Friday - March 29, 2002

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Buckingham Palace
Horse Guard Change
St. James Park
Piccadilly Circus
Local Streets
London Eye
Night Pictures
We left Tucson a little before 0400 for a 2 hour (about 110 miles) drive to Phoenix Airport.  Our US Airways flight was leaving at 0730 to Pittsburgh.  There were no lines getting through airport security, so things went pretty fast.  The first leg of our flight took a little over 3 hours.  Then we had a 6 hour wait in Pittsburgh.  At the airport we changed some dollars into British pounds.  We knew we needed local money to get from Gatwick Airport to our hotel in London.

The almost 7 hour flight to London left on time.  The Airbus plane was full.  We watched a few movies (all individually controlled with our own screens) and did not get too much sleep.  We arrived at Gatwick Airport about 0615, on Friday.  Since we were the only plane of passengers at Immigration, it went pretty fast.  The Customs area was not manned so we just followed the signs to the Gatwick Express train that was in the same terminal.  The trains leave every 15 minutes, so we purchased the tickets and almost immediately were on our way, arriving in London Victoria Train Station in 30 minutes.

Our next challenge was to get on the Underground, with suitcases, to our hotel.  We bought an all-day transportation pass and were on our way.  Thank goodness we asked the attendant in the station the best way to our hotel.  If we went my way we would have been lugging suitcases up stairs instead of escalators.  The Marriott Hotel was only 2 short blocks from the Underground station and we arrived a little after 0800.  We figured we would check in, leave our bags and take off to see the town.  We were surprised that a room was available so just put the bags down and took off.

Since this day was Good Friday and a bank holiday, the Underground was not too crowded.  We needed to pick up our London Pass and 7-day transportation pass that we ordered on the Internet.  We also wanted to find an American Express office to change some traveler's checks.  Our hotel concierge was great with providing maps and advice.  Got directions to Piccadilly Circus, got temporarily lost looking for the Tourist Office, and had fun walking around the streets.  As we were passing the Ritz Hotel, Kirsten tried to enter to ask for matches (our daughter collects match book covers).  She was refused entrance because they have a dress code which she did not meet.  First time this has ever happened to us in our travels.  After asking directions a few times we finally found the Tourist Office and American Express.

A few blocks from the Tourism Office was St. James Park and just by chance we saw the Changing of the Horse Guard.  We walked over to Westminster and Big Ben - listened as Big Ben chimed at noon.  Saw the London Eye, Thames River and walked back through the park to Buckingham Palace.  We returned to the hotel to get some much needed sleep, then went out again after dark.  Wanted to get some night pictures of Big Ben and Westminster.  This we did after getting lost exiting the Warterloo Underground station. Did not get back to our hotel until almost midnight - what a long day.

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