Tuesday, July 29, 2014

England Week 6 - Our Last Week

Saturday, June 7th - Thursday, June 12th

Courtyard at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  This huge museum is free and fills several buildings like this.  We spent all day Saturday here.  I had salmon and veggies for lunch and John had lamb and rice.

This long gallery was filled with all kinds of ornate silver and gold utensils, tea services, sculptures, etc.  I forget the name for the decanter that held the salt, but salt was a highly prized commodity and the closer you were seated to the salt, the more in favor you were with the king or host.  Thus the saying 'he's worth his salt'.

Replica of a 1738 wine cooler (punch bowl) commissioned by a London goldsmith/banker who wanted to create the largest ever wine cooler celebrating the pleasures of wine.  It took the sculptor 4 years and weighed 500 pounds and was over 3 feet across.

Bookcase given to Queen Victoria by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and installed in Buckingham Palace.   Henry VIII (1509-1547) had 54 palaces and over 2,700 of those huge wall tapestries.  Tapestries were among the most magnificent possessions of kings, princes and popes.  Henry VIII paid the equivalent of the annual income of one of his richest Dukes for a single large set.  The Royal Court was a movable household.  Several hundred people moved with the King from one palace to another, usually by river since many of the palaces were located on the Thames.  Moves were determined by seasons, threat of plague, search for new hunting grounds or to impress an important guest.  The baggage train carried his personal effects and those of his household.  He entertained lavishly at his larger palaces, like Hampton or Greenwich.  Interiors were richly painted and gilded.

They had a huge gallery about theater with puppet theaters and all kinds of costumes, including some of Elton John, Mick Jagger and others.  There was a film here explaining how the 'War Horse' was made to move on stage.

One gallery was all about architecture.

It had models of typical homes and buildings from all over the world.

Commode.  Pretty elaborate just for a place to wash up.

Huge table with folding table top made out of one slice from a tree.

Great Bed of Ware 1590, famous for over 400 years on account of its size.  Those three pillows are like those extra long king size pillows or maybe even bigger, so it's really huge.  It was used at various inns and was already being shown as a historic relic in 1836.  It would have originally been brightly painted with fantastical creatures and both the male and female figures are quite suggestive of how it may have been used.

Ragley Hall 1707, just an example of how their country homes were designed in careful unity with the surroundings, including gardens, parks, courtyard, pleasure gardens, kitchen gardens, park land and avenues of trees.  What a way to live, with all the servants to take care of it.

These two buildings are part of the front of the V and A Museum.

This guy was playing across the street from the museum.  Check out the flame coming out of his bassoon.  We caught the tube to Stratford City by the Olympic Park and went back to the Stratford Mall food court (largest mall in Europe) for supper.  I had a Greek salad, grilled halloumi cheese, grilled pita and tzaztini sauce.  Yummy!  John had McDonald's. 

WWI Cavalry Memorial.

Interesting horse head sculpture near the Marble Arch.

Some of their troops we passed in the tube station.  Notice the red and white feathers in their berets.

Marble statue of Queen Victoria with figures of Victory, Courage and Constancy.  We got here very early on Sunday and found a spot on the stone wall to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Interesting looking couple waiting for the changing of the guard.

By the time they started there were thousands of people.

We were right next to the young boy in the yellow shirt getting a seat on the wall.

Thank goodness for the good zoom on my new camera.

There were so many people there.  There must have been at least 50 police officers walking and on horseback constantly patrolling to keep everyone on the sidewalks and off the streets and down from climbing on the walls and statues to get a better look or picture.  Kind of cool to see once, but I don't think I'd fight the crowds to do it again.

View back toward the Victoria statue and Buckingham Palace as we left.  Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the British Monarch.  It stands on the site of a country house built for the Duke of Buckingham which was purchased by King George III in 1761.  George IV transformed it into the palace in 1825.  In 1837 when Queen Victoria moved in, the Marble Arch was the main entrance on this side commemorating victories at Trafalgar and Waterloo.  In 1840 a new wing was added and in 1913 the Victoria Memorial including the memorial gates given by Australia, South Africa and Canada.  George VI and Queen Elizabeth appeared on the balcony with their daughters and Winston Churchill on VE Day in 1945. 

Last of the drum corps going by as we walked down the street.

