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Old 11-13-2011, 11:23 PM   #1
sayhello
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Trip Report! DIS Exclusive Knights & Lights/Disneyland Paris, Part 4 - LOTS OF PICS!

Sorry it's been so long between posts! Things have been a bit crackers at work & with my house, but it's all settling down now, so I hope to get the rest of this posted relatively quickly. Thanks for checking back, and for being patient!

Day 2 - Around London (Westminster, Buckingham and Harrods)


Today was our first full day of the ABD. We started this morning with a lovely buffet breakfast at the hotel. There was really a wonderful array of foods at this buffet, and my only complaint was how *very* hard it was to get a darn cup of coffee!!! I had to keep asking folks over and over again, until someone brought me one small cup of coffee, and then I had to start all over again until I got any more! But other than that, breakfast was great.

We then convened in the lobby, and were walked out to our transportation for the day -- a fabulous antique red double-decker bus!





(I didn't know this, but Kevin found out that this bus was the driver's pride and joy. He bought and restored it, and during the tourist season, rents it out for private tours, weddings, etc. During the off-season, he restores it. It was a very, very cool way to get around London!) We were joined by our step-on Guide, Steven.

We took off from the hotel, getting a little driving tour of London as we headed towards Westminster. You get a really wonderful view from the top front of a double-decker bus!



We walked around for a bit to get some sightings of Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, and have photos taken with Big Ben in the background.

Westminster Abbey.



Big Ben (St. Stephen's Tower) and the London Eye behind it.



As we were heading towards Westminster Abbey, our Guides warned us about the folks we could see crowding around a group of Asian tourists. It's a common scam. They smile and offer you a bunch of small flowers. After you smile back and accept them (or they push them into your hands) they tell you they cost whatever amount. Most people pay them out of embarrassment. They warned us to just walk past them. After we had passed them, though, someone noticed one of the bunches on the ground. And as it was purple (Karen's well-known favorite color) some people said "Hey! Flowers! And these *are* free! Give them to Karen." So I scooped them up, and headed over to Karen to present her with the flowers. She was busy taking pictures, so I just jokingly put the flowers in front of her face. She kept avoiding me, until I finally caught her attention. Turns out, she thought I was one of the scammers, who had followed her & was trying to get her to take the flowers! D'oh! It had never occurred to me that's what she would think! We all got a good laugh out of that.



I love this photo that the Adventure Guides took!



We then headed over to Westminster Abbey. We met up with a second guide, Sarah. Both Sarah and Steven were "Blue Badge" Guides. You really have to study a long time & know your stuff to qualify as a Blue Badge Guide. Blue Badge Guides are the only external Guides allowed to give tours in Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.



You can see their Blue badges worn on chains around their necks.



The entrance to Westminster Abbey (where Princess Kate had made her grand entrance to her wedding in that most gorgeous gown only months before). It was so cool to actually *be* there, after seeing it featured on TV not that long ago.



These statues over the entrance to Westminster Abbey are of several martyrs. The one in the middle is Martin Luther King, Jr.



Our group split up, and some of us went with Sarah, and the rest went with Steven. Unfortunately (at least for me!) this was the last area we could take photos in. No pictures in the Abbey!



Westminster Abbey was, of course, very beautiful (although I have to admit, I still think Winchester Cathedral is prettier!) There's a lot of history represented by all of the people who are buried there. As in Winchester, folks have tombs there and are buried in the walls and in the floors. The tour was a fascinating journey through a big chunk of the royal history of England. Sarah was marvelous (and I heard that Steven was, also -- something I saw for myself when Steven took over once the group was reunited. Sarah was only with us for Westminster & Buckingham)

After we were done in Westminster Abbey, we had a snack break and then Steven led those of us who wanted to on a walking tour of London from Westminster through St. James' Park to Buckingham Palace (those who didn't want to walk took the double-decker bus and met us there).

It was a great walk! We passed Downing Street



and stopped to get our photos taken with the mounted Guards at what I believe was the Household Calvary Museum.



The horse was really quite friendly, and seemed to want to be petted. The Guard was expectedly stoical.

We then cut through the grounds there, and into St. James' Park. As you can see, the sun came out! It was turning into a beautiful day!



The flowers in the park were in full bloom and beautiful!



I was really surprised by the incredible number of different species of birds all just hanging out together in this park. Quite the diversity!



