Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Visit to London

We were perusing a cheap air website last December and found there are a number of places to visit from Geneva airport for a cost that is basically cheaper than taking a train from Portland to Seattle, so we decided to take advantage and go to London. It is a mere 75 minute flight so we left last Friday night and returned Monday night. Paula's first official vacation day burned for 2012.  As you will see from the pictures the weather was perfect spring all 3 days.  The day after we left it rained.

Prior to leaving, we made an itinerary of the most important things to see, however, three days is just not enough time. 

The first important thing to see was in the Geneva Airport-this is for all our girlfriends who are weak in the knees for George Clooney.  Keep drinking your Nespresso so his image will continue to grace every European airport through which we pass. 

The discount airlines fly into a lot of one-off airports. This is London-Gatwick. Easy to negotiate though with a direct non-stop train 30 minutes into the heart of London-Victoria Station.

When you stay in Marriott Hotels for business travel over 2 months of your life per year, a lot of hotel frequent stay points are accumulated. It is payback time.  We used some of them to stay at this Marriott property which was a vintage and stately lodging with a recent remodel.  

We left our hotel Saturday morning and walked to Whitehall street to visit many of the famous London sites.

The London Eye.  This giant Ferris wheel was built in 2000 to celebrate the millennium.  The entire structure is 443 ft tall and the wheel has a diameter of 394 ft.  It is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe and the most popular paid tour attraction in the UK, visited by over 3.5 million people annually.  The wheel, which has 32 capsules and holds 25 people, slowly spins (it takes about 45 minutes to complete one revolution).  On a clear day, you can see up to 25 miles.  In the evening we will take a ride.
stands next to
A statue of Boadicea, Queen of the British Iceni tribe.  Boudica's husband Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni tribe, had ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome.  In his will, he left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman Emperor.   However, when he died, his will was ignored, the kingdom was annexed as if conquered, Boadicea was flogged and her daughters were raped.

In 60 AD, Boadicea led the Iceni people in a revolt against the Romans in London.  They killed 60,000 Romanized citizens.  However, the Romans re-gained control of London.  Boadicea and her daughters drank poison and died to avoid capture. 
Is this the root of the word bodacious?

 There is an area between Big Ben and Westminster Abby, named Parliament Square.  In this square are statues of famous Brits and non-Brits, such as Winston Churchill in his favorite overcoat and . . .

Abraham Lincoln

The church with the blue sundials is St. Margaret's Church.  It is butted up against Westminster Abby.  This is where Winston and Clementine Churchill were married.  
The current events point of this slide is the sidewalk anti war protest...ever present.

Westminster Abbey, this famous national church of England, was initiated between 1042 and 1065 when the English king Edward the Confessor (1003–1066) built a church on the site where the abbey now stands. King Henry III (1207–1272) began work on the main part of what is now Westminster Abbey in 1245. Since the time of William the Conqueror (1028–1087) almost all of England's rulers have been crowned at the church. Westminster Abbey is also a burial place for great English statesmen and literary figures, the latter of whom are buried in the Poet's Corner.

In addition to the tombs of 29 kings and queens, other notables included in the over 3,000 tombs are, Chaucer, Lord Bryon, Dylan Thomas, Lewis Carroll, T.S. Eliot, Tennyson, Handel, Charles Dickens (Mark, I touched the grave marker in reverence just for you), Oliver Cromwell, Isaac Newton, Jane Austen (sigh), David Livingstone, and on-and-on.  However, for us, the most moving was the next one . . .

 The Tomb of the Unknown British Soldier.  This tomb holds an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War. He was buried in Westminster Abby on November 11, 1920, simultaneously with a similar interment of a French unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in France, making both tombs the first to honor the unknown dead of the First World War. It is the first example of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We heard a moving story of Queen Elizabeth establishing a moving tradition of putting the royal wedding bouquets on the tomb. 

The Cenotaph, Greek for empty tomb.  This monument sits in the center of Whitehall street.  It is undecorated except for a carved wreath on each end and the words "The Glorious Dead", chosen by Lloyd George.  It was intended to commemorate specifically the victims of the First World War, but is used to commemorate all of the dead in all wars in which British servicemen have fought. The dates of the First and Second World Wars are inscribed on it in Roman numerals. 

