Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our "Great" Britain Trip, Week 1 - London

Wednesday, April 30th - Wednesday, May 7th 

We left Sioux Falls about 5:50 PM on Wednesday evening and had about a half hour flight to Minneapolis.  Seemed like there were computers set up at every bar seat and table seat in the airport for anyone's free usage and lots of sushi bars, somewhat different than the last time we were in an airport.  We had a little supper in the airport and left Minneapolis at 10:00 PM.  We arrived in London 8 hours later at 6:00 AM our time, noon London time Thursday.  It took another hour to get our bags and get through customs.  Dawn had ordered "oyster cards" ahead for us, so with them in hand, we boarded the tube.  The term "subway" here refers to tunnels under busy streets for pedestrians to avoid the traffic.  12 stops later, we switched to another tube line and after another 5 stops, we boarded the train.  After another three stops, we arrived at our destination, East Croydon, where Dawn had rented us a one-bedroom flat for our first week in London.  It was about a three or four block walk.  Dawn and I walked to a nearby mall and Sainsbury's (grocery store) to pick up a few supplies while John had a little nap.  Then we all walked about 10 blocks for supper at the Babylon Buffet in West Croydon.  A very ethnic neighborhood and most of the restaurants were Turkish, Middle Eastern or Indian style foods.  We ate in this neighborhood several times and my favorite meal of the whole six weeks was at a little Turkish place called Mazi Restaurant.  Dawn had a vegetarian pide (pizza) and I had a chicken pide, more like a calzone, a folded shut pastry.  It was absolute perfection.  John had lamb and chicken donor, something like a gyro, which he said was also very good, but his favorite meals were the lamb roast dinners, which he had at several different pubs during our trip.  Wow, what a long day!

Friday we caught the tube again.  After about 12 stops, we switched lines and made a few more stops to Westminster where we caught a city boat cruise on the Thames (Tems) to Greenwich.  The cruise started right next to Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Bridge.  Parliament was originally the Palace of Westminster, most of which burned down and was rebuilt in the 1800s.  Just to the right of Big Ben (behind Parliament), you can see a bit of Westminster Abbey.  Big Ben is 315 feet tall and is named for its 13 ton bell, Ben, which was named after a fat bureaucrat.  The faces on the clock are 23 feet across.  The 13-foot-long minute hand sweeps the length of your body every five minutes.  I highly recommend this cruise to get yourself oriented as to where all the main tourist sights are.

The Aquarium is right next to the London Eye and across the river from Big Ben.  This area along the river has lots of food vendors and street performers.  Down at the base of the Aquarium building, there are several restaurants, including McDonalds.

The London Eye is the world's highest observational wheel. Each air-conditioned capsule holds 25 people and you go around one rotation, which takes 30 minutes.  It's 443 feet high and the second best view in The City.  The views are great, but it costs 19 pounds, which is about $32.00.  The City refers to the one square mile that was the original Roman town of Londinium and is now basically the financial district.  Only about 9,000 people actually live in this area, but about 300,000 people commute here to work every day, which you are crushed in with, if you take the Tube before 10:00 AM.  So the evenings are usually relatively quiet, unless you are in the Theater District.  The current metropolitan area covers about 700 square miles.

Millennium Pedestrian Bridge ($25 million) built to celebrate the new millennium.  Unfortunately, at the unveiling it wobbled rather severely and the Queen was not impressed.  So it was closed for 20 months and $8 million later opened again.  It links St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern Art Museum (free).  It is 370 yards long and 4 yards wide, stainless steel with teak planks and aerodynamic hand rails that deflect wind over the heads of pedestrians.  

