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June 23, 2009

Vacation 2009!

London 2009 red phone booth resize 
We arrived Sunday afternoon and after too little sleep that first night, a new day dawned and we hit the ground running. 

There are two competing open-top double-decker tour operators in London:  Big Bus and Original Bus.  We took Big Bus, although they seem mostly identical.  They pick up 20 steps from our front door, and we went past Marble Arch around Oxford St, up to Regents Park, all the way down Regent St to Trafalgar Square, then to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, over the Thames, and to our first "destination": the Eye of London.  This is the giant ferris wheel that was built recently on the south bank.  It has 32 giant "eggs" around the perimeter of the wheel (about 400ft across), each capable of holding 25 people, and the thing rotates once every 30 minutes.  If you're curious, this means they're taking in about $750/minute of entry fees -- it's the most popular tourist attraction in Britain.  Views are fantastic, and the eggs are heavy plexiglass on all sides, although opaque on the bottom.  We enjoyed this a lot.

From there, we went to a tour at the Tower of London, led by a Beefeater who was pretty entertaining.  Lots of gory stories, and an impressive history back to the days of William the Conqueror.  It was first used as a prison when a Bishop was incarcerated in the 1200s.  He escaped, however, when he received a rope hidden in a barrel of wine.

However, he was forced to imbibe the entire barrel over the course of several weeks in order to access the rope, and in his cups he became so jovial that his captors remarked upon his decision to "let down his hair" -- when it turned out this was all part of his escape plan, the legend of Rapunzel was born.

Okay, I made that last paragraph up.  Sorry.

From the tower, we went on a nice river cruise on the Thames, at which point we were pretty exhausted, so we hiked from Embankment around Parliament and Westminster Abbey to catch the Big Bus back to Marble Arch for dinner, then we walked home.

More photos of our last two and a half days here:  <thumbnails>. 
We'll add to that set daily so check back if you're so inclined.


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