We arrived in London so late that it made sense to spend our first night in a pricy airport hotel. And it made just as much sense to get out of there the next day and move to a more affordable one located downtown where everything we want to do it located. Luckily, Ken had arranged with a driver for a fixed price drive. London is not noted for straight roads or speedy traffic, but the motorway that would have brought us closer in was closed because of a traffic accident. So the 14 mile drive took about two hours. That taxi meter would have been ticking! But we didn’t mind at all, because it was a scenic tour past many of the sights we’ve enjoyed on past visits - Hyde Park, the Marble Arch, the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square… We even followed the horse guards as they rode to the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
After we checked in we went to the ATM to get more local currency, never dreaming that we wouldn’t be back in the room for ten hours. We’ve probably spent more time as tourists in London than in any other city and there are always so many great things to do. First we headed to the half price theater tickets place, There were so many shows to choose from it was hard to decide. Then we went to Green Park for a walking tour given by a blue badge guide. The badge means that the guide is well trained in all sort of interesting trivia and history and if there’s one thing London has, it’s history. We walked the St. James area that was seized from the Catholic Church after Henry VIII decided to be head of the Anglican Church so he could marry Anne Boleyn. He didn’t want to live in his old castle with his new wife, so he built St. James, where Prince Charles and Camilla live today. Once the king moved to this area, everyone who was everyone tried to follow. The guide restrained herself, but every building had a rich and colorful story, including Spencer House where Princess Diana’s forbears first put themselves on the royal map. Many exclusive shops are still in this area, selling tailored clothing and fine wines and cheeses. Fortnum & Mason, grocers to the Queen are located here.
After all that walking we rented chairs Green Park and rested a bit, people watching and trying to keep our jetlagged eyes open. Luckily the play we decided to see - Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - made from the film which first brought Mel Gibson to our attention, was so lively and creative, our eyelids hardly fluttered. A great first day in London.