The Memorial to the Women of World War Two.   On July 9, 2005, the Queen  unveiled this bronze sculpture which stands next to The Cenotaph

The Memorial is a permanent tribute to the contribution made by more than seven million women during 1939 – 45.  Significantly, almost every family in Britain knows a woman this memorial represents.

10 Downing Street.  The non-descriptofficial residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Prime Minister, currently David Cameron.

The building is almost three hundred years old and contains about one hundred rooms. His private residence is on the third floor and a kitchen in the basement. The other floors contain offices and numerous conference, reception, sitting and dining rooms where the Prime Minister works, and where government ministers, national leaders and foreign dignitaries are met and entertained. There is an interior courtyard and, in the back, a terrace overlooking a garden of 0.5 acres.
This building houses the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Room.

A photo from the Churchill Cabinet War Room, as it was left when the war ended in August 1945. 

The War Rooms were Churchill's underground wartime headquarters from 1939 to 1945.  There were 27 rooms all heavily fortified against Hitler's bombers.   We don't have any photos, but we were able to see his quarters, from which he made many radio broadcasts to the British people. We saw the map rooms which indicate troop placements as they were at the end of the war.  We saw the desk with the hot line phone to Roosevelt.  Virtually all of the rooms were preserved as they were at the end of the war.  It was like they dropped their tools turned out the lights and walked out after the war ended.

The Golden Jubilee Bridge.  This bridge, built in 2002, handles north and south rail and pedestrian traffic crossing the Thames River.  The bridge got is name in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne.

Had to take this picture for Heather. You can tell the partners' they are "cutting through complexity" all the way down the Thames. 

After all the walking we did, we decided to stop here for lunch. Not a lot of restaurants cluttering the Thames. All were docked boats. Order at the bar and tell them your table number. It's really efficient and casual. 

Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) and is generally synonymous to the clock and the clock tower. The clock tower holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and is the third-tallest free-standing clock tower.  The tower was completed on April 10, 1858 and has become one of the most prominent symbols of both London and England.

Another tribute to Mark and our shared Star Trek love. 

For LLJJ A needed break from history and culture at Madame Tussaud's wax museum. 

A statue of Sherlock Holmes.  He is one of my most favorite factional characters and is he ever big in London.

So, we decided to eat dinner at this restaurant.

Imagine our surprise, just as we were sitting down to eat dinner, a large group of people came in dressed as Sherlock or Dr Watson.

They were acting out a few scenes spontaneously and Jim asked if it was some kind of club or special event. One of the Sherlocks gave him a perfectly blank look and said "No, it's just an excuse to go out and get pissed at the bars".  Classic. 

The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission.   Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 a year in the eighteenth century to nearly 6 million today.

The museum has rooms with artifacts from each of the major early civilizations.  With the amount of time we had, we could only spend a little time in each room.

One of the largest rooms was the King’s Library.  It was built in the British Museum in 1827 to hold the large collection of books (60,000) which were donated by King George the III.  The room is 300 feet long, 41 feet high and 30 feet wide, with a central section 58 feet wide. Its great size called for the pioneering use of cast iron beams to support the ceiling.

The floor is oak, beautifully inlaid with mahogany and the sunken panels in the ceiling have been restored to their once vibrant colors.

This long hallway contains the Parthenon Marble panels.  These panels originally ran around the exterior of the Parthenon Athens.  There are a combined 56 panels on both sides of the hallway.  These panels depicted a parade in Athens celebrating the birth of the city.  On this day the Greek citizens marched to the Acropolis to symbolically present a new robe to the 40 foot tall gold and ivory statute of Athena housed in the Parthenon. 

Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799–1803, obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Acropolis. 

From 1801 to 1812 Elgin's workers removed about half of the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon. The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, the acquisition of the collection was supported by some while other critics compared Elgin's actions to vandalism or looting.

Following a public debate in Parliament and subsequent exoneration of Elgin's actions, the marbles were purchased by the British government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum.  The debate continues as to whether the Marbles should remain in the British Museum or be returned to Athens.

We used an audio guide and noticed with amusement how many times it was mentioned that the Greeks were letting the whole thing go to shambles and thank goodness for the foresight of the British to pick up all the priceless rubble and bring it back to London where it could be enjoyed by all of humanity. 

