London Part 5: Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey

We awoke on Day 2 of London perhaps a little groggier and more sore than the previous day, but there was no time for aches and pains. Up at 6am, and out the door by 6:30, we were off.

(In fact I think Ricky and I even slept in until 6:20 by mistake so we really got our adrenaline pumping and were extra awake from the panic induced by the realization that you hit “off” instead of “snooze” on your alarm.)

We grabbed a quick McDonald’s breakfast (which to me is a godly treat because I rarely ever have them and the hash brown might as well be manna from heaven), filled up our Oyster Cards (the pass used for traveling on the Underground), and hit the Tube.

Day 2 was to be even more packed than the Day 1. Monuments and palaces and the throbbing heart of London itself not to mention a comedy show for our late night itinerary…this day is still logged in my phone as being my apparent “lifetime achievement” number of steps walked at 26, 283.

But we only have time for some of that, so let’s press on.

First up was Big Ben. As iconic as this piece of architecture is (and as excited as I was to see it), I kind of deep down felt, “Well it’s just a clocktower.” I was keen, but not expecting anything to knock my socks off.

Well, my socks were knocked.

2016 London January Big Ben small
Big Ben knocking all the socks.

The volume of space this clock takes up is majestic. It’s just ginormous. And more than that, the intricacy of the stonework…

Seeing it form afar, it’s easy to write it off as just being a fancy show-off from the building world, but honestly. Guys. It glitters with gold. When that bell rings on the hour, the boom of its gong reverberates across the city as though it was the only thing make any noise. And this is London. It’s not quiet.

2016 London January Big Ben Double Decker Bus small
Just the scale of it…

We skirted around the base to get to Parliament so we could get some serious monument juxtaposition in our photo ops.

2016 London January Big Ben Ricky and I
Big Ben leading into Parliament. Photo credit: Tony.

Now if I was impressed by Big Ben, Parliament was even more of a mind blast. The detailing was incredible. I kept thinking the whole time, “Yeah. If I was going to be Prime Minister of a country and wanted to look like a boss to the rest of the world, damn straight this would be my office.”

Because for real. How could someone not take you seriously if your walls look like goddamn lace?

2016 London January Parliament black and white small
But those walls tho.

And of course it wouldn’t be complete without a statue of Richard the Lionhearted.

2016 London January Richard Coeur de Lion Statue Parliament small
Richard Coeur de Lion in front of Parliament.

It was a place to house Power with a capital P, and it was under no illusions otherwise.

2016 London January Ricky and I in Front of Parliament
Ricky and I cowed by the badassery behind us. Photo credit: Tony.

Next up was a pop across the road to Westminster Abbey – site of royal marriages and coronations for nearly a thousand years.

2016 London January Westminster Abbey small
Honestly you think they could make it a little more impressive. I mean, what about a bit of facade detailing or some turrets?

And right beside it of course, Notre Dame Cathedral. (I joke, it’s also part of Westminster Abbey).

2016 London January Notre Dame Cathedral small
More Westminster Abbey.

It being Saturday (even if only a little past 9am), it was swarming with tourists. I wish I’d taken more pictures of them to give a scope and scale, but alas I just have the one below of Parliament Square. It was actually incredible to hear so many languages being spoken in such a small space (even recognized some Korean!).

2016 London January Parliament Square small
Parliament Square looking out at Big Ben, Parliament, and the London Eye – Westminster Abbey being directly behind me.

Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t actually in the UK, because the number of locals I saw was pretty negligible. I’ve been to tourist heavy cities before – Sydney, Tokyo, and New York definitely capping the list – but none seemed so touristy as London. Here, it often felt like a toy town in an amusement park in Orlando, Florida – a reconstruction built merely for voyeurs.

Not to say that it dampened my appreciation of it – in fact there was a camaraderie of feeling all part of the same party of excited onlookers. But it was a weird feeling. Especially because it was winter and I couldn’t imagine what it must be like in the peak season.

There seemed to be such a frenzy all around.

Was it the big tour groups clambering around monuments to take a snapshot of their cultural enhancement like documenting some kind of edifying plastic surgery?

Or the scores of photographers with bulging satchel bags and heavy duty tripods who had evidently decided this was a place worthy of breaking out the big guns?

Or maybe even the attack of souvenir shops blinding you with red beefeater memorabilia and I ❤ London tote bags which all seemed to scream buy me or no one will believe you had a good time!

Whatever it was, I don’t think I expected any of it to the extent that it ended up being. None of my previous travels could have prepared me for London. But in a way, it was kind of nice to be within an experience that will forever be a high water mark on the beaches of my future travels.

And if anything, the waves kept on coming as we were to hit up some palaces and the central shopping district where the very heartbeat of London itself seems to throb.

That’s it for now, but come back soon for more adventures!

For the complete London adventures, check out the links below!

London Part 1: Cable Cars

London Part 2: The Tower of London

London Part 3: The Tower Bridge

London Part 4: Mulled Wine and End of Day 1, or The Importance of Down-Time

London Part 5: Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey

London Part 6: Palaces of Past and Present

London Part 7: Fancy Shopping, Japanese Food, and Geekery

London Part 8: Chilling at the Icebar and Belly Laughs in Greenwich

London Part 9: The London Dungeon

London Part 10: Museums, Tapas, and the End

3 thoughts on “London Part 5: Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey

  1. You really captured the details! I don’t think I’d ever noticed there were words written beneath the clockface till now. So, of course, I googled it. Found out all sorts of things. The latin words read DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM (O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First). Also cool is that the diameter of each dial is seven metres , the minute hands are 4.2 metres long (and with the counterweights weigh about 100kg), and the numbers are approximately 60cm long.

    I take it this was an outdoor tour day and you didn’t go into Westminster Abbey? I figure that otherwise there’d be inddor photos, right?

    There is truly VAST amounts of things to see in London. Probably why people keep coming back and are never bored. Or stay a lifetime. I’m glad you are breaking it down into smaller bits for us to appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah we skipped a lot of the indoor tours – most were like £20, so $40CAD. Ain’t no Abbey in the world worth that much for a half hour walk around 😛

      Thanks for the trivia!


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