What a beautiful day.  For the past 3 nights I’ve been wakened by thunderstorms.  Big booming things.  And then today I woke up and we had clear blue skies with a lovely cool breeze blowing.  No more heat wave.  A perfect day for walking.  I’ve been trying to walk to as many places as I can instead of taking the tube.  Keeps me exercising but also allows me to see the streets of London, the people.

Today I walked to Westminster Abbey – about 2¼ miles from my room.  A lovely walk – takes me through Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square.  I walked past 10 Downing Street and The Prime Minister catcalled me!  Cheeky bugger.  :)  Then past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  Very impressive.  But then I walked past them, crossed the street, and there it was… Westminster Abbey.  And I let out a little gasp.  The pictures I took can hardly begin to capture the grandeur of this place, but I tried.

You can’t take photos inside, which I was honestly relieved by.  Forced me to just focus on the beauty inside, take it all in instead of trying to capture, capture, capture.  Really hard to do, though.  It’s a bit overwhelming, the Abbey.  Lots to look at.  Many, many, many tombs, epitaphs, and effigies everywhere.  And then there’s the stunning architecture.  I saw the tombs of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots!  Lots of musicians, actors, and poets have memorials or tombs here, too – Laurence Olivier, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, William Wilberforce – the man who helped to abolish slavery in England, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hardy, on and on and on.  And then of course many kings and queens buried here in some very elaborate tombs.  Oliver Cromwell was at one time buried here, but after the restoration of the monarchy his body (DEAD body, mind you) was dug up, HANGED (still dead, mind you), then DECAPITATED and reburied at an unknown location.  His head is buried near the chapel of Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge where he studied.  Geez.  Remind me never to tick these people off.

The really nice thing they do at the Abbey is every hour they ask you to stop and be silent for a minute of prayer.  Westminster is an active church, so they hold services every day, and anyone is welcome to attend.  I think it’s so wonderful that you can still worship in this beautiful place.  I lit a candle in Mom’s memory in the nave of the church, said a prayer for my family, for our leaders.  It was pretty incredible to be standing in the very place where William the Conqueror, Elizabeth I, and every single king and queen of England has been crowned since 1066.

I strolled to the garden and sat on the grass for a bit, said goodbye to the Abbey, took a peek at the coronation chair on my way out.

Then I hopped on a boat and took a cruise down the Thames, decided to get off at Greenwich, which is the last stop on the boat, about 30 minutes from the Tower of London.  I didn’t know what to expect, but it turns out the Royal Observatory is at Greenwich, and so is the Prime Meridian!  That’s right, this Greenwich is the home of Greenwich Mean Time.  And the line in Greenwich represents the Prime Meridian of the World - Longitude 0º.  Every place on Earth is measured in terms of its distance east or west from this line!  How cool is that?  It divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth just as the Equator divides the northern and southern hemispheres.  You have to climb a very steep hill to get to the Prime Meridian and the observatory, but by the time I got to the top the gates were closed.  I’ll be going back to get my picture taken standing both east and west, though!  If you want to know more about all this, check out the observatory site.

Then back on the boat for a lovely sail back up the Thames, and home.

Oh, and by the way, Thomas Hardy's heart is buried in the churchyard at Stinsford in Dorset.  hee hee


07/25/2013 6:03am

Nice write up about Westminster, Vicki! Soooo much history there--including coronations, royal weddings, royal funerals. Being in a place so steeped in history can make an American understand how *young* our country is, can't it?!

Btw, I LOVE Greenwich! What an off-the-beaten-path gem that one is!! For maybe a pound or so, you can buy a document stating that you, personally, stood astraddle the prime meridian! I happily spent many hours in the observatory. Again, sooo much history! (In this case, scientific history.)

07/25/2013 1:23pm

Isn't it great? And I totally stumbled on it. Have to go back and see the planetarium, get my document. :) Did you ever visit Hampton Court Palace, btw? So far it's been my favorite place. And Sunday night I'm going back to see SOME LIKE IT HOT in King Henry's garden! Yes, so much history my head is spinning. Can't quite take it all in, but I'm trying, doggone it!

07/26/2013 6:58am

No, I haven't seen Hampton Court Palace, but I looked it up and saw it's in Richmond, right? I did go to Richmond and LOVED the area. There's a forest/park along the river there in Richmond, and a friend and I walked some of the paths in the forest and ate at a quaint lodge-like building on the grounds. It was one of my more memorable experiences in London. (I read that Angelina Jolie & Brad lived in Richmond during one of their films.) Next time, I'll make sure to see Hampton Court Place--it sounds fabulous!! (Btw, another "most memorable" experience was visiting Hampstead Health. One hears so much about a "heath" in British literature! I just allowed myself to wander the paths and get lost!)

Hey, you'll love seeing the play in 'enry's garden! That'll be right up your alley. (I'm sure you'll see something at the Globe too, right?)

07/26/2013 2:32pm

I think technically it's in Surrey, but Richmond is very close. I'm not all that interested in doing the Globe b/c it's not the real thing. I would like to get out to Stratford on Avon, though. I'm finding it hard to make myself go into any of the pubs here, because I find it intimidating. Isn't that silly? That quaint lodge sounds great!

07/27/2013 6:24am

No, I understand about the pubs, going alone. My favorite pub, that I visited frequently by myself, is near you: The Enterprise. I'd go in the late afternoon, and the place (which is *gorgeous* in an old-world way, with stained glass and Victorian furniture) would be nearly empty, save, maybe, for a few people who looked like fellow writers, scribbling away in their journals.) The Enterprise is on "Lamb Conduit" street, a few block beyond Persephone bookstore. (That's the bookstore I told you about that sells books only with female protagonists and that are out of print.) I think the pub has a different vibe than most because it is near the university. And all of that is near the Charles Dickens Museum and house. Btw, most all the pubs serve the traditional British Sunday meal of roast beef on Sundays--so that's a good time to visit one, if you ever do!

(I just noticed that I posted my comments above--about Hampton Court Place--on the wrong blog post! Oops!)


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