Many of the heads of the statues in the Museum have been damaged and in may cases are missing all together.  However, experts have been called on to attempt to determine who they represented.  Such is the case in this scene.

This scene, from the east pediment (the triangular section above the horizontal structure of the Parthenon), depicts the birth of the goddess Athena.  

The original scene (438 - 432 BC) had figures on the left, center and right of the east pediment.  The figures at the center, which are missing, would have been the main participants in the event of Athena's birth from the head of Zeus, i.e. Zeus, Hera and Athena herself.

However, some of the other Greek gods, pictured above, are depicted becoming aware of this amazing event.  From the right is Hebe (goddess of youth).  She was also the cup-bearer to the gods.  She is running to tell the others of the event.  A started Demeter (goddess of the Harvest) and Kore (goddess of Vegetation), left of Hebe, turns toward Hebe as she approaches them.  To the far left is Dionysus (god of the Grape Harvest) who appears to be unaware of the event that has just transpired.

This scene depicts, to the left, Hestia (goddess of the Hearth or Fireside), Dione (goddess of Earth) and the mother of Aphrodite.  Aphrodite (goddess of Love) is leaning back into her mother’s lap, too busying admiring her own bare shoulders to even notice the amazing event of the birth of Athena. 

The Nereid (Friendly Sea Nymphs) Monument from Xanthos.  This monument is a tomb, built around 380 BC by Greek architects and sculptors, for a king of Lycia. It consists of an Ionic building, similar to a Greek temple, on top of a large podium, both richly decorated with sculpture.
The front pediment shows a royal court, and the rear a fight. The  frieze, which are relief panels running around the building, under the eves, depicts a hunt (east and west sides), a battle (south side), and probably the preparation for a banquet (north side). The interior frieze shows a feast (north), sacrifice (west) and assembly (east), and the podium frieze a king receiving elders, a siege, fighting and horsemen.
Between the columns stand statues of women, often referred to as "Nereids", from which the tomb takes its name. The monument was brought to the British Museum in the mid 19th century.

A statue of Ramesses II (1303 – 1213 BC) also known as Ramesses the Great. Jim Ramsey was paying attention at this point. 
He was the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty and is believed to have taken the throne in his late teens and to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC.  

He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors called him the "Great Ancestor".  Ramesses II led several military expeditions into the Levant which is modern day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, parts of Cyprus, Turkey and Iraq, re-asserting Egyptian control over Canaan. He also led expeditions into Nubia, which is modern day northern Sudan and southern Egypt.

On his death, he was buried in  a tomb in the Valley of the Kings; his body was later moved to a royal cache where it was discovered in 1881, and is now on display in the Cairo Museum.

A statue of Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation.

This stone statue, from Easter Island, is Hoa Hakananai'a which means "Stolen or Hidden Friend".  It was carved around 1000 AD.  Easter Island, which is a territory of Chile and is located about 2,350 miles west of Chile, is famous for its stones statues of human figures, known as moai.

The moai were probably carved to commemorate important ancestors and were made from around 1000 AD until the second half of the seventeenth century.
When Captain Cook's crew visited Easter Island in 1774, William Hodges, Cook's artist, produced an oil painting of the island showing a number of moai, some of them with hat-shaped stone 'topknots'.  Hodges depicted most of the moai standing upright on stone platforms, known as ahu. With the adoption of Christianity in the 1860s, the remaining standing moai were toppled.

This statue was collected by the crew of the English ship HMS Topaze, under the command of Richard Ashmore Powell, on their visit to Easter Island in 1868 to carry out surveying work.
The Islanders helped the crew to move the statue, which has been estimated to weigh around four tons. It was moved to the beach and then taken to the Topaze by raft.
This figure was originally painted red and white, though the pigment washed off in the sea. The crew recorded the islanders' name for the statue, which is thought to mean 'stolen or hidden friend'. 
The back of the figure is carved with designs, believed to have been added at a later date. The back of the head shows a bird flanked by ceremonial paddles. The centre of the back is carved with a 'ring and girdle' motif, as carved on many wooden figures from Easter Island.

