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Posts Tagged ‘Westminster Abbey’

London is full of take- your –breath- away views and vistas. With its hilly terrain and marvelous buildings, anyone can have the opportunity to behold the city’s many facets and angles. By getting around London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show. The city has served me well, I think. I am so grateful that we have discovered and explored ‘the most visited attractions’ in the city with the help of public transport (bus, Tube, Tram, Overground, etc.), Oyster card, and flat shoes… London is perfect for seeing the sights on foot.

By the way, before I forget , for the first time during our stay in London, I was able feel to the spirit of Shakespeare, one of my favorite English literature icons. If W. Shakespeare were still alive, I would make a way to see him in the flesh and ask him to write a poem dedicated to me, col (chuckling out loud)! Anyway, I am sure most of you are either bored stiff or cheesed off at this point so I shall move on.

Since I have already recapped a bit of our London trek, let me just enumerate some of the tour highlights by picking the Top 10 major bits to see or do in London. These are the landmarks you should not miss. And apart from these, there are so many other tourist attractions that can be looked for when visiting London.

(1) London Eye

London Eye

London Eye

Take a spin on this Ferris wheel overlooking the Thames. More than a Ferris wheel ride — London Eye’s rotating attraction offers 32 enclosed capsules for full, 360 degree views of historic London.

The London Eye is a major feature of London’s skyline. It is the world’s highest cantilevered observation wheel and offers passengers spectacular views of over 55 of London’s most famous landmarks – all in just 30 minutes. And while taking in the amazing views, you can enjoy a glass of champagne to spoil yourself. Champagne flight normally costs £35.

Tickets to Buy

Tickets to Buy

(2) Westminster Abbey

The Abbey

The Abbey

Westminster Abbey is neither a cathedral nor a parish church. It is a Gothic monastery church owned by the royal family.  When you pay visit here during the day, you can attend a church service for free. An architectural masterpiece of the 13th to 16th centuries, the Abbey has been both the coronation and burial site of English monarchs since William the Conqueror.

(3) The Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben

The Parliament

The Parliament

The House of Parliament is one of the largest parliaments in the world. Dating back to the nineteenth century, it contains about 1,200 rooms and displays intricate architecture and holds ceremonial events. The House of Parliament is also known as The Palace of Westminster. It is where two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom meet: the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Big Ben: When I first heard about “Big Ben”, the image that came to my mind was the famous tower, or the four huge clock faces. However, during my stay in London, I’ve learned (from a planner booklet) that Big Ben actually refers to the largest of the five bells inside the clock tower. In other words, “Big Ben” does not refer to the whole clock tower, but to the huge thirteen ton bell that strikes the hour.

Jumping for Joy :-)

Jumping for Joy 🙂

Another theory that I’ve proven wrong was that the bell was named after a popular heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt. The consensus however, seems to be that it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, a (literally) weighty politician of the time who was the Parliamentary Commissioner of Works.

Parliament is open to the UK public and overseas visitors. You can attend debates, watch committee hearings and tour the buildings. Beware, MPs have absurdly long holidays or “recesses”.

(4) Trafalgar Square

National Gallery

National Gallery

Trafalgar commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), a British naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars. Trafalgar Square is the largest square in London and has been a central meeting place since the Middle Ages.

What makes it ‘the Square’: Nelsons Column surrounded by 4 bronze lions, the National Gallery, Fountains and statues , including one of Charles I on horseback, and of course the pigeons. The Column itself is some 170 foot high, with the statue of Nelson himself being some 18 foot high.

(5) Piccadilly Circus

Spending hours hanging out in here, you will see street performers, travellers, and busy business types wearing pink ties with blackberry as their weapon. If you are into books, you can hit the Europe’s largest bookshop, the Waterstone’s Piccadily bookstores, situated in the heart of London’s West End.

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus

The name ‘Piccadilly’ originates from a 17th century frilled collar named piccadil. Roger Baker, the tailor who became rich making piccadils lived in the area. The word ‘Circus’ refers to the roundabout around which the traffic circulated. Piccadilly Circus is a good place to meet before heading off to eat, shop or go to area theaters. Soho isn’t too far a walk from here and neither is Trafalgar Square. The fashionable stores of Carnaby Street are also nearby. The area is quite a sight in the evening, with colorful and brightly lit advertising signs illuminating the area, high above the streets.

Further, Piccadilly Circus is an intersection where five roads meet; it is most famous for the advertising signs that light up the sky at night. It is London’s version of Times Square and the first ever lighted neighborhood in the world. People crowd around the steps of the statue known as Eros, the Greek God of Love (but really meant to be the angel of charity), erected in 1892 as a memorial to the Earl of Shaftsbury, the Victorian philanthropist. I didn’t dare to take a seat here though. The bustling noise made me giddy.

(6) The Royal Parks

The Park

Spring is a glorious time to discover London. With blossoming flowers and warmer-brighter days, and the great outdoors bursting into life, there’s no better time to venture outside and embrace the wonderful history and culture that London has to offer. London is blessed with eight royal parks offering 5,000 acres of historic parkland – and entrance is free! (but not the chairs). The grass carpet will serve as your bed when you get tired of walking . You can read book too, while savoring the crispy breeze. We had a lovely stroll through the park on a beautiful sunny day.

