Category Archives: The Sights

Visits to London

(This post is way overdue!)

Over the last two months, several of our family members came to visit us in London.  Kevin and I had loads of fun playing tour guide in this culturally rich city.  Below you’ll find a few of the sights from my sister’s and parent’s visits.  (We managed to sneak away to Paris with Kevin’s parents this time around, so that trip will be covered in another post.)  Off we go…

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1710, St. Paul’s Cathedral is a magnificent church with an amazing dome (365 feet high) that dominates the City’s skyline.  The elaborate interior, with its breathtaking nave and colorful mosaics, is awe-inspiring.  My sister and I climbed to the top of the dome, all 528 steps from the Cathedral floor, to catch some of the best views of London.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

As most of you know, a famous wedding recently took place at what some call “the greatest church in the English-speaking world.”  Westminster Abbey is of great significance to British history—from the coronation of monarchs since the 11th century, to royal weddings, royal funerals, royal tombs and some famous commoner tombs (both Chaucer and Dickens are buried here), it’s almost too much to take in with just one visit.  Luckily, an informative audio-guide, narrated by Jeremy Irons, is included in admission.  Play, repeat, and repeat again.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

It’s no mystery who lives here.  This massive “home,” originally built for the Duke of Buckingham, has been Britain’s royal residence since 1837.  The Palace contains 775 rooms—19 of which are the grand State Rooms that are opened to the public during August and September.  We saw “the dress,” Her Majesty’s vast picture gallery (including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Dyck, etc.), and the Royal Fabergé exhibition.  This lavish home is sure to impress.  “Long Live the Queen!”

Tate Modern

Tate Modern

Tate Modern

As a former power station on the south side of the Thames, Tate Modern (gallery) showcases modern and contemporary art.  Here you’ll find cubism, surrealism, and pop art all under one roof.  Admission is free (like most museums in London), but a fee applies for special exhibitions.

Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

Cabinet War Rooms

The Map Room of the Cabinet War Rooms

The 27-rooms of the Cabinet War Rooms offer a fascinating look into the underground headquarters of Winston Churchill’s military and government during the Nazi air raids of WWII.  The informative audio guide explains how each room was used during these dark days in British history.

The well-presented Churchill Museum, dedicated entirely to the famous Prime Minister, should not be missed.  The exhibits highlight every aspect of this great leader.

Harrods

Harrods

Harrods

It wouldn’t be a visit to London without seeing Harrods—London’s famous (and touristy) department store.  With seven floors of retail space to wander through, we never actually made it out of the mouth-watering Food Halls on the ground floor.  You need to see it to believe it.

I hope you all had fun.  I know we did!

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Shakespeare’s Globe (Theatre)

Shakespeare's Globe

Shakespeare's Globe Stage

Built on the banks of the Thames, Shakespeare’s Globe is a fascinating place to watch genuine, top-quality performances of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.

The wooden, circular, open-air playhouse is a reconstruction of the original one, which burned down in 1613.  The actors, staging and costumes are magnificent.  The season runs from April/May to October each year, but the Globe Exhibition (museum) is open all year round.

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing (one of “Bill’s” finest comedies) was brilliant!

Kew Gardens

Another fun thing we did with Kevin’s parents was take the Tube to Kew Gardens.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise inside Temperate House

The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, (as its formally known) is located in Richmond, about 10 miles west of central London.  Kew Gardens consists of over 325 acres of gardens, glasshouses and wildlife.  Kew has the largest and most comprehensive collection of plants in the world and is also a center of scientific research and conservation.

Kew was established in 1759 as a nine-acre garden by Princess Augusta, mother of King George III.  Over the years, it has grown to become a major visitor attraction and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was a lovely, sunny day when we visited Kew.  Here are a few of the highlights…

Tropical Plants

Tropical Plants inside Temperate House

Temperate House

Temperate House

The Temperate House (c.1859) is the world’s largest surviving Victorian glass structure, at over 52,525 square feet.  It contains exotic plants and tropical trees and palms from around the world.

The Pagoda

The Pagoda

The Pagoda, completed in 1762, was designed by Sir William Chambers who had a special interest in Chinese architecture and design. The ten-story structure is one of Kew’s most popular features.

Japanese Gateway

Japanese Gateway

The Japanese Gateway (Chokushi-Mon) was originally created for the Japan-British exhibition in 1910.  It is a replica of the Western Temple of the Original Vow (Gate of Nishi Hongan-ji) in Kyoto, Japan.

Waterlilies

Waterlilies in the Waterlily House

Peacock

A Resident Peacock

Rose Gardens

Rose Gardens

It was a great day and a nice break from the urban landscape of London.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

The Tower of London has served several purposes throughout its vast history on the north bank of the River Thames.  We recently visited the Tower with Kevin’s parents, while they were spending some time with us in LondonTown.

The Tower of London was established as a fortress around the 1070s by William the Conqueror.  Throughout its history it has also served as a royal residence, a prison as well as an execution site.  Today, the Tower is one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, primarily because it is home to the spectacular Crown Jewels.

The Crown Jewels consist of the crowns, robes, scepters, orbs, swords, ornaments and clothing used during coronations and other state occasions.  The beautiful diamonds, jewels, gems and gold dazzle—especially the Imperial State Crown that has over 2,800 diamonds!  This massive collection isn’t even insured as they could never be replaced.  (I would have loved to take photos here but photography is not allowed.)

Another highlight of the Tower of London is the exhibition of royal armor—over five hundred years worth.  The variety of armor and weaponry make for a grand display.  It was interesting to see the different shapes and sizes of the suits of armor for previous kings—especially Henry VIII who found it necessary to protect his “vital assets” with a bit more metal…

Henry VIII's Suit of Armor

Henry VIII's Suit of Armor

We took a guided tour with a Yeoman Warder, or “Beefeater” as they are nicknamed.  The Tower of London is home to the Warders, as they actually live inside the outer walls of the Tower’s grounds.  The Warder’s official role is to guard the Tower and the precious Crown Jewels.  Our “Beefeater” was highly entertaining and wonderfully witty.

Yeoman Warder

Yeoman Warder

It was a fun experience to learn a bit more about this historic city.