These were all along the path we were taking through the Park.



I just liked the detail at the top of this lamppost.



It was amazing how the London Eye was visible from so many vantage points. Here it was, from a footbridge across a pond in the Park.



Me on that footbridge



I love how this *looks* like a fairy-tale palace, covered in spires and turrets. What it really is is just an optical illusion. That's many blocks' worth of rooftops, with the perspective somehow compressed.



And there was an interesting sight! The Goodyear Blimp! I don't think I've seen one of those since I left Los Angeles!



Then there we were! Buckingham Palace!



Michael & Cynthia brought along "flatties" of their kids so they could have their photos taken wherever we went. Mike & Christy brought a flattie of their son also.



Continued in next post.

Last edited by sayhello; 11-14-2011 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:24 PM   #2
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Most of the gang at Buckingham Palace.



After Landon and Adam and Fred took the requisite group photos in front of Buckingham Palace (with enough cameras to open a camera shop!) we were given some free time to check out the grounds in front and take some photos. Unfortunately, the changing of the Guards had been cancelled for that day, so we did not get to see it.



Sarah and Steven.



After that, we went to board our double-decker bus (which was quite popular. All sorts of people came up & took their pictures with our bus!).



And then, it was off to...

Harrods!



At Harrods, we took escalator after escalator, up and up to the Georgian Room Restaurant, where we had our lunch. The Restaurant itself was opulently lovely.



Those who listen to the DISUnplugged podcast heard Pete, Kevin, John and Walter wax poetical about the buffet lunch we had at Harrods. It was a truly spectacular buffet, one of the best I've seen in a long time. There were multiple meats at the carving station (they had lamb! I've never seen lamb at a buffet!) and all sorts of salads and veggies and cheeses and monster prawns and an array of desserts. If you couldn't find something to eat at this buffet, you just weren't hungry!! And I finally got to try yorkshire pudding, which I found to be a nice, savory side.

I can't believe it took me this long to get a good shot of Landon & Adam, our magnificent Adventure Guides! (I've heard that with some other tour companies, the Guides aren't allowed to eat with the guests. I can't imagine that, as the Guides become a part of the "family" that everyone ends up feeling like. It just *would not* be the same if they weren't right in there, enjoying the meal times with us!)



After our marvelous lunch, we had the rest of the afternoon on our own. We just needed to be dressed and back at the hotel in time to catch our transportation to our theatre outing that night.

Before we all spread out to do whatever, John and Kevin suggested that we should all meet up at a certain time that afternoon to use the tickets ABD had gotten for us to ride the London Eye. I ended up hanging around with Laurie and Brian, doing some souvenir shopping.

I ran quickly past the Diana & Dodi memorial, just so I could get a picture, and say I was there...



A bunch of us met up at the exit to Harrods, and went to the tube station to catch the tube down to the London Eye. I'd taken this route before, since I'd gone from Harrods back to my hotel near Waterloo Station during my pre-days. Well, when we came up from the station, it was a different corner than where I'd normally exited to go to the hotel. But I did know how to get from where we were to the London Eye. I think a few in the group were skeptical, because, as large as it was, we could not see the Eye from where we were, and it was a bit farther than it seemed like it should be. Plus, we'd passed other exits from tube stations on our way. I explained that Waterloo Station was HUGE, and those were just exits from other sides of the same station. We could have cut through the station underground rather than at street level; I don't know if it would have been any quicker that way. But we turned around a corner, and there it was, a bit of a way off. Amazing that the position of the buildings just blocked the Eye from our view.



Anyways, when we got there, we found a HUMONGOUS line. And our group was standing off to the side, except for John, who was in line for the ticket counter. It was really kind of extremely sunny & warm at that point, plus we needed to be done in time to get back to our hotel & get ready for the theatre. So John had generously offered to upgrade our tickets to the "Fastpass" tickets so we could bypass the line. There was a brief panic when we realized they were *timed* Fastpasses, but the folks running the line let us get right into the shorter line without waiting.

We had 25 people (some folks had tickets to Buckingham Palace so didn't go with us) so they gave us a capsule to ourselves. A few people were very nervous about getting on, but I'm happy to say that everyone did get on. I was very proud of them! And all 25 got off, too, so we were successful!