The Rosetta Stone It is the most-visited object in the British Museum.
The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian stone tablet inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts; the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion medieval Egyptian, and the lowest Ancient Greek.  Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts, it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. None of the Egyptian artifacts in this or any other museum would be understood without this discovery.
Originally displayed within a temple, the stone was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period and eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in 1799 by a soldier, Pierre-Francois Bouchard, of the French expedition to Egypt. 

As the first ancient bilingual text recovered in modern times, the Rosetta Stone aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher the hitherto untranslated Ancient Egyptian language. Lithographic copies and plaster casts began circulating amongst European museums and scholars. Meanwhile, British troops defeated the French in Egypt in 1801, and the original stone came into British possession. It was transported to London, it has been on public display since 1802. 
Ever since its rediscovery, the stone has been the focus of nationalist rivalries, including its transfer from French to British possession and since 2003, demands for the stone's return to Egypt.

The Prince Edward Theatre where we saw Jersey Boys.  The history of Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons. Great show we would highly recommend. Lots of fun music. 

Pat the Piper, who according to his sign, is the "Official Bagpiper" for the London Summer Olympics. The guy was working hard and had to be admired and tipped. 

A photo of one of the capsules of the London Eye.

A view of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) from the "Eye".

The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place for the members of the House of Lords and House of Commons.
The first royal palace (The Old Palace) was built on the site in the eleventh century, and Westminster was the primary London residence of the Kings of England until a fire destroyed much of the complex in 1512. After that, it served as the home of Parliament, which had been meeting there since the thirteenth century.

In 1834, an even greater fire ravaged the heavily rebuilt Houses of Parliament. The remains of the Old Palace that were not destroyed by the fire were incorporated in its much larger replacement (The New Palace) which contains over 1,100 rooms organized symmetrically around two series of courtyards. Part of the New Palace's area of 8 acres was reclaimed from the Thames River.

We are in the "Eye".

Buckingham Palace was built in 1702 by the Duke of Buckingham as his London home. The house was then later sold to George III in 1761 by the Duke's son. In 1774 it was renamed "Queen's House" as Queen Charlotte resided there. 
The Palace has seen many renovations and alterations, the first of which was in 1826 when  George IV had a new suite of rooms added facing west into the garden, this doubled the size of the building. In 1850 the east wing was added.  The wing added a large number of rooms to the palace, including an expansive 413 ft long ballroom. In 1913 the monumental fa├žade of the east wing was added.   However the front of the Palace has remained virtually unchanged from the original design over 300 years ago.

Queen Victoria, in July 1837, three weeks after her accession to the throne, moved from  Kensington Palace, where she grew up, to the new Buckingham Palace.

Today Buckingham Palace is used not only as the home of The Queen and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, but also for the administrative work for the monarchy. It is here in the state apartments that Her Majesty receives and entertains guests invited to the Palace

The Victoria Memorial which was sculpted from 2,300 tons of white marble, is located at the center of Queen's Gardens in front of Buckingham Palace and is dedicated to Queen Victoria.
The Memorial was dedicated in 1911 by George V and his first cousin, Wilhelm II of Germany, the two senior grandsons of Victoria. The sculptor was Sir Thomas Brock. It was completed with the installation of the final bronze statues in 1924.
There is a large statue of Queen Victoria, seated in the middle of the memorial, facing north-eastwards.  The other sides of the monument feature dark bronze statues of the Angel of Justice facing north-westwards, the Angel of Truth facing south-eastwards and Charity facing Buckingham Palace. On the pinnacle is a statue both to Peace and to Victory.

Other than the Tube, this is how you get around. It's fun and does the job but there's a lot of traffic congestion. 

Just because they still have them.

In the middle of this photo, just to the right of the fountain, is the count-down clock for the Summer Olympics. The clock is located in Trafalgar Square.

The name, Trafalgar, commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar (1805).  This British naval victory during the Napoleonic Wars over France and Spain was fought off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar.

Everywhere we traveled, there are signs of a city trying to prepare to host the Olympics. It is so crowded now, we can't imagine what they will do in the summer season.

A photo of the Tower of London complex.

Paula is sitting beside one of the big guns that used to protect the Tower complex.

