London is a leading global city in the arts, commerce, education,
entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services,
research and development, tourism, and transportation. It is crowned as the
world's largest financial center and has the fifth- or sixth-largest
metropolitan area GDP in the world. London is a world cultural capital and is
the world's most-visited city as measured by international arrivals.
Standing on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two
millennia, first founded by the Romans after the invasion of 43 AD.
We arrived in London by train from Cambridge before noon and started our own
exploration of London's Tube (aka Underground) system. Linus did not come
with us to London since he still had a class in the morning. He would come
to join us for the Parliament tour later in the afternoon.
July 27 ...
- Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Parliament (photography is
generally not allowed inside the buildings)
Westminster Abbey has been
the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of seventeen
monarchs. The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most
important Gothic buildings in the country.
An architectural masterpiece of the 13th to 16th centuries, Westminster
Abbey also presents a unique pageant of British history – the shrine of St
Edward the Confessor, the tombs of kings and queens, and countless memorials
to the famous and the great. It has been the setting for
every Coronation since 1066 and for numerous other royal occasions,
including sixteen royal weddings. Neither a cathedral nor a parish church,
Westminster Abbey is a "Royal Peculiar" subject only to the Sovereign and
not to any archbishop or bishop. There are about 3,300 people buried
or commemorated at Westminster Abbey, many of them among the most
significant in the nation's history.
The name Big
Ben is often used to describe the tower and the clock at the north end of
the Houses of Parliament , but the name was first given to the Great Bell.
The tower (315 feet / 96 meters) , completed in 1859, is officially known
as Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in
The Palace of Westminster (commonly known as the Houses of Parliament) is
the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses
of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The history of the Houses of
Parliament spans over 900 years from the Anglo-Saxons to the present. We
met with Linus at the Westminster Hall when we started the Parliament audio
tour. The audio tour walked us through the Commons Chamber and the Lords
Chamber to find out how Parliament works, and to follow in the footsteps of the
Queen at the State Opening. The audio tour experience took around 60 to 75
minutes and allowed us to go at our own pace.
I booked the tour plus afternoon tea so we could have a
special afternoon tea served in a Thames-side room. Parliament’s
award winning chefs have created a tempting seasonal
menu of savouries and sweets made freshly
on site which combines tradition with a modern twist. Beverages include a large
selection of luxury teas and freshly brewed coffee.
- Royal Albert Hall
Queen Victoria opened this circular concert hall in memory of her
husband consort, Prince Albert in the 1871. Since then, many notable
concerts took place here whether they were rock and pop concerts, classical
music performances or ballet. The Royal Albert Hall holds the
Proms concerts annually each summer since 1941. The Proms, more
formally known as the BBC Proms or Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented
by the BBC, is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical
music concerts and other events held annually, predominantly in the Royal
The program for tonight:
-- Mark Simpson: The Immortal (London premiere), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
Symphony No 6 in B minor, 'Pathétique'; BBC Philharmonic conducted by Juanjo
July 28 ...
- Buckingham Palace
We walked to the Buckingham Palace
to wait for changing the guard ceremony (while Linus decided not to go with
us but went to Westminster Abbey by himself since he did not have the chance
to visit there yesterday). However, the guards did not show up
after the scheduled 11AM. After another 10-20 minutes, a palace staff
walked by to inform the crowds that the guard changing had been canceled for
the next 2 days :-(
Buckingham Palace is the working headquarters of the
Monarchy, where The Queen carries out her official and ceremonial duties as
Head of State of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth.
Originally known as Buckingham House, the building at the core of today's
palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703.
It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen
Charlotte and became known as The Queen's House. Buckingham Palace became
the London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen
Victoria in 1837.
Every summer (from July to September) the palace and
some state rooms are open for public. Linus and us met in the palace
after we entered for our scheduled tour time at 12:00PM. The
photography is still not allowed inside the palace and state rooms. We
could only take pictures at the end of the tour when we were outside in the
garden. However, I forgot to retrieve my checked-in camera bag when we
walked out to the garden, so we had to go around the palace after exit to go
back to the entrance to get my bag (it made our schedule quite tight to
catch the train to our next destination Canterbury ...).
