Friday, January 20, 2012

The Original London Sightseeing Tour



Wednesday we ventured out, again via bus, to the Original London Sightseeing Tour.  The tour consisted of a double decker bus around London and a boat ride on the Thames to Greenwich and return.  My wife and son started the tour the day she broke her foot but was in too much pain to go on the boat ride.  Together my wife and I would finish what she started.
Source:GoogleMaps

We caught the 276 to Hackney Central then the 38.  We disembarked at Piccadilly Circus, in front of Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.  There was only a short walk to one of the stops along the yellow route of the Original London Sightseeing Tour.  There were three tours, each with a different route and corresponding color.  The yellow tour hit all the mandatory sites.  We boarded the double decker and were told there was no live tour guide on the buses that day.  We settled for listening to a recorded tour in English.  We didn't expect to leave the bus except for the river tour, so we settled in, under cover, at the front of the top deck.


There was a constant change of sightseers on the bus from stop to stop.  I heard many languages spoken.  The few I could discern were French and German.  On all of our travels in London, many different languages were spoken all around us.  I would guess I heard Russian, Polish, Arabic, Indian languages, Italian and others I couldn't discern.  On this tourist ride I heard mostly German and French, more German and French than I heard all week.


From the top deck of our moving bus we passed most of the following, 

Piccadilly CircusBuckingham Palace&
the Changing of the Guard
10 Downing StreetSouthwark Cathedral
Statue of ErosSt. James's ParkHorse Guards' ParadeLondon Dungeon
The National GalleryWestminster AbbeySt. Martin-in-the-FieldsHMS Belfast
Nelson's ColumnBig Ben & ParliamentCovent GardenTower Bridge
Trafalgar SquareLambeth PalaceFleet StreetTower of London
St. James's PalaceThe London EyeSt. Paul's CathedralShakespeare's Globe
Ritz HotelLondon AquariumBank of England MuseumTate Modern
Hyde ParkWestminster PierMonumentSpeakers' Corner
Wellington Museum London Bridge



We disembarked the yellow route bus when we arrived at the dock from which we would board the boat tour.  We walked down the long ramp to the rear of the line of tourists waiting to board the boat.  There was no boat at the dock.  It was still out on its return trip from Greenwich.  We didn't wait long before the boat was docked and empty of tourists.


We boarded and did a quick spin around the enclosed lower deck and it's snack bar.  I helped my wife to the upper open deck where the view would be better.  She settled on the first bench at the top of the stairs which was the last bench at the rear of the boat.  The weather was a bit cooler than the day before.  My experience from working outdoors over 34 years, is that whenever you are near water, there always seems to be a breeze.  The breeze put a chill in the air.  I returned to the snack bar and bought some coffee, hot chocolate and a few snacks.  I then juggled the hot drinks back to the upper deck. 
Westminster Clock and Portcullis House
I caught this piper on the Westminster Bridge

London Eye
London Eye and County Hall
There seemed to be quite a bit of time before we launched into the river.   I quickly drank most of my coffee and left my Twixt on the bench under my wife's knee.  I unsheathed my camera and went into photographer mode.


Once we got under way the boat went right across the Thames to pick up more tourists.  That got me closer to the Eye.






With the new tourists aboard, we set off towards London Tower.


There were several bridges to glide under, Jubilee, Hungerford, an unnamed RR bridge being restored, Millenium and Waterloo, before we arrived at Tower Bridge.




 All along the way the tour guide provided a package of pseudo-historical banter, wrapped in an East Ender slang, tied with a dazzling witty ribbon.  I remember tourist bus drivers delivering the same kind of banter in Boston.  I wonder if there is a school of witty edutainment that teaches all the guides, worldwide?  I can see the school offering Cockney and South Side speech lessons and bawdy details lectures.  Of course most of the learning would happen in the evening, after formal classes, when the worldwide students get together at the bar or pajama parties.


However they are trained, we enjoyed it.  I even tipped them at the end of our tour when the guide held out a small galvanized bucket to receive the coins.  There must have a gutsy class, too.



The last leg of the outbound tour was to Greenwich a bit farther down river.  There were some great views along the way.  Many of the new apartments were quite pricey, we were told.
The boat was tied up at Greenwich for five or ten minutes.  By that time it was getting dark.  The darkness was partly due to the overcast and partly because of the latitude of London near 50┬║ N, closer to the Arctic Circle and mostly the time of the year.  On the trip back to Tower Bridge the guide was silent and we spent sometime on the enclosed, warmer, lower deck.  I composed my map and British money image there.
The boat docked again at Tower Bridge to take on more tourists.  I captured a few more images of Tower Bridge.  I underexposed some of the images on purpose.  I wanted to darken the tower and catch the moon in the same frame.  The gull was an added surprise.  I think the gull adds some spookiness.


When we returned to the dock at Westminster Bridge we boarded a tour bus that took us to Green Park where we caught the mother ship, the 38, that took us back home.  We finished what my wife and son started the on their very first day in London.  The end of our visit was Friday.  We had only one more full day in London.  That happened to be my wife's birthday.




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