Since this no visa thing is so new (started March 3, 2009), I even went to UK Border Agency's website to print out the announcement just in case I was refused entry on the flight. Sure enough, I was asked for a UK VISA at the Zurich airport while boarding. Good thing I was well prepared. I showed them the announcement print out and they let me board. When we entered the UK customs, there was no problem at all. We were so surprised and delight that Taiwan is moving up the international ladder. To me... this is such a cool thing... entering a country without a VISA or some kind of resident permit... my very first time.
No matter how much we prepare before a trip, there is always something that we can not control. Typically, it's the weather but not this time. Guess what it was this time. The Underground (tube) was on strike. Oh my god, how lucky we were and did I mention that it was Queen's birthday weekend! Well, it turned out that it's not all that bad since we had no problem of getting help and understanding from the locals. We even had a nice British girl, who had been to Taiwan for several months last year to learn Chinese, giving us directions to the hotel. So lucky, we had no language barrier in England at all.
The tube was still on strike the next day. Our plan was to go out of London and visit Windsor Castle, so it did not impact us too much. Just a minute before we arrived, we saw the castle in distance. It was magnificent. Here is a pictures taken from the train which gives a grand scale of Windsor Castle.
The Castle is so beautiful its no wonder the Queen often spends weekend there. The ticket included an audio guide so we could take our time visiting the Castle ground , St. George, and State Apartment. After watching the Tudors on the TV, I was so glad to see the actual location where the history had taken place. King Henry VIII and his third wife were buried in St. George.
The tube was back to normal after the two day strike. We visited the Westminster Abbey on Friday and St. Paul's on Saturday. At each church, we took a special guided tour and saw the areas where visitors were normally not allowed to go such as sitting in the choir while listening to the guides in both churches, entering the Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor in the Abbey, and seeing where the Queen sits when she goes to both churches. The tours were great and we enjoyed it very much. Not to forget that we learned many famous people had their funerals, were buried, or had memorials in both churches. St. Paul's only started having memorial statues in the church after realized how empty and bare their cathedral was. On the other hand, Westminster Abby was running out of space for worshiping the new comers. Besides worshiping the death, they also hold weddings (however) in the Crypt of St. Paul's (only for the order of Britain) unless you are princess Diana. Somehow, it is hard for me to see the romantic side of marrying my spouse by standing so close to the stone coffins, tomb stones, and memorials. I wonder if it's a sign of telling the newly weds that marriage is the grave of your love life (a Chinese saying), or till death do us apart. Interesting! Or you just have to go on honeymoon trip every month like us!
We walked as much as we could but London is so big. We walked by the Household Guard Museum and snapped a shot. From this angle, it looked like that the guard was sleeping. We often ended up in Soho and China town areas so we had tons of Chinese food which I miss the most. It reminded me so much of the China town in San Francisco and New York City. It was so good to have authentic Taiwanese and Hong Kong food.
Street performers in Covent Garden... is not it an interesting tactic of selling CDs? It was so fun to watch and glad that we were not the ones who were forced to make the purchase.
Piccadilly Circus electronic advertisements just like we have seen so often in TV and Movies.
Josh's first time on the London Eye. It was fun and cool to be on the Eye. We could see Parliament, Westminster Abby, St. Paul's, Buckingham Palace, and much more that we could not name.
Tower Bridge...it was beautiful with all the lights. We got there when the sky started getting dark and just in time when the lights came on.
We spend 4-5 hours in the British museum on our last day in London. The museum was huge and I was glad that Josh insisted to go. Not only is visiting museum like traveling around the world (has collections from the world), but also it is FREE! One interesting thing to me was seeing Buddha statures out side of temples. Then I realized that it's not so different than Virgin Mary's, Jesus', and Saints' paintings are all over in every museum we have been.
I totally had a much better impression of London compared to several years ago. Besides all the good old things we saw... the food was good, people were friendly, and English pubs were fun although we only went to one. We would love to go back again especially since I don't need a VISA.