View as we walked through St. James Park.  London Eye in the distance and water fountain down in front of it.  The fountain is part of the "Tiffany Across the Water" program that focuses on restoring and renewing water features across London's 8 royal parks, financed by Tiffany Co. Foundation in New York.   The fountain aligns perfectly with the balcony of Buckingham Palace and lights up at night.  It's 25' tall and over 5.5 million visitors come to St. James Park annually. In 1749 King George II staged a huge fireworks and musical celebration here.  Handel composed the music which was performed with 40 trumpets, 20 french horns and 100 cannon.  In the 1600s gifts from the King of Spain to King James II (crocodile, elephant and 5 camels) and pelicans from the Russian ambassador wandered the park.   

Another view back toward Buckingham Palace.

Statue of Oliver Cromwell in the courtyard of Parliament.

Couple of young 'birds' having their picture taken with the 'bobbies', who were only to happy to accommodate them.

This is the entrance at the side of Parliament that they were posing in front of.  We walked across Lambeth Bridge and had lunch outside by the Thames.  John had fish and chips and I had grilled chicken and a salad.

Then we walked a few blocks to the Imperial War Museum.

John had been looking forward to going, but when we got there it was closed until July.

Nearby we spotted another of those blue signs denoting someone famous had lived here.  This place had been the home of William Bligh 1754-1817 Commander of the "Bounty".  Other signs we had happened by were Rudyard Kipling, Herman Melville and Benjamin Franklin.  There was one on John Lennon's house, but not on Paul McCartney's, as you have to have been dead at least 20 years to ensure that your fame is lasting.

All sorts of culturally interesting attire on the streets and in the tube stations.

"Philosophy", a 1645 painting in the National Portrait Gallery.  The stone tablet inscription says, "Be silent, unless what you have to say is better than silence".  By that logic, I would probably never speak again.

"Whistlejacket" was a racehorse who was painted life size for his owner.  The National Portrait Gallery is also free.

While John was waiting for me out on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery, he watched an educational/protest gathering of Sikhs in Trafalgar Square. 

Ornate building top as we walked along the street.  We stopped at an Italian restaurant for supper.  John had pizza and I had a shrimp pasta.

Check out this guy in the pedi-cab.  He's hauling at least four guys and doesn't seem to be working hard at all.  Then we headed for Charring Cross Station to catch the tube home for the evening.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church.  We ate lunch in the Crypt Cafeteria one day, taking the elevator or stairs down the little glass enclosure.  There is also a gift shop down there.  We found the museum and church cafeterias to be some of the best places to get an excellent lunch.

Monday, kids in their school uniforms at the Museum of Natural History, also free and wonderful.  Lots of dinosaurs, which the kids love.  Dinosaurs have been found on every continent, even Antarctica.   Richard Owen was the driving force behind setting up the museum and invented the word "dinosaur" meaning terrible lizard, for the prehistoric reptiles being found in the 1800s.

Way upstairs under the arch is a slice from a California Giant Sequoia Redwood.

It was 1,300 years old when it was felled in 1891.  They cut it into sections to ship it and put it back together.  We ate lunch at the museum, John had pizza and I had celeriac soup and a big chunk of homemade brown, crusty bread.  Oh, so good.

Mary Anning, the fossil woman, was 11 years old when she discovered a complete ichthyosaur skeleton.  She was the first to discover complete ichthyosaur and plesiosaur skeletons.

Scintillating Copper Pheasant from Japan.

Lady Amherst's Pheasant found from Tibet to China to Burma.

Elephantine egg (left, equal to 200 chicken eggs, far right) was laid by Elephant birds, which were giant running birds up to 10' tall and over 1,100 pounds .  They became extinct around 1650.  Trivia:  Bats form nearly 1/4 of all mammal species and there are 951 species of bats.  One grain of sand is equal in size to 5,000 human cells.  Robber crabs live on dry ground and scale coconut trees and crack the coconuts with their powerful claws and eat them.  They are hunted for their shells and are becoming extinct.  Spider crabs can grow up to 10' across.  I wouldn't want to meat one of them on the beach.

Hummingbird collection.  The museum has 70 million specimens, books and artworks and the world's largest collection of Darwin's works.  Each year hundreds of researchers travel here to the Darwin Center from around the world and thousands of specimens are sent out on loan.  They have 135,000 drawers of insects, 17 million insects and 3 million plant specimens in environmentally controlled rooms.  As many as 90% of the world's species are yet to be named and classified.  About 1.5 million have been named and described, maybe 10 million to go.  They have 3.5 million butterflies in their collection representing 95% of the 20,000 species known in the world. 

