May 28, 2008

London with Ronnie


This blog contains images of waterfowl, including a particular pelican larger than most children. Said bird also happens to be approximately two thirds my height. But more on that later...

I don't quite remember how this afternoon trip to London came about, or how I ended up going, but I know that Ronnie had to go to London to meet her class at the Churchill Museum and I believe wanted someone to go with her. Since I still had my handy rail pass and it wasn't going to cost me anything to pop up to London for the day, I happily obliged. We took the train, and then the tube and got off at Westminster. I have to say over the course of my trip I became very familiar with the Westminster station and general area. I seemed to be there quite a lot.

Anyway, step out of the station, walk up the stairs, and you are greeted by the Palace of Westminster Clocktower and Big Ben. And we all know Big Ben is actually the bell inside the tower, not the tower itself, right? Walking around the House of Parliament towards Westminster Abbey I happened to catch this shot when the gate was open and the guards were off to the side.
Still walking towards the Abbey, this is the view back towards the clock tower.
And now, to the Abbey. This is the view from the front just after you walk through the gate to the grounds. It is quite tourist heavy, or at least it seemed to be both times that I was there. Admission at the time I think was £6.00 or so. I'd have to find my entry ticket to remember for sure. And looking straight up at the North rose window. Towards the right of the window and what I would consider the main enterance.
The detail over the door of the main enterance is unbeliveable.
I can't even fathom how long it would take to carve something so intricate.

Now unfortunately Westminster Abbey has a very strict no photography policy. I wasn't able to photograph about 95% of the Church, eventhough we saw it all. An entire plan of the Abbey with detailed descriptions and some photos, although bad ones, can be found here.

How about some more reader interaction? Something like those audio story books you had when you were a kid, without audio playback. Instead of "when you this chime, turn the page..." let's try when you read a name, click on the corresponding link on the Abbey plan page.

Ready? Here we go...

This is from the Great Cloister looking out towards the lawn. These are the flying buttresses on the south side from the Great Cloister. More flying buttresses, because they're cool.
So are the windows for that matter...
Now you'll notice if you're following along that the Great Cloister is the 8th area on the map and that I seem to have skipped the first seven places. I saw them, I just couldn't photograph them. Henry VII's Lady Chapel was pretty amazing. I tried getting just one shot for posterity, but there were several employees moving the tourists along and keeping a watchful eye. But it's one of those things you don't need a picture of to remember.

The vaulted ceiling is very ornate, and the walls are lined the heraldic banners of living knights which hang above the oak stalls once used by the Knights of Bath in 1725. In the center of the aisle behind the altar is the tomb of Henry VII and his Queen, Elizabeth of York. The picture on the Westminster site just doesn't do the Chapel justice, and the best image I can find because media access is so limited, is here. According to the photographer, that shot was taken in 1977 and scanned from Kodachrome slides. Thank you John Campbell. The Chapel also houses the tombs of several members of the royal families of England, including Queen Elizabeth I. Her sister, Queen Mary Tudor is buried beneath her. Directly across the Chapel is Mary Queen of Scotts.

One of the places I could photograph was the Chapter House which is an octagonal room with walls almost completely made up of very large stained glass windows.
Although the Chapter House is home to some of the oldest tile work and paintings, as well as the oldest door in the Abbey, the windows are a combination of 19th and 20th century glass. Most of the original windows were destroyed during World War II and were redesigned in 1951.
Ronnie and I eventually made our way outside and saw what little we could see of the Little Cloister. I really wanted the gate to be open. The cloister and surrounding buildings are now home to members of the clergy and staff. Next on our outdoor jaunt of the grounds is the College Garden.
Look! It's Ronnie...
This building is absolutely adorable.
Playing in the garden was this band. I want to say they were playing Beatles songs.
And patrons enjoying the free concert.
We stayed in the garden for a little while, enjoying the music and the sunshine, before going back inside.

Walking through the Great Cloister again, on our way to the Nave and then... the gift shop!
Exiting the Abbey gift shop
Looking back towards the Abbey where we had exited. The gift shop is on the right.
Ronnie being fabulous.
We walked to the Churchill Museum which was nearby. The small dark door on the right is actually the entrance to the museum.
So Ronnie went off with her class and I went off exploring. Across the street from the museum is St. James's Park. Here's where the waterfowl come in...

Along the park path leading to Duck Island I believe is this cute little cottage, which was built for the bird keeper of the park. According to the Royal Parks website, the bird keeper position remains. I'm guessing that means someone actually lives here. Great location I must say. I saw a few markers of Diana's Memorial Walk. I did not make the entire walk, but apparently it is beautiful.
Some of the flora of the park.
And the fauna... It seems the pelicans are such an important part of the park that you can watch them being fed by park employees every day. They even have their own page on the park website. Go figure.
I, of course, didn't know any of this at the time, and was a little shocked to see a four foot tall bird interacting so calmly with people.

Not pictured is the woman standing to my right, digging in her purse for bread crumbs. Let me tell you, these birds have people in London well trained. This guy was hilarious. I put my hand in my purse to put my sunglasses away and he immediately comes waddling over like I'm about to feed him. It was like it was expected.
I walked the length of the park torwards Buckingham Palace and came across this guy. No one was feeding him and he looked so sad. I didn't have anything but a few orange peels, which it seems swans don't like. He nibbled, but didn't do much more. Can't say I blame him. There were also a few ducklings swimming around, but I couldn't get a decent picture of them. They swim so fast, every shot I have is blurry.

The end of the park, with the gates of Buckingham Palace above.
Another marker for the Princess Diana Memorial Walk.
And the Palace itself.
These gardes were so well kept they put Disneyland to shame.
The Palace without the gardens or the traffic.
Standing in the middle of the road, with the South and West Africa Gates behind me.
The Queen Victoria Memorial, which celebrates the British Empire. The memorial includes the marble statue of Victoria and golden figures of Victory, Courage and Constancy.
The Palace as seen from North, with the Canada Gate to my back.
I passed through the Canda Gate and into Green Park. There is a memorial in Green Park for Canadians who fought in England with the British in World Wars I and II.
Maples leaves cover the surface of the fountain.
One of the tree line paths through Green Park.
At this point I had to meet up with Ronnie after her class at the Churchill Museum. I retraced my steps, back through St. James's Park. And yes, this guy was still there. I'm guessing he's one of their four Great White Pelicans.
The other end of the park is Horse Guard's Parade which is just peeking through the trees.
Before crossing Horse Guards Road seen above to walk around the Parade, I took a few shots of the Guard's Memorial.
I then crossed the street and explored some of the Parade. I believe this is the Royal Naval Division Memorial.
I followed Horse Guards Road back to the Churchill Museum. According to the map, that is the Clive Statue, surrounded by the Treasury Building and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.So I waited until Ronnie was done and we walked back towards Westminster Palace.
A lion sticking his tongue out... I love it.
We eventually ended up in the Victoria Tower Gardens. I don't remember why Ronnie is making faces...
The Buxton Memorial Fountain commemorating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire.
And one of the castings of the The Burghers of Calais by Rodin. I saw this walkway marker and had to take a picture of it. I'm not sure where the Silvery Jubilee Walk takes you, but this is the only marker I saw over the several days I spent in London.
And I'll leave you with one more shot of Westminster Palace, complete with a double decker red bus.After snapping this shot Ronnie and I took the Tube back to the train station and hopped the train back to Brighton. It was a nice little day trip to London and I enjoyed wandering through the parks. I've heard British people love their parks, and I can see why.