I can’t remember whether it was Wed or Thurs but I do know today was the 28th April.......

I so loved Buckingham Palace until the 100’s & 100’s of tourists landed there..........so I didn’t wait for the actual Change of The Guards formality and decided to make my way on foot to Trafalgar Square via The Mall, passed St James’s Palace and very important guards strutting their stuff...
A really good look at the National Gallery and the amazing fountains cascading in the Square...onwards by foot....not really sure of the roads I was on...but coming across places we had walked passed last night on our Ghost tour....they didn’t look so imposing in daylight!!....and onwards to the London Eye via the footbridge and past a gorgeous Carousel at Jubilee Gardens...The crowds were loving the sunshine and the people statues painted in silver and gold, standing rigidly still...(.I don’t know how they can stay still for so long.........not something I do well...not something I do at all actually!!!)......I really wanted to get to the Tower of London as it was one of the touristy things I had earmarked to do.. I caught a BRTB which took me along the same path I had gone yesterday, but today, the places & info remained in my mind and their place in London’s history made an impression on me!
The Tower Of London...........it’s importance....it’s history........it’s position........and it’s beauty.......captured me from the very start! I worked my way through each of the amazing audio Tours which covered:
 The Normans and before
 The Medieval Palace
 Imprisonment and Execution
 Life at the Tower

........but the tour that won me...and the one I couldn’t drag myself away from was the
 Tour of The Crown Jewels Tower.....
Oh My, Oh My.....I kept getting back on the start of the travelator which moved slowly passed each of the pieces used during a Coronation but housed safely in a glass display cabinet....just to marvel at their beauty and become totally besotted by their splendour and representation of Royalty and opulence.......
At the conclusion of my tour I decided to buy myself a replica of the second largest Diamond in the collection..... Named: The Second Jewel of Africa .....I appropriately fell in love with her....even though I know she isn’t real! She isa multi-faceted, typically cut diamond so that when you look through her, she shares whatever she is focused on split
into so many different, beautiful and diverse ways....! I know she represents the way I look at life....there is always more than one way of looking at anything you experience....which is why I try to find the positive, productive solution or pathway to solving or achieving anything!!!
Right.....enough philosophising.....
Back to the fun stuff.....Gemma is nearly in London....and we needed to work out arrangements....so before I did the Tower tours it was great to catch up with her briefly on the phone but it’s going to be so much better sharing London and Bath ......and Harrods.....with her....!!!
The other girls need to sort out living accommodation for when they return from LA and, as they have already been to Bath, they will remain in London whilst Gem and I spend a day exploring the country then a day back in London...allowing the washing machine to churn so Gem can have clean gear for the next adventure to the Big Smoke and ‘Sex In The City’ tours etc.....whilst we let loose on the place I have been wanting to go to for years......
Returning to Westminster Pier via The Thames, I hurried to Westminster Abbey. I had been told the tours close at 3pm and it was nearly on me. I marvelled at the imposing intricately carved designs and asked one of the guards where the entrance was...I realised then that I was trying to get into The Houses of Parliament.....such a novice tourist.....so quickly mad my way to the Abbey. Closing time was 6pm so I immersed myself in a truly wonderful, moving discovery of the history and splendour of this icon which is steeped in history as far back as the 10th Century, and is the resting place and a memorial, not only for Royalty but for many famous historical figures. Westminster Abbey is a working church with a daily cycle of prayer and worship....I walked away truly blessed that I had had the privilege of this very moving, awesome experience.
Home, via the Big Blue Bus through an area I hadn’t yet explored....passing Harrods, The Science and Natural History Museums, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace, Notting Hill Gate behind which is the famous Portobello Road whose Market I plan on visiting this Saturday....finally arriving at Lancaster Gate. I wandered my suburb to get a better feel for it’s little pockets of shops, restaurants and typical, tree lined London styled buildings and splendour.

...............and so...London continues.............

