...After leaving Trafalgar Square, there were still two more destinations on my list before leaving the cold evening and returning to the warmth of my bed. A short walk from Trafalgar Square lead me towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (also known as the Palace of Westminster), another of my favourite locations. It was a very cold night and, unsurprisingly, not many people were wandering around. The streets were eerily quiet and the cold breeze sent shivers down my spine, this was a true winter's night along the streets of London.
The Palace of Westminster, stands on the site where Edward the Confessor had the original palace built in the first half of the eleventh century. In 1547 the royal residence was moved to Whitehall Palace, but the Lords continued to meet at Westminster, while the commons met in St. Stephen's Chapel. Ever since these early times, the Palace of Westminster has been home to the English Parliament.
In 1834 a fire broke out which destroyed much of the old palace, all that remained was the chapel crypt, The Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall. It was Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, who saved the great hall by arranging for the fire engines to be brought right into the hall and personally supervising the fire fighting operation.
The magnificent Gothic Revival masterpiece you see today was built between 1840 and 1888, this was the work of Charles Barry who designed the buildings to blend with nearby Westminster Abbey. The two imposing towers, well known landmarks in London, are the clock tower, named after it's thirteen ton bell called Big Ben, and Victoria tower, on whose flag pole the Union Jack flies when parliament is sitting. Much of the Victorian detail of the interior was the work of Barry's assistant Augustus Pugin.
I stood at the riverside, opposite the Houses of Parliament, motionless, for half an hour, just staring at the elegance of the architecture. My mind drifted, all the strains and stresses of life lifted from my shoulders for that moment, a moment that I wished could continue.
I reluctantly picked up my rucksack, took a deep breath and ascended the stone steps back onto Westminster Bridge, crossed the road and walked towards the London Eye. For those of you who are not familiar with the London Eye, it is the structure that, on December 31st, is used to hold the firework display at midnight to celebrate the New Year. The London Eye was initially only supposed to be a temporary structure in the lead up to the celebrations of the year 2000. However, due to its overwhelming success, it still stands today and continues to be one of the most popular attractions if the capital.
Leading up to the wheel, there is the most beautiful avenue of light. I defy anybody to walk up the avenue with the wheel of the London Eye and the River Thames just behind, without feeling like a child who has just woken up and found themselves in wonderland.
Alas, the time had arrived for me to make the slow walk back to my room. I stood at the base of the London Eye for a few moments, before heading back. Once over the bridge I stole one more opportunity to take some photographs. From the north bank of the river, you can really see the London Eye in all its glory and splendour. Also, on a still night, the reflection of the wheel in the River Thames can be as breathtaking as the wheel itself.
My day had finally come to an end. My feet were feeling a little warn, and my fingers were starting to tingle with cold. All that was left was for me to jump in a hot shower, pour myself a hot cup of tea, jump into climb between the sheets of the freshly made bed, and reflect on the amazing day that I had just had....
...I opened my eyes. The sun beaming through the gap in the curtains. Morning has arrived so soon. Oh, if only I could spend a few more blessed hours in bed, but there is so little time. I only have one more day in the city before having to return home. I threw back the covers, showered and dressed, grabbed my rucksack and ran out the door.
My plan of action for today, was a bit of retail therapy whilst also packing in a handful of photograph opportunities at the same time.
I couldn't resist slipping in some of the things that are easily recognisable as being quintessentially British, such as the Red Royal Mail Post Box, the Red Telephone Box and the red London Buses.
Well, that's it for now. I'll write more soon to continue my Sunday and Monday journey around London. I hope you have enjoyed wandering along with me.
Cheerio for now,