Monday, November 24, 2008

Saturday: Our Last Whirlwind Spin Through The London

Our last day in London and still so much to see, but see it we did. Our first stop was to Oxford Circus Underground Station and pick up our day travel passes. Pretty cool, for about $18, you can travel to almost anywhere in the city, make as many transfers as you like, and get back to where you started.

Our first stop was to see the utterly beautiful and unbelievable St. Paul’s’ Cathedral. This is an amazing structure built about 500 years ago. Actually the first structure was built in 604 but burnt down in 1087.
Later that same year a new St. Paul’s Church was begun. In 1666 St Paul’s is again reduced to rubble after the Great Fire. In 1708 architect and designer Christopher Wren lays the last stone upon completion to the magnificent church. The dome at 360 feet is the second largest in the world and simply breathtaking. I still can’t fathom how they built theses kinds of buildings that many years ago without the cranes and building equipment we have today – it still astonishes me.

St Paul’s has been the location of such remarkable ceremonial events including the funeral of Winston Churchill on 1965 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

Once again we ran into the dilemma of not being able to take any pictures in this magnificent structure. Still, I got a few off before I noticed the signs. This is actually the first country we have encountered with so many restrictions on photographing such a rich history – quite disappointing for the photo traveler.

From St. Paul’s’ we headed to the British Library. The Library you say; Why would anyone go the London Library? I thought the same thing till I found in the tour book that this library had not only 16 million copies of everything printed in the United Kingdom but also about the most extensive collection of historic documents in the world. Included are works like the Magna Carta, an original Guttenberg Bible, original Shakespeare writings, and scribblings of the Beatles. Seeing the words to John Lennon’s “Yesterday,” scrawled out on the back of a birthday card to his son, was indeed, fascinating. The trip to the British Library was definitely worth it.

Our next, and last stop for the day, was to the British Museum. This is the oldest public museum in the world. The Museum's immense hoard of treasures spans 2 million years of history and culture. The 94 galleries which stretch 2.5 miles and covers civilizations from ancient Egypt and Assyria to modern Japan.

The main attraction for me was the Rosetta Stone which I’ve heard about since I was a kid. I was always a Egypt and Greek mythology fan so when I heard the museum had the Rosetta Stone on display, we had to head over to see it. We walked into the gallery and here several people surrounded it. I was really surprised when I saw it. I had always thought it was rather small, but here it was – 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide, and about 8 inches thick – it was big, and this was only part of the original.
When you read the history of it, it is amazing that they found it at all, but there it was – the code used by Jean-Fracois Chmapollion (1790-1832) to translate the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Within the Museum is the Great Court which actually surrounds the Reading Room. The Court is covered with a lightweight roof creating what looks like an indoor public square. Very Beautiful!!

We took in a few more rooms and then decided to head back to our hotel. Well, that was the plan anyway. As it has been with most of sight seeing we walked back dropped off some bags full of London goodies, and then headed back down Carnaby Street for the last of the souvenir shopping. We found a tea shop, made a few more purchases, dropped them back at the room and headed back to the Shakespear’s Head pub for a late dinner and drink.

Alas, one drink turned into two, as we chatted with the owner manager, who also bought a round – very nice folks at the Shakespear’s Head pub, you know. The place was packed with rugby fans watching the Wales vs. New Zealand teams battle it out. LaDawn a true sports fan received some first class English lessons on the rules of rugby. New Zealand won handily, much to the dismay of the local favorite.

We headed back to the hotel, settled in and were snoozing by about 8 p.m. – to much fresh air I guess;~) We had an early morning wake up call – 6 a.m. – packed the bags, and headed for Victoria Station, about twenty minutes away by taxi, to catch the Gatwick Express back to the airport.

After a fairly easy check in, we boarded the plane and are heading home as I write this. What a week it was – jam packed with the excitement of opening nights, more theatre, strolling the London streets, taking in the people, the buzz, and just enjoying a drink or two in the city. A fabulous time was had by all!

Check out the show below – it’s a brief recap of our week’s adventures. Enjoy! -Dave and LaDawn.

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