Our second morning in London dawned brisk and cloudy and, unlike the previous day, we were awake to greet it! Poor Woodley didn't get much sleep that night because had slept most of the day and night before but he appeared to be ready for action as soon as I woke up around 5:30am local time.
Breakfast at the Edgerton House is served on the ground floor starting at 6am and we fully enjoyed the delicious spread. As we munched, I decided that my new favorite breakfast is a rustic slice of bread with a hunk of cheese and ham. Yum! Woodley stayed clear of the ham and instead enjoyed yogurt with granola and fresh berries.
After breakfast we set off to stroll over to Buckingham Palace which was located just a little over a mile from our hotel. After a few false starts (normal looking streets that turned out to be dead ends) we were on our way!
As we walked I admired all of the beautiful red brick buildings with their white trim and festive greenery. We especially liked these angelic corbels.
Before long, we found ourselves walking along the perimeter of the royal gardens. Sadly, there was no chance of getting a peep inside. The walls were very high and were covered in a vast assortment of spiny metal. I guess they don't take kindly to trespassers on the royal property.
Some seriously big spikes!
As we approached the palace we joined up with a tour of school children. We admired their uniforms and listened in as their teacher lectured them about the palace and the queen. We learned that the flag flying on the top of the palace meant that the queen was in! In the photo below the children are waving at the palace and some of the guards on top were waving back - although it is hard to see.
We began to notice that many of the roads around the palace were blocked off and that there were quite a lot of policemen about. Normally we would have assumed that this was for the changing of the guard, which neither of us had seen before, but since it was an even numbered day, that traditional ceremony wasn't supposed to be happening.
As more and more people began gathering around the palace we finally decided to ask a policeman. He informed us that it was the first day of the new session of parliament and that in about an hour and a half the queen would be coming by on her way down to the parliament building where she would give her annual address to the members of parliament. I guess we picked a good day to visit the palace!
At that point, we were quite torn about whether or not we should try to stay and see the queen. It was getting close to 10am, the time when the Natural History Museum would be opening and since we had to leave for the airport at noon, we didn't have much time. We ended up staying around long enough to see a bunch of soldiers and a marching band, but left before the main procession began.
As you can see, the road was blocked off and barriers were up to keep the crowds back.
On our way to the tube we passed by some beautiful fall scenery,
And a lovely fountain,
And more soldiers on horseback!
After a quick ride on the tube and a short walk we arrived outside the Natural History Museum. The building was quite impressive, as was the admission price: free! It was so nice to just be able to wander in and admire the collections!
Once you step inside the doors you are immediately greeted by an enormous dinosaur staring you right in the eye. The architecture of the entry hall is also quite impressive.
And in the center of the staircase, overlooking it all, Charles Darwin.
A view back towards the front entry from the stairway. It is quite a lovely building!
Since we only had an hour, we knew we would have to pick and choose what to see and move fast. Accordingly we first sped to the hall of minerals. Below, Woodley is standing in the main aisle that leads down the hall towards the vault. On either side are display cases featuring all sorts of minerals from all over the world. I wished we had had more time to browse through them! It is quite an impressive collection!
One of my favorites was this interesting looking mass of Prehnite. The placard informed us that it is "pale green tubular epimorphs after laumontite," from Maharashtra, India.
Of course, we had to visit the vault to see the collection of rare and interesting minerals. A couple of my favorites were: The Latrobe Nugget, pictured below. It is a 717 gram piece of gold discovered in Victoria Australia in 1853. In addition to its size, it is interesting because it is actually crystallized and is formed entirely of gold cubes, "some of which are more than one centimeter across."
And The Aurora Collection, an amazing collection of 296 naturally colored diamonds. It was quite something to see all the different colors that diamonds can come in.
I had heard of yellow and pink diamonds before but I had no idea they could come in all these colors:
The display changed from normal lighting to ultraviolet light and, as you can see, some of the diamonds glow quite brightly while others aren't lit up at all.
After finishing up in the vault, we decided to quickly run through the dinosaur exhibit before heading back to the hotel. As you enter you are greeted by a large dinosaur skeleton and are directed up a staircase to a walkway that runs above the entire length of the exhibit.
From the walkway you can look down on the exhibits below and get an excellent first glance at the dinosaurs from above. This exhibit is quite popular with the school children and there were several classes enjoying it with us. It was fun to see how the children reacted to the big (somewhat scary) dinosaurs.
At the back end of the overhead walkway we were directed around a corner and down a ramp to view the T-Rex. He was quite lifelike and it was actually a little scary standing in front of him as he growled and lunged at us. Some of the small ones were definitely scared by that part of the exhibit. But things got less scary quite quickly and soon we discovered a big nest of dinosaur eggs with some cute little dinosaurs just hatching!
After working our way through several more crowds of school children in the maze of the dinosaur exhibit we rushed through the mammals on our way to grab a sandwich and head back to the hotel. The blue whale was the biggest and best of all. It was amazing how large he was compared to the land mammals that we normally think of as being really big.
All too soon it was time to head back to our hotel to quickly pack up and take off for the airport!
Goodbye Edgerton House and London!