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 tube service.

London tube map after bombings
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:
Lovely Ironwork

And the newly-opened courtyard:
V and A courtyard

...And a scale model of the Church of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields:
Saint Martin's, done in wood

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:

gas suicide

 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. 
Her majesty's Bently
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 police have begun carrying guns.  Not all of them, but many more than the zero that used to carry them.  And when important people are around, like the Queen, they don't mess about.
Big gun!

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. 
A V-1 spotter
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.
The queen emerges
Her Majesty is the one in the lemon yellow dress.

Here's a closer view.
Another veiw

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.

Her back...

Another one

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. 
An empty buckingham palace
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.
Charles and Camilla
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.
Royal Guard
As they passed, palace guards with radios stationed themselves along the Mall.

Then there was a brief pause in the action and the carriages came down the Mall, to the cheers of the crowd.
The queen
Her Majesty and the Prince Consort.
a closer view

Still the queen

Still the queen

Prince Charles, Camilla and Prince Harry
Chuck and camilla

Chuck and camilla again

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.

A navy boy
Is it just me, or does he look WAY too young to be serving in the Royal Navy?

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 Pick-up Truck.
In a pick-up????

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.
The flags
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.
The crowd
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 pitiful attempt?"

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 memorial).
the wedding cacke

We waited just a minute, and the balcony doors on the Palace opened.

Out stepped Her Majesty and the Prince Consort.
The queen again!

Then they were joined by the remainder of the Royal Family.
The whole fam damily
The only one not present was Prince William, who was in New Zealand, laying a memorial wreath in Aukland.
Here's a closer look:
A closer look

Then, the Grand finale of a week of celebration, a flypast of World War II-era Aircraft.


The same planes


Over the palace

Second wave:
Second wave



over the palace again

The palace

Then there was a pause.  No planes for a bit, then...

Slowly, slowly, three C-47's came into view.

A slow, very slow, flypast

Slowly over the palace

Then came a really cool sight. 

Yep, a B-17.  Two, actually.  The sound was amazing.

And over again

What's that?  Oh, just a sniper and other monitoring equipment.  Safety and security in the post-9/11 world.
What's that?

Then, the grandest part of the Grand Finale.
The big three

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 below.



Some fell individually, some fell in clusters.  When the clusters hit the ground, they made a loud "Whumpf" and exploded out like a firework. 

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.
The flags

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 our friend!

Here's the mob o' cops:
A bunch of cops

Remember, this was to thank the vets, who, 60 years ago, sacrificed so much to keep us free.

Thank you.

Thank you.
A vet

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.

Next: Home Again