Traitors' Gate was built by Edward I, in the early seventeenth century, to provide a water gate entrance to the Tower.  Many prisoners, branded as traitors, were brought by barge along the Thames River, passing under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on pikes. Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, Queen Catherine Howard all entered the Tower by Traitors' Gate.

Pictured here is one of the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Member of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary, commonly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London.  In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners at the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels , but in practice they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right, a point the Yeoman Warders acknowledge.  Our guide gave us a lot of facts regarding the Tower, but did so with much humor.

The name "Beefeater" is of uncertain origin, with various proposed derivations. The most likely one is considered to be from the Warders' payment in rations, which included beef, as well as mutton and veal.  Various historical commentators have noted a preference for beef among the Warders and the Yeomen of the Guard.  It has also been suggested that beefeaters were privileged with a ration of beef from the King's table.

The initials ER on his uniforms stand for Elizabetha Regina (Regina is latin for queen). The initials refer to Elizabeth the Second, who is the present Queen.

One of the Tower guards making his rounds.

Another photo of the Tower.

The White Tower which is located in the middle of the complex, as well as the other 20 towers and the wall surrounding them gives the entire castle complex its name (The Tower of London).  The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror, formerly The Duke of Normandy, in 1078, and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling French elite. The castle was used as a prison since at least 1100, although that was not its primary purpose. 

A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat.  There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III and Edward I, in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

The peak period of the castle's use as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when many figures who had fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, were held within its walls. This use has led to the phrase "sent to the Tower". Despite its enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, popularized by 16th-century religious propagandists and 19th-century writers, only seven people were executed within the Tower before the World Wars of the 20th century. Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill, which is located to the north of the castle, with 112 occurring there over a 400-year period
In the First and Second World Wars, the Tower was again used as a prison, and witnessed the executions of 12 men for espionage.

Inside the White Tower is a museum exhibiting a lot of items from the reign of Henry VIII and other Kings.   Above is the suit of armor worn by him, in his later years, when he had put on considerable weight.

Also in the museum is the actual  seven pound execution ax and chopping block used at the Tower.  It was last used in 1747.
We visited a room in Beauchamp Tower.  You can see carved into the walls names, pictures and prayers  that reflected the desperation, fear and enduring faith some of them represented. Many were imprisoned under Queen Mary (a devout Catholic) who was determined to eradicate the traitorous  Protestants.  The prisoners normally had one shot to renounce but some paid the ultimate price instead.

The Execution Site Memorial – This is the actual site where beheadings took place. Not all of these were the Protestant faithful-some were perceived as adulterers or threats to the throne.

The memorial has a glass pillow resting on two polished disks; the glass disk features the names of the ten people who were executed and carved in the granite disk is a remembrance poem.

The ten executed people remembered specifically are: 
William, Lord Hastings 1483; 
Queen Anne Boleyn 1536; 
Margaret, Countess of Salisbury 1541; 
Jane Viscountess Rochford 1542; 
Queen Katherine Howard 1542;  
Lady Jane Grey 1554; Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex 1601; 
Highlander Farquhar Shaw July 19,1743; 
Highlander Samuel Macpherson July 19, 1743; 
Highlander Malcolm Macpherson July 19, 1743.

After our tour of the Tower of London, it was time to depart London.  We decided to take a boat back to Westminster in order to take the subway to our hotel to pick up our luggage and then head for Gatwick airport.

This is a view of the Tower Bridge as we were leaving the dock. The next three photos were taken during the boat ride.

This egg-shaped building is named 30 St Mary Axe.  It stands on the former site of the Baltic Exchange building, which was severely damaged on April 10, 1992 by the explosion of a bomb placed by the Provisional IRA.  It was completed in December 2003 and opened at the end of May 2004 and has 40 floors and the tower is 591 ft tall.

Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris and New York City during the nineteenth century. 
The London and New York ones are a pair, while the Paris one comes from a different original site.  Although the needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, they are somewhat misnamed as they have no particular connection with Queen Cleopatra (69- 30 BC) of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The London "needle" is one such example, as it was originally made some where around 1550 BC. The Paris "needle" was the first to be moved and re-erected and the first to acquire the nickname.
This is the last photo we took before leaving London.

On our way back to Vevey after 3 wonderful days in London.  

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