London, England: July 20 to July
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)
Subjects: London Sights Madame Tussaud's Waxworks British Museum London Eye Ferris Wheel Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard Westminster Abbey Churchill Cabinet War Rooms Tower of London
Hello from the UK!
This update covers the final legs of the Rich Family Odyssey. We continue our travels in Wales, Scotland and England. The first picture shows us on top of a Lake District mountain called Cat Bells. Next, Denny is in London at Madame Tussaud's Waxworks sharing a look-alike moment with Steven Spielberg. Finally, after 14 1/2 months, we happily return to Denver International Airport.
We have loved exploring the world and its wonders, but it is good to be home, and there is lots to do to get ourselves re-oriented to "normal" life. We plan further updates with thoughts about our trip plus a contrast with our home city of Denver as a place to visit. The web site will stay up. Thanks again for following along with us on the Rich Family Odyssey. We still appreciate email if you have comments or questions and especially to keep in touch. Finally, and most importantly, we thank the Good Lord for allowing us to fulfill our dream of traveling the world and returning safely
This update is in two parts. One is United Kingdom Part 2 which covers our travels through Wales, Scotland and England. The second one covers the last of our Odyssey in the big, busy city of London. Click on either the update lines, above, or the navigation frame, left, to check out both updates.
Maps have been changed so that they are now thumbnails for quick downloading. Click on any map thumbnail to see the larger details. Also, there are three new maps under Summary Route Maps: one for our travels in Europe, one for the rest of the world, and, finally, one of our travels in North America. Stephanie has finished a terrific research paper on Roman Daily Life that is included in Stephanie's Schoolwork. Check it out.
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After several hours of train travel from the town of Penrith in the Lake District, we arrived in London for our final week of Odyssey eTripping. We had already been in London in March during our hiatus between Nairobi and Cairo; our plane tickets mandated a stopover in London. Go figure! (See the World Map in Summary Route Maps.) Anyway, we spent most of that visit doing LMAs and preparing for the rest of our Odyssey. We visited the Tower of London and will show that here. London is a fun, busy place. It is the most expensive of any place we have visited, but the ever improving dollar exchange rate at 1.39 per British pound helped.
One of the first things recommended when you visit a city is to take a guided bus tour (in Europe, these are all on double decker buses). Here are some scenes we saw along the way. The first picture is the busy, noisy Piccadilly Circus in downtown London, the equivalent of New York's Times Square. Next, a red Queen's guard stands at attention at the less visited rear of Buckingham Palace. Click on the third picture to see the famous (and first) London Hard Rock Cafe. We went there one night and were disappointed by the wait and the small size of the place. You can tell it is the first and they need to expand or move to accommodate the crowds. While waiting in the rain in the line out front, they graciously lend umbrellas which are chained to the fence. You just passed one along as you moved in line.
Hyde Park is the biggest park in London. Aside from all the green open places, it provides opportunities for speakers to make their point(s) to any and all listeners. This guy is well prepared judging by the handy ladder he has for making his speech. The next shot is of the Marble Arch. It was once to be the entrance to a grand palace or building, but now just sits at the edge of Hyde Park. So, as the guide so aptly put it, one side is the entrance to... the other side.
Buskers are common in London. At one stop light, this guy was juggling right in the middle of the street. Before the light changed, he took time to run between cars with his hat out. It appeared from our vantage point on the top of the bus that he was doing OK. Next, a shot of the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben, the famous clock steeple at the right. The Houses of Parliament used to be the Royal Palace of Westminster and residence for kings from 1042 to 1547 until Buckingham Palace took over. Here is a shot of the face of Big Ben. And, across the river is the giant Ferris Wheel called the London Eye, which provides super birds' eye views of the city. See below for our ride.
Unlike our White House with its very obvious front and views, this is the street (with a fence) to Number 10 Downing Street where the Prime Minister (now Tony Blair) hangs out. If you click on the picture, you can see that some people are gathered just outside. We have no idea what was going on. Click on the next picture to see the left over shrapnel from the Germans' aerial bombing of London in 1941. This is on the side of a church which is now a memorial for the Royal Air Force. It is not quite as extensive, or graphic, as Berlin was, but it is still a testament to the horrors of war.
We learned on our tour that the actual city of London is a relatively small area about a mile square which is now the financial district. As you enter London, there are dragons guarding the entrances, one of which you see here. Much of the rest of "London" is actually the City of Westminster (where the City of Westminster in the Denver, Colorado area gets its name). As we drove through London and the financial district, we caught a glimpse of this great clock which has a statue of a men with a club beating the bells.
