Please read Part 1 first.
It’s two hours and fifteen minutes since we left our home city (some 200 miles away) and here we are on the platform at London Kings Cross. The station has altered since I was last here and I look around absorbing my surroundings, but being the Christmas period it’s exceptionally busy so standing still is not really an option.
I decide to have my photograph taken next to the sign ‘Platform 9¾’, my eleven year old granddaughter declines. I stand alongside the queues of people waiting to see the wall, I am no longer a traveller, the stranger on a train, I have become the tourist!
We’ve already chosen our activities for the day and my daughter who lived in the capital for a number of years has already planned the tube journeys and which line etc. We purchase our travel tickets and decide on a lunch venue, my organised daughter books ahead.
Our first visit of the morning is to Buckingham palace; the Victoria line takes us to Green Park, and after a short walk through the park, still shrouded in the wintery mist, we arrive at the palace gates. We are a little early for the mid-morning ‘Changing of the Guard’ and it’s absolutely freezing, far colder than it was in Yorkshire. We take the obligatory photographs and are lucky enough to catch the impressive sight of the guardsmen on horseback riding past.
The area is teaming with tourists and a glance towards the Union Jack at the top of the mast tells me the queen is in residence. I feel such a buzz standing here outside the palace gates, and looking around at the high number of foreign tourists makes me feel proud that we have a royal family to show off to the rest of the world.
As it’s bitterly cold we decide not to wait for the actual changing of the guard and because it’s so very busy it’s doubtful we’d have much of a view. Instead we begin to make our way back through the park, but we’re now walking against the flow, against the hundreds of visiting tourists coming from the opposite direction.
The Piccadilly line takes us to prestigious Knightsbridge and to Harrods, recently described as “one of the largest and most luxurious department stores in the world.”
Again we pause whilst I take more photographs, this time of the famous green awnings and a fascinating shot of a pavement artist sand sculpting a dog. I’ve also inadvertently included the police searching the bins outside the store!
Once inside the store I am in awe of the beautiful and delicate items that are on display. The Christmas shop is an absolute delight, a wonderland for adults and children alike, though I am shocked to discover a box of Christmas Crackers that have been reduced and they’re now £499.00!
It’s lunchtime and my back is beginning to ache; we have walked far more than we intended. We make our way to Planet Hollywood for lunch and I am relieved to have an opportunity to sit down. The restaurant has moved to new premises since we were here a few years ago. I’m not impressed, the décor is dismal and although very busy, the venue lacks an atmosphere. I’m equally disappointed to find my burger, which should have been bursting with flavour, is tasteless.
A planned visit to Hamley’s toy store is next on our list and we decide to make the journey by cab. The traffic comes to a sudden halt and we find ourselves in the path of a march, a demonstration against the bombing and atrocities that are taking place in Aleppo. We leave our cab and standing at the side of the road we watch the march. Whole families, young and old are marching, many holding placards and shouting for an end to the bombing. It’s an emotional moment, I feel helpless and I fight the urge to cry. To be continued…