the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (bath and stonehenge) - fast forward to the following trip (waitangi day in London)
20/21 January, cold morning in London - hell yeah! Great clear blue skies - don't believe it? Well we've got photographic proof below... that infamous English rain and grey clouds had disappeared and we got blue skies for a change. Perfect timing to go check out the changing of the guards at Buckingmoo Palace. After spending an hour watching it, I gotta say it's incredibly cool, but such a complete waste of time. Did they really do all this back in the days when Captain Cook found the land of the long white cloud? If they did, surely some barbarian Scots who wanted to attack the palace would wait until the changing of the guards when all of them are out front playing music, sneak in round the back and lock the front door. They'd then have 45 minutes to clear out the safe before the guards finish switching places and figure out the door had been locked.
However Buckingmoo Palace wouldn't be the same without it, and its certainly popular with us tourists. January, middle of winter, you'd think the crowds would be light. It was still 8 people deep at the fence and the "Wedding Cake" out the front was completely covered with tourists waving their cameras about. I can only imagine the chaos on a great, warm, blue summers day. Guess we may have to visit just to see the human zoo that appears.
At the fence furtherest away from the guards we managed to almost reach the fence. We lasted here about 5 minutes before moving on to find a better location.
So heading round in front of Buckingmoo Palace we managed to squeeze in reasonably close to the fence and got a pic of the good guys with their beer skins hats. Actually these guys are probably not allowed to smuggle beer in their bear skins!
These guys were waiting patiently for their replacements. Bugger if the fur on your hat is tickling your nose... no sneezing men! After 15 minutes of waiting, finally some music could be heard down the road... it was the sound of their replacements. I swear if you watched them closely, some looked happier at the sound which signalled the end of their shift.
The guards were accompanied by some nice horse guys with nice helmets, and fancy red plumes. Hope the horses knew where they were going cause the riders were too busy checking out the palace.
The local police were keeping an eye on Hoofy, the cow had crossed the line but wouldn't listen to the police telling him to get back on the footpath.
And then it was all over, they'd switched positions and the band left to go home. But not without a final chorus...
Hoofy did enjoy the music. Especially because it wasn't old pomp and ceremony, they were playing recognisable "modern" music. No White Stripes, but good none the less, can't actually remember what the titles were thou.
The plan was then to head over to Tower Bridge, which first involved going through St James park. Now I knew this was going to be a problem. See the problem with St James park is very friendly squirrels which you can hand feed, they will come right up to you. And you know what the Hoof'ess is like with small furry creatures... she'd brought a bag of nuts along with her for the specific purpose of feeding the squirrels in St James park.
This is just one of about 20 squirrels the Hoof'ess and I fed during our quick 60 minute walk through the park (should've taken 15 minutes...). The Hoof did get somewhat embarrassed early on... when we first arrived I managed to get a squirrel to climb up on the fence to grab a peanut from my hand. He/she then ran off with it in his mouth and started hunting for a spot to bury his peanut - the Hoof'ess was so excited by this she followed him/her shouting "he's going to bury your nuts, he's going to bury your nuts". Really. Funny cos its true!
After feeding half the London population of Squirrels we continued on our way to the closest tube station, heading past the horse guards we decided to stop off for a quick pic. The Hoof'ess was a little cautious of the horse, and afterwards excitedly said "the horsie lent on me!!" Not a word of a lie, its true, she excitedly whispered this to me as I put the camera away.
With a quick ride on the central line we got over to London Tower, in time for a good photo opportunity with Hoofy, the White Tower and would you believe, beautiful blue sky (no computer enhancement!).
Hoofy always has the biggest smile on a sunny day.
Ahh Tower Bridge. Our destination at last. For those of you interested, Tower Bridge is a bascule bridge over the River Thames. It is owned and maintained by Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the Corporation of London.
Construction started in 1886 and took eight years, employing five major contractors and 432 construction workers. Two massive piers, containing over 70,000 tons of concrete, were sunk into the river bed to support the construction. Over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the towers and walkways. This was then clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone, both to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the bridge a pleasing appearance. The bridge was opened on 30 June 1894 by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, and his wife, Alexandra of Denmark.
Looking out over The Tower of London, the contrast of the tower site against the more modern developments behind - especially the Gherkin which stands prominently behind. Apparently the Greater London Authority has opened up air space to allow taller buildings closer to the Tower of London area. Hopefully they don't end up crowding this great site.
Smiley Hoof'ess is glad to be doing tourist stuff in London again!
After crossing the Thames via the upper walkway, we headed down into the engine room - the powerhouse of this site - what used to make the bridge go up and down in the early 1900's. Nowadays electric motors do all the work so these old steam engines are just for looking at.
One final look at Tower Bridge before we head back underground... she's an impressive bridge given her age. You don't see that sort of architecture and detail in many bridges built in the last 120 years.
While in London we decided to pick up a few special kiwi treats from the NZ shop near Piccadilly... only four items - Squiggle Tops, Watties Tomato Sauce, and a couple of K Bars. Classic kiwi items and they "only" cost five pounds. About NZ$15... that's even dearer than the corner dairy in Remuera!
So how crazy can Kiwi's and particularly Captain BBQ (Hoof's other nickname) get? How about a BBQ in the middle of an English winter. While it was f'in cold, there was no snow on Monday night...
but on Wednesday we woke up to a white morning...
It was only a dusting, an inch... but it was a good start and as I type more is forecast to fall tonight. Up to 5 inches depending on where around London you sleep... now that's more like it!
So tomorrow morning am I going to bike to work... not likely if there is 5 inches of snow and cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!
Out for now, I have to drag the Hoof'ess away from the window as she's on snow watch.