The first thing we noticed about London was how busy it was. Cars and taxis, the recognizable red double decker busses and loads of motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles all shared very narrow and congested streets. They do this with incredible efficiency, speed and politeness! In the UK, the steering wheel is on the right side of the cars and the cars drive on the left side of the road, which means when one walks across the street they must first look left for oncoming traffic before crossing. This is quite confusing when you’ve spent your entire life looking right before crossing.
We stayed in a very modern hotel in the heart of the city near the famous London Eye which is an enormous, slow moving, ferris wheel type of sightseeing attraction. All of the major landmarks are easily viewed from this perspective. Some of the most familiar sights were the Houses of Parliament, the Big Ben, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and of course, Buckingham Palace. The city is really spiffed up and there huge cranes on the skyline putting the finishing touches on the new arenas and stadiums built specifically for the 2012 Olympic Games. This was also the first week of Wimbledon, the famous International tennis competition.
We first visited the British Museum which houses some of the world’s most valuable artifacts, the Rosetta Stone can be viewed here, which is the essential key to modern understanding of Ancient Egyptian literature and civilization.
We went to Westminster Abbey, a beautiful gothic church which is where Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of York, were recently wed. Saint Paul’s Cathedral is another historic chapel of the UK and this where Prince Charles and Lady Diana exchanged their vows. Both chapels have extensive gothic architecture and carvings and were fiercely patrolled and guarded during the Blitz (bombing) of World War II.
The Tower of London is a very memorable historical landsite, most notoriously known for being the “prison” where Henry the VIII housed his many wives who were to be beheaded for various crimes ranging from adultery to treason, but actually most of the charges were trumped up due to the fact that the King no longer wished to remain married to them for various reasons. A beautiful crystal monument sits on the site of the “chopping block”. The Tower of London is also the stronghold where the Crown Jewels are housed. The same jewels have been used to crown the Royals since the 1600’s and there are also a variety of crowns which were custom made for each Monarch for their “everyday” wear. It is quite stunning and awe inspiring.
After 5 days in London we rented a car and took off for the Southern Coast of Wales in search of the many castles built by King Edward I between the years 1250 and 1350. In the commonly spoken words of the Brits, “Stay calm and carry on”. Cheerio!