We arrived in London the second day after the bombs had gone
off. We arrived in Southampton and caught the train to central
London. From there we went to our hotel. London is an
amazingly resilient city. Even though bombs had gone off less
than 48 hours before, most of the public transport had resumed
operation. The only things not operating were the lines that were
directly affected by the attacks. Life was pretty much back to
normal, other than the nonstop news coverage and disruption to some
Several tube lines were affected and either had restricted or no
service. They gray lines on the map were sections of the tube
that were not in service. Our tube stop for this trip was High
Street Kensington. This is normally served by the Circle and
District lines. However, the Circle line was totally shut down,
and the district line was shut down to all stations north of High
Street Kensington. Our tube stop was rendered pretty much useless
because the few trains that actually stopped there only went one stop
to Earl's Court, whey you had to change trains. Since it took
just a little longer to walk to Earl's court as it did to wait for a
train, we actually walked quite a bit. It was a good thing that
we found that miracle foot rub anti-blister stuff.
We decided to go the the Victoria and Albert Museum of Decorative
Arts. We had not been to this museum before. To be honest,
we were not particularly interested in "decorative arts", so had never
made a real effort to go to this museum. However, we had pretty
much seen all the others in the area, so we went, just to have a
look. It was actually an amazing place. Lots of different
areas, like wrought iron and textiles, scale models and
furniture. It was pretty cool.
Here is some ironwork:
And the newly-opened courtyard:
...And a scale model of the Church of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields:
We were not exactly sure what we were going to do on Sunday, but our
cab driver,one of only 350 women in a field of 14,000 London cabbies,
told us that the Mall was closed on Sunday due to the "Classic Cars"
going on parade. We decided that seeing the classic cars would be
pretty cool. Later we learned that the Mall activities were part
of the 60th anniversary celebration of the end of World War II.
We also learned that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II would preside over
part of the festivities. This was definitely enough to bring us
out to see what was going on.
We heard that the day would start with the Queen going to a service at
Westminster Abbey. So we headed off to Westminster.
As we walked by Parliament, we saw the usual collection of protest
signs across the street from Parliament. A couple of signs in
particular caught my attention:
We wento over to Westminster Abbey, but were not sure where the
Queen would be. A helpful bobby pointed us in the right
direction. We went where he showed us, but the area was really
crowded. When the queen arrived, we were not in a good position
to see much. The Queen went into the Abbey and the service
began. The vast majority of the people left once Her Majesty was
inside. Sheila pointed out that "What goes into a church will be
coming out of that church in about an hour..." so we decided to wait
her out. We got a great position in the now sparcely-populated
area across from the entrance to the Abbey.
The vehicle you see is Her Majesty's Bently. As we waited it
turned around. We were in the PERFECT position. Then a
big-ass bus pulled in behind the Bently, blocking our view of her
car. However, we figured we would still be able to catch a
glimpse of her as she walked to her car.
Since 9-11 Security has stepped up around the globe. London
have begun carrying guns. Not all of them, but many more than the
used to carry them. And when important people are around, like
Queen, they don't mess about.
As we waited, more people began to filter back into the area. One
of the people was a nice old lady from Leeds. We don't remember for
sure, but we think her name was Lucy She had come down
all by herself because she was a veteran of WWII and felt it was
important to be here.
Here she is being interviewed by a reporter for a french
magazine. She told the story of her job during the war. She
operated a Radio-telephony unit along the coast. Her assignment
was to watch for what she called "doodlebugs", better known as V-1 Buzz
bombs. As they came in over the coast it was her job to radio in
their heading, speed and altitude. Usually they were too low for
anti-aircraft to take them out, so she had to radio the RAF for fighter
support. It was an amazing story from an amazing lady. She
was very nice, sharing her schedule of the day's events with us as we
waited for the Queen to emerge.
Finally, an hour later, activity began at the main gates to the
Abbey. After a flurry of regalia, Her majesty emerged, heading
toward the Bently.
Her Majesty is the one in the lemon yellow dress.
Here's a closer view.
As I mentioned, a huge bus was blocking part of our view, and we missed
the actual "Queen getting into the Bently" bit, but she was kind enough
to stand around for a brief moment and let us get a couple more photos.
Then she drove off toward the Mall and Buckingham Palace. We
decided to head over to see the classic cars. We entered Saint
James' park and headed toward Buckingham Palace. It was a bit
odd, as usually there is quite a crowd around the palace fence,
especially during things like the changing of the guard. At this
point, however, the area was deserted.
We decided to head down to the Mall and see the classic cars.
Once we got there, we learned that the "Classic Cars" were actually
World War II vehicles, some military, like jeeps and such, and some
civilian, like fire trucks and ambulances. The were also across
the Mall from us. The Mall was blocked off and crossing the street was
limited to two or three places. As we headed toward the nearest
crossing place, I noticed that the cars were beginning to move.
The parade was going to start! After the cars traveled down to
the Whitehall end of the Mall, another car pulled out and went the
other way, toward the Palace.
