About the Photo Above: British Parliament & Big Ben
You can see two iconic images in this photo: the British Parliament building and the Big Ben tower clock.
In London as United Kingdom Leaves the European Union
I took the photo above the afternoon they were counting votes for the UK to leave the EU which they announced early the following morning. As I wandered around snapping photos of Big Ben, the Eye of London (ferris wheel) and Parliament I noticed lots and lots of news and television crews set up across from Parliament (I should have snapped a photo or two of the news crews). It was a bit weird getting up to breakfast at my hostel in London to everyone standing around the TV as it was announced that the votes were in and the UK had decided to leave the EU. I imagine it was a similar feeling the morning of the 9-11 or when the Berlin wall came down. It is just one of those big moments in history where you were right in the middle of it.
Red Buses and Black Cabs
Although I never rode in a black cab, I did ride in the double decker red buses more than a few times. As you might expect, my favorite position was to climb to the top and sit in the very front. I absolutely loved riding around London and Manchester with a front row view of the beautiful city. Red buses were everywhere and you’d often see three or four on the same street. Black cabs were most often black, but many were different colors or decorated in advertising vinyl wraps.
It’s a big, big, big ferris wheel. The structure is 443 feet (135 m) tall and the wheel has a diameter of 394 feet (120 m). When erected in 1999 it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. I didn’t go up there due to the high cost, but I did snap a photo of it from the nearby bridge (Big Ben and parliament are behind me).
Red Phone Booths
Yes, the phone booths are really red and have small glass pane windows and they are everywhere… well everywhere in tourist zones. However, as you leave the tourist areas, you’ll start finding grey, plexiglass booths of a more modern design.
Changing of the Guard
Once again I was at the right place and right time. As I walked from Big Ben and Parliament a few blocks over to Buckingham Palace (home of the Queen), I was lucky enough to witness the 12 noon changing of the guard. Right at noon the guys in red with big, fluffy hats began playing music and marching out of the Palace and down the street right past where I was standing. They went about two blocks to another building and then did some fancy twirls with rifles and flags before going through a gate. It was really fun to watch!
Free Museums Everywhere
From what I could tell, all of the museums in London and Manchester were free. I think I was a bit surprised to learn this given these museums had world class displays of things like the Rosetta Stone. The Museum of Natural History was also the location of the second Disney “Night of the Museum” movie. It was really fun to walk inside and see that big dinosaur from the movie.
Look Right, Look Left
It’s brilliant and very, very smart. There are so many foreigners and tourist visiting the UK that the majority of the cross walks are marked with the words, “look left” and “look right” because most people are looking the wrong way due to the traffic traveling on the opposite side of the road from most other nations.
British Fish & Chips
After hamburgers for my weekly splurge meal, I’m also a huge fan of fish & chips, but had only experienced the American version of this English favorite. As such, I wanted to see if the authentic, original British fish & chips was different or superior to my experience at Red Robin in the USA. Well, I must say that my experience in London was a disappointment. I paid $10 for a basic fish & chips at the Five Star Fish & Chips restaurant near my hostel. What I got was far less than awesome and actually just sort of “blah.” Oh well, you win some, you lose some.
Manchester, the Home of Engineering
I spent four days in Manchester in a hostel across the street from the Science and Engineering Museum. I spent one afternoon in the museum and learned that Manchester is the home of much of the major engineering advancements in the world. The first computers were built here, turbine power plans, techniques for machining mechanical parts with exact tolerances, and much of the basic work with electricity all came out of Manchester (many of the ideas were then taken to other areas where they were commercialized). One of the more famous people who worked in Manchester was Alan Turing who was the famous genius mathematician who broke the Nazi enigma code during WW2 by using one of the worlds first computers.
My European Travel Map
Want to see where I’ve been in Europe and where I am now? Check out my map of European travels).
- Hostels: $25-40/night. Next to Italy, England has been the most expensive place I’ve visited this trip. My hostel was $27/night in London and $23/night in Manchester and I was staying at the cheapest places I could find.
- Transportation: I rode the tube and bus several times at about $2-3 a ride. In London you MUST have an Oyster card for public transport.
- I ate fish and chips for $9 one time. Mostly I ate the “meal deal” at the super market: a sandwich, drink and chips for £3 (about $4).