle.

King and Queen and Roman scratching his butt
Here, the frieze was displayed at viewing height all around the room on the walls. We sat down and contemplated them for a bit. The horses appeared to be racing, and in very shallow relief their legs were arranged in constantly varying patterns.

It was Saturday, so the museum was very crowded. Since the museum was so crowded there was a line up (queue) for lunch at the museum, so we left the museum.

They happened to be having a Roman day at the museum, with gladiator fights on the front lawn, auguries on the steps, tents and static displays in the forecourt all day long. This was very serindipitous since we had just done the Roman Britain tour.  There were folks that were demonstrating sword fighting, and they also showed how the armor was put on, and, later, how wounds were bandaged.  We stopped to watch some of the re-enactments and look at the exhibits on the way out to lunch.

Semi-static display
  We also walked around to the 'static' displays. This was a semi-static display on Roman cavalry - the horse wasn't static, but the other stuff was just a display. I don't know if they rode the horse, or he was just a display object.  They had tents set up showing the kinds of things they ate, beds, pottery, weaving etc.   We left the forecourt area then, in search of lunch.  After lunch it was time to find the London Eye

The London Eye was one thing that certainly was not in London when we were there in 1950. I thought it would be a good thing to do (a Goal).

We took the bus over to Waterloo Station, which was as close as I thought I could come to the British Airways London Eye (a big ferris wheel type arrangement) on public transportation. We walked a good ways trying to get to the actual site.

Getting into the capsule of the London Eye
I'm sure there's a better way to do this, but I don't know what it is.

We got there about 1400 and stood in line to get tickets (£17.00 pounds for two seniors plus £2 for the little pull-out photo crib sheet which worked out to $30.22). But our 'flight' wasn't until 1630, so we sat around and people watched, and then at 1600 stood in line. The people behind us in line were English from the south of England, and we had a nice conversation with them. They had been there earlier and had been told there were no flights until 1830, but when they came back they were able to get the 1630 flight.

Bob thought the queues of people were inefficiently managed, as there were numerous opportunities for folks to jump the queue. You could start to line up a hour ahead, and then half an hour ahead, they moved you straight across the area that people leaving the London Eye were coming out.

Tower on County Hall from the London Eye
But whatever

The long wait meant that we couldn't go to evensong at St. Paul's, or go back and shop and have tea at Harrods. So I probably would have been better off to skip this, as I really regretted not being able to do those things. We also couldn't go to the matinee of Reduced Shakespeare. (3 goals down the tube)

It looked like it might rain, but when it did any raining (just a drizzle) it was when we were under cover. We had a relatively peaceful go-round although the shiny walls of the pod made it hard to take pictures and avoid the reflections. And the fact that it clouded over and was dreary made the pictures not as good as it would have been if it was sunny.

Near the end of the trip, they ask you to stand and look at the camera and they took an automatic picture of the riders on that capsule.



I totally didn't see where to stand when they said they would take our pictures, so I didn't even look at the picture booth when we got off. We got a bus back to the hotel (stopping for window shopping and tea on the way in Oxford street).  So we did do tea, just not with the clotted cream

The next day we took the Docklands Light Rail to Greenwich

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Big Ben
Big Ben
Shopping street from the top of th…
Shopping street from the top of t…
Bob waiting for the Big Bus
Bob waiting for the Big Bus
New City Hall
New City Hall
Boat on the Thames
Boat on the Thames
TKTS Booth - Bob looking at list
TKTS Booth - Bob looking at list
Entrance of the Savoy
Entrance of the Savoy
Bob looking at an exhibit in the B…
Bob looking at an exhibit in the …
Elgin Marbles
Elgin Marbles
King and Queen and Roman scratchin…
King and Queen and Roman scratchi…
Semi-static display
Semi-static display
Getting into the capsule of the Lo…
Getting into the capsule of the L…
Tower on County Hall from the Lond…
Tower on County Hall from the Lon…
Thames and
Thames and
Bob in the tube
Bob in the tube
Savoy Theater
Savoy Theater
Re-enactor taking a photo of other…
Re-enactor taking a photo of othe…
London Hotels & Accommodations review
Bloomsbury
We had a double on the first floor (i.e. one floor up from the ground floor - US second floor) with an ensuite shower for £65 (about $102). The smal… read entire review
London
photo by: ulysses