A Travellerspoint blog

The Last Entry

Moving On . . .

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The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-- J R R Tolkien

So here we come to the end of our adventure in England. Thanks for sticking with it for so long. Here are the last pictures with captions for your enjoyment. This has certainly been a diverse experience writing this blog, and at the end of it all, it feels good to cap it off with certainty.

Lord willing, my family and I will keep a blogairy (thats: blog-diary) of our lives out in NC over the next couple years. Here's the address, if you feel it's worth your time to check for entries:

www.smokeymountaincircular.com

Without further adeu, I humbly present the last chapter of our tale, which is, in truth, just the beginning of the next one.

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1) Westminster as you usually don't see it: with people, streetlamps, and general modern reality
2) Wetminster face.

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3) Westminster cloisters. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the cathedral.
4) There were, again, memorial slabs everywhere. Daddy's trying to decipher the ones people have been walking on for centuries, and I'm reading the ones on the wall. I was trying to find as many musicians as possible. Lots of church organists were buried in the cathedrals they served. Might be a worthy ambition!

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5) Westminster architecture, looking across the cloister yard. The cloisters were the out of doors hallways connecting parts of the cathedral complex.
6) Another example of the architecture, and also showing all the people trying to stay out of the wind and rain. There were even stands hawking hot drinks.

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7) Mammy, Daddy and I at the Queens theatre, waiting to see Les Mis. We could've bought wine or other drinks to enjoy during the show.
8) The vaulted ceiling of the theatre.

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9) Daddy and I across from the theatre after the show.
10) Mammy and Daddy, ditto.

I feel as though I ought to say something profound here, however, I can't think of anything. No doubt it will come to me, just as I lay my head upon the pillow. I hope you understand.

"The end of a thing is better than it's beginning." Ecclesiastes 7:8

Posted by misshelenb 19:53 Archived in USA Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

English Traitors, French Liberators II

Westminster, Les Mis

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This entry won't have pictures until September, because I've exceeded my photo upload limit for August! So, check back in September for a better experience. Perhaps I'll write more creatively when I'm not using pictures as a crutch!

  • *Editor's note: This was supposed to be published August 28th, but things got pretty busy end of August. And there won't be pictures until November, when I get back home to our computer with our pictures on it!!**

After the Tower of London, we caught a quick lunch, and headed to Westminster. I guess everyone was trying to avoid the cold, windy drizzle, because we waited in line outside the church for 10 minutes before we got to step inside the entryway. Even there, the entry door was kept open, and the whole thing was a wind tunnel. Eventually Mammy and I left Daddy to hold our place in line and slipped behind some funerary monuments to block the wind!

When we did get our tickets and left the cold bustle for warm stillness, Westminster became a beautiful experience. The floors and walls were covered with tomstones and memorials in black, grey, white stone and marble. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the cathedral. I saw the graves/memorials (or rather, walked over them) of Ralph Vaughn-Williams, Henry Purcell (a contemporary of Bach), Muzio Clementi, and George Handel. Handel actually had an in-floor memorial, a standing monument, and a wall engraving. Mammy covertly stomped on Charles Darwin's grave. Also exciting was the famous poet's corner. Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Tennyson, Laurence Oliver. Other interesting burials: David Livingstone, Sir Isaac Newton, William Pitt the Elder and Younger, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots.

The highlight of our last day on "foreign soil" was seeing Les Miserables, the longest-running broadway musical. Based on the epic (700 pages?!) novel by Victor Hugo, which is set during the French Revolution. The first time I've ever seen a big-end musical, I was blown away by the actors voices and the revolving stage. A very emotive and engaging performance. We all got to dress up and travel by subway in the rain and slush, but on the way home that night I was flying high. I love music, I love performance and I love stories that grab you. Wow.

Posted by misshelenb 12:11 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

English Traitors, French Liberators I

The Tower of London

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Monday the 28th: Our last day on English soil. One thing we realized on this trip is that we were walking and driving on some really, really, old dirt. How awe-inspiring it was to walk by, through, over, around and under things and places that are older than our America by 1,800 years at least (if we say "America" began when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1607). The layers and layers of history are inexhaustible. It was beautiful.

Our last day we spent most of our time at the Tower of London along the Thames. Coming out of the subway, we were met by a crisp, wet wind, which accompanied us the entire day. Although we arrived at the Tower right when it opened, we had to queue in the cold for 5 minutes to get tickets. Then we scurried across the cobblestone courtyard to the gate, crossed the moat by bridge and inside the walls.

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The Tower is actually a 4-turret white stone building in the centre of the fortress. There are several other buildings inside the fortress, including the vault for the crown jewels (the most current crown and jewels were with the Queen at the time). What an impressive display of gold, jewels and huge diamonds. There were also videos of the coronation, royal appearances, and the Jubilee. Another building we saw was the one-time royal residences. Daddy and I toured the tourture chamber, where the only uncommon torture was something called (I think) the Butcher's Daughter. It's the opposite of the rack. They fold you up knees to chin and pin an iron ring around you.

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Over the years the Tower has been used for many famous imprisonments, royal housing, rebellious blockades and, as our guide pointed out, it was the last place on earth many people saw. Of all the tours we had taken so far, the Yeoman Warder (or Beefeater) who led our tour of the Tower was the best mix of entertainment and information. Each Yeoman Warder has to study for a year before being allowed to lead visitors around the fortress. We surmised that they must submit "their" tour as their final exam. It was an elaborate and engaging act.

