The last few days have been quite leisurely. But we've lounged around at my cousin's house enough, perhaps we should explore a little bit. We were last here in London in 2007, and we've already visited the big tourist sights in the city: Big Ben, London Eye, etc.
Since we're staying outside of the city and on the west side, we decide to visit some of the attractions nearby. Windsor Castle is only a few kms away. Back on the bikes! After all this practice, I'm doing a much better job of staying on the left and looking right. It's all coming back to me...
"You think it's okay to park here..."? *shrug*
Not a lot of street parking around Windsor Castle. I don't know what the parking rules are like in London, but if it's anything like the rest of Europe, then anything goes for two-wheelers.
Shopping arcade beside Windsor Castle set inside an old Victorian Railway Station
Staring down a member of the Queen's Guard. I dare you to do this
to the real ones at Buckingham Palace, Neda!
Windsor Castle. This is where the Queen spends her weekends
The rest of the time, tourists have the run of the place. The guy at the admission booth is asking each tourist to cough up £20.50 to get in. Even with the recently amputated pound sterling, that's still a lot of money. We keep our colourful British bills in our wallet. I'm sure the Queen has enough of it, she doesn't need ours...
Go £ sand, Mr Admission Booth Guy!
British cars, everywhere! 25% off... Hmmm.... perhaps a better use of our £s
I'm noticing more Land Rovers and Jags everywhere we go. I love the new F-type, but it doesn't hold a candle to the old E-type we saw at the Ace Cafe the other day:
Damn! Dat ass doe...
Crooked House of Windsor
This was an unusual building that we passed by. It used to be called the Market Cross House and it was prematurely demolished and hastily rebuilt with unseasoned wood. The house eventually buckled but didn't fall and it was renamed the Crooked House of Windsor. There's supposed to be a secret passage inside that leads to Windsor Castle.
Perhaps we can get in that way without paying the admission booth guy...
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. So says Google.
Well, the west end was fun, where to next? How about the big city?
London is crowded. The congestion on the roads is insane. The city is ranked 7th worst in the world for traffic jams and 3rd worst in Europe. With that in mind, we hit the roadways on a tour of London by motorcycle! Are we daft?
We're setting off in the middle of the day to avoid the crush of rush hour. Traffic isn't as bad as Toronto where the rush hour begins at 6:30AM and ends at 6:29AM... Here, during non-peak hours, the congestion is manageable. This is because we've stripped our bikes of their ultra-wide panniers. We're now able to filter between lanes, only having to stop when the extra-high mirrors of trucks and SUVS become obstructions to our own mirrors positioned at the same height. Otherwise, it's smooth sailing as we slip between cars like water flowing between rocks stuck in a jar.
In the centre of the city, parking just outside King's Cross Station
Well, we didn't get ticketed or towed at Windsor Castle. So I'm guessing it's okay? Downtown London, parking on the sidewalk... Are we pushing our luck?
We're at King's Cross Station for one reason:
Neda is a *HUGE* Harry Potter fan!
If you know anything about Harry Potter, you'll know that King's Cross train station is the secret gateway to the world of witchcraft!
So here's the caveat: I know nothing about Harry Potter. Didn't read the books. Fell asleep at every one of the movies when Neda dragged me out to see them with her. Not a fan.
So instead of researching every little tidbit about all the Harry Potter stuff in this post, I'll just try to remember what Neda told me once when I once half-asleep, or maybe read somewhere on the Internet at some point in time...
At the Harry Potter gift shop in King's Cross Station, Neda holds up some magic jelly beans
We're shopping for a gift for Tea, who is also a huge Harry Potter fan. These magic jelly beans come in disgusting flavours, like nose goblins, earwax and underarm lice. I think in the books Harry Potter gave a box of normal jelly beans to Hermione when he proposed to her. She said no and decided to marry Ron Wesley instead, and in a rage Harry turned the jelly beans to all these yucky flavours. That's why they're called Jelly Beans. Jelly is short for Jealous.
Neda is in heaven at the Harry Potter store. She is trying on Gryffindor scarves and casting spells with all the magic wands, drinking all the Harry Potter coffee: "Espresso Patronum!"
The gateway to Harry Potter world is Platform 9 3/4
In the books there is a hidden platform between train platforms 9 and 10. We actually walked to the real Platform 9 and searched for it. Not there. They mocked up a Platform 9 3/4 outside the gift shop and kids line up to get their picture taken pushing a luggage trolley that's disappearing into the secret portal.
Voldemort's secret entrance to his lair is on Platform 6 2/3.
King's Cross Station is very cool looking with its funky blue steel lattice roof
Out on the streets, there is a reminder to all the tourists which way to look when stepping out into traffic
We hop back on the bikes and zoom around town a bit more. About 5 kms away we run into the Thames River. Only way across is this bridge:
Riding across Tower Bridge! COOL!!!
Can't filter on Tower Bridge road, so we're stuck in traffic here :( So I take lots of pictures...
When I was a kid, I learned the nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down". Like so many people, I always thought London Bridge was this elaborate-looking one we just rode over, but it's actually a non-descript bridge less than 1km to the west of Tower Bridge. It's a common mistake for people who don't actually live in the UK.
Well Neda got to see her Harry Potter stuff, it was my turn to pick a cultural destination. My choice:
The TARDIS from Doctor Who! Since we are on motorcycles we can just ride right up on the sidewalk and no one blinks an eye.
I'm a huge Doctor Who fan from waaaay back in the day. If you've never seen the show, it's about this Time Traveler from another planet who takes a liking to Earth. Pretty much every other episode is him saving us from destruction by the malicious alien race of the week. His time machine/space craft is called a TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension In Space) and it's shaped liked a blue police box. Don't ask why. It's just one of those absurd British humour things.
Historically, police boxes were telephone booths for constables on patrol to keep in touch with the central police station. They were installed shortly after the invention of the telephone at the turn of the century and were found all over the UK until the 60s when walkie-talkies and police radios became more widespread. Police boxes are very rare nowadays, only a few are still standing, most of the surviving boxes are derelict and the ones that have been refurbished are basically Doctor Who tourist props.
Since we're here in the UK, I'm going to make it a mission to visit as many TARDISes as we can find! Scavenger hunt! :)
This replica police box is just outside Earl's Court Station.
On the way back, we buzzed the Queen's house, Buckingham Palace, looking for a guard for Neda to stare down!