London: Westminster & Buckingham Palace

After arriving around midnight, we only needed to walk across the street from St Pancras to our stay in London, the YHA hostel. I wanted to try a hostel, and the London location was a good place to try it out because I could sleep all four of us for under $100. We had a private room with a bathroom and two bunk beds. It wasn’t big, but it was enough room to spread out a little and get some decent sleep. By the time we checked in, unpacked, and crawled into bed, it was nearly 1:30 am. 

We slept until almost 11 am and then headed out to find food. We walked a quick 10 min down the street to eat at Speedy’s, a sandwich shop used as the exterior 221B Baker Street in the Sherlock tv series. There was an outside table right next to “Sherlock’s door,” so we grabbed it and spent the next hour going back and forth between eating and taking photos for the many, many tourists who just stopped by for a door shot and didn’t stay for lunch. Speedy’s got two thumbs up for being, well, “speedy,” and also for having something for everyone: breakfast for Mike, a burger for me, and made to order sandwiches for the girls. 

Our first crack at the subway wasn’t spectacular, but Mike quickly found an app that let us type in our location and destination to bring up the quickest and most direct routes. It was awesome. We didn’t really have to learn the map at all. We just needed to follow directions (which we can do). We stepped out of the Westminster station to look up at the tower housing “Big Ben.” It was a spectacular entry to London. 

The area around Parliament was buzzing. The results of the EU Referendum, in which they voted to leave the European Union, had just been made official in the last few hours, and news teams were everywhere. We scooted past those, though, and rushed to the cathedral where we took the last couple of spots on a Verger-led tour. Westminster’s vergers are trained men who assist with services and give very knowledgeable tours. Our guide, Benjamin, was both fun and efficient. He gave us a lot of backstory for the architecture, history, and decoration of the building. It was great to be able to ask questions as we went along. Verger tours have a few stops the audio-guided groups do not get, so that was also a bonus. 

After leaving Westminster, we checked out the scene down by the Parliament buildings. 

One interesting note was that we saw a press conference running inside one of the news vans. We then walked a few blocks to see what we could of 10 Downing Street and saw that same press conference still in progress. Prime Minister David Cameron had just resigned his post, and we could see him off in the distance. 

Detouring around 10 Downing, we cut through St James’ park to reach Buckingham Palace.

We ended the night in the theater district watching Wicked at the Victoria Apollo Theater. We had seen it years ago, but the girls claimed little or no memory of it, so although it made for another long night, it was worth it. 

As a final note for today’s pictures, I have to mention how the EU Referrendum, or Brexit, has been in the background the whole time we have been here. Today, with the votes in, the city is quietly buzzing. We have heard so many conversations about the vote in the days leading up to it, but now that the vote is in and the UK will leave, it is much quieter than I expected. The couple of people we’ve asked about it are polite but don’t want to share much. There were two older women in line for the bathroom at Wicked whose entire discussion was, “Well, I suppose we’ll be much more on our own now.” “Yes, I suppose that’s right. Very isolated. Hmmm.” I expected a more vocal response for some reason. We continued checking news all day because it seemed to be everywhere anyway. There has been much talk about how the vote differed in different areas of the country. We thought we noticed that a bit in that London and Oxford seemed to have a lot of “remain” signs posted while the more rural areas may have had more “leave” signs up, but that wasn’t the case for all.  

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