Our Blog - London, England - August 2008

In early August we took our third trip to London since we moved to Paris. We did the normal stuff we do when we go to London, ie. see a few shows, eat fish and chips and get our fill of Indian food.

We went to see the Cabinet War Rooms, the underground bunker where Churchill and the British government would run the war. The rooms have been kept as they were when they were abandoned after WWII. This is a picture of the Chief of Staff conference room, the large maps on the wall were used to keep track of the progress of the war.

Unfortunately the only picture we could get of Buckingham Palace was from the exterior as we were not allowed to take any pictures during our tour of the interior. While not as extravagant as Versailles, the palace was quite impressive, especially the large room used for State dinners.

We realized about halfway through the tour of Westminster Abbey that we had been inside it previously, when we visited London in 2000. However, it was still a interesting place to see again and the outside courtyard gives a good feeling of the Gothic architecture.

Probably the most famous treasure in the British Museum are the Elgin marbles, the frieze from the top of the Parthenon. The Elgin marbles date from the 5th century BC and are notable not only for their age, but their advanced design that makes the statues more life-like than other ancient statues.

One thing that the modern world does not always realize is how colorful the ancient statues were in their time. The women here would have had their garments painted in bright colors and their skin made lifelike, not just the pure white we are used to seeing.

Another of the ancient treasures in the British museum are the colorful mosaics that were retrieved from the Roman Empire. These mosaics would have decorated the houses of wealthy individuals.

The Portland vase may be the oldest glass vase in existence. It was made in Rome around 20 BC, not many years after the blowing technique to create glass was discovered.

One of the more interesting modern buildings in London is the "Gherkin". Completed in 2004 it is the 5th largest building in London, but it is best known for its unique shape, like a pickle.

Although perhaps London's most famous landmark, Tower Bridge is relatively new as it was officially opened in 1894. Many people mistake Tower Bridge for London Bridge, but London Bridge is a short distance down the Thames.

We took a tour of the Tower Bridge, going inside the two towers and getting a good view of the Thames and the rest of London.

A short distance from the Tower Bridge is the Tower of London. The original fortress was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and then expanded over the years. The Tower was primarily used as a royal palace, a fortress and a prison, especially for royals. Some of the famous prisoners held here were Sir Thomas More, Queen Elizabeth I and Rudolf Hess.

In sections of London you can still see sections of the defensive wall that originally surrounded London. The wall was originally built by the Romans, (the portion with the red bricks dates from this time) and then was expanded during the Middle Ages after the Romans had long departed.

Susan is standing in front of a particularly large portion of the old London wall, which at this point stands a good 30 feet above ground.

In the middle ages when there were Knights and a King in London the story goes that the Knights could get land from the king based on how far they could throw a lance. Here is a modern sculpture of one of those knights with his lance.

During one of our tours, not far from the Tower of London we saw old warehouses that originally had been used by the East India Trading Company to store different items shipped back from Asia. Each warehouse had a specific usage identified by an emblem on the building, this one was used for storing bird feathers.

While walking back to our hotel on the last day of our stay we happened to notice a number of old style wooden buildings. Old wooden buildings like this are found in other European cities, but this was the first time we had seen so many together.