Tuesday, May 19, 2009

London: Day One

We were up bright and early the first day of our trip to London. Our daughter had previous plans to spend the afternoon seeing ROMEO AND JULIET with friends at Shakespeare's Globe, so we were on our own to reacquaint ourselves with London.

Our priority this particular day was to see several museums we had never visited before, and we managed to see a substantial number over the course of the day. The visits were necessarily relatively brief, but we were able to "hit the high points" and view the things that we most wanted to see at each stop.

We first got off the Tube at Westminster to have a look around; here is the London Eye next to the County Hall building. This former site of London government sits on the Thames and houses two hotels, the Movieum, a Salvador Dali exhibit, and the London Aquarium.

The London Eye is a striking addition to the London skyline, although we decided to pass on taking the pricey trip, based on our daughter's advice.

We stayed at the Premier Inn at County Hall for the last half of our trip, and I thoroughly recommend it. The rooms are extremely clean, the young staff is enthusiastic and helpful, and the location can't be beat. It's in easy walking distance of Waterloo Station.

The early morning sun hits the Victory Arch at the entrance to Waterloo Station:

The Arch is filled with the names of rail employees who gave their lives serving in the World Wars. It is quite a moving display.

We made our way to Trafalgar Square and arrived just as the church bells were pealing from St. Martin-in-the-Fields:

I think the moment hearing those beautiful bells ringing, as I surveyed the famous Square, was the moment it really sank in that I was in London.

A couple weeks ago thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square for a sing-along of "Hey Jude" for T-Mobile. We saw the ads, titled "Life's for Sharing," almost every time we rode an escalator in a Tube station (grin). Take a look at the link, it's pretty neat seeing so many happy people together. There's a great pullback shot at about the 2:30 mark.

The first museum of the day, the majestic National Gallery:

Our priorities here included Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" and Monet's "Water-Lilies."

Funny item seen in the National Gallery gift shop: a Van Gogh doll with a detachable ear attached with Velcro!

The National Portrait Gallery, located next to the National Gallery, is a must for those interested in the history of British royalty. Famous paintings on display include King George V and Queen Mary with their family and the Landing of Princess Alexandra of Denmark in England in 1863 for her marriage to the future Edward VII.

Next up: a walk past Horse Guards Parade:

and the Cenotaph:

The Cenotaph is the site of Remembrance Day ceremonies each November.

We loved the Cabinet War Rooms on our last visit to London and were happy to visit again; since then the excellent Winston Churchill Museum has been added to the museum. The War Rooms are the underground bunkers from which Churchill, his cabinet and the military ran World War II. Highly recommended as one of the most fascinating places to visit in London.

Nearby is Westminster Abbey:

Alas, there was absolutely no time to visit the interior of the Abbey on this trip, but at least we have been there before. Our daughter had the pleasure of attending Easter Sunday services in the Abbey earlier this spring.

By this point we had spent several hours wandering through the museums so we fortified ourselves with a late lunch before moving on to the British Museum:

for a look at the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles:

One of our favorite stops on the trip was the British Library.

It has a small but fabulous museum collection of music and books, including original music by Handel, Ravel, and Mendelssohn, and handwritten letters and manuscripts by Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. Handwritten lyrics to Beatles songs including "Yesterday" are also on display.

We finished our day with an early evening walk past Buckingham Palace. Here's the Victoria Memorial in front of the Palace silhouetted against the evening sky:

Another shot of the Memorial:

And here's the Palace itself:

Crowds enjoying the fine weather at Green Park, next to the Palace:

After such a busy day, what would we do without the perpetual reminders in the London Underground to "Mind the Gap"?

After a day in London that phrase rings in the ears!

Coming soon: Off to Disneyland Paris!


Blogger Missy said...

Nice pictures! Thanks for sharing and welcome home!


11:29 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

My goodness, you did a lot in one day. It's so nice seeing your photos and thinking about the ones your daughter posted, like the war rooms. Looking forward to D Paris :)

12:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I can't begin to estimate how many miles we walked and how many stairs we climbed on our trip, but it was an awful lot. :) The Tube stations and museums are filled with stairs, stairs, and more stairs! We were joking we needed a vacation from our vacation, after the workout we put in while seeing everything.

I should have the initial Disney post, on the train trip, up later today.

Best wishes,

12:57 PM  

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