Sunday, 1 March 2015

Back On The Bus

Tuesday 5 December 1995. After coming out of the London Tower we went across the way and into a small shopping centre, at the back of which was a dark ride called the Tower Pageant. In this, a small circular car provides a moving platform round tableaux showing scenes from different periods in London's long history. The Romans were shown building their wooden docks, and once through the ride, an actual section of the 2000 year-old timbers is on view.

Then we hopped on another bus - though not an open air one this time and headed back towards Trafalgar Square. There were still open-topped buses going about but it was snowing, it was around minus eight degrees centigrade according to the signs and whilst we had thick coats on there's a limit to how stupid even I am...

We had just passed under the Cannon Street bridge and enjoyed a very loud and echoing siren from this fire engine that was in a bit of a rush. It reminded me that we had just passed the site of Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London started in 1666.

And so we came back to Trafalgar Square. We spent much of the day getting off the bus, having something to warm ourselves up - soup, apple pie and custard, and then getting back on a bus to repeat the process...

This was very new at the time - Planet Hollywood, a restaurant opened by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone. A film crew were walking backwards, filming a young girl speaking a commentary for a documentary. The cameraman kept backing into prams, tourists and bollards. In fact I'm sure I heard him exclaim "Bollards!" more than once...

And having gone up and around the corner we arrive back at Trafalgar Square! Nelson's Column commemorates England's Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, hero of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1806 against the French and Spanish combined fleet. He was struck by a sniper's bullet at the hour of his success on the deck of his flagship HMS Victory. The bullet is actually on display in Windsor Castle, or it used to be - we saw it there once. The column is tall enough for the statue to be able to see the sea. The Christmas Tree is an annual gift from Norway in gratitude for its liberation in World War Two.

St Martins-in-the-Fields. I described some of the church's history in the article on London's Great Squares so here I'll just limit myself to saying the church hosts many lunchtime concerts and does much work with the city's homeless population.

St James's Palace, the main royal residence at one time until Queen Victoria formally moved the Royal Household to Buckingham Palace, was built by Henry VIII. A nice (and true) story is of the visitor who went through the wrong door and fell down a staircase, knocking himself unconscious as he burst through another door at the bottom. When he came to, he found a stern little man bending over, applying sticking plaster to his head. It was none other than King George II and the man had fallen into the King's Sanctum! At the time of our visit the palace was the residence of Prince Charles who was at home that day as witness the two guards on duty. Only one would be on duty during his absence.

The Ritz - here, having tea would have cost around 30 pounds in 1995 and would consist of sandwiches, cakes and as much tea as you could drink. We'll come back to the Ritz later, and you can have a peep inside if you promise to behave...

The bus makes its way across the Thames giving a view across the water to the Houses of Parliament. By now the light is starting to fade.

After a brief dalliance over the river, we make our way back across Westminster Bridge and under the St Stephen's clock tower of "Big Ben".

By the time the bus had travelled back east to the Tower of London it became impossible to take photographs from the moving bus. We got off the bus to take some photographs of the floodlit building and bridge.

It was freezing cold and snowing hard - as can be seen in this flashlit shot of one of the cannons on the embankment. All those little white spots are snowflakes picked out by the flash!

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