- Canterbury Cathedral
famous by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the university city Canterbury boasts
some of England’s finest medieval architecture, including the best known
Canterbury Cathedral. Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest and most
famous Christian structures in England. Founded in 597, the cathedral was
completely rebuilt from 1070 to 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at
the beginning of the twelfth century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic
style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to
accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the
archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170.
was telling us the story about Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales on the way to
Canterbury. I guess I had to start to read more...
July 29 ...
I walked around the Westminster Bridge for some early morning
pictures. I originally planned to have a few evening and sunrise shots
of the Parliament and Big Ben during this visit in London (so I chose a
hotel so close to the Westminster Bridge), but I was disappointed that the
Parliament and Big Ben were under some construction and restoration that
they were coved by scaffolds and did not have a good illuminated light at night.
- St Paul's Cathedral
than 1,400 years, a Cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the highest
point in the City with the original church on this site dated back in AD
604. The present Cathedral, the masterpiece of Britain's most famous
architect Sir Christopher Wren, is at least the fourth to have stood on the
site. It was built between 1675 and 1710, after its predecessor was
destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The cathedral is
one of the most famous and most recognizable sights of London. At 365 feet
(111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967.
Services held at St Paul's have included the funerals of Lord Nelson,
the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, etc.
St Paul's Cathedral is a working church with hourly prayer and daily
services. I later found the Cathedral has a few special dates for "Summer
Lates" which allow after-hour visits (6:30--9:00PM), and for these
special evenings, photography will not only be permitted, but actively
encouraged (photography is not allowed in the regular visit).
It was a special family bike day in London that many
roads were blocked for bike only.
- Tower Bridge
Bridge is a combined bascule (movable drawbridge) and suspension
bridge built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge consists of two bridge
towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways.
The high-level walkways which include sections of
glass floor provide a nice view of the city and unique experience to
cross the bridge.
- Tower of London
The Tower of London was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of
the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire
castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a
resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling
elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that
was not its primary purpose. The Tower has served variously as
an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public
record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. From the early
14th century until the reign of Charles II, a procession would be led from
the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the coronation of a monarch.
of London has become established as one of the most popular tourist
attractions in the country through the 19th century. The tower has
been well restored and maintained in the recent years that I felt we were
more like in a theme park instead of a historical monument. There is a
section where there are a few animal sculptures in display (as Royal
beasts). We saw a
couple of crows standing on the rail of the staircase, and I could not
tell if they were real or fake...
- The British Museum
British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of
the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane with more than 71,000 objects.
The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759. Its
expansion over the following two and a half centuries was largely a result
of an expanding British colonial footprint. In the early part of the
nineteenth century there were a number of high profile acquisitions.
These included the Rosetta Stone (1802), the Townley collection of classical
sculpture (1805), and the Parthenon sculptures (1816). It
now comprises over 8 million objects spanning the history of the world's
cultures: from the stone tools of early man to twentieth century prints.
Linus decided to go to another museum (I forgot which one) since he has
visited the British Museum before already. We arrived at the museum at
about 3:45PM. With less than 2 hours, we could only visit a very small
portion of the museum: Ancient Egypt and Greece. We did not even
have the chance to go beyond the ground floor. The British
Museum itself alone is a good enough reason to come back to London again in
- Sky Garden
Sky Garden is the
highest roof garden, set at the top of the peculiarly shaped tower, often
called "Walkie-Talkie". The huge glass dome houses three storeys of public
gardens and it offers splendid views of the capital. Access to the Sky
Garden is free of charge, however, they have a very interesting (and strange
/ complicated) booking system to release a limited number of tickets at a
specific time of a week.
We went up to the observatory levels and had
some drinks (alcohol and non-alcohol) at the City Garden Bar. Although
the weather was not good (rainy and no sunset), we still had a good relaxed
evening for some views.
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