Somerset House, east of Waterloo Bridge, was started in 1549 and Somerset was executed on Tower Hill in 1552.  In the King's favor, out of the King's favor and so it goes.  Then owned by the Crown, it was still not completed 50 years later.  A Tudor Palace, it was used by the future Queen Elizabeth I and various Queen consorts.  It was the Army Headquarters during the Civil War of 1649.  Oliver Cromwell lay in state here in 1658.  In the 1700s it was abandoned and started to be demolished before it was saved for government offices in the late 1700s.  Today the east wing is part of King's College London.  There are various art galleries in it, including the free Courtauld Gallery.  There is a huge fountain and courtyard open to the public on the back side.  In the winter, there is an ice rink which was shown in the movie "Love Actually".  It has been used in many films, including a couple of James Bond movies and several Sherlock Holmes films. 

Shakespeare's Globe Theater, a replica of the original that burned down in the early 1600s when the thatched roof caught fire.  Thatched roofs were outlawed after the Great Fire of London in 1666 and this is the first building built with a thatched roof in London since then.  It stands about 200 yards from where the original was and is supposed to be built exactly the same.

The Shard opened in 2013 and is supposed to look like a broken glass shard.  It is 1,020 feet tall and was the tallest building in Europe when it was built, but there are a couple taller in Germany now.  The observation decks have London's best views.  In the foreground is The Belfast, a ship museum since 1974.

There are so many bridges across the Thames, it seems like there is one every 2 or 3 blocks.  Two are strictly pedestrian.  You can see at least three in this picture.

The Tower of London.  It has served as a castle in wartime and a king's residence in peacetime and most notoriously, as the prison and execution site of rebels.  It's good to be the King and not so good to be on the outs with him.  Skyscraper at the far left is nicknamed The Gherkin because it looks like a pickle and is the second tallest building in London.  

The Tower Bridge with one of those red city buses just crossing.  Built in 1894, it is a hydraulically powered drawbridge that opens in the center to let tall ships through about 1,000 times a year, but we never saw it open.  There are museum exhibits in the towers and you can peak in the engine room and enjoy the city views from the walkways.  Way over half the vehicles in the city are taxis or buses.  I once counted at least 13 buses on one of the bridges at one time.

City Hall, which one of our guides referred to as the Leaning Tower of Pizzas.

The little black and white building in the middle here is actually a boat that has been turned into a pub called The Mayflower.

Row of 'flats' (apartments) with trees that are kept completely trimmed back, so they never have leaves, but look more like some kind of a sculpture.  We see trees kept this way a lot when we are in California.  Seems kind of weird to me.  What's the point of a tree, if you don't get any shade from it?

Canary Wharf, so called because they originally had fresh fruit shipped here from the Canary Islands..

Queen's Stairs between the two buildings, where Sir Walter Raleigh was knighted.

Arriving at Greenwich.  Twin domed Old Royal Naval College, Christopher Wren's riverside masterpiece.   It was originally built by  King William III and Queen Mary II in 1692 (sparing no expense) as a charity to care for retired or injured Naval officers called pensioners.  In 1869 it became a Naval Academy.  William and Mary had the only double coronation ever, done at William's request.  The left dome is the chapel and the right dome is the Painted Hall, the finest dining hall in Europe.  It took 19 years to paint the ceilings and walls with imagery celebrating the royal family and maritime power.  The body of Admiral Lord Nelson lay in state here after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar.  They stand on the site of the original Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII's favorite royal residence.

How much money have I got here, Dawn?  Is this a 20 pence or a 50 pence?  Is this one a pound?

Our first sight upon disembarking in Greenwich, is the Cutty Sark, raised 11 feet above dry dock with a museum built underneath it.  Scottish built, the queen of the seas when it was launched in 1869, it was the last of the great China tea clippers.  With 32,000 sq. ft. of sails and 11 miles of rigging, she could travel 300 miles a day.  She carried everything from tea to wool to gunpowder and by the mid-1920s was the world's last operating clipper ship.  Through the front windows of the museum, you can see the largest collection of merchant-navy figureheads in the world, including Captain Long John Silver.  

Me trying on some knights armour at the visitor's center in Greenwich.

