London Trip: Thoughts and Observations

     I recently came back from a vacation across the pond and while the weather was “on and off” that didn’t stop me from traveling or sightseeing. England is a really big place (well, depends on who you ask) so it is really impossible to see everything in such a short time (A week) which is why you research and choose what you feel is of importance to you on this go around.Which I did and I’m happy to say more or less that my goal was reached and accomplished (minus the 2 things recommended by a friend that I didn’t know about).

 So, based on everything I did, let me tell you about what I thought about the stuff I did.

HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

   This is the heart of London where everything happens. Going through I tried to compare it with our version of the Senate and House (not sure if it’s an accurate description though) and here, it’s defined as the House of Lords and the House of Commons. You can tell that the building is steeped in History by it’s design. Not only that, but there’s one room where all the Queens and Kings hang (including the current )and I stopped and “visualised” what it was like back then. All the sculptures of people who are long, long gone that passed through even the door that Charles 1 walked through . There’s a reason why you need to knock now as apparently, Charles 1 stormed through this door demanding the head of 5 people he said commited treason (If you look closely, the door is still damaged and ironically, if you look above the door, the wall is damaged from the bombs of WWII. Churchill aid to leave as is as a reminder).

You actually enter from a place called WESTMINSTER HALL which was built in the 1500’s and is very significant because it’s also called THE GREAT HALL  because it’s where a few people lied in state here such as Churchill. Also, it’s where leaders come to speak (Mandela, Obama). Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures except for in this room.

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Stain Glass window

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Over the years, this has been renovated but it’s the original design

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WESTMINSTER ABBEY

  This is older then Parliament by about 500 years (give or take) and it’s a church, cathedral, cemetery, memorial.. Basically an all in one and I’m not exaggerating and here’s why.

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      Basically, how this works is that you go through it (It’s one big area) and as you go off with Jeremy Irons (He’s your guide) you really have to take a look at the gothic design and the detail that went in to it.It’s massive, beautiful and lots of thoughts went into it. You walk past the final resting places of ome of the early monarchy such as Isaac Newton, King Henry (the first one who also was one of the original designers), his wife, Edward (I forgot which one) Mary Queen of Scots and even some modern day people who are paried beneath the floor (You can’t see them but if you stand on their name plaque, it’s the spot where they are “resting”) even those not buried here (like Willie Shakespeare) still have a memorial to them including Handel who was German.

    I should also mention that on display is the coronation chair that was used for Queen Elizabeth and of past Q and K’s (It is still being used). Here is also where Princess Di and Charles , Willie and Katie got married.

  It’s also open to anyone who finds themselves wanting to pray during services. I do however recommend you going to check this out no matter your religion.

CRUISING DOWN THE THAMES

    This isn’t really anything I set out to do (it is Winter after all) but I just wanted to say that I went to the Thames. I also happened to have been here and it seemed like a good shortcut to get to where I was going.DSC_0086.JPG

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Tower of London View From Other Side Of Thames

TOWER OF LONDON

I didn’t know about this and was recommended by a friend but boy is this a chilly, eerie place. This place has 6 live Ravens living here for it is said that should they leave, the Tower will fall. No idea if it’s true but as Lenin once said

“Tell a lie long enough and it becomes truth”

Anyway, this was a massive Tower/Fortress  that was protected from all sides

 It also said that nearby is where Anne Boleyn was executed. There is a monument here to attest to that fact.

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A monument that says this is the site where Anne Boleyn was executed by Henry the 8th

Pretty much I learned a little bit here . One thing that is interesting here is that the staff live on the premises with family and that they are part of the royal guard that works for the Queen. The evidence is there because on the site also houses the Crown Jewels. Basically the royal crowns, scepters and everything among them.

    It truly is a magnificent place  and I can go on and on but I won’t so let’s go on shall we?

ROYAL ALBERT HALL

    This was actually not in my plans however I was close to where I needed to be so I figured it’s a really famous and well know place so I figured why not? Anyone who’s anyone has performed here (currently home to Cirque Du Soleil). Because I went on a guided tour, I was able to go where it’s usually off limits such as the Queen’s waiting room and her box (technically the Royal Box). Oh, and apparently there’s a royal bathroom which we couldn’t see but can’t imagine how it would be any different.

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The View From The Royals Box

I did a walking tour which was fascinating in and of itself and discovered that Big Ben is named after a guy named Ben who was a pretty big fella (true story). Also, for some reason, only UK residents can go inside it. Not sure why but this is an odd thing really. Oh, but the clock still works. It chimes on the hour.

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The Famous Pic/Movie Scene

Well, I spent a week here and pretty much accomplished what I set out to do and the other things were just bonuses. I even got to do 4 things in one day . The problem is that there’s lots to see not just in London so you’d have to plan another trip just to see it. For example:

  • Shakespeare’s House: This is way, way out there. It could be done but you’d have to go early in the morning. There are different  opinions on whether or not he’s buried here as well.
  • Windsor Castle: This is the main dish if you will. The place that holds the final resting place for KIng George VI(Lizzie’s Pop), his wife, daughter (I think)… Her name is Margret).. It’s also the place of many other royals . Interestingly enough, Princess Di isn’t buried here. She unfortunately is off limits to the public. The closest you can get to her is via her monument in Hyde Park.  Also of note: It’s still used today . Actually it’s one of the Queen’s residence . This is a nice place to visit if you have the time but it’s between 3 and 4 hours to get there so plan accordingly.
  • Stonehenge: This mysterious monument tells a story. There are conflicts regarding the Stonehenge. How it got there, who built it, what it represents… But it is considered by some as one of the seven wonders of the world. And, not far from here is the famous
  • Bath Houses. Not Turkish. Not English but Roman. Yep. And it is still in use today. In fact, for a fee, one can go swimming in these waters. Untouched, these are the actual houses which would make them thousands of years old (I’m guessing here).

Believe it or not, England is a HUGE place with so much to see and do. It is unfortunate that you can’t see EVERYTHING in one trip (Unless you stay here for a month or two) but a lot of this is for anyone who is a history buff and/or just to see famous “movie locations”. (You won’t find the GoT set anywhere here).

England is older then America. Way, way, way old. And yet, they were barbaric for most of their existence and I think most ,if not all, of England still suffers from that today. It is interesting to not however that the monarchy meant something all those years ago. Today, it is just a name in title only. A figurehead. Yet, the Queen still has a say in some Government matters and there’s still a hierarchy but only because it’s been that way from generation to generation (kinda tradition at this point) but England isn’t the same as it used to be? No. Can it or will it revert to it’s past?  No and even if it wanted to it couldn’t because of the Magna Carta (which I happily got to see ).

And that’s why the history is so important not just for England but for us all because at one point in time we were all under British rule.It wasn’t just America, (New York was named by the English by the way as it was supposed to be a gift for the Duke of York), but other countries like S. Africa, Israel, Canada (which is still under the Monarchy it seems). And it is important to remember why we wanted to be free of their rule and why we wanted our independance.

England today by definition is a Catholic country (I think) but it was because of the separation of Church and State which was a very important time in England’s history. It is this point that made it what it is today and without it, who knows what would have happened. That being said, I like to think that England’s history is our history because it is who we are. It is who we became for without them, who knows if we would have ever become The United States of America? And it is for this reason and this reason alone that we must reflect on the history and the politics of English rule and society .