Travelling down memory lane: Our Walking Tour of London
Arriving in London, England, after traveling all night had Bob, me and our son in need of a bit of down time before setting off to explore the city. With lunch and a short nap under our belts, we felt rejuvenated and wanted to begin our walking tour of some of London’s many sights. We began with a stroll through nearby Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens.
One outstanding edifice that we came across was the Prince Albert Hall named in honour of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Knowing the history of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made the sight of Prince Albert Hall all the more poignant.
The deep love that the royal couple shared and the untimely death of Prince Albert at a young age put Queen Victoria in a perpetual state of mourning for the remainder of her life. The Albert Memorial is one impressive testament to her undying love for her beloved late husband.
The next morning, we decided that our first stop of the day would be at the Millennium Wheel or the London Eye.
What an awesome experience swooping to the top of the then tallest ferris wheel in the world in one of the pod-like capsules.
We had a dandy 360-degree view of the whole city…
including an aerial view of the Palace of Westminster, its famous clock and clock tower known as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Bridge.
Of particular interest was the museum of the Cabinet War Rooms, the preserved headquarters used by Sir Winston Churchill during World War II.
This underground Command Centre is where Churchill’s war cabinet planned and issued war commands during the war years.
It is located in a bunker beneath the Ministry of Defense and is now part of a broader museum called the Imperial War Museum.
The Cabinet War Rooms embody the sights and sounds of activity that unfolded there and above ground during WWII by piping in music of the 1940s, through the use of soundtracks of German air raids, period furnishings and realistic figures.
No walking tour in London would be complete without passing through the famed Trafalgar Square…
replete with hundreds of pigeons waiting to be fed.
A kindly gentleman espied the three of us and generously gave each of us a small handful of bird seed with which to attract the colourful birds.
We each took a turn braving the sharp claws, flapping wings and scrabbling feet of the pigeons while they sought to sit upon our heads and arms,
and to snatch a few bits of bird seed. There was a real flurry of activity when the bold Pigeons fought for priority of place on top of my hat!
Trafalgar Square is a public square built in Central London around an area previously known as Charing Cross.
The Square is flanked on the north side by the National Gallery…
and St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church.
Nelson’s Column stands at the centre of Trafalgar Square. It is a monument built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Placed at the four corners of the plinth at the base of Nelson’s Column are four massive Barbary Lions that guard the statue.
Of course such massive statues challenge many tourists to climb onto them for a photo opportunity, and our son was one of them. He nimbly scrambled onto one of the Lions’ backs while others struggled against their sheer size and slippery surface to do the same.
Admiralty Arch is an impressive ceremonial arch through which pedestrians and traffic pass to reach Trafalgar Square. King Edward VII commissioned the building of this structure in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria.
Only royalty has the privilege of passing beneath the central archway. Going the opposite direction, to the southwest, the avenue known as The Mall leads to Buckingham Palace.
Over the course of several days, the three of us made our rounds. Not to be missed is Westminster Abbey, a 700-year-old Gothic abbey church that I was anxious to see.
We entered this “parish church of the world” via the North Entrance along with throngs of other tourists desiring a peak at the Coronation Chair where Queen Elizabeth and other royals are crowned.
The capacious interior was very impressive, especially the Nave with its sky-high vaulted ceiling and soaring pillars that exemplify Gothic architecture at its best.
Our explorations would not have been complete without circulating through the shopping and entertainment area known as Piccadilly Circus. It seemed odd to me that this most popular and busy meeting place was referred to as a Circus regardless of the frenzied activity and commercial flamboyance there. I later learned that the word Circus comes from Latin and means a round open space where streets intersect. It reminded us very much of Times Square in New York City, U.S.A.
There are a good many sights to see in London, England, and one of the attractions that topped our list was Buckingham Palace. Someone recommended getting to the Palace at an early hour to avoid crowds of sightseers so we were up and out early one day and scored this mostly uncluttered view of one of the world’s few remaining working royal Palaces.
Dominating the square in front of Buckingham Palace is the Victoria Memorial. It stands at the end of The Mall and is erected directly in front of the Palace’s main gate.
The Victoria Memorial has several components including a statue of Queen Victoria. Other statues making up the monument personify a trait or value held by Queen Victoria: Constancy, Courage, Victory, Charity, Motherhood, Truth and Justice. These were the qualities that made the Queen so successful and for which the public revered the Queen. At 25 metres high, it is still the tallest of any memorial honouring a king or queen in England.
While in London, we made good use of the “Underground”, London’s name for a subway, but it was a double-decker bus that whisked us to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
The infamous Tower of London is a historical monument that is a testament to England’s gruesome past, and of course that tantalized our son’s curiosity.
The Tower was on the opposite bank of the Thames River from where the three of us found ourselves.
How lucky were we that the Tower Bridge was close-by to convey us across the water.
Our tour of England started and ended in London, so we had time during the last days of our trip to further discover points of interest.
Being a major settlement for two millennia, London has no lack of historical attractions.
We decided to visit the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. To get there, we relaxed onboard a river boat as it floated down the Thames River.
Greenwich Village proved interesting for the historic Prime Meridian of the World that is designated there.
At Longitude 0°, it is the imaginary line from which all distances east and west are measured. With our son standing on one side of the Meridian Line and me on the other, we shook hands between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.
As the zero reference line running north-south, all astronomical observations are taken from this Prime Meridian Line to create an accurate map of the sky, but that is not the only significance of the Prime Meridian.
It is also the place where the clocks were set in the form of Greenwich Mean Time, now recognized as Universal Time.
A museum that is also part of the Greenwich Village World Heritage Site is perhaps a little less known attraction, but the Fan Museum held a fascination for me.
As an avid Ballroom dance student at the time, Bob and I would often find ourselves at a dance club where it was customary for the women to employ fans as a means of cooling down. I was eager to have a look at some of the more than 5,000 fans owned by the Fan Museum, some dating back to the 10th century.
The selection of fans on exhibit is rotated in order to help preserve the fine materials and delicate artwork that went into their make-up, materials such as tortoiseshell, ivory, feathers, and mother of pearl, and illustrations by gifted craftsmen such as Gauguin.
The exhibit on display when we visited was right up my ally. Called a Garden of Fans, it featured those with exquisite paintings of birds, blooms and butterflies. To top off our visit, Bob and our son surprised me with a brooch fashioned like a fan.
The sights that we saw in London represented a whole spectrum of interests, and the three of us left feeling as though we had seen the best that London has to offer.