London and Surrounding Area

London and Surrounding Area

Before heading to Venice to meet up with a group of friends, my husband and I decided to spend five days in the London area. It was my first time there and was dubious about having any fun. I was so surprised! I absolutely loved London…the tube (best transportation system around, in my opinion)…the people (very friendly)…the buildings (I love old architecture)…and the history (I also love history, especially the Elizabethan period).

We arrived at Heathrow and took the train into London to Westminster Station where we hailed a cab and went to our hotel. It was later in the evening, so until we got settled and took a nap, it was very late at night.

The hotel staff brought us a pot of tea and some sandwiches at 2am (god bless them).

The next day was rainy (no surprise), but we still walked in Kensington Park after breakfast. About breakfast…the English have a thing about beans (like the kind you find in a can of pork & beans) with their morning meal. Anyway, we got on the tube, which is such a great way to get around, and went to William’s top spot on his list…the Wallace museum….so he could look at armor and swords (once a sword geek, always a sword geek).

Since I’m writing this a couple of years after the fact, the exact itinerary is a blur, but I believe it was the next day that we caught a bus and want to Stratford on Avon, where William Shakespeare was born. As we rode there, we noticed that all the sheep had green or blue spots on their backside. I learned that to determine which ewes bred with which ram, a pot of paint is put around the ram’s neck. When he mates, the paint spills onto the ewe’s back. This lets the shepherd know not only which ram bred with the ewe, but approximately when the lamb will be born. A lot of the rooftops along the way were made of thatch, which was interesting to see.

After Stratford on Avon, we went to Oxford. They have their own little version of Venice’s Bridge of Sighs and all the architecture is amazing. From there, we went to Warwick Castle. I was excited to see this castle since it plays an important role during the War of the Roses between the Lancasters and Tudors. Warwick was nicknamed the “king maker.” It was also mentions numerous times in my favorite book about King Richard III called The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman.

William made another trip back to the Wallace while I went to see Westminster Abby. While I’m not a religious person, I love old churches…they’re beautiful! I paid the extra fee to get a private tour, I highly recommend it since you get to go into areas the general public doesn’t get to see. Besides seeing where Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots was entombed, I also got to see a huge room where all the knights (even today) gather at least once a year with the Queen presiding over the meeting.

We also went to the Tower of London, which is famous for its role during the Tudor and Elizabethan eras when many people lost their heads to the ax. There is a memorial at the place where Anne Boleyn lost her head, traitor’s gate (where both she and Queen Elizabeth I were brought through when they were imprisoned), and the crown jewels.

A side trip to Portsmouth was also taken, since William wanted to see the remains of the Mary Rose, King Henry VIII’s war ship that had sank. They discovered it years ago and managed to pull up a good portion of the ship and are in the process of preserving it.

I didn’t get to see a fraction of what London has to offer and I hope I get to go back again one day (there’s so much world to see, though, so it’s lower on my list). One of the best things about England is that you can take pictures of just about anything, including inside the museums…something that’s unheard of in the U.S. What I loved most about England is that you’re allowed to take photos of just about anything…even in the museums! That’s pretty much unheard of in the U.S.

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