I'm not sure if that's the name of the street (they do have some strange street and town names) or we are actually supposed to beware of humped pelicans.

The free and kid-friendly National Maritime Museum is the world's largest maritime museum, not surprising, since Britain ruled the seas and conquered so much of the world.  What is it John always says?  Do you know why the sun never set on the British Empire?  Because God couldn't trust an Englishman in the dark.

Queen's House, originally designed in 1616 for Anne of Denmark, first wife of James I, who died before it was completed in 1638 for Charles I's queen, Henrietta Maria. It is currently a gallery for world class nautical related paintings and art for the Maritime Museum, also free with a free daily tour.

View from Queen's House back toward the twin-domed Royal Naval College, Painted Hall and Chapel, and the Thames.

We never have to worry about going hungry, as there are tons of little food wagons of this type all along both sides of the river and wherever there are tourist sights.

Taking a little break between the Maritime Museum and Queen's House with a view of the . . . 

Titanic Memorial Gardens in Greenwich Park (one of the Royal Parks) with the Royal Observatory at the top of the hill.

This dog was posing so nicely as we hiked up the hill, I couldn't resist.

Prime Meridian, 0 degrees longitude, point from which all time is measured, official world time.  In 1714 the British government offered a 20,000 pound prize for solving the longitude problem for navigation.  After working on it for 45 years, John Harrison finally won the prize in 1760.   I straddled the meridian line for the iconic tourist photo, but it seems to have gotten deleted.  Oh well, I still have about 4,000 others for our trip scrapbook.

At the Royal Observatory there is a planetarium ($10), astronomy gallery, telescope exhibit and an orange Time Ball at the top that drops every day at 1:00 PM and can be seen from the Thames.

From the top of observatory hill back toward Queen's House and the Royal Naval College domes, across the river the Docklands skyscrapers and The City.  The round dome on the far right is the O2 where Michael Jackson was scheduled to do a series of concerts that never happened.

Down from Queen's House between the domes is the green area that Henry VIII and his knights used to use for jousting practice.  I wanted to go into Painter's Hall inside the right dome.  It is supposed to have fabulous paintings on the ceiling, but it was closed for renovation.  We did walk into the St. Peter and Paul Chapel (the old Royal Naval College Chapel) inside the left dome, which was also very nice.

 We had lunch nearby at Ye Old Rose and Crown Pub.

A pint of ale and a little cider perked us right up.

John waited for us, while Dawn and I went across the street to check out the Fan Museum.  He didn't want to pay to look at fans, go figure.  They have over 4,000 items in their collection.  One thing I found interesting was the many cardboard fans about 8" square with a tongue-depressor-like stick fastened to them for a handle.  There were several with lovely pictures and ads on them for funeral homes and some political ones, like "Vote for JFK".  It was the only thing we paid for today ($5) besides lunch and the cruise.  All the other museums and sights we did were free.  There was always lots of free stuff to do, but the stuff we did pay for was usually very pricey.

Heading home after a long day.

Saturday we got off the tube at Baker Street Station and headed around the corner to the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B where the line was about a block long to get in.

So we headed up the street to Regent's Park, one of the 11 Royal Parks, and walked through Queen Mary's Gardens, a very small part of the park.

Street scene.  Notice the golden arches above the doorway in the center.  McDonald's is everywhere here.  Most of them have three stories of seating inside with the restrooms on the third floor.  There is one about every two or three blocks.  We even saw two that were only a half block apart.  There are just about as many Starbucks, lots of Burger Kings, KFCs, Pizza Huts, Dominos and we saw a TGIF, a Five Guys, a Planet Hollywood and a Rain Forest Cafe.

Glockenspiel with 27 bells, musical automaton clock, herdsmen and animals ascending alpine meadows five times a day from noon to 8:00PM.  Dedicated by Switzerland in 1985 for the 400th anniversary of the City of Winchester, which was at one time a separate city from London.