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He jumped up on walls to address us, florished his cape, doffed his hat and, "Oh yes!" told many tales of woe and triumph peppered with the obscure and the famous.

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All around the grounds were scattered the ominous Tower Ravens, immense black birds who have roosted at the Tower for centuries. It is said that if the ravens ever leave, the Tower will fall under attack and ruin. (Daddy said, "Their wings must be clipped. Who would stay here?")

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A slight example of the arsenal of weaponry and pieces of war kept inside the White Tower.
The Record book for one years inflow/outflow of food and supplies for the fortress. This book was a foot thick and centuries old.

The last interesting thing about the tower was the Chapel. Our guide led us inside, asked the gentlemen to doff their caps and seated us on wooden benches. He asked if we wanted to hear a ghost story or a love story. Heretofore we could have been labelled a rather greusome group, delighting in mysterious dissappearences and undeserved beheadings, but I guess the aura of lovelyness and peace in the Chapel changed our mood a bit. He ended up telling us the sad tale of the death of Lady Jane Gray, queen for 9 days at the age of 17. I can't tell you all the touching details of her last meeting with her husband before he, too was executed, or the exchange of words between her and the apologetic executioner. However, our guide pointed out an elegant display of flowers in a stand near the altar, and said that someone has been sending a boquet to the chapel every year in memory of Lady Jane. She died in 1554.

Posted by misshelenb 13:12 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Word Pictures

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I think that one particular umbrella really makes this picture.

Posted by misshelenb 19:36 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The London Eye

Please, look down!

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So, Sunday evening, Daddy and I waited in a conference room with about 30 other people, dripping from the rain and steaming up the windows. Soon we were ushered outside, past the ginormous line of visitors waiting to get tickets, and up to the loading platform. They checked us like we were getting on an actual airplane.

The Eye has 32 capsules for the 32 boroughs or districts of London However, the numbering goes up to 33, because the designers, a husband and wife team, skipped the number 13. The Eye cost 79 million pounds to construct, and takes about 30 minutes to make a full revolution. It didn't stop while we boarded, following the capsule along the boarding platform.

As we travelled around, our amusing guide pointed out many of the sites to be seen along the Thames.

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The Eye is situated parallel to the Thames, with its outer supports actually in the river. It travels clockwise. Starting at the bottom, we see Buckingham Palace, as close as we got to it, across the river. Sorry about the rain drops on the wall of the Eye, it was either that or no pictures!

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Next our guide showed us this building, and asked what we thought it looked like. What do you think it looks like? Some of the answers he's recieved over the years have been : a Meat factory, a Jukebox, a toster, the Batmobile. . . . Now, I'll tell you that it is Chatham Cross Railway Station. It is designed to depict a train coming out of a tunnel.

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What is this? Big Ben? Yes, but did you know that "Big Ben" is the name of the bell inside the tower, not the tower itself? Locals just call this The Clock Tower (I'm sure they say it capitalized). If you could see it up close, it is decorated with lovely guilding and lots of little spires.

Now, I don't have a picture of this, but here's for all you mothers and diligent homemakers: In World War 2, a group of female workers built the Waterloo Bridge crossing the Thames. The men were off to war, thus it was almost completely constructed by women, and dubbed the Ladies Bridge. Here's something the gentlemen would never have thought of, however: The Ladies Bridge is built from a special type of stone that is self-cleaning. It rids itself of residue and grime stains any time it rains!

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Here's a great composite photo, rather than all the individual ones which are rather rained-out. The charming red-and-white-striped building in the center foreground is the old home of Scotland Yard. They call it Blood and Bandages .

Directly behind Blood and Bandages you see a building with a circular courtyard. That is the Royal Treasury. Right next to it is the square-courtyard building, Foreign Affairs. I guess they do them with those shapes so that enemy planes can distinguish which one to jump into . . .

One of the buildings in this photo (which one?!) holds all the records for the British Nation. Think about that. How big would a building like that be for America? All the records. Locals call it the "Hatchem, Matchem and Dispatchem".

That imposing black and white building to the left of Blood and Bandages is the Center of Defense. There are twelve floors above ground, and 24 more underground!

The British Parliament is in the lower left of the photo. Here's a better picture.

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When the politicians take their afternoon tea, they have two separate hospitality tents on the waters edge. House of Lords is Red, House of Commons is Green. Our guide didn't know if that was for strategic purposes, or to keep down the fighting outside of session!

If you're wondering about the other bits in the drawing up there, the upper right is the Gherkin, the highly stylized, 600 million pound office building, lower right is that ever-present warning imposed on the underground insignia, and lower left is how they store the bells at Lincoln Cathedral. Well, I was told they are stored upside down, but couldn't figure out how the mechanics of that would work. Our roof tour guide said that quite often the bell boy would get an early morning shower when he inverted the bell for the day.

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This is Cleopatra's Needle, hidden in obscurity in this greyish photo. Apparently (I could be remembering incorrectly) these are one-piece granite needles set up by the Queen herself. I'm not sure if she coated them in Electrum (mix of gold and silver) or not. There is one in Paris and one in New York. Now I wish I had taken better notes.

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Posted by misshelenb 05:36 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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