How could one be disappointed on a tour in London on a Friday? We had a delightful day touring London on our own and seeing very little but seeing it very well. We learned a lot. The next day we took a Premium Tour. I’d arranged this online. The tour promised:
Private guided tour of the Tower of London with Yeoman Warder
Be the first group to visit the Crown Jewels
Panoramic drive seeing the icons of London; Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and much more
See Changing of the Guard
Thames River Cruise – see St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Globe Theatre and much more
Pub Lunch (food/drink not included)
However, we almost missed the tour because the directions we were given from the Tube (which we’d spent a day mastering) to the motor coach barn were hazy. Nervous we arrived and were told by motor coach personnel that we had time to get a bite to eat. We got pasties and coffee (Diet Coke for Joe) and settled in to wait half an hour or more. Did not have to hurry after all. Watching the motor coach personnel loading passengers was like watching someone try to herd cats. No clients seemed to have any idea where they were going or when. Guide. We needed a guide. And one appeared and insisted we get on his coach although he never made it clear where the coach was going. He would not be questioned and was rude. We got on the coach – after I poured out my coffee because we couldn’t have food or drink on the coach.
The guide did not have a name. He did have political opinions, which we heard. We saw Westminister Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and other icons of London – but from such a distance, through so much traffic and other architecture and so quickly that it never registered that we had seen them.. Television would be a better place to see these sights. I do remember seeing the back of Buckingham Palace. Sort of.
The Tower of London was the best part of the tour. The Yeoman Warder was a delight and knew more than our minds could hold. There were other people there before us, but we did get to see the Crown Jewels and it is an impressive presentation. We had to move along, though. I can’t imagine trying to see them with a crowd of folks there. So much gold and such gems!
Part of the London Tower Complex
Our own Beefeater
We saw the changing of the guards – not really. I ran a quarter block to see the guards some on horseback approach, turn a corner, walk a quarter block and turn into a gated area. Many people on the tour were not even close to seeing the “action” and they had to settle watching the guards through a high iron fence as they disbanded. Again, television would have been much better. The guide said that many tourists don’t care to see much of the ceremony, so he just shows up at the end to give them a taste. A bad taste as far as I was concerned.
The tail end of the Changing of the Guard
The Thames River Cruise amounted to hurrying to the river boat. We’d been told he’d leave us behind if we were late. Once there, we waited in line for ten minutes or more before getting on the boat. We did see the Globe Theater from the water’s edge, but in terms of much more, well we were in a boat looking up the embankment, so what we saw was cut off at the waist. We did see the London Eye, but I’ve seen a lot of Ferris wheels before.
Thames River Cruise
Buckingham Palace from the front. Yes, although the Queen was not home, we did enjoy her gardens, ponds and all the pomp and circumstance that goes with a royal palace.
Our pub lunch was basically, “This is the end of the tour. There are lots of pubs in this area. Thank you for taking a Premium Tour.” We went on eight other tours and rated them all A or B+. We rated this tour a C because of the Tower of London. That was a disappointment. I believe Premium Tours wants to offer the best of London, but they offer too much for a half day tour considering the traffic that clogs the city and the ability of people, some with canes and disabilities, to keep up.
The pub we chose – half was on one side of the cobbled street and half on the other.
Oh, but a comment on fish and chips! I’ve had fish and chips in the U.S. but nothing like what we had at the Gallery, in Henden walking distance from the Henden Tube. Lightly breaded we each got an entire fish – yes, head and tail. But the body had the bones removed and the meat was flaky, moist and delicious – entirely different and much superior to anything I’ve had at home. They make a great Pimm’s Cup, too, more like a fruit salad than a cocktail.