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April 10th 2008
Published: April 10th 2008
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Thames RiverThames RiverThames River

view from the top of St. Paul's, the London Eye is barely visible

Tower of London

The next couple of days are planned with must-see sights. Since the locations of meetings usually dictate where we go, we also refer to the World Heritage List for places to visit.
On that list is the Tower of London. It with it's notorious history, is our first stop. It is really a calm place in the midst of the noisy, hectic city, and we spend more time here than we thought we would. We had picked up bagels from a cafe in Covent Garden, and sat on a bench to watch the ravens and people, while we snacked. The walls of the site are being cleaned and maintained. Especially the White Tower, it is covered with scaffolding, while being cleaned to bring back it's white coloring.
Yeoman Warders, are the guides that take you through the grounds, while emphasizing the gory details of execution. The kids in our group loved his descriptions. These guides are basically officers that have retired from military service having been awarded the long service and good conduct medal. They live with their families in apartments within the Tower walls, you can see the turquoise door to an apartment in the photo.
Yeoman WarderYeoman WarderYeoman Warder

points to the Tower Green where the now popular Boleyn sisters, were executed.
After months spent with a mentor learning their duties and the stories of the Tower, they will be approved and let loose on the public. One of the assigned duties is as care taker of the ravens. Seven birds are kept on the grounds to ensure the longevity of the kingdom and tower, as legend requires. It requires six ravens, so one is kept for insurance. The birds' wings are clipped, to keep them close, but they say one bird named Grog was last seen outside an East end pub!
Each Yeoman has developed their own persona. I would say 'his own', but this past July the first woman in the 522 year history of the guard, was approved.
Our Yeoman guide was theatrical and funny. I was watching a young boy in the group, as the Yeoman told about the two young princes that were murdered in the tower, the kid was right there with him! Even a bit afraid of the story.

The Crown Jewels were impressive. After all, they are the Crown Jewels. A 'people mover' type floor keeps the viewers moving right along, and you are allowed to return to see all the
Union JackUnion JackUnion Jack

flying at the White Tower
crowns and sceptres again.

Surprisingly you could spend the entire day here, viewing all the exhibits in the towers. There are re-enactments of events and kid interaction. We did get our fill of armour, swords and cannons. After taking in the nice spring day and people watching we said 'So long' to the medieval British monarchs. We are headed further back in history to Egyptian King Tut.

Greenwich Mean Time

Over the river is the Greenwich Mean Time, and the Tutankhamun exhibit. I didn't do my research before this, and wasn't quite sure where the actual meridian line was. Yet, Keith trusted me and so we ended up at the O2.
For the prime meridian monument, 'We missed it by that much'! The O2 structure itself is built on the meridian line, and as you can see in our photos, the line is embedded in the grounds of the complex. The Greenwich Park and Observatory is at another park, close by.
Just as the Equator divides the northern hemisphere from the southern hemisphere, prime meridian divides east and west. Zero Longitude. We stood where time 'begins'. As for the Tut exhibit, we saw him in Los Angeles 30 years ago, when we first got married and were living in California! Back then, I stood in line for hours to purchase tickets. I loved it then and loved it this day. Keith ushered me out, it was getting late, and we held tickets for a show. But before we leave O2, let me fill you in on it. Formerly known as the Millennium Dome, it's the largest single roofed structure in the world (yeah there's lots of "world's largest"!) Fabricated of translucent glass fibre, 1050 feet in diameter, supported by 12 pylons each weighing 500 tonnes. It's an enormous entertainment complex. Includes an arena that seats 23,000, 7 bars and 10 restuarants, and movie theatres.

For the evening, we have our tickets for - get ready -
the longest running play. Written by Agatha Christie, the Mousetrap has been running for 56 years.
Now we have seen it. And, no, we won't tell you 'whodunnit'...