Statue of Shakespeare in Leicester (Lester) Square with theater ticket office right behind.  We got cheap tickets here several times on the day of performance.

Pret A Manger (Monj) is their fast food place on just about every block or two.  It has healthy pre-made sandwiches, salads, scones, muffins and fancy coffees.  They also have Costa Coffee everywhere, which is pretty much like Starbucks.

From Leicester Square we walked over to nearby Covent Garden where there are lots of outdoor restaurants and shops and performers.  This band was really hopping, literally.  They were playing some kind of Irish jig or something and dancing right along with it, kicking their feet up in the air, while they played.  Dawn is in the blue on the far left corner above with John next to her.  

Walking along the Victoria Embankment and Whitehall Gardens.

I believe this guy is playing a bassoon.  We saw so many people playing on the streets, along the river and especially in the tunnels of the Tube system.  There were guys playing guitar and harmonica at the same time, electric guitar (with a car battery to plug into), accordion with tambourine on his foot, harp, mandolin, banjo, keyboard, clarinet, saxophone, etc.  We even saw a guy with 5 gal. buckets and other size buckets and stuff playing drums.

This is in Trafalgar Square in front of the British Museum.  There are two huge fountains like this, the other just to the right of this picture.  They had mermaid-like sculptures around them and there were huge monuments in each of the four corners of the plaza.

Plus the tower in the center to honor Admiral Lord Nelson for winning the Battle of Trafalgar (at which he died), making it possible for Wellington to go on to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo.  The man on the horse out front is King Charles I who was beheaded for declaring his divine authority over the people and ruling like an all powerful god with no thought for the people.  That didn't turn out so well for him.  I guess it's sometimes a good idea for the King not to torque off the people.  Oh well, as Doris Day would say, "Que Sera, Sera".  This day there was a fire engine that kept circling Trafalgar Square with a loud speaker playing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire".  Some sort of protest, I think.

Whitehall Gardens.  The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of the Tudors.  Henry VIII married two of his wives here, Anne Boleyn in 1533 and Jane Seymour in 1536 and he died here in 1547.  At one time it was the largest palace in Europe, larger than the Vatican and Versailles with 1,500 rooms and 23 acres.  Charles I lived here and stood on the balcony of Whitehall for his final words and said, "Remember this day".   Then he was executed in front of the palace in 1649.  That's when Oliver Cromwell took over and it was supposed to be the end of rule by Kings.  Most of the palace later burned down except the Banqueting Hall and a tower and tennis courts built by Henry VIII.  The Banqueting Hall is supposed to be quite impressive and has tours, but we didn't get around to it.  When his son, Charles II, became King, he had Oliver Cromwell dug up and hung, drawn and quartered and put his head on a stake on a bridge.

Every once in a while we would see one of the really old double-decker buses.  This is right next to the Victoria Embankment Gardens.

Italian Gardens in Kensington Park.  

Statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Park.

Walking along Serpentine Lake in Kensington Park.

Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Kensington Park.  It is a sort of curvy, circular river with slight water falls.  The children appeared to be having a great time playing in it.  

John had to check it out and said the water was quite cold.  The kids didn't seem to mind.

We saw these bushes in several different gardens.  They were a favorite of Dawn's and mine.  They are called California lilacs, but I don't remember ever seeing them in California.

Prince Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall also in Kensington Park.

Prince Albert died when he was only 42 and Queen Victoria was heart broken.  She wore only black for the rest of her life, almost 40 years.  She had all the iron fences in London painted black and put up elaborate statues and memorials to her prince.  This memorial is unbelievably huge.  Just below the roof line, there are four huge statues, one on each corner.  Below that, by each column are another four statues.  Jutting out at each corner from there is a grouping of statues on each corner.  Down from the first set of steps, at the far corners of the plaza are another four groupings of statues and then two more flights of steps below that.  It's a mini workout just to walk all the steps up to it.