This is the top of St. Paul's Cathedral, second largest church in the world, designed by the famous architect, Christopher Wren. It is second in size to St. Peter's in Vatican City in Rome. We wish we had had time to climb to the top, as we had at St. Peter's, but we did not. On a later visit to St. Paul's, we were not allowed to take pictures of the beautiful inside. We do think St. Peter's has the edge, nonetheless. (Opinion is divided on this.) However, in the lower level and under some seats, we found the grave for our favorite English artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds, one of Jennifer and Stephanie's ancestors. If you click on the picture and look carefully, you can see his name at the top of the tomb stone, and reference to his position as founding director of the Royal Academy of the Arts. Click on Paris, France and the subject Louvre to see a picture of Jennifer and Steffi in front of one of his famous paintings. One more interesting point: despite continuous bombings by the Germans, St. Paul's was not destroyed and became a symbol of Britain's resistance to Nazi aggression (and a testament to the effectiveness of local fire brigades).
London, like all cities, has new buildings trying to make a statement. This building is supposed to look like a ship. Its address was a humorous "1 Poultry" which describes its market legacy. Look closely and you might see Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio flying on the mast head on the top right side, just as they did in Titanic. (Just kidding.) There was a great fire in London in 1666. This memorial with the gold top is to commemorate the location of the start of that fire. One good thing resulted: prior to the fire, many people were dying from the plague which we now know was spread by fleas on rats. The fire killed the rats and effectively ended the plague in London.
This is a shot from our boat coming under the modern pedestrian Millennium Bridge which runs across the Thames River from the Tate Modern Art Museum to St. Paul's Cathedral. With much fanfare, the bridge was opened at the Millennium, but it is now closed. They found that when 10 or more people are walking on the bridge, an increasing oscillation sets up, making it difficult to walk (and scary). Studies of the problem have been conducted using students tramping across the bridge. The solution is to construct triangles under the bridge using shock absorbers to dampen the oscillations. We would guess that some architect is still in deep trouble. Another famous bridge is the London Bridge. We would not have known where it was without this sign which we noticed on this bridge as we went under. The real London Bridge was sold and is now installed in Lake Havasu, California; the deluded developer who bought it thought he was buying the much more interesting Tower Bridge. Click on the picture to see the sign in the concrete.
Having been to Egypt, we are sensitive to the plunder of their antiquities. Here is yet another obelisk from Egypt standing along side the Thames River. And we doubt if it was really a nice gift from the Egyptians. Next, a view of Trafalgar Square. Notice the incredible (and temporary) weather! This busy square is a real happening place in London. The 185 foot monument to Lord Nelson stands in memory of his defeat of the French. He lost his life but is memorialized on top of the monument as he gazes out to Trafalgar. The black lions at the base of the monument are particularly impressive and are always covered in kids in every imaginable position.
On Saturday morning, Jennifer went to the famous Portobello Road market in the neighborhood of Notting Hill (subject of the movie of the same name). The first shot shows how busy it was. Even car rooftops were used to display items.
Later in the week, we attended one of London's classic plays: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, showing at St. Martin's theatre. After almost 50 years, it still sells almost every seat in its small theatre each night. We thoroughly enjoyed it, but we are sworn not to give the mystery away!!. We also visited Kensington Palace, the home of the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth's mom, and the late Princess Diana. They had an extensive exhibit of gowns for Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana on display. While the gowns were well-shown, the audio guide was beyond boring and Denny, especially, wished he were somewhere else. This picture of the garden was the most beautiful thing that we got to see. The last picture is of a very tall circular stairway on the Central Subway line. We could hardly believe we had to walk all the way down these stairs to reach the subway (tube) below. There might have been an elevator (lift), but we did not see it. Thank goodness we didn't have to walk 125 steps UP.
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Madame Tussaud's Waxworks
Madame Tussaud's Waxworks is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world. While the Rich Family has usually avoided such "attractions," we had to see what this was all about. And even with the hefty price, we had lots of fun!
Stephanie recalled Space Camp as she poses in front of the astronauts who first landed on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. These figures were shown as part of a planetarium which is attached to the Wax Museum. Next, you see where Madame Tussaud got her start, by making wax figures of famous people who were be-headed during the French Revolution, in this example, Marie Antoinette. Jennifer has a little fun with Sean Connery. Stephanie enjoys a moment with Whoopie Goldberg (eye to the camera) and British actor, Patrick Stewart, captain of Star Trek's Starship Enterprise.