Orbicular Diorite.  They had a huge gallery with nothing but rocks and minerals from all over the world, some so unusual and beautiful.

Wardite from Utah.  Many were from the American southwest.

Tourmaline from San Diego County, California.

Have you ever seen an armadillo fold itself up?

Blue Whale in comparison to the hippo on the left and the rhino and elephant on the right.

Interesting purse from a dwarf crocodile.  Not to everyone's taste I'm sure.

The Bloodhound Supersonic Car is scheduled to blast down the South African desert on a 12 mile track in 2015 and 2016, faster than a bullet from a .357 Magnum, a mile in 3.5 seconds.  It will go from 0 to 1,000 mph in 55 seconds.  The jet and rocket powered car is 44' long.  It has the fastest wheels in history rotating at 10,500 rpm when the car is traveling 1,000 mph and it is essential that the wheels are perfectly balanced.  The current record is 763 mph.

This guy was playing an accordion in one of the tunnels from the tube.  Not John, the guy sitting against the wall.

The Great Hall at Parliament, the only original remaining part of the Palace of Westminster, which was later used by Parliament and mostly lost to fire and rebuilt in the 1800s.  President Obama gave a speech here.  Many state trials and impeachments were held here, including that of King Charles I who was beheaded in 1649.  Parents of the current Queen lay in state here, King George VI in 1952 and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 2002.  Winstong Churchill also lay in state here in 1965.  The Palace of Westminster was built by William II in 1098.  Richard II had this hammer beam roof built in 1401, the largest Medieval timber roof in northern Europe. 

We went through the security check and were able to go into both the House of Lords and the House of Commons and listen to them debate for a bit.  Tours were only given on Saturdays and we didn't get to go on one.

View of an interior courtyard of Parliament from a window as we were coming back down the stairs.

View of Big Ben as we were leaving the Great Hall.

Couple of cowboys wearing masks walking down the street.  The guy in front even has his six shooter out of its holster and ready for action.  You do see all kinds.  We hopped the tube to Green Park Station and had supper at the Caffe Concerto.  John had lamb shank and I had smoked salmon tagliatelli.

Garbage on the curb in front of shops is a fairly common sight, as there is just no way for garbage trucks to get down the narrow alley ways or streets behind the shops.

Section of the original Roman wall of Londinium from 200 AD. on the grounds of the Museum of London on Tuesday.

Pointed-toed shoes were in vogue back in the mid-1400s.  In 1465 a law forbid beaks or pikes on shoes or boots over 2" long upon pain of cursing by the clergy and a fine of 20 shillings, but the fashion for long-toed shoes persisted.  Like then, as now, people do not like to be told what to do.

Monument to the Great Fire of London in 1666 which burned 13,000 houses and 436 acres.  It is 202' tall with 311 steps.

Just another interesting, ornate building top.

Cool picture of a church reflected in a modern building across the street.  On one end of this block is the Tower of London.  On the other end is the Hung, Drawn and Quartered Pub.

Back at our temporary home above the pub.  Our last two nights we had supper at a nearby pub that was part of a chain of Wetherspoon Pubs, that have excellent meals at very reasonable prices.  I highly recommend them.  A sign on the wall said that Alfred Hitchcock was born near here in Leytonstone in 1899.  He started designing title cards for the London division of Paramount in 1920 and by 1925 he was a director.  He married the film editor and was married for 50 years.  He had six Oscar nominations, but never won one.

Wednesday we decided to just catch one of the red double-decker buses and relax and enjoy the sights.  Delivery trucks tended to pull up in no parking lanes or bus stop lanes and unload as fast as they could.  In order to park legally they would have to go around the corner and probably park a block or two away.  As we sat eating our breakfast in a little Middle Eastern neighborhood cafe, we saw a guy getting a ticket for being parked in the bus lane.  Speaking of breakfast, I had "bubble", and I had to ask what it was.  It came with my breakfast and was a fried patty of egg and potatoes and veggies and it was delicious.

We got the front seat on the top deck just above the driver and had a great view.  At the cross streets when waiting for the light to change, there is an area at the front where bikes can gather.  So when the light turns green there is always a bunch of bikers who take off first.  About half have helmets.

How safe would you feel on your bike?  It looks a little scary to me.



Colorful attire.

I assume there is a police station nearby, but I didn't see it.

These banners were to let everyone know that this very busy shopping street will be entirely shut down for the month of July when it is pedestrian traffic only.  I don't know if this is because July is a big holiday month for Europeans and this major shopping area just becomes clogged with shoppers or what.