Sunday - Marble Arch at the northeast corner of Hyde Park, which adjoins Kensington Park and covers over 600 acres together.  In 1828 Marble Arch was originally the main entrance to Buckingham Palace, but was later moved to here when an addition was built on the east side of the palace in 1858.  It replaced the Cumberland Gate as the new entrance to Hyde Park.   A plaque in the traffic island marks the site where the gallows once stood from 1571 to 1759, known as Tyburn Tree named for a nearby stream.  It was later replaced by a movable gallows when a toll house was built for the turnpike road.  The last public execution here was in 1783.  From 1855 large protest meetings were held here and in 1872 the right to free assembly was recognized here in the northeast corner of Hyde Park, now known as Speaker's Corner.  We walked from here a couple blocks east to Selfridge's.

I think the Selfridge department store is about two blocks square!  It was opened on famous Oxford Street (the busiest shopping street in the world) in 1909 by Gordon Selfridge who coined the phrase, "The customer is always right."  If you have never heard of it, there is an excellent series about it on PBS on Sunday nights called "Mr. Selfridge".  Dawn and I both watch it and like it very much.  Two other good series on PBS that take place in London are "The Bletchley Girls" and "Call the Midwife".  All are based on true stories.

These are just a few of the window displays along the front side of Selfridge's.

A display of cameras encouraging us all to embrace who we are and enjoy it.

It says, "I ink, therefore, I am".

It says, "Painted Ladies".  I'm not much of a shopper, but walking through this store and Harrod's is just amazing.  I could have spent several hours just in the food departments.  Unbelievable!

Just kitty corner from Marble Arch, in the northeast corner of Hyde Park, is Speaker's Corner.  Traditionally, it was where criminals got to say there last words before they were executed.  It has evolved into a place where every Sunday people are welcome to set up their own pulpit and expound on any subject they wish, politics, religion, etc.  There were five or six this day attempting to gather an audience.  I think all were expounding on religion of some sort.  This guy wasn't having much success.

I think this man was talking about Islam and was drawing a much bigger crowd.

Just down the street was this memorial to all animals in wars.  It was very nice, an opening in the wall that the animals appeared to be marching through, a horse, a dog and two mules.

Interesting statue we saw as we were walking along the south edge of Hyde/Kensington Park.

John and Dawn in front of Queen Elizabeth Gate.

Apsley House next to the southeast corner gate of Hyde Park.  Apsley House was owned by Lord Wellington and is now a very nice museum with his furnishings and art work and war mementos.

We took the tour and this is one of the rooms.  Magnificent!  Makes you wonder what the Queen's palaces look like.  

Across the street is this statue of Lord Wellington.

A few yards behind that is Wellington's Arch and not far away is a huge statue of Hercules, also dedicated to him and his brave men.  The people were quite grateful to him for defeating Napoleon!

Just across the lawn is this unusual memorial to the enduring bonds of New Zealand and the United Kingdom and their shared sacrifice during times of war.  "A symbol of our common heritage and New Zealand's distinct national identity."  Also nearby is a statue to the glorious heroes of the Machine Gun Corps of the Great War.

I think this was just meant to honor the producers of bacon.  We saw lots of amazing sculpted bushes.  Several of different men near the Olympics complex that were at least 20 feet tall.  We had lunch at Spaghetti House in Knightsbridge, where there was a newspaper article telling how a bank robber had stopped there to hide and taken everyone in the restaurant hostage.  That would have definitely been an adventure.  Thankfully everything turned out okay.

I'm not sure if this is the right building, but when our bus tour went by a hotel similar to this, I forget the name, our tour guide said it was the hotel where Elizabeth Taylor spent all five of her honeymoons.  

This is Harrods.  The Latin motto across the top of their building means "Everyone, Everywhere, Everything".  They installed London's first escalator in 1898.  Nervous shoppers were offered smelling salts!