Okay.....so I have organised myself and I am sitting up in bed in my quaint little single room surrounded by everything I need..(except wireless connection...but I’m not complaining!) ............finishing the account of my adventures today. Using Word is familiar to me and now that I know how to get my blog to read it....I’m now compatible (that’s IT terminology for being a normal, 2010, computer user!)
So....I can hear you seasoned travellers saying....enough of the waffle Fran....what have you actually seen....????
Okay: the list is as follows......according to my very battered, cherished, and depended upon, faithful BRBT guide map....in order of appearance..... I have seen, but not necessarily explored:
 The Marble Arch
 Sherlock Holme’s Museum
 Madame Tausaud’s Wax Museum

 Regent Park
 Oxford Circus
 Piccadilly circus
 The National Gallery
 Trafalgar Square!!!
 Admiralty Arch
 The Horse Guards
 No 10 Downing Street
 Big Ben...the bell in the tower...and The Houses of Parliament....(I’ve heard Ben calling out on the quarter hour many times... and he is starting to feel like a friend!)
 Westminster Abbey
 London Aquarium
 Jubilee Gardens

 Waterloo Pier
 The London Eye
 The Strand
 Royal Courts of Justice
 The Temple Church
 St Paul’s Cathedral...Where Di & Charles were wed!
 Bank of England
 London Bridge...
 ................................................Yep......I was certainly snapping my pics every time I heard an Iconic landmark being explained during sensational tour......................
 Blown away by the LONDON BRIDGE
 Followed by the tower of London
 A river cruise on the River Thames......
 Returning to the Westminster Pier............
All of these in a 3 hour time span...............what a compression session!!! Yes, my head was spinning but delightfully so...........
It was time to actually experience some ‘off the beaten track stuff’............and this was when I decided to join the 6pm Ghosts by Gaslight walking tour as described to you in one of my previous ramblings!!!
I was truly in awe of the history and character presented to me by London herself.........but I still have so much more to discover .....

28th April.....doing the 2nd half of MY BRBT..........

Cheers guys.........I'm sitting in the foyer/bar/lounge/people meeting room..........I don't know what the English call it but it's the social spot of the hotel where you can buy/enjoy light or substantial snacks/drinks...soft or hard/hot/cold.../use the internet to chat/book another hotel/read your emails/watch the soccer/ or simply update your blog....all of which I am doing/have done/ within the last 2 hours!!!!!!!
I have had another amazingly wonderful day of fun/ adventure/ meeting travellers/ and climbing steep learning curves as I negotiated London's treasures via the ............yes..........the scenic route!
I had done my homework....studied the tourist maps and the relevant information pertaining to the journey I planned to take today. I wasn't surprised, however when, having arrived at Buckingham Palace well ahead of the designated time...10am....(Dad was proud of me I'm sure!) for the start of the Palace tour, I discovered that the tour started at Trafalgar Square...NOT Buckingham Palace as I had interpreted from the Big Red Bus Tour guide brochure!!! I wasn't fazed as I was still euphoric from the familiar feeling I experience as I wandered through Hyde Park. I strode alongside the many energetic locals/travellers either making their way to work/fulfilling their commitment to themselves to run Hyde Park/swimming the Icebergers' laps in the Serpentine lake which snakes it way through Hyde Park/ exercising their favorite Nag by cantering kilometre upon kilometre through the blossoming gardens and luscious greenery/cycling their expensive, treasured cycles that have been in hibernation until now that the sun and blossoms have returned...or simply doing what I was doing....being the typical tourist making a bee-line for Buckingham Palace where the Changing of the Guards was imminent!
I decided that the Fran walking tour was far more interesting than the BRBT walking guide could have so having combed every inch of the amazing BP precinct and loving the fact that I WAS ACTUALLY there and not just seeing it through someone else's pics or documentary.....I recorded the event by harassing other tourists and getting them to take my pic in front of the relevant exciting buildings...etc...(of course I reciprocated by pointing and shooting their cameras at them too!) and headed off to discover the 'off the beaten track' details other tourists would definitely have missed!! I so loved my walk to Trafalgar Square...sun shining/ London shining/ Fran blossoming in the excitment of discovery!

PS I have just realised that Kelly's battery is just about to die.....and the recharger is up  on 2nd floor room #202....and there is no internet connection up there....so I will say hold your breath and wait for the rest of my adventure.....
BUT before I go.....even though it's nearly bedtime for me.....all of you in Aus...are just waking up and it's the 29th April.....................
HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR EILY.... have a GREAT one....I'm sure those two boys in your life will look after you............and if they don't then they will have MEEEE to answer to.....I DON'T CARE that one is my bestest BIL or that they are now both TALLER  than me...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously.............HAVE a GREAT day.....and when I wake up.....and it's a respectable hour.....I will have a celebratory drink for you........Definitely a Johnny Red....if I can find one! Love you Darling...xxxxxxx

......and so the next part of my London adventure begins...PS........No Pics...!

