Sunday, September 24, 2006

Recent London Excursions

Over the past few weeks, I've had the opportunity to see many more sites of London. Westminster Abbey was a nice highlight. There are many kings/queens, statesmen, and literary figures burried here such as Chaucer, Robert Browning, Henry VII, Elizabeth I, King James the same one who promoted that version of the Bible, amongst others.

I also got a picture in front of Big Ben the clock tower for the houses of Parliment. While there, I took a tour of the houses of Parliment which used to be a palace as well. Here both the House of Commons (elected officials) and the House of Lords operate. The UK does not have a constitution and as such has a relatively flexible legislative system which can be adapted as lawmakers find necessary.

The London Tower is what some would consider a castle. It is a series of towers and large buildings which comprise essentially, a small settlement from which quite a few kings and queens ruled (most notably King Henry VIII). This castle is located right off of the Thames river and provided easy access for going out to sea or where ever the king fancied. The crown jewels are housed here as well. Some local residents of the tower are a group of 9 ravens of whom it is said if they ever fly away, the British empire will fall. They and their ancestors have inhabited the Tower for several hundred years. Right across (literally) the river is the London Bridge. It wasn't exactly falling down and seemed well intact so I'm not sure where the song's writer got his information. Check out pictures at the links at the end of the blog.

I also went to a cemetery which contains the graves of John Bunyan, author of Pilgram's Progress, and Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe.

Buckingham Palace was a spectacular encounter. It is lavish with amazing decorations and architecture orignally designed by the famous architect John Nash. The royal family lives here when not the summer months during which they go to Scotland. State dinners, events, and other formal occasions occur here throughout the year. I did not plan it but happened to be there for the changing of the guard. Fairly cerimonious with an accompanying band and the traditional red coat and big black hat uniform.

Since it is talked about by many people, I figured I might as well go to Harrod's to see what all the fuss is about. For the uninitiated, Harrod's is a department store in London which I would call something more along the size of a mall. It has 6 floors and covers an entire block. They have pretty much any and everything you can imagine for sale much of which is priced quite high. Restaurants accompany most floors and they even have an opera singer serenading those going up the escalater.

This past week I got to see the inside of a cricket field for the first time. Now, some of you may think, "a cricket field? That's nothing special. Most fields I know of have crickets." However, let me educate you. Cricket is traditionally British sport which is somewhat similar to baseball though games last much longer as much as 5 days with appropriate tea breaks as necessary. Lord's Cricket ground was the field I saw.

What visit to London and the UK would be complete without taking in a Shakespere play? In 1994, some people rebuilt a full size replica of the Globe Theatre close to the Thames river in London. They even have a mosh pit where you can pay 5 pounds for admission. The pit was sold out by the time I arrived but it ended up raining so the covered seat ended up being a good choice. The play was "The Comedy of Errors" and is probably my favorite Shakespere play (quite humorous and entertaining).

Continuing in the literary arts arena, I acheived a personal goal of seeing "The Phantom of the Opera" this past weekend in the West End. The West End is the London equivalent of Broadway in New York and has tremondously talented actors/actresses and set designs. It was much enjoyed and I would do it again if the opportunity presented.

Please view pictures of the previously mentioned sites at:

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