They have an Egyptian designed shopping area, where you can take the escalator down to the basement and see the memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, son of the owner of Harrod's.

Behind the statue is this small altar where you can say a prayer and leave a donation to their charity for a school for traumatized children near Seven Oaks in Kent, Diana's old boarding school.  I wonder what she would think, or what the royal family thinks, about having a memorial to her and her boyfriend in the basement of a department store although it's not really just a department store, more of a shopping resort destination..

We took the train out to see where the Crystal Palace stood after the Great Exhibition of 1851.  It was originally in Hyde Park for 5 months where 6 million people visited to see exhibits from all over the world.  It was dismantled and set up here, but burned down in 1936.  All that's left is the foundation, but it must have been incredibly huge.  John and I are sitting in front of one of a pair of sphinxes.

I couldn't get the foundation all in one picture.

We walked over here to check out the Crystal Palace Campground where John had considered staying with the RV.  At first glance I thought it was perfect for us.  I thought it said Odd Couple Lane.  Then I realized it said Old Couple Lane, which I thought was also pretty accurate.  Then I finally read it right on my third attempt.  I'm sure it's just because my glasses needed cleaning.  At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  We caught a bus and took the long way home from here.  Along the way I spotted a pub called The Reform Tavern - Under New Attitude.  Those Brits do have a sense of humor. 

Monday - Every morning when we left East Croydon on the train, this was our first stop.  Clapham Junction, Britain's busiest Railway station.  Doesn't look too busy in this picture, but there are at least 15 platforms and there are usually 6 or 7 trains stopped here at any given moment and every few minutes a high speed train zooms through.

The 1844 Palm House at Kew Gardens.  The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew cover 300 acres with 33,000 different kinds of plants.  To the far right is the Waterlily House and beyond that is the Princess of Wales Conservatory with many different climate zones with cacti, carnivorous plants and more.   There are over 25,000 species of orchids.  200 more are discovered every year.  Kew has the oldest and largest living collection in the world.  Some are over 100 years old.

This palm tree just inside the door is growing sideways and propped up.  It was brought here from the eastern cape of South Africa in 1773.  It was one of the first plants moved into the Palm House in 1848.  I can't even keep a little house plant alive.

Did you know that bunches of bananas do not hang downward, but grow upward?

There is a small aquarium in the basement of the Palm House.  These are upside down jelly fish that live in salty lakes and mangrove swamps.

In the Waterlily House.

A few unusual flowers

One of several carnivorous plants they had.  They catch and eat bugs.  Makes me think of the play, "Little Shop of Horrors".

This was called a handkerchief tree and that's exactly what it looked like.

Many beautiful settings throughout the gardens.

Kew Palace was built by a London merchant in 1631.  There was a large concentration of royal families living at Kew along the Thames in the 1700s.  King George and his family spent summers here.  They had 15 children.  He had some sort of illness that made them think he was going insane.  So they would hide him away from the public here and he was sometimes kept in restraints, while doctors administered all sorts of barbaric treatments.   It stood empty from 1818 to 1898 when the King's granddaughter, Queen Victoria, gave it to the nation.  John and Dawn taking a little break on the bench.  

Just walking around the grounds trying to see as much of it as we can.  It's really too big to see it all in one day.   There are three shops and four restaurants throughout the grounds. There is  Queen Charlotte's Cottage, two stories with a thatched roof, on the far side of the property.  Maybe it was just her place to get away from the King and the kids for a while.  It was closed for the day by the time we got there.

Xstrata Treetop Walkway, a 200-yard-long scenic steel walkway high in the canopy of trees 60 feet above.

One of those beautiful Chestnut Trees that we saw so many of in full bloom everywhere we went.  They are so huge.  They're in some poem I can't remember..."Under the spreading Chestnut Tree..."  John said they had some kind of a blight in the U.S. way back when and all died out.  He said they are starting to plant them again, because they have some new resistant strain.