Buckingham Palace

Required of all tourists. The guide book says "nearly every tourist in London gathered in one place, at the same time". He's right. So many different countries represented.
zero longitudezero longitudezero longitude

very appropriate
On our last day we stood on the Victoria Monument for an above the crowd view of the palace and the street. There is a fountain that rings the monument and the ledge around the water is not flat to sit on, but just a narrow ledge. Never the less, people of course sit on it, some even lay their pocket books and backpacks on it. So watching the pocket books plop into the water was a good way to pass the time before the guards arrived! A woman rested her huge pocketbook on the ledge and a cute little boy, totally unrelated to her, accidentally knocked it into the water. Picture what occured- first the look on the lady's face, then her husband gesturing and carrying on, she's blaming the little boy, and finally when the dad figured out what happened he gave the poor little boy a thump on the back of his head! For a moment there I thought we would see an international incident! But it was the lady's fault for putting her huge purse there, it was so heavy it was bound to slide in, even with out the little boy. So her cell phone is now at the bottom of the fountain! And when the husband sees this he really starts getting animated! The friends that are there with them finally catch wind of what has happened, and they think its funny!
Wish we had video of it. See the photo of the teenager with water up to his shoulder? He and his buddies were watching all this. The lady and her husband walked away, and he now has a wet cell phone.
Oh yeah, The Changing of the Guard! It had all you would expect of a royal ceremony. The regiments march in from different areas of the mall. The guard band plays, traffic stops and we tourists photograph it from all angles.

St. Paul's Cathedral

We caught the afternoon tour of the wonderful St. Paul's. These tours are so good, the guides add so much, with their personalities and accents. They are volunteers and do seem to enjoy what they do. There is a chapel behind the altar that is dedicated to the Americans from WWII, and it brought home to us the sacrifice of the entire world during that period of time. Especially now with us having once again been allies, in this unpopular war.
There are several areas at the church not to be missed. One of course is the Whispering Gallery in the dome, the huge dome! We couldn't quite get the total effect, of hearing a whisper right into your ear, even though it was spoken from across the gallery. Too many people 'whispering'. Keith waited here for me, and I trudged up to the next two outdoor galleries. I think it was 400 steps in all. (thank goodness for the stair training in Memphis) Well worth the freezing cold of the upper atmosphere. Had it been a clear day the view would have been better, but it was amazing to see the city below and beyond. But cold! I should have guessed there was snow on the way!
We stayed for the Evensong service, and were once again part of a worship experience that has us in awe of God's presence. Granted, most of the people in attendance may have been tourists. And it is a big production, but we felt the essence of worship and giving thanks.

From the reverent, to the irreverent. The Tony award winning 'Avenue Q', at Noel Coward Theatre in the West End. Let me just say, it's a funny play, and we laughed a lot! (this is the reference to our names, from the first entry about this trip.) A more 'mature' version of the iconic kid's educational program, as seen through the minds of a couple of clever writers! Each play we see has it's own type of audience, this one is mainly the under 40 crowd. The young couple sitting next to us have seen it three times.

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


Tower BridgeTower Bridge
Tower Bridge

chilly wind had the flags flying
Tower Bridge Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

from the Tower of London grounds
Tower GroundsTower Grounds
Tower Grounds

the ravens are kept here, I watched a pair being very social with each other. in fact all the birds were carrying something in their beaks, pecking through the grass, one kept tugging on the water hose.
Lunch time napLunch time nap
Lunch time nap

behind these sleepy fellows are the walls of the sunken gardens at the Tower Hill Memorial. On these walls are the names of WWII merchant ships and their sailors.
prime meridian lineprime meridian line
prime meridian line

on the O2 complex
pub patronspub patrons
pub patrons

spilling out onto the sidewalk
pub patrons pub patrons
pub patrons

another pub spilling out into the roundabout
bottle fishingbottle fishing
bottle fishing

at Buck House
Queen Victoria outside of St. Paul'sQueen Victoria outside of St. Paul's
Queen Victoria outside of St. Paul's

with one of her pet pidgeons

11th April 2008

love the description of the changing of the guard. And the picture of you guys standing at Zero Longitude
12th April 2008

catching up
Have been catching up on all your entries!!! Beautiful! John is enjoying all the boat and ocean pics. I am enjoying the history, especially Anne Frank house. Portugal looks unbelievable! My class is doing country reports. Ok to show some of your pictures? Could they ask questions? Glad to see you are making the most of your time!! Miss you both.

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