In the first week of June, Mum and Dad came to visit us at the beginning of their European trip. They arrived the morning of June 1st, a Sunday, and we went out to Heathrow airport to meet them. Unfortunately Dad got a migraine just before they landed so once we got home and he had some painkillers he slept for much of the afternoon while Mum, Andre and I went to church. We decided not to go to the pub after church as usual in order to go home and have tea with Mum and Dad, although as it turned out Dad had woken up and tried to message me on Facebook to say he was feeling much better and was happy to head out to the pub for tea! It was nice to just spend some time with Mum and Dad though before we got a relatively early night.
On Monday we headed into the city to see many of London’s main sights. We saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace – again, catching the view from The Mall and Birdcage Walk (on either side of St James’ Park) rather than stuck behind hundreds of people in front of the palace itself. After getting a bit of lunch in a cafe at the St James tube station we got on a bus to head to the Tower of London as there were severe delays on the District and Circle tube lines.
Well, it turned out the bus was no faster anyway. Due to road closures for the upcoming state opening of parliament, and a traffic accident, the traffic crawled. After a while we decided it was getting too late to visit the Tower and jumped off the bus to go for a walk down Whitehall.
We stopped in front of Horse Guards’ Parade to see if there were any guards about. There weren’t, but there was a soldier selling tickets to the Marines’ 350th Anniversary Beating Retreat the next night, which we decided to attend. We bought tickets off him and continued on our way down Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square.
After having a bit of a wonder around Trafalgar Square for Mum to get some photos, we continued on up to Leicester Square. Leicester Square is not one of my favourite parts of London, and fortunately once you’ve seen it there is not a lot of reason to hang around (unless you are going to a movie at the Odeon cinema or decide you need to visit M&M World) to we continued on to Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly Circus always makes me smile because it is a somewhat bizarre juxtaposition of tourist and local, old and new, traditional architecture and modern technology. And I’m pretty certain you can feel yourself getting a tan from the enormous LCD advertising screens. After popping into Fortnum & Mason’s on Piccadilly (a rather swish department store older than Australia), we decided to find somewhere to sit down to have a break. Fortunately we found a garden not far away where we could sit and eat our fruit and chocolates that we had brought with us.
After our afternoon tea we checked out Covent Garden. We thought about going into the London Transport Museum, but it was a bit expensive to go in so close to closing time. And then you know what we realised? Christine was coming tomorrow afternoon. And we had only bought 4 tickets for the Beating Retreat.
Well. That meant we went back via Horse Guards Parade to see if we could buy a fifth ticket and swap the first four for new ones (as they had allocated seating). The soldier who had sold us the tickets in the morning was gone, but we asked another soldier who directed us to the back of the barracks on Horse Guards Road. So we had to go allllllll the way around via Trafalgar as Horse Guards Parade itself was closed for rehearsals (normally you can walk straight through). Fortunately we found the ticket salespeople who were happy to take back our tickets and issue us with a group of 5 after we paid for an additional one. And then it was back home again to rest our sore feet!
Tuesday we spent virtually the whole day at the Tower of London. It was Andre’s and my fourth visit and we still saw things we had never seen before, although I do think we have now covered pretty much everything. The rain threatened to cut short our Yeoman Warder tour several times (they are not allowed to conduct the tours in the rain) but we managed to get through to the last outdoor location before it started drizzling again, and our Warder took us into the chapel a bit early to finish the tour. Andre and I explored different parts of the complex while Mum and Dad visited some of the main attractions we have seen several times (like the White Tower).
Once we decided we were finished with the Tower, we headed up to King’s Cross to collect Christine from her train. Between the five of us we managed to wrangle all her luggage down to Charing Cross station, where we left her two biggest bags (her suitcase and rucksack) at the left luggage facility in order to go straight to Beating Retreat. Her smaller bags were light and much easier to handle and keep with us.
We had quite good seats considering I’m pretty sure we got the cheap tickets. We could see the whole parade ground, albeit from the side rather than the front, but we could see the marching formations on the big screens. Unfortunately the Queen wasn’t there to take the salute this year (normally it is the Queen or another royal representative – this year it was some Admiral.) The performance featured marching bands from the UK, US, and Netherlands and was very good. I thought several times David would have loved it!