Week of April 05, 2009
Coming down from last week and driving down to London marks this week's journey. Our exceptional trip concludes this week and although we were looking forward to getting home, we were saddened to leave the places that we enjoyed so much.
We left from Scotland and made our way through some beautiful country and on into Manchester for the night. We made a last visit to my cousin's home as we wanted one more solve-the-world's-problems breakfast with Chris and Adrian. Then, it was onward to London to visit friends of Gerson's, Marco and his wife, Akemi.
|Views on our drive
from Scotland to Manchester
|Marco and Gerson enjoy a bit of sun
in Marco's backyard garden patio
Marco and Akemi love to cook
This "trap door" in the bathroom was the access
Marco is a childhood friend of Gerson and when they get together, it is as though they had just seen each other yesterday. Marco has been living in the London area for over 22 years and he and his wife, Akemi, treated us like golden visitors. Unfortunately, we only had a couple of days before our flight took us back across the pond and the next time, we will definitely stay a bit longer.
We took advantage of the close proximity to London and visited several of the tourist haunts. The highlight of our day was our lunch with my cousin, Steve (Chris and Adrian's son) down by the Thames and the Tower of London. Steve was the driver of the race cars that Adrian would build and sadly, we were not able to also visit with his wife Fran and their three boys. We did have a delightful time, albeit short, with Steve and when he left to return to work, we wandered around for a bit.
|Tower of London - World Heritage Site
(built from 1078 over a few hundred years, it has been
used as a royal residence, a treasury, a mint, an arsenal
and a prison. It also was the site of the infamous brand
of punishment doled out by King Henry VIII - the
grass area is where Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard
Tower Bridge - built 1894 - still a drawbridge
|Lunch with my cousin Steve
with the Tower Bridge in the
The River Thames with the
We wandered via foot and taxi to the British Museum, one of the oldest museums in the world. Built around 1749, the free admission museum receives millions of visitors per year into its vast halls. Some of those visitors include George Bernard Shaw (an Irish playwright) and Mahatma Gandhi who studied in the British Library or the Reading Room. Another famous (or perhaps infamous) visitor was Karl Marx, who actually wrote Das Kapital (considered the bible of modern communism).
An interesting note about Karl Marx, a man considered to be the father of communism, is that he had lived in London hand-to-mouth and did very little to actually work and provide for his family, thus resulting in the treatable pneumonia deaths of three of his children. Marx was eventually saved from the poorhouse by a large inheritance left to Mrs. Marx wherein they moved to the rather heady location of Primrose Hill.
Funny thing is that Marx espoused the sharing or "redistribution" of wealth and the elimination of classes (as well as the extinction of capitalism) and yet when HE had money that resulted from capitalism, it went all to HIS needs and he benefited greatly from exactly what he wrote against. Think about it.
|The British Museum
A "Moai" from Easter Island
or Rapa Nui
Aztec panel from a tomb
|Intricate marble statues
are throughout the
I forgot why this skeleton
One of the more interesting parts of the museum was the Parthenon Marbles or as they are also known as the Elgin Marbles (from 5th century BC). A rather significant controversy surrounds these exquisite marble carvings as the Greek government is demanding the return of their "Parthenon Marbles". When the Earl of Elgin was the ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1806, he took it upon himself to remove the Marbles and shipped them to England.
When the Earl blew through all his money, he sold the Marbles to the British government and hence, they have been displayed in the British Museum. The British government has refused to return the Marbles stating that Greece does not have the proper facility to protect the precious pieces. However, the Greeks are responding with an almost $150 million museum being built in Athens which will leave the British without much of an excuse as to why they are not returning the Marbles. This situation gives a entirely different meaning to "losing one's marbles" (I could not resist).
|The extraordinary Marbles
From beautiful life-size bodies
|Other fantastic pieces include
collections from Egypt
Perhaps the first baseball cap
I could not resist
We could have spent days at the museum but alas, we only had a couple of hours before we were to catch the train back to Marco and Akemi's home. With a wonderful dinner being prepared for us, we did not want to be late.
The sun was shining the next morning and that was just what we needed to prompt us to go back into London and see if we could catch the Guard Mounting or what is more commonly referred to as The Changing of the Guard. Even though we got there early, thousands of people had been waiting from even earlier. We were not able to actually see the exchange of guards; however, we were able to secure a front row view of the guards marching from their barracks toward Buckingham Palace.
|How the Parthenon Marbles
The very famous Rosetta Stone
- circa 196 BC
|Buckingham Palace - London home for
(built in 1803)
The Guard Mounting begins
The Household Cavalry
Spring is in the air and great
Next, it was off to the Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The Westminster Abbey has been integral to the history of England since its construction in the 11th century. Every sovereign has been crowned in the Abbey (except for Edward V and Edward VII) and most of the monarchs are buried there.
|Intricate features of
the Westminster Abbey
with a view across
to Big Ben and the
Houses of Parliament
From there, we walked along the streets with our goal being the famous Trafalgar Square. On the way, we passed by Parliament Square and then onto No. 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister. Unable to get very close (for obvious security reasons, a peek is all one gets. We also passed by the Household Cavalry barracks and some very nice memorial monuments.
|Parliament Square (Big Ben
in the background)
No. 10 Downing Street
Gerson with the Household Cavalry
Fantastic detail in this building
|Admirable monument to The
Women of World War II
Whom I admire -
On and on we walked and coming to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, we decided to stop at take a look around. Trafalgar Square is in many ways the center of London as many marches, rallies and celebrations take place here every year.
At one end is the National Gallery, one of the largest galleries in the world and again, free of charge (donations accepted). Works from Da Vinci, Renoir, Manet, Monet, Michelangelo, van Gogh, Cezanne and so many more are on display and overwhelm the visitor with the magnificence of the art.
|Trafalgar Square and the famous
lions often pictured with people
climbing all over them in celebration
from the National Gallery over
|On the way to Covent Garden
Gerson having fun with a street performer
ummm ummm good. A very tasty Paella
Not having as much time as we would have liked to truly enjoy the gallery, we viewed some of the more notable pieces and then moved on to visit Covent Garden, a planned square, and a haven for Londoners and tourists alike. With musical and performing artists at every turn around the cafes and boutiques, there was plenty to keep us occupied.
|A great plaza in Covent Garden
Fantastic music and a great vibe
(the sunshine sure helped)
|Covent Garden street
performers were amazing
One thing about getting around London is that the public transportation is excellent. In no time, we were back to Marco's and regaling him with our nice day in the city. As there was a big football game being shown on TV, we headed over to a nearby pub to watch Chelsea beat Liverpool. As Liverpool had beat Manchester United when we went to the Man U game, it was sweet to see them get beaten this time around. Of course, Gerson and Marco were lost to Akemi and me for the duration of the game.
|Gerson and Marco enjoy
Sunset over London
|Saying our good-byes over
Gerson with Marco and Akemi
Well, this is it, the end of an awesome trip. Other than literally running through the Denver Airport to catch our connecting flight (as our flight out of London Heathrow was over an hour late), the return home was uneventful and peaceful.
We want to thank so many people for gifting us with their kindness and hospitality and making this trip one of the best we have ever experienced. We cannot wait until we can get across the pond again. Thank you all.
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