31 July 2009

Vacation: London, England Day 5

The last vacation entry. Finally!

Our last day we went to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Neither Mom nor I were really sure what, exactly, we were seeing. And I certainly don't know why the band (the band?) was playing Elton John, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean music!

The ceremony was impressive because traffic was halted about five times. But the biggest shock was that everything took place behind the fence! I thought they stood out in front of the gates. They do in all the movies ... which lie to me.

Once that ended, we went to the National Gallery. We also went to the National Portrait Gallery.

Then we checked out of our hotel and took a taxi to Harmondsworth Village near Heathrow. The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book and now is threatened by the planned expansion of Heathrow Airport.

We stayed at Harmondsworth Hall Guest House. Our room was a good size, and we ate at a nearby pub. The pub wasn't that great, so we bought some snacks at a little shop.

And the next day, we flew home.

Whew! I finally got it all typed up. Thanks for reading along with me.

06 July 2009

Vacation: London, England Day 4

We started the day thinking we would buy tickets to see "Dirty Dancing" in the West End. But we decided leaving the theater late at night with several blocks to walk to a Tube station might be iffy.

So, we went to King's Cross Station. Mom waited while I looked for Platform 9¾.

Then, we went to the British Museum. The building is huge, but somehow we had trouble finding it. I think we asked three people - who each gave us different directions - before we found the place. Mom's knees were screaming at her to sit down, so we ate lunch before perusing the exhibits.

Once in the exhibit halls, we saw the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone and Assyrian Winged Bulls. Mom was enthralled. She loves ancient Egypt and Greece and Rome, so this was a highlight for her. She took lots of pictures.

You can, apparently, take photos in the museum. I only took one. A forlorn-looking statue in the Greek and Roman statue room.

Naturally, I also had to see the exhibit about the Americas.

We also took the world's slowest and smallest elevator up to the top floor to see the Samurai exhibit. I'm not normally claustrophobic but that elevator was about the size of a typical American shower (with bathtub). At one point there were about six or seven of us in there when it stopped at a floor. And then this very loud Englishwoman and her THREE friends climbed onboard the already-crowded elevator! I couldn't believe it.

After we left the museum, Mom and I went back to St. Paul's Cathedral and went to the Evensong service. We waited in seats in the nave and then a group of visitors were led up to sit in the choir seats. The service, which was mostly sung by a boy's choir, was interesting. We had a book and a piece of paper to guide us through the service.

Not being Anglican, I'm not really sure what all was going on, but it was quite nice.

At first, the choir stood behind the high altar and couldn't be seen. Then they sang, and their voices sounded eerie and beautiful floating down the nave of the cathedral in that disembodied manner.

We returned to our hotel after Evensong.

05 July 2009

Vacation: London, England Day 3

We took a bit more of the bus tour around London before taking off at Piccadilly Circus. From there we rode the Tube and the train to Hampton Court Palace.

We arrived at the palace on Henry VIII's wedding day to Catherine Parr. We saw them wandering around the halls and grounds throughout the day, and I even managed to attend his "bachelor party."

Inside the palace we toured Henry VIII's apartments and saw his Abraham tapestries.

The tapestries were commissioned in the 1500s and have, of course, faded considerably over time. In one room they had a "Lighting of the Tapestry" display where, using a computer projection, one tapestry is lit to show the bright, vibrant, original colors of the work. With those bright colors, you could really see how tapestries on the wall could help light a room.

We also went through an exhibit about the women in Henry's life. We also saw another exhibit about his younger days when he was married to Katherine of Aragon and friends with Cardinal Wolsey (the original owner of Hampton Court).

Part of Hampton Court Palace was remodeled by Christopher Wren, so the building is almost like two palaces pushed together. Wren planned to tear down the entire Tudor structure and rebuild but, thankfully, was unable to do so. Mom and I preferred the Tudor side. I was fascinated with the chimney designs. Each stack was different.

In the gardens at the palace, we saw two swans swimming in the fountain. People were walking and standing awfully close to those birds. They were eating, and since swans can be quite aggressive, I kept waiting for one of them to attack a visitor. But neither one did.

Then we went to the Maze. I made it all the way to the center without ever getting lost on the way in and on the way out. Yay, me! Mom did not go in the Maze.

We ate lunch in the Tiltyard Cafe at the palace. I had Georgian Spring Soup (kind of like vegetable) and bread. Mom had King's Pie, which she didn't particularly care for.

Our final stop was the Tudor kitchens. Unfortunately, no one was cooking in them that day, but they had fake foods sitting out, so we could see how meals were prepared.

Then we returned to London on the train.