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Published: April 8th 2017
St. Paul's Cathedral
... behind the curch in beautiful weather.
The first weekend of September I spent in London, and believe it or not, it was not a work trip this time. The trip had been a Christmas present for my mum. She flew in from Stuttgart, I arrived from Hamburg, and we met at Heathrow Airport on the Friday morning. Before going to explore the city we checked into our lovely hotel: “The Rookery”
in Clerkenwell, not far from Smithfield Market and the Barbican Centre. The rooms were small as they mostly are in London, but they all had been designed with lots of creativity and attention to detail. Every room looked different, and instead of numbers they had been given the names of people who had lived in the area. Ours was named after a woman who had sold dairy at the nearby market and worked as a maid. It had a double bed made of carved oak, the windows had wooden shutters, there was a chimney, and the bathroom was equipped with Vintage fixtures and fittings. The hotel had a library with a chimney and a nice little garden in the back, all of it in very classical 17th century style. As a standard, breakfast was served in the
The London Eye
... on the opposite bank of River Thames.
room every morning. One could choose from a menu with lots of tasty options, and the next morning breakfast was served at the desired time. But of course before it was breakfast time we still had an entire afternoon and evening.
After a late lunch we caught the tube to Westminster and went for a little walk. We saw the London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel, then walked past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey via St. James’s Park to Buckingham Palace. This was a nice little walk to get an impression of the city again. My last visit to the city had been 20 years ago. After our walk we decided that this was enough and so had dinner in a great Italian restaurant just around the corner from our hotel.
The next morning we had to get up early to make it to our sightseeing tour. The Queen opens up the State Rooms in Buckingham Palace to the public in August and September when she is not around, and we were lucky that we could go and see them. We could only get in by booking a tour package including a city sightseeing tour that
... in real London weather - grey skies!
departed from a spot not too far from the Palace at 8:30 am. We rode through the city on a coach for a bit and our travel guide explained history and facts about the points of interest we passed. However, it was one of the tours where there is not storyline or system, it was rather like: “This is Trafalgar Square, the largest public square in the city that has been a meeting point since the Middle Ages. Its name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, in which the British defeated Napoleon’s troops in 1805 off the Cape of Trafalgar, Spain.” And then we went on to the next spot. So I don’t remember much of it and needed to consult a book and Wikipedia to learn more about the city.
Finally we got off the bus into a splendid day and walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The white building against the blue sky looked beautiful. The cathedral was built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1675 and 1711, after the Great Fire of 1666. It is located at the highest point in the city, was the tallest building of the city until 1967, and is dedicated to Paul the Apostle
Buckingham Palace I
The front and main entrance.
like the original church that had been built in the very spot in 604. It is well-known because of a lot of Services that were held in it, such as the funerals of Lord Nelson (who is also buried in the crypt of the Cathedral), Sir Winston Churchill, or Margaret Thatcher, or the wedding of Charles and Diana. Also the Queen’s Jubilees were celebrated there. After our visit to the Cathedral the coach tour continued.
Finally we arrived at Buckingham Palace. We had a dedicated slot at which we were allowed to enter the palace, but then we were given an audio guide and could walk through the rooms at our own pace. The State Rooms are public rooms in which the royalties receive, reward, and entertain guests. There are 19 of them, all designed by architect John Nash according to the ideas of King George IV in the 19th century. Nowadays they also have a lot of treasuries from the Royal Collection, including painting, sculptures, and porcelain. There was a special exhibition showcasing the Queen’s clothes. It was amazing to see how different outfits were designed according to different purposes, for example to be in line with certain
Buckingham Palace II
Behind the Palace in the Royal Gardens where the Queen holds her famous garden parties.
cultures or traditions when she went for visits abroad. We ended the tour in the back of the Palace, in the garden where the Queen holds her famous garden parties. There was a café, and so we had a coffee and a scone (of course, what else!) on the terrace of Buckingham Palace overlooking the royal garden.
We spent our afternoon in Tate Modern. The building the museum is located in is spectacular in itself. It is the former Bankside Power Station that was originally designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, but was converted into a museum that opened up in the year 2000. It consists of two towers with a large gallery in between that used to host the large turbines. This gallery can be used for all kinds of installations and our audio guide presented a few of them to us in video format. It has amazing collections of different styles of modern art, including for example cubism, expressionism, surrealism, and so on. It is an amazing place that I could easily have spent several days in! The museum is located on the Southwark on the southern bank of river Thames and connected to the other side of
Scone and coffee
... which we had on the queen's terrace with the view of her garden.
the river by Millennium Bridge. When we got out of the museum it was raining cats and dogs, so we had dinner at a nearby Ramen place and then caught a taxi back to our hotel.
The next morning we went to the Tower. Most people know that this is the place where one can see the Crown Jewels. However, there is much more to this castle. First of all, it was much larger than I would have expected. There are different buildings dating from different periods of time. The White Tower in the centre of the building complex, for example, was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Several expansions by Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I date from the 12th and 13th centuries. The entire complex consists of two rings of walls and a moat.
In the afternoon my colleague Suzanne invited us for a barbecue at her house in Tooting. This was super nice, plus, her partner had prepared some really tasty veggie food for my mum and me, homemade veggie patties and homemade spinach lasagna – hmmm! It was a super nice afternoon, thank you so much Suz and Ben for
Tate Modern I
... located in the former Bankside Power Station building.
having us 😊.
On Sunday night there was a great spectacle happening on the River Thames. It was the 350th anniversary of the 1666 Great Fire that had destroyed large parts of London. There were all kinds of installations and events, but the highlight was going to happen that very evening. On the river there was floating an over 100 metres long miniature wooden model of the city that US artist David Best had erected with the help of schoolchildren and unemployed young people – a sort of social project. This entire model was set on fire on Sunday night. We decided to just walk past before it was set on fire, but then watch the event itself via livestream from our hotel room because the view was so much better. It was amazing, and the model kept burning for at least half an hour.
Our last day, the Monday, we spent at Westminster Abbey. There are a lot of visitors there, so there is one route that one takes throughout the church, with a free audio guide. The speaker of the English audio guide was Jeremy Irons! Somehow I could sense all the history and all of
Tate Modern II
The great turbine hall inside the building.
the important things that had happened in and around this church. Pretty much every monarch from William the Conqueror onwards had been crowned in the church, and of course we know it well from all the royal weddings that take place there. The present building dates from the 13th century, but there had been a church before that, built in the 11th century. And of course there are so many celebrities that are buried in the church: the scientists Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, for example; then there is Poet’s Corner, where for example Charles Dickens, George Friedrich Handel, and Thomas Hardy are buried – to name but a few. At the end of our tour we had tea and a scone in the café and then needed to rush back to the hotel. We were very late, and I realised that one tends to underestimate the time that it takes to get from one place to another in this huge city with its vast underground system. Plus, there had been a misunderstanding with the taxi that we had ordered through the hotel. So we headed off to the airport rather late. But we were lucky and there were no
View from the walls of the Tower of London.
major disasters, so we made it to the airport in time to catch our flights back home.
What an amazing city with amazing history and sights, I definitely need to come back!
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