I am just letting you know that I haven't included any of my wonderful photos yet as my IT learning curve seems to get steeper and steeper...The wireless internet connection here at Columbia Hotel is very weak and connecting is quite a challenge so I'm not going to use time uploading visuals just yet....I will do so when I have a user friendly internet source...
I have, however, managed to convert my Word doc to a blog friendly format....trial and error as noone here could help me with it!
It is looking like the weather is going to be superb so I am up nice and early to enjoy the continental breakky...I'll make sure I eat heaps to keep my 'legs attached' all day...then I'm off on the next part of My Big Red bus adventure...My aim is to get to the 10am: Changing of The Guards...Don't be late Fran

Cheers from Me.......Loving it in London!  :-)))

Tuesday 27th April.....from Hamburg.....to London for a compression session....sooooo exciting!

It feels unreal to be in an airport again and heading off on another adventure.....this time feeling very excited and relaxed. I took the HVV (Hamburg rail) to the airport without any problems. I gave myself 2 hours to find my way around and already I have been through the first check in, received my boarding pass and enjoyed a coffee and roll for breakky. The next series of gates pulled me up requiring quite an undressing....all my bags which is usual but then my fleecy...my jewellery....my boots....and a thorough going over with the detector gun followed.....I knew I was clean but it’s still very scary to endure this rigorous treatment! Having passed all these checks I arrived at the boarding gate to be told I could only take ONE bag and that my backpack didn’t constitute a ‘handbag’....My cabin bag was already FULL and I didn’t think I had any hope of being able to absorb it all into my cabin bag.........I guess it’s amazing what one can do if under extreme pressure.....I have enormous respect for my CB.....he is my best friend on this trip atm....He just swallowed up the BP and its contents and didn’t even burp!..............The girls at the boarding gate were shaking their heads in amazement....and so was I!!.....It was another moment when you just gotta laugh....otherwise I know I would have cried in frustration!!
A relatively quick flight with EasyJet during which I bought a Gatwick Express train ticket to London Victoria Station...as I was flying into Gatwick I still needed to get to London Central... and a discounted ticket to the London Eye....something I have been told ....not to miss out on doing! Arriving at Victoria station I tossed up whether to walk through Hyde Park to Lancaster Gate where Columbia, my hotel for 2 nights was, or to negotiate the Tube....I decided the latter as I wasn’t sure what the paths would be like and whether I could manage the weight of my stuff all the way .....SOOOOO glad I took the Tube...took me longer than it could have but for a first effort I was very proud of myself and only had to ask about 10 people whether I was on track for LG...These Londoners are great value....AND they all talk my language!!
Culture shock for ‘she who hasn’t travelled’...Evie said that I would love it.....and I do!....heaps of parks, greenery, blossoms, double decker buses, funny little British taxis.....great public transport....and The Red Bus.. hop on, hop off tour buses which run very frequently and efficiently and are focused on giving the tourist a detailed insight into all London has to offer...They wind their way through interesting little streets and well known precincts with a continuous, personal tour guide on each bus providing detailed history, funny stories and great entertainment. I was so totally in tourist mode....snapping pictures of everything....trying to follow the guide map....listen to the info....read the info ....compute it to memory....then I remembered Evie’s trick and took pics of street names and buildings so that when I look at my 100’s of photos (I know each one was extremely important when I took it!)..together with my tour map..I might be able to remember some of what I experienced in my 3 hour compression session...and I haven’t even done a whole circuit yet!
Having had the foresight to purchase a 48hr pass I have another whole day and some, to ride the buses and access the attractions I want to explore further....However, I did do the cruise on the Thames....met some wonderful travellers doing the same as me....and, arriving back at the Waterloo Pier, I realised that if I hurried I would make it back to Trafalgar Square in time for the 6pm walking tour: Ghosts by Gaslight!.....
Tim, our friendly guide and 5 others, headed off the beaten track and meandered through backstreets learning so much more than concrete history....hearing some eerie stories and unbelievable accounts of ‘very real’ experiences people have encountered over the century....apparently London has more sightings of ghosts than any other country....and here we were right in amongst the history of them....Tim liked a tipple so we agreed that ‘when in London...do what the Londoners do..! We stopped over at 2 very typically English bars.!’ I questioned some English Gentlemen propped up against the bar, as to which typically English beer I should consume....they were more than happy to give me their choices which, between them, quickly became a fiery discussion as to which one really was the best...I left them to it and joined the others....Stewart & Lynne,...from Sydney... Tania from LA, and Joan and Jeff from Canada....
Finishing our tour at the second pub...four of us decided to enjoy a meal together (as I realised, that in all the excitement of the day, I hadn’t even thought to stop and eat!!) and enjoy each other’s company before we attacked The Tube and ‘confidently’ made our respective ways home!

Monday 26th April...the other part of my morning..