Marilyn Monroe lives on with her skirt perpetually flying, and, here is President George W with his Dad and Dwight Eisenhower. Finally, the museum would not be complete without the Royal Family: Queen Elizabeth, her husband, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, next heir to the throne. Of course, Princess Diana was across the room from them, not far from the other ex-wife, Fergie.
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One of the top attractions in London is the British Museum with its collection of thousands of artifacts depicting the history of civilization from around the world. Here is a shot of the hoards of people coming and going from the museum. Outside the entrance, the face sculpture is an ideal spot for snapshots, especially for the Japanese. And, after a day of touring the museum, the front steps is a favorite spot to check out those guide books and maps for what to do next. We could easily tell who the Americans were: they typically had the Rick Steves' guidebook in hand.
Inside the museum, we noticed the recently completed great hall surrounding the old circular Reading Room or library. A glass ceiling now attaches the reading room, where Marx and other notables studied, to the rest of the museum buildings. It has been done very well and provides a bright open area to start the tour of the museum. The bulk of the rare books from the library have been moved to a new national library, which we did not have time to see. The last picture, taken inside the Reading Room, shows some of the books along with its huge, elegant dome.
Although the museum is free (donations accepted), we opted for a guided tour since our time was limited. Our guide, shown in the first picture (back to us), hustled us through the museum and 5,000 years of history in about 1 and 1/2 hours. It was mind boggling! Steffi and another girl on our tour raced each other to stay up with him as we proceeded. One of our first stops was of pre-Egyptian Etruscan statues which would have guarded the entrance to a temple or city. Next, a picture of the real Rosetta Stone which was discovered in Egypt and provided the clues to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. When we were in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, we only got to see their copy. We would guess that the modern Egyptians would prefer to have the real thing.
The British Museum has many artifacts from the Greek Parthenon. This horse is from a frieze that was atop the Parthenon and shows exhaustion on the horse's face from a war battle represented in the frieze. Next, a tall coffin from a period which was thought to be Gothic, but actually was much older. Another cool sculpture of a horse from the Roman era.
This glass pitcher, named the Portland pitcher after the Duke of Portland who owned it from 1785 to 1845, was made around the turn of the first century. It provided the inspiration behind Josiah Wedgwood's ceramics and the Wedgwood plates and sculpture. Here is a mummy, named Ginger because of his color, from a find in a British peat bog. And last, this is what is believed to be the mummy of Cleopatra. Jennifer visited a whole exhibit of Cleopatra's lore, but this was one of the best artifacts from the real person.
This is a model of the Millennium Bridge which we talked about earlier. The exhibit in the museum examined the stability problems and taught us what was wrong and how they were going to fix it. The museum had artifacts from the American Continents as well. This dress was one covered with shells and was from American Indians. Last, a statue of a goddess from Mexico.
We liked this elaborate dagger from Asia and the exhibit of pottery from South America.
As you know by now, we like clocks. Here are a couple from Europe created in the 1700s. The first one, which worked, had steel balls which traveled along the slanted tray under the face of the clock. Cool! Another astronomical clock from the early 1700s.
We previously mentioned the Lewis Chess pieces we saw in the Museum of Scotland. Here is a big display of the rest of them, about 80 of the over 93 in the original cache. Typically, the British ended up with most of them, even though they were discovered on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. It's thought-provoking how much stuff the British have made off with in their travels. The last picture is a close up of some of the pieces. We particularly like the hand to the Queen's face showing a feeling of exasperation.
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London Eye Ferris Wheel
On a beautiful morning, we rode the large London Eye Ferris Wheel which looks, and operates, like a giant bike wheel with transparent glass capsules suspended around the rim. The first shot shows the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben across the Thames River. Next, you can see people loading into one of the pods. The entire round trip takes about 30 minutes. The third picture is to the north and shows the Thames River and St. Paul's Cathedral on the far right.
Here we are on top of the London Eye. Two shots of the Houses of Parliament and the Thames River.
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Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard
The changing of the Queen's guard at Buckingham Palace takes place every day (from May to August and on even numbered days after that) at 11:30 and is a BIG deal for tourists. We hustled via cab from the London Eye Ferris Wheel to check it out, along with a few thousand of our tourist companions. The funniest time-warp moment came when we marveled, with the cabbie, at the guard warming up in front of their regimental buildings before the pageantry, playing Barry Manilow's, Copacabana!
This is Buckingham Palace, at 11 AM, before the crowds build for the event. Next you see people everywhere on the street and climbing on the Victoria Monument to see the passing guards, bands and horses.
These pictures give some idea of the literally hundreds of military who take part in this ceremony. While the costs must be high, we decided that this British tradition certainly helps keep the tourists coming, and is fun to boot. There were two bands, at least two sets of horse teams and, of course, the two squads of the Queen's Welsh guard involved. The guys in fancy Roman dress are the Queen's Horse Guards, and they do look spiffy!