I was really fine with it, since it did *not* have a see-through floor. I'm fine with heights as long as I can't see straight down. I honestly have trouble even walking over sidewalk grates, because I know how deep it is underneath the grate. But the London Eye was great and I had no problems! The views were just amazing.



A different perspective of the Houses of Parliament & Big Ben.




The twin Jubilee bridges I'd walked across during my pre-days in London.









It takes about half an hour to make a complete rotation. It doesn't stop. It's just going so slowly that everyone off-loads and new people get on as it slowly rolls by. Really pretty amazing. I was so glad we'd gotten the tickets from ABD, because otherwise, I don't know that most of us would have gone, and it was *SO* enjoyable to do this with the group.

Afterwards, we all headed back to the hotel, to get ready for our evening event. We had tickets to see The Lion King at the Lyceum theatre in the West End.



I have to say, I've seen the show before, but I'd forgotten just how incredibly powerful and moving the opening number is. I was honestly near tears. The rest of the show is very special, but I could have left after that opening sequence, and been totally happy.

The theatre is very old, and apparently totally un-air-conditioned. While I adored the show, the seats left a lot to be desired. Landon and Adam bought us ice cream at intermission, and that helped a bit.

After the show, we were instructed to stay in our seats, and we would be led backstage for an exclusive private tour. I really loved this part! Seeing the puppets & costumes up close was really marvelous.



The backstage area is pretty small, so set pieces and puppets were stored hanging off the walls or hauled up into the air. It was amazingly efficient.



The elephant! This is a really effective costume! It's amazing how lightweight and almost fragile it looks!





They showed us where they kept their costumes, and the very small areas where they changed & got ready.

Some of the lionesses.





All in all, the backstage tour was a really fabulous experience. I'm so glad it was included. I understand that some folks were underwhelmed by the show, but the opening number combined with the backstage tour made it totally worth it to me!

We clean up pretty well!



After this, we all went back to the Hotel. We had another early start the next day, so I'm pretty sure I headed to bed at that point!

Continued in Part 5 -- Day 3 - More London (St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London).

Last edited by sayhello; 01-04-2012 at 06:19 PM.
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:14 PM   #3
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Thanks for sharing your trip with us. It makes me want to actually go to England now. Was never on the top of my list of places I wanted to go, but I'm having a change of heart. Of course, with your report and awesome pictures, maybe I won't have to now.
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:28 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Diskidatheart View Post
Thanks for sharing your trip with us. It makes me want to actually go to England now. Was never on the top of my list of places I wanted to go, but I'm having a change of heart. Of course, with your report and awesome pictures, maybe I won't have to now.
Thanks, Diskidatheart! I really meant to go back to England long before this. I'm so glad I went. As much as I love that you love my Report & photos, there's no substitute for the real thing!

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Old 11-15-2011, 07:49 PM   #5
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I just love reading your posts. You really make me feel like I'm right there! I agree about the opening scene in the Lion King - it is really powerful. And going backstage must have been a very interesting experience. Thank you so much for writing about your days in England - I can't wait to see what comes next. And by the way, you look really pretty in these pics - and like you are having a very good time!
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Old 11-15-2011, 11:17 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by glassslipper2004 View Post
I just love reading your posts. You really make me feel like I'm right there! I agree about the opening scene in the Lion King - it is really powerful. And going backstage must have been a very interesting experience. Thank you so much for writing about your days in England - I can't wait to see what comes next. And by the way, you look really pretty in these pics - and like you are having a very good time!
Aw, thank you glassslipper!

I really did love the backstage experience. I'm so glad you're enjoying the report. I promise to update much more frequently! It *was* a fabulous time!

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Old 11-26-2011, 10:07 PM   #7
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Great pics. I wish I could go to London someday!
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:12 PM   #8
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Great pics. I wish I could go to London someday!
Thanks, Eyeswideopen. You just might make it some day!

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Old 12-08-2011, 01:19 PM   #9
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Great shots! I especially like the photo of the London Eye. We also had Steven as our guide when we went in '09. He is wonderful! So eloquent...

It's good they let you take photos of the backstage props. We were not allowed then.
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:13 PM   #10
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Great shots! I especially like the photo of the London Eye. We also had Steven as our guide when we went in '09. He is wonderful! So eloquent...

It's good they let you take photos of the backstage props. We were not allowed then.
Thanks, tufbuf! And the London Eye was really a great photographic subject! Steven *was* wonderful! He really made the history he was describing come alive.

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