I found my way around the laundry at the apartment and when I returned to our little pad....the weather had turned bleak and it was raining quite heavily. I had to rethink my attire and plans to walk into the city along the second half of the tour route.....should I catch the train???...No, I love the fresh air so I put on my wet weather gear...bought a $3 umbrella and, armed with my walking tour booklet, I set off to explore in the invigorating...precipitous day!!!
Just before setting off I rang Dylan to wish him Happy Birthday....It’s great being able to talk to someone on the other side of the world and feel you are only a kilometre or less away....You still can’t give them a hug but it sounds like they are ‘just there’!.....He had enthusiastically celebrated his ‘leaving the teen years behind’ milestone with his mates on ANZAC Day and had recovered at the Cats vs Blues AFL game....sorry mate but I didn’t like the fact that Geelong had lost either!!.....Next a phone call to Mum and the crew at Indi St....letting them know that I was having a ball....but they already knew that thanks to easy communication lines...namely my blog! Love you guys!

26th April......mY BoY'S 20th biRtHdaY TODAY!!!

HAPPY... HAPPY.....HAPPY..... DAY DARLING..... FROM YOUR MUM ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD.......So sorry I won't be with you and be able to give you a hug today.... but I will be with you emotionally.....It was soooooooooo nice talking to you....and knowing you are indeed, happy.....(Sorry about Geelong's loss though!!)


ANZAC day ...Hamburg to Luneburg via The Fishmarket...!

ANZAC Day ....we do need to remember our soldiers......and also Dazza's birthday...so we call Australia and chat to Gary's brother who was celebrating with his family in Port douglas for the weekend.
As we left our street we discovered that the main street was closed due to the Hamburg marathon....and when we arrived closer to the waterway....our timing was impeccable as the leaders...who all appeared to be Kenyans....passed beneath the bridge we were crossing....I was impressed!

The St Pauli suburb...of which Reeperbahn is a small area....boasts a thriving market every Sunday morning from 6am - 11am...When we arrived it was alive with vibrant colors, music, sprukers competitively selling their wares, people bargaining to get the best prices...and many people, like ourselves loving the atmosphere and energy enveloping the precinct....During winter the stalls are held inside an enormous Hall but when the weather improves...as it had...the caravans and sellers position themselves outside along the watesredge...consequently the Hall takes on a very different scene during Spring and Summer! We entered this Hall about 9am expecting to wander between more stalls of produce only to be treated to a live band belting out Rock and Roll....revellers dined in the upstairs section and in the lower section people lined the tressels....singing, laughing, drinking and dancing in the aisles and near the stage.....We were stunned at the scene as it was something you might expect maybe, late afternoon or evening but here we were, in the early hours of Sunday morning, stunned and amused......We decided that... when in Hamburg, do what the Hamburgers do....so we joined Travis and Twilla and their friends and treated ourselves to a champagne!!!!...and toasted our ANZACs as well...! So much for the nourishing breakky I was ready for....! It was lots of fun but when we left an hour or so later, I needed some food.... but the only sustenance I could find was a large coffee....Gary took a picture of me just moments before I spilled half its contents down my front....No....I had only had ONE champagne but didn't realise that the lid wasn't secured....So much for wearing white pants...and it was only the start of what turned into another wonderful adventure!

Travis had driven from Holland for the weekend in a hire car so we took a drive out in the country to a little town steeped in history, Luneburg. We were challenged getting
there due to road closures for the Marathon and roadworks on the main drag out of Hamburg....We thought it was going to take all day to do the 50 minute trip....we had heaps to chat about so the journey wasn't wasted. Central Luneburg provided us with a
large boulevade designated to wining and dining either El Fresco or indoors...The many, many little cafes and restaurants which lined the streets were varied and intriguing as each one seemed to have a unique purpose for existing...not just for its hospitality. Our choice was a brewery, Malzer, with a long history,...The dining area was about 50metres from the actual brewery and set outside and in front of a grand building...sunshine, friends, beautiful wine and food....superb!

Our walking tour took us down quaint little alleys and finally to the original watertower which we climbed to get a bird's eye view of Luneburg.

Returning to Hamburg, we chose to walk the waterside wall from Baumwall back around to St Pauli with 100's of other pedestrians lapping up the warmth and taking the opportunity to bask in Hamburg's waterside beauty. An evening cocktail at the Hamburg Del Mar....'a beach bar by the sea' where people were spending a PSA in beach mode......then back to home base via the little back streets full of ecclectic character..... to reflect on the unpredicted adventure we had enjoyed!