After the long parade passes the crowds, the actual ceremony (sort of a non-event) takes place in the courtyard in front of Buckingham Palace. As you can see, the large ornate fence blocks some of the view. We have lots of pictures of this fence with the red guards and bands 'changing' in the background. They all look alike, so we will just share one.
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Westminster Abbey, officially known as the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter in Westminster, is the church where British coronation's take place. The church, now beautifully cleaned and restored outside, houses the tombs of many, many famous British people. Pictures weren't allowed inside, but we were happy to see the grave of Charles Darwin there. Having started our Odyssey touring the Galapagos Islands where Darwin got his inspiration, it was fitting to end in London at his grave. The abbey was built in stages between the 11th and 19th centuries. It was rebuilt in its present Gothic style starting in 1245.
Here is the front of the church with its two tall towers. The close-up picture is of the new statues in front of the church honoring 10 Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. Dr. Martin Luther King is fifth from the left.
Here is a shot of the spectacular nave taken from the alter showing the choir stalls in the foreground. Next, a picture of the fine Gothic fan vaulting in the Henry VII Chapel at the opposite end of the church. Our guide let Steffi sit in the seat reserved for the Queen in the Henry VII Chapel, a special treat for the youngest tour member.
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Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms
This underground headquarters of the British government during WW II was used during Britain's fight against the Nazis from 1939 to 1945. These rooms were protected with steel and 3 feet of concrete to make them virtually bomb proof. All the rooms were left just as they were when the war ended in 1945. This was a fascinating tour and gave us an appreciation of how frightening it must have been during the bombing of London from 1940 through 1941 and later when the V1 rockets were raining down.
The first picture is of the map room where the situation across the Atlantic and throughout Europe was plotted. As you can see, Madame Tussaud's got a little more work. Next, Churchill's bedroom was here when the bombing was underway and No.10 Downing Street would not have been safe. Churchill liked to wake up early and work in bed until late in the morning, even here. Last, the room where the entire cabinet met to plan, discuss, argue and conduct the war. Churchill sat in the chair right under the world map.
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Tower of London
The Tower of London, built on the remains of early Roman fortifications, has served as a castle in wartime, the king's residence and, most notoriously, as a prison and execution site. The original tower, known as the White Tower or Keep, is flanked by four turrets and enclosed by two lines of fortifications. William the Conqueror ordered the original tower built and work was begun in 1078. Later buildings surrounding the original keep included a barracks and a chapel built in the 14th century and restored in the 16th century. The British crown jewels are kept here, but pictures were not allowed.
Just outside the Tower, a statue of a Roman Soldier stands in front of some of the old Roman walls that the Tower is built upon. Steffi and Jennifer enjoy the fine spring day standing along the north wall of the complex. Inside the Tower, there were an interesting series of models showing how the Tower has evolved over the ages. This model, depicting 1547, clearly shows the White Tower in the middle surrounded by other buildings and fortifications, including a moat.
One the the best parts of the Tower of London is the tour given by a Beefeater, shown here in his spectacular dress. Looking over the crowds, you can see one of the outer walls and the Tower Bridge spanning the Thames River to the south. If you look closely towards the right of the picture, you can see a cage which holds black ravens. There is a superstition that says as long as the ravens are alive, the Tower will not fall. Obviously, the keepers do a good job keeping them alive.
From the Thames River, here are two pictures showing the tall White Tower with its four turrets.
And here is the Tower Bridge, built between 1886 and 1894, with its familiar baby blue paint. The center section is a draw bridge, which still is in use a couple times a week. We were lucky enough to see it working. The upper walkway was designed to allow pedestrians to pass while the draw bridge was raised. In 1909, the upper walkway was closed because nobody used it! However, today, it is a draw for tourists who want to pay the 6.25 pounds to climb it. We declined.
In the White Tower, there is a great exhibit of English Armor. Shown here is a knight and a horse decked out for battle. Next, a rack of muskets from the 17th and 18th centuries. Finally, Denny poses next to one of the largest suits of armor ever, towering at about 6' 9". Notice the child's armor next to it.
Well, our travels around the world are over (for a while) once we return to our home in Denver. We hope you have enjoyed sharing our travels with us. We will update the web site with some of our final thoughts about the Rich Family Odyssey, plus we plan to do some touring of Denver and provide similar information about our fair city as a comparison. We hope to keep in touch with all of our new and old friends from home. Send e-mail anytime. We look forward to hearing from you.
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