(7) Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guard

The Palace

It’s the Queen’s home. Tourists love to go to see Buckingham Palace not because they wanna see the Queen but to witness the colorful ceremony of the Changing of the Guard: Accompanied by a military band, a detachment of the Queen’s Foot Guard march to Buckingham Palace in their bearskins and red tunes, and change with the Old Guard. Yes, we strolled around and in front of the palace and mingled with groupie tourists, unluckily, we missed the Changing of the Guard.

Surrounded by vast park lands and gardens, this grand palace has been the Royal London residence since Queen Victoria’s time, and contains priceless works of art, fine furniture and decorations that form part of the Royal Collection.

(8) The Tower of London and Crown Jewels

The Tower Bridge

You wanna get bloodily fascinated? Try the “bloody tower” and find out about the story of the two princes that mysteriously were murdered there.

The Tower of London is one of the most famous fortified buildings in the world. If you are in London, place the Tower of London under your ‘must see’ list.

(9) Covent Garden

covent-garden

No trip to London (or nywhere in the world) is complete without shopping experience. London boasts cutting- edge fashion houses, world famous department stores and quirky shops that are full of intrigue and wonder, making for a truly unique experience. Covent Garden offers a world- class cultural experience as well as excellent shopping. Talking about shopping, even if you close your eyes, it would be hard for you to resist some tempting shops; you might as well get carried away 😉

img_0553

Primark is also a ‘going for a song’ shop but difficult to navigate. It is always jam-packed with shopaholics and the long dressing room lines… OMG! Anyone impatient like me, standing in queue was a No way José! So I just did the ‘pick and grab your size’ thing then zoomed to a cashier. I thought I could dodge the long lines but getting face to face with a  cashier was another course of action. Sigh!

(10) St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Dome

To experience the whole of St. Paul’s Cathedral, you should climb 220 stairs to the enormous dome and Whispering Gallery and on to the heights of the Golden Gallery above the Dome with its panoramic views of the capital.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is so much a part of London skyline. In recent years, it has seen the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, to Lady Diana Spencer and, most recently, the thanksgiving services for both the Golden Jubilee and 80th Birthday of Her Majesty of the Queen.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

That’s all for now.

Note: I have tried to mount numerous pictures but I got tired of uploading them to the galleries one by one. Time-demanding.

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So, this is London! The line I uttered upon arriving at the airport at 6pm , March 31, 2009- the same day that Obama and other leaders of G20 arrived in London for the summit.

Catching the train to the next station to the underground, I had a good time clicking the camera as I feasted my eyes on the views from the train. If you’re a first- timer in London, you’ll wonder why houses here have small and few windows- a question mark that we’ve been querying since we stepped into this ‘has it all’ place until the lady tour guide told us about the Law on Window in UK.

Finding our way to the hotel wasn’t that hard. You bet. It was fun getting lost as always. The Underground (aka Subway) was also stressful. It was a maze of passages and tubes, literally. Anyone would need a crash course on it.

look right, look left

look right, look left

RHT. Despite having been to other countries (e.g. Thailand) that have  the right-hand traffic (RHT), I still haven’t learned my lesson. For me, this system is still confusing and will always be. But that’s the rule of the road in London. It was a lot different from what I’m used to. No worries though- if you have been looking for traffic left to right (your entire life) before crossing the street, the signs can save your life.

To get in as much sightseeing as I could in my first day in London, I tried to get up the next day (April 1) notwithstanding the jet-lagged mind and body. We first visited the University of London to get some infos and hand-outs, and then set out  to the underground to check on the gorgeous sights. First Leg: London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, etc. Do Brits realize how wonderful London really is? I hope so.

A Federal Mega University Made Up of 31 Affiliates

A Federal Mega University Made Up of 31 Affiliates

The London Eye

The London Eye- height:135 metres (443 ft). It's the biggest Ferris wheel in Europe

Westminster Abbey

The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster

Big Ben

Big Ben- The World's Famous Clock

Trafalgar Square Monument

Trafalgar Square Monument- at its centre is Nelson's Column

The things I’ve seen here lived up to expectations. Emmm… except for the Big Ben. It was a bit smaller than I originally thought. Well, it wasn’t my first time to experience such. When I first saw the Moulin Rouge in Paris, I was a bit disappointed. I thought it was a huge Red Windmill… it’s not.

A sense of direction. Unluckily, you can’t rely on me when it comes to maps. That’s the irony of me- a traveler who sucks at direction. Thanks Mik2, maps are just in the palm of your hands. To get a glimpse of the metropolis, we thought that it would be a great idea to take the Routemaster where we could sit-relax on the upper deck. This way, we could also go sightseeing by simply parking our feet on the bus minus a tour guide piloting us. But it turned out that taking the bus wasn’t really the best way for us to get to the planned destination. In the first few days we’ve gotten on the wrong bus and ended up much farther from where we were meant to go, not only once, but all the time. Knowing how to decipher maps from dot to dot is as essential as understanding what trains have transfer points to what lines. But even if they have the Tube, I advice you to take a Walk around London first and see what the Capital has to offer. With free maps and guides available at the hotel or stations, the routes in the leaflets will ensure you see all the sights and enjoy your  moment in London.

Sightseeing is no doubt fun but marching to and from many places can be exhausting. My feet hurt and burnt so bad that at the end of a day I couldn’t walk. Everyday was a tour day- long walk, long street but worth every step.

You have to see the city for yourself. There’s lot to explore, lot to do. It’s not the cheapest place in the world, but it still rocks!

This is the London Trip Part One. More to tell.

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