European Soccer Tour – Day 4: London

Today was the day for our group to head into London. London, by the way, is overwhelming. It’s huge, and bustling, cram-packed with people and history. You’re daft if you think you’ll do more than scratch the surface in just a few hours, and we barely did.

Below are pictures I took of our day, with some explanatory notes.

We began our day near the Tower of London, where we grabbed a quick snack following the ride in.

Eating Subway

This was followed by a boat ride on the Millennium Dawn up the river Thames. Since today was our first sunny day in England, Austin, our Fantastic Scottish Tour Guide, warned us to wear sunscreen. “Ayngland’s soon is vary hot aynd ya maight ge’ a soonbern”. I don’t know if he’s ever been in Texas. Houston’s sun will char you to a crisp in under ten minutes if you’re not used to it, with our combined blast-furnace/sauna weather conditions. We smiled and nodded politely. If anything, I turned more pale today under England’s sun, which was quickly covered up by dark clouds in any event.

On the river

Along the way we saw many items of interest, including the oldest artifact in London. This is Cleopatra’s Needle, and it is about 3,500 years old. It comes from Egypt, built a thousand year’s before Cleopatra’s time and moved by her to Alexandria in 12 BC to be set in a temple built in honor of Marc Antony. The needle was presented to Britain in the early 19th century by Mohammed Ali (no, not that one – I mean Mohammed Ali, King of Egypt at the time).

Cleopatra’s Needle

The team beside the river Thames

We disembarked the boat and walked toward the heart of London. We passed Big Ben. You might be interested to know that the name doesn’t refer to the clock itself, but to its humongous bell.

Big Ben is connected to the British Parliament building. Austin, our Fantastic Scottish Tour Guide, remarked that Scotland got its own Parliament about ten years ago, but they don’t have much power.

“And hayre’s the Bri’ish Parliament belden’. The Bri’ish Parliament doosn’t have mooch pow’r neyther. They just doo wha’ever the Whate Hoose teylls ’em ta doo.”

The Parliament building

Outside Parliament is a statue of Oliver Cromwell, who executed the wee king Charles I in 1649.

Oliver Cromwell

We passed by Westminster Abbey, which had a line about a mile long to get inside.

Westminster Abbey

We then walked through St. James park toward Buckingham Palace.

Some of the boys at the gates of Buckingham Palace

At this point the group split up into smaller groups. The group I was with chose to take a double-decker bus tour. I snapped some pictures as we went along.

This isn’t the best angle, because I was fiddling with my camera and the bus was moving kind of fast, but the picture below is of the Wellington Monument in Hyde Park, which is a statue of Achilles. It was made in 1822 of melted down cannons captured from Britain’s enemies, in honor of the first Duke of Wellington.

The Wellington Monument

To Arthur Duke of Wellington

and his brave companions in arms

this statue of Achilles

cast from cannon taken in the victories

of Salamanca, Vittoria, Toulouse, and Waterloo

is inscribed

by their country women

Placed on this spot

on the XVIII day of June MDCCCXXII

by command of

His Majesty George IIII.

We also passed the Marble Arch. Historically, only members of the Royal Family and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery were allowed to pass through the arch, although I don’t know if that rule still stands or what happens to one who ventures through the arch today, but looking at this picture I imagine it would be pretty hard to police

The Marble Arch

While I’m on the subject of arches, here’s the Admiralty Arch, which was built in the early 1900’s to honor the late Queen Victoria

The Admiralty Arch

The inscription:



(In the tenth year of King Edward VII, to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens, 1910)

Our bus ride headed into Piccadilly Circus, which contains (or is near, I haven’t gotten this straight yet) London’s West End, which is the Theater district. I wish I had snapped a picture of some of the Theaters, but this is as close as I got.

Entering Piccadilly Circus. This picture is for Bethany, thinking of the theaters nearby

This one, though slightly out of focus, is for Andrew. He will know why

We passed by Trafalgar square on our way back by Parliament and over the Thames. If I could pick a place in London to spend about four hours, Trafalgar Square, and in particular the museums surrounding it, would be my choice. Alas, we didn’t have time to stop.

Trafalgar Square

Some of the party wanted to ride the colossal London Eye, which is a giant, slowly spinning wheel containing observation pods that provide a breathtaking view of the city. I was with three other dads and we had nine boys with us, so two of us stayed with the boys who weren’t interested in riding the Eye (including Blake) while the other two dads took the boys who were interested in going up in the Eye.

The London Eye

Our view was a little less lofty, although plenty satisfying.

Eating at McDonalds

Blake asked me to take this picture, for his sister.

For Molly

After the others were done riding the Eye, we began walking back to Piccadilly to rendezvous with our group and head back to Reading.

Walking to Piccadilly. The Queen does not look pleased.

Here’s another for Andrew.

For Andrew

And this one’s for Bethany, in honor of her favorite Elf.

“A Diversion”

The boys wanted a picture with some Bobbys, who politely obliged

This one’s for Jill

We ended our day in LillyWhite’s, which is a large sports shop just off of Piccadilly Circus. And then we headed back to Bradfield college. We were a little off schedule and so were met with a group of kitchen workers who were straining to be polite but were obviously irritated that we expected them to feed us at 8:00pm. We ate swiftly on paper plates and departed.

After dropping off the boys, most of the parents headed over to the Queen’s Head Pub. I begged off, feeling both non-social and slightly guilty for avoiding the company, and came back here with the other non-pubbing parents.

It was a great day. Tomorrow the Texans take on another British team, and then . . .we’re headed to the Arsenal game!

Good night.

4 thoughts on “European Soccer Tour – Day 4: London

  1. So pleased you felt so welcome and had a good time! Had to smile at the Scottish tour guide telling you to wear sunscreen for the “English sun”. Bless the Scots, they don’t know quite where they are without a good bit of drizzle to cool them down =o)

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