Woke up early to try and beat the crowds to the Buckingham Palace area. We wanted to take a picture of the Queen Mother's death notice that was posted on the palace gate and possibly sign the condolence book if the lines were not too long. We also decided to use the red double-decker bus to get around as much as possible today. So off we went after receiving advice on which bus to take. Our bus took us to New Hyde Park behind the palace. Walked by Wellington Monument and down Constitution Hill to the front of Buckingham Palace. Got there about 0930 and were surprised that hardly anyone was there. All the streets were closed around the palace and the entire front gate area was roped off with constables posted.
Only 2-3 people were allowed to approach the palace gate to take pictures or say a quiet prayer. While we waited to approach the gate we spoke with the constables posted there. The first one we talked with was not much help since he came from outside the London area and didn't know what was going on. The second constable was very helpful. He knew the funeral schedule and pointed us to St. James Palace (a short distance away on The Mall) if we wanted to sign the condolence book.
To our surprise there was no line to enter the St. James Palace grounds to sign the condolence book. The room was set up with about 10 tables with a condolence book on each table. No photos were allowed. As we exited the palace grounds we walked past an area where people were laying flowers and messages in remembrance of the Queen Mother. The Mall (a wide avenue) was already blocked off from all traffic, scaffolding was being assembled and all median traffic lights were being removed in preparation for the royal procession on Friday (April 5). We told ourselves we wanted to be there, on Friday, to see the royal family.
We then walked through St. James Park, wandered past 10 Downing Street, on our way to Westminster Abbey where the funeral would be held on April 9. We visited the abbey and Chapter House and the inner courtyard. Lots of kings and other royal family members and Charles Darwin were buried inside the abbey.
With all the commotion of the impending funeral, we wondered if we could see the inside of the parliament building where the Queen Mother would lay-in-state. Unfortunately, the parliament building was closed to everyone.
We then asked which bus to St. Paul's Cathedral, our next stop. On the cathedral steps a gentleman told us no sightseeing today but OK to enter and say a prayer for the Queen Mother and the royal family. No pictures allowed inside, very large interior, no fixed pews (like most of the other cathedrals we saw), some beautiful stained glass and we signed another condolence book for the Queen Mother.
Then we were off on a 40 minute train ride to the town of St. Albans to visit their cathedral. It's a wonderful little town with the cathedral overlooking a small lake. Inside were two altars set back-to-back and no fixed pews. Outside we noticed different banners people had and they were sitting in groups on the grass hill. They told us the villages in the diocese have an annual pilgrimage to the cathedral on Easter Monday. Later in the afternoon they planned to march into the cathedral with their banners and celebrate Easter Mass. We talked with the bishop who told us almost 300 villages are represented with the tradition dating back 50 years. The bishop told us to give "well wishes to everyone in the United States." I enjoyed a "beefburger" that was grilled like in the US - over charcoal. Best burger I had in a long time. The bishop looked like he enjoyed his burger also.
We then walked down the hill to the small lake, then up and around the cathedral and back into town. Kirsten found a used book store where she purchased another book.
On returning to London we found there was time to take a 50 minute cruise on the Thames River from Westminster to the Tower Bridge. The boats were practically next to the Underground station and since our feet were getting sore, it was something we could do sitting down. Got some great pictures of the attractions along the river.
We could not get good bus directions to Harrods Department store. So we went via the Underground. The store is huge with individual food areas and a very elegant "Egyptian Escalator" - decorated in ancient Egyptian motif. Just comparing prices we noticed golf shirts were $70-100, shoes went for $225-300 and up. Kirsten did buy a vegan "sweet corn patty" which was very good, but a little spicy.
We then wanted to ride a double-decker bus back to Piccadilly or other point so we could transfer back to our hotel. Well after waiting for 30-40 minutes and no bus we walked across the street to the Underground and immediately boarded the train to Piccadilly Circus. From there we took a double-decker bus to the hotel. What a full day and aching feet.