This was Charles and Camilla heading to see Mum. As you can see,
we have a nice position. We were in the very front of the crowd,
having found a sparcely populated section of fencing.
Shortly after, the procession began heading down to Whitehall and the
celebration. The first thing we noticed was that all the bobbies, who
were stationed about every 20 feet, suddenly put on their jackets and
gloves, which had been sitting neatly folded on the ground on this warm
day. Shortly after, the Horse Guards came down the Mall.
As they passed, palace guards with radios stationed themselves along
Then there was a brief pause in the action and the carriages came down
the Mall, to the cheers of the crowd.
Her Majesty and the Prince Consort.
Prince Charles, Camilla and Prince Harry
The royals, and many others, headed to a pavilion in Whitehall to view
a 60th anniversary celebration. The show consisted of actors who
portrayed various people from WWII including Winston Churchill and
various entertainers who kept the spirits of the british up. The
actor playing Churchill was amazing he both looked and sounded like the
Prime Minister. The entire show was broadcast to the people along
the Mall on big screen TV's.
This entire show was a way of saying "thank you" to the veterans who
served during World War II, to thank those who currently serve, and to
remind the general population of why we remember the war.
Is it just me, or does he look WAY too young to be serving in the Royal
After the celebration, the Royal Family Returned to the Palace for the
Finale. Her Majesty rode back home in the bed of a Range Rover
After the Royal Family and other dignitaries had passed, the regimental
flags passed. There were 200 in all. 100 were carried by
members of the regiment who actually served during WWII. The
remainder were carried by current members of the regiment.
One old gentleman had a tough time of it. Carrying the flag along
the Mall in the hot sun was just too much for him. He stopped
along the side of the road to rest and somebody brought him a bottle of
water. A few minutes later, all alone, he continued down the
road. A parade of one, to the cheers of 250,000 people.
When the parade was over, the police took down the fences and we filled
the Mall for the grand finale.
a quarter of a million of us. Remember, that just three days
before this, there had been four terrorist bombings in London.
Here were 250,000 people gathered in celebration, in a statement of
defiance to the terrorists. One of the WWII vets I spoke to put
it this way:
"These terrorists attacked us with four bombs. They were trying
to scare us? Hitler dropped hundreds of bombs on us every night
during The Blitz. If that didn't frighten us, why would thier
Once we entered the Mall, we headed toward the Palace, and found a
great spot next to the Wedding Cake (the real name is Queen Victoria's
We waited just a minute, and the balcony doors on the Palace opened.
Out stepped Her Majesty and the Prince Consort.
Then they were joined by the remainder of the Royal Family.
The only one not present was Prince William, who was in New Zealand,
laying a memorial wreath in Aukland.
Here's a closer look:
Then, the Grand finale of a week of celebration, a flypast of World War
Then there was a pause. No planes for a bit, then...
Slowly, slowly, three C-47's came into view.
Then came a really cool sight.
Yep, a B-17. Two, actually. The sound was amazing.
What's that? Oh, just a sniper and other monitoring
equipment. Safety and security in the post-9/11 world.
Then, the grandest part of the Grand Finale.
One of only two Lancaster Bombers still flying in the world
today. It is flanked by a P-51 Thunderbolt and a Supermarine
Spitfire. A truly amazing sight.
As the bomber passed over the end of the Mall and the Palace, the
bombay doors opened and one million poppies rained down upon the crowd
Some fell individually, some fell in clusters. When the clusters
hit the ground, they made a loud "Whumpf" and exploded out like a
And with that, the celebration was over. we headed out with the
crowd. As we passed the Palace, we saw the assembled flags,
paying tribute to the queen.
We stood in the same spot along the Mall for several hours. We
developed a bit of a rapport with the bobby assigned to our
sector. At one point he asked to trade hats with me, as mine
looked like it would feel cooler than his helmet. As we left the
celebration, we came across a group of metropolitan police, including
Here's the mob o' cops:
Remember, this was to thank the vets, who, 60 years ago, sacrificed so
much to keep us free.
And with that we went back to our hotel to relax before finding dinner.
The next day, Monday, we spent our time shopping and helping the
British economy. It turns out that the garment bag we got at J.C.
Penny pretty much sucked. We discarded it and ended up
having to buy a new suitcase. We had to take more stuff over than
normal, as this trip we needed fancy stuff to wear to the ship
dinners. Now we had to schlep all that home, so we had to shop
carefully. Airlines are really paying attention to luggage weight
now, and are dinging you hard for overweight bags. No huge lots
of delicious jam from Mr. Christian's, no dishes from Portobello Road,
no bulky kits from Comet miniatures.
But we still managed to get some shopping in.
Tuesday was packing, traveling to the airport and back to Los Angeles.
We took the same flight we always take and arrived at the usual time at
LAX at 3:00PM.
By the time we get through baggage claim and customs, and made it back
to the car, it is past 4:00 and rush hour has begun. We get home
just after 7:00, pet the cats and fall into bed.