Walking in London

On our second day in London, our first full day in the city, it started to rain. As my mother always says "You don't visit Britain for the weather" so we didn't let a little rain deter us from seeing the sites on our 'must visit' list. We stayed in Kensington which is right near Hyde Park. We started our day walking through the park headed to see Buckingham Palace. Want to come along on our walk in London? Of course you do. Let's go! 

As a self professed history nerd, I was drawn to the many war memorials throughout Hyde Park but this one really stuck out to me. It is the Royal Artillery Memorial dedicated to causalities in the Royal Regiment of Artillery in the First World War. I've always loved the history surrounding the World Wars and after taking a "Canada at War" course at University of Waterloo, I focused my studies and readings on the First World War. It was the first truly global conflict and it was brutal. I wrote a paper on trench warfare and I'm still amazed I don't suffer from nightmares after reading so many first hand accounts of the soldiers lives in the trenches. 

When my boys visited Europe last year with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, they visited many Canadian memorials in London including this one simply called "Canada Memorial". They boys said it was a must see on our visit and I'm glad they shared that. It was nice to see how respected Canadians are in Britain and that our contributions to both World Wars did not go unnoticed. Everyday I am proud to be Canadian and this memorial, sculpted by a fellow Canadian, filled my heart with joy.  

A hop, skip and a jump from the "Canada Memorial" is "Canada Gate", part of the Queen Victoria Memorial. It makes the entrance to Green Park, one of the four Royal Parks in London. It was a good thing I was wearing my Canadian flag pin because there is a lot of Canadian stuff here! 

Walking on the ring road near Canada Gate we headed towards Buckingham Palace. We've all seen the palace before in photos but it really is so much grander than you can imagine. 

The Queen's Guards on duty. Every so often they would walk back and forth and trade places. They announced when we were there that the Changing of the Guard would not be happening. The day we visited was the opening of Parliament and they were shutting down large areas of the city to transport the Queen from Buckingham Palace to Parliament where she was to deliver the opening speech. 

I was hoping for a Queen or Kate spotting but no such luck. 

One last look at Buckingham Palace

Walking away from Buckingham Palace, I snapped a photo of the row of bunting that surrounds the ring road.

The Victoria Memorial sits at the end of The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.

George VI and Queen Elizabeth Memorial. What I found interesting about this memorial is something I read on Wikipedia "The memorial to Queen Elizabeth cost £2 million, and was funded by a special five pound coin produced to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday". It find it interesting to learn how these memorials are funded and as a coin collector (again, real nerd over here) I think that's a pretty cool way to get a memorial built. 

By this time it really started to rain and I was thankful that we both had the good sense to bring our rain coats with us. I was also thankful that this double decker bus drove over the bridge so I could snap this photo of Big Ben. How British is that! 

The London Eye and Big Ben. I'll be sharing our experience on the London Eye later in the week.

We really wanted to see the Winston Churchill statue but by this point all the roads were closed to bring the Queen to Parliament and officers were asking people to clear out, which is what this officer was saying to me while I tried snapping a few photos. 

A friend of mine who lived in London for a few years told me to check out Canada House (Hi Em!). It's a beautiful building in Trafalgar Square that provides guided tours (they are free but you need to pre-register) and has a small gallery that houses different exhibits related to Canada. We stopped in and viewed "The Tremendous Elusive: Emily Carr and the Canadian Imaginary". Every Canadian knows of painter Emily Carr. She was known for landscape paintings of the Canadian wilderness. 

Piccadilly Circus, which my boys liked to remind us before we left is not an actual circus. We didn't spend too much time here, I would characterize it as a cleaner, more beautiful Times Square. 

We stopped by the Piccadilly Market at St James's Church. The market is open six days a week and carries an assortment of items. The only thing I was interested in was the flag bunting but sadly it was not for sale. 

We made one last stop at the world famous Harrods before heading back to our hotel to dry off and rest our feet before heading out for the night. More on that later!