View from the walkway of the original buildings from the 1700s that are now empty and being renovated.

The Japanese Gardens.

Another view back at the original buildings.

This little pub is right at the Kew Tube station in a little herbal community that sells plants, seeds, decorative doodads, etc.  It's a two block walk to Kew Gardens.

The bike leaning against the tree says, "Tap On The Line deliveries", but it looks like it's been a while since any deliveries were made with that bike.

All London city cabs are required to be this model of car, but many of them are brightly painted with many advertisements on them.  We saw a few police men on horse back.  They're doing a pretty good job of keeping their horses in the tiny bike lane.  Notice the golden arches over the policeman's head and the city workers doing what city workers everywhere do so well. 

Tuesday we bought a phone and had lunch at McDonald's before heading to the museum.  The Reading Room at the (free) British Museum, which we never got around to checking out (no pun intended), because the rest of the museum is so huge, we couldn't see it all in one day.  In the 1800s the British flag flew over one fourth of the world, so it's no wonder that their museum is the greatest chronicle of civilization anywhere. Lots of countries are still trying to get them to give stuff back.

The most popular exhibits were the Egyptian mummies, but I think this is even stranger.  How would you like to see your mother or wife or whoever looking back at you as if they were still alive?

This is a 1585 Automaton Ship, a medieval galleon intended to announce banquets at court.  It began with music from a miniature organ inside the hull, drumming a procession.  Then the ship travels across the table and stops.  For the grand finale, the front cannon automatically fires, lighting a fuse that fires the other guns.  The Holy Roman Emperor is seated on the throne beneath the canopy.  A procession of 7 German princes pass before him during the music preceded by 3 heralds.  Automated trumpeters, sailors and a drummer move in time to the music.  At the base of the mast a small clock shows the time.  Sailors high up in the crow's nests use hammers to strike hours and quarters on inverted bells.  This was just to announce dinner in the 1500s.  I bet if it failed to work properly, it was "off with his head" to the clock maker. We had supper at  Garfield's, a very nice chain restaurant with one every block or two in The City.

Wednesday, May 7th was our last day in London for a while.  Dawn and I went to watch the changing of the horse guards at the parade grounds, while John picked up some half price tickets for the play, "Jeeves and Wooster".  

Then we went to the Churchill War Rooms and Museum.  Excellent.  This was one of my favorite war memorials.  It just had all the different uniforms of women serving in the war.

Then we just happened across Benjamin Franklin's house, so we took the tour. It is the only Franklin home still standing anywhere. He lived here 16 years as a lodger.  He came here in 1757 to negotiate colonial interests before the Crown until his hurried departure in 1775.  It served as the first defacto American Embassy where he debated social and political reform, invention and scientific progress. He believed human reason should prevail over an unquestioning faith that restricted the human mind and discouraged rational thought. The home is virtually unaltered since his departure and uses live performance and sound and visual projection to create a historical experience.  When they were doing some renovations on the foundation, they dug up lots of bones.  An investigation found that the landlady's son-in-law was a surgeon and ran a surgical school out of the house.  Many cadavers were brought here for practicing on, sometimes stolen from graves, body snatchers.  I think this lady was wondering why a creepy old man was taking her picture.

Nearby, I think this is Victoria Arch, at the head of the road that leads down to Buckingham Palace.

This is just the base of a typical street light.

We also just happened to stumble across the Sherlock Holmes Pub, so we had supper there.  They had a small one room museum made to look like his living room.  I think I had the fish and chips and mushy peas, which I had several times.  Mushy peas are actually better than they sound, and definitely better than they look.  The red thing out front is a mail drop box.

Then we went to see Jeeves and Wooster in "Perfect Nonsense", which was very good.  If you don't know Jeeves and Wooster, they are characters written about by P.G. Wodehouse.  Check him out.  Very funny.  Then we headed home to pack up for our camping adventure which begins tomorrow.  I will post our week two blog in a few days.  


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