Saturday, September 02, 2006

Day 2: Monday, August 7 (London)

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed off walking to Westminster Abbey. We got terrifically lost and it started to pour, but the walk was most enjoyable as we got to see the residential neighborhood and appreciate the greenery and architecture.

Westminster Abbey was spectacular, of course. Compared to the bizillion churches we saw in Italy last year, it was amazing to see the different approach the Brits take to their worship. Less God, more King. In the Abbey there are over 3,000 tombs, remains of royalty, and hundreds of memorials to poets, politicians and warriors. No photographs inside (so you'll have to wait for my scrapbook), but some of the highlights included: the tombs of Elizabeth I and Bloody Mary; Chapel of King Henry VII; Air Force Chapel; the Coronation Chair; and the Abbey Museum (with actual coronation outfits of many of the monarchs).

We snuck a peek at the lovely St. James Park:

And, next it was a quick walk to the Churchill Museum and War Rooms.

The war rooms let you walk through the underground headquarters of the British government's fight against the Nazis during the Battle of Britian. These rooms (27 in all) were the nerve center for the British war effort from 1939 to 1945 and many remain exactly how they were left in 1945 (but pictures are not allowed).

The museum is new (I think it opened in 2005) and chronicles the life of Churchill as a person with all his faults, statesman and patriot. It was a great history lesson and the museum is very modern and the exhibits are interactive.

This is a giant electronic timeline. You can touch a year, month, day or even hour to find out exactly what was going on at the time.

We next headed over to Parliament (and its clock tower Big Ben), which was out of session and thus open for tours. Again, no pictures inside, but it was fascinating and exciting. We got a lot of great information about the political process and history of the building, and got to see both the House of Lords (looks like a royal palace) and the House of Commons (looks like a high school auditorium--okay, maybe not that bad, but strikingly different than the HOL).

After leaving Parliament we walked up Whitehall Boulevard, which is the main road between Big Ben and Trafalgar Square. You can see the London Eye ferris wheel:

Statue of Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni:

A statue of Winston Churchill that BVZ swears that when I was asleep our London by Night guide said was electrically charged to keep off the birds. I am not sure I believe it, but the whole thing is remarkably poop free:

World War memorial:

The Ministry of Defense and Tony Blair's house:

Memorial to the female effort during the World War I:

And ending in Trafalgar Square (the recently renovated central square and the climax of most marches and demonstrations in London):

We went back to the hotel to change and have a quick snack (okay, more gin than snack),

Before tubing to Covent Gardens (you can see the merry-go-round all lit up in the first picture)...

...and Maggiono's, where we had the most expensive dinner of our lives. The 6 course set menu consisted of: cold pea soup and foie gras, scallops, cod in chorizo sauce, lamb shank, a cheese plate (including some delightful stinkers), strawberry and pistachio creme caramel, coffee and chocolate truffles. It was romantic and beautiful and very atmospheric. It was also very dark (the first picture is actually from the next night when we walked by the restaurant on our way to the theater) and I was too intimidated to take pictures of the food, so you will have to settle for one of the powder room.

No comments: