In early October, my parents crossed the pond for a 2 week trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Kelley and I met them in London since despite being so close we had not been there yet. When doing some research on accommodations and museums, I was flabbergasted by the cost of everything in London. People warned me it was expensive but I was still surprised. The one saving grace is that the exchange rate is more favorable than it once was, so instead of 2 to 1 it was more like 1.3 to 1. Harder math but more friendly on the pocketbook. This visit to London was quick with just under two days on the ground, so it was more like dipping our toe into the London maelstrom.
When I imagine London, I picture funny hats, double-decker buses, Harry Potter, the Tube, the Royal Family, Winston Churchill, and the British Empire (We did see all of these). Once the northwestern terminus of the Roman empire, today it is a sprawling metropolis with a population of nearly 9 million people. It is an eclectic place drawing people from around the world like flower to sunshine. Our first full day was action packed! We visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The Churchill War Rooms, gave a high-five to the queen at Buckingham Palace, and got hangry in Hyde Park. My one beef with the museums we visited is that you cannot take any pictures inside, which is why the pictures are not more plentiful.
St Pauls! The first cathedral on this sight was build in the 13th century but during the great fire of 1666 it was burned down. Shortly thereafter a new cathedral was built on the same site by Sir Christopher Wren. The cathedral is the focal point of most major civic and royal events in the UK hosting royal weddings, funerals, jubilee celebrations, and peace services after WWI and WWII. Amazingly the church was not significantly damaged during the German blitz. My favorite part of the church was climbing the claustrophobic stairs to the top of the vertigo inducing dome – incredible!
The next stop was Westminster Abbey, which was a strange place. The initial construction was in the 10th century and through the 16th century was a functioning abbey until the English Reformation started. Through the centuries the abbey has been the traditional place for coronations, weddings, and burials. The later is why, in my opinion, the sight is strange and eerie. Everywhere you look inside there are gravestones, on the floor, on the walls, on top of each others, in little nooks – literally everywhere!
After the abbey we went to the very worthwhile Churchill War Rooms and then took a stroll through St. James park to Buckingham Palace.
Our second day was a bit compressed since we had to catch a flight back to Dublin around 5:30pm. As a result, we stored our baggage at Victoria Station se off on a self-guided walking tour along the Themes. Our first stop was London Bridge, which was a bit lack-luster compared to its neighbor the Tower Bridge. The actual London Bridge was build in the architectural nexus of the 70s, which brought us shag carpet and other gems (apparently we were so impressed we forgot to take a picture….).
After visiting the bridges, we walked down the Themes to Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and through Hyde Park…
Like I said it was a brief trip but Kelley and I will go back. I really want to get lost in the British Museum, National Gallery, and some of the other free museums. Plus we can go back to St Paul’s for free and see the upper domes, which were under renovations when we were there. (Kelley: AND HARRY POTTER WORLD! duuhhhhhhh!)