We found our way into a whole new area of town we hadn't seen yet, just full of statues.  These are war memorials from the Crimean War.  There were many more statues around of the famous commanders and heroes.

This is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and King George VI, parents of the current Queen.  Nearby was a statue of Charles de Gaulle.

This statue of Queen Alexandra was near a side entrance to St. James Palace where the Queen officially greets ambassadors from other countries.

The guards leaving St. James Palace heading to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard.

View from Green Park.  People waiting to watch the changing of the guard.

Monument in Green Park to Canadian and Newfoundland men and women who came to the U.K. to serve during WWI and WWII, in particular the more than 100,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice for peace and freedom.  

It's polished red granite with inset bronze maple leaves on an incline with shimmering water flowing over giving the impression of floating downstream.  A compass rose in the center points to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the port from which most left for active service.

The street to the left is the main road down to Buckingham Palace.  Just on this side of the street is a very wide dirt path for horse back riding.  Next to that is a divided paved trail for walkers and bikers and on the other side of that is another dirt path for walkers and joggers.  All of the parks are very accommodating with paths for all modes of non-motorized transportation.

Queen Elizabeth II unveiled this memorial for the Royal Air Force Bomber Command for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.  

A Winston Churchill quote here says, "The fighters are our salvation, but the bombers alone provide the means of victory."

Typical scene at Hyde Park or any of the Royal Parks on a nice day.  You can rent deck chairs by the hour or by the day and just sit and people watch and enjoy the sun.

St. Pancras Station.  We got off here one evening and ate supper at a little Indian place.  The owner stopped by our table to visit and asked us what we thought of MIT as a college, because his son wanted to go there.

Inside St. Pancras Station is the famous scene from the Harry Potter movie where he just walks through the wall to the fictitious Platform 9  3/4.  Kids were lining up here to have their picture taken.

A very large sculpture inside St. Pancras Train Station.

Right next to the station and hotel is the beautiful new British Library with this statue of Sir Isaac Newton in the plaza.

Behind the library you can see St. Pancras Station.  The library has an awesome museum of famous historical literature, including a copy of the Magna Carta and hand written lyrics of Beatles songs on scraps of paper.  They have a five-story, glass room in the center of priceless historical and first edition books.

Cool bench sculpture in the lobby.

Church in Nottinghill where I just poked my head in to have a peak and someone said come on in.  They had a huge screen up covering the whole front wall of the church, so I asked if they were having a special event going on.  They were going to be broadcasting the World Cup, so people could watch it on the big screen.  It's a very popular event over here, and I do mean VERY popular!

A few scenes walking around Nottinghill.  Entrance off the sidewalk to a little cafe with patio and a dress shop up the steps.

Walking down the street here, one of these places had the blue sign that said, "George Orwell lived here".

In one of the shop windows.  Lots of quaint little antique shops in the area, but no book store with Hugh Grant running it.  Bummer.

Just a pretty house along the way.

Little pizza place with their delivery car right in the front window.

I thought this looked like one of the scenes from the movie.

We didn't know what this was, but we saw people walking in and out, so we thought we would check it out.  There were two police officers just as we entered and a sign that said no photography.  As we walked along, there were occasionally signs on the buildings identifying them as the Russian Embassy or Romania Embassy or others.  But only the Israeli Embassy had armed guards out front.

British coins left to right.  2 pounds, 1 pound, 50 pence, 20 pence, 10 pence, 5 pence, 2 pence and 1 pence.  One pound was equal to $1.68 while we were there.  It was hard to remember that when I was pricing something to buy it.  I would see that we could have lunch somewhere for 6 pounds and my mind would think, "Oh $6.00, that's really reasonable for lunch.", but then the calculations would set in and I would realize that's actually over $10.00.

Well our trip is finally over and we are happy to be back and visiting all of our family and friends again for the summer.  We stayed with Dawn another two weeks and then headed to my brother's lake place in North Dakota.

The last weekend in June I went to Okoboji, Iowa with some old biking buddies for the annual Okoboji Bike Trail Ride.  We rode about 30 miles and it was great to see everyone again.  Me, Peggy, Ron, Rick, Julie and Jon Moir.

My sweet hubby got tickets for me and my Mom and Dawn to see Paul McCartney in Fargo on July 12th.  What fun!  We will be spending the next couple of months with family and probably not doing much blogging until late October.  

Still traveling and loving it.  Thanks for reading.


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