- Tom- Tom
London is a giant multi layered urban experience that retains gorgeous evidence of its vivid history. The city has been the capitol of an Empire unrivaled in its range and riches. London today is a global magnet for legions of tourists anxious see the sites, roam the museums, and shop. Whitehall – which is this white – spreads long along the Thames. It was the home of English Kings from 1530 to 1698 when it was most all destroyed in a fire. What you see of it today is like London itself – contemporary structure as recently as 1938 – a building containing a history visible here and there back to the wine cellar of Henry VIII.
We enjoyed being tourists immensely. I saw and experienced so much in our ten days in the city that this blog is but a brief sketch of what I saw. St. Paul’s, once the tallest structure in the city from 1710 until 1963, remains a symbol of London grandeur and glory. The cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren – master church architect in England at the time. The great fire of London in 1666 destroyed the older structure. It stood through the German bombings of London in World War II even while the neighborhoods around it were flattened to rubble, giving heart to the severely wounded city. In this image, you see the cathedral stand above commercial buildings on the Thames across the elegant Millennium Bridge – which had to be closed within two days of opening in 2000 because it wobbled in the wind. Nothing five million pounds and two years couldn’t fix though.
St. Paul’s continues to be a stage for British drama, being the site for such ceremonies as the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
London is a city on a river, its bridges famous landmarks. You see Southwark Bridge built in 1921 and Tower Bridge built in 1894. Robert P. McCulloch, an American oil millionaire bought Rennie’s “Old London Bridge” for reconstruction on Lake Havasu in 1971 as the centerpiece of a British themed park – with a Tudor shopping mall. It is reported that he thought he was buying the Tower Bridge instead of the rather boring flat stone bridge that arrived as numbered stones. You can hear the buyer’s lament. “Wait – I thought the batteries were included!!!! Where are the towers???” Despite the fact that the bridge he bought is boring – it is the second most visited tourist site in Arizona. The Grand Canyon is first.
At times you look down a London street and see another century. Woops – the Moped!!!! The driver, with a Learner symbol on his windshield, is spoiling the picture. I hate it when that happens.
The Albert, built in 1864, is a pub on Victoria Street that survived the blitz. The Queen gets the whole street named after her. Her husband the consort, gets a bar. Well, he got half a rather impressive museum – we’ll get to that later.
Here is a picture likely to annoy several present contenders for the Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States. This is the Natural History Museum. That is Charles Darwin top of the stairs presiding over this grand palace of natural science. And that is all that needs to be said on this topic.
Carnaby Street. Remember bell bottoms and psychedelic fabric patterns and shirt collars that could propel flight? Britain remains a country fond of elaborate design. I saw an awful lot of flocked wallpaper about.
Harvey Nichols is a very chic department store – this branch in Leeds actually – but I did have a Carnaby Street flowered shirt like this wallpaper once that went with pink velvet bellbottom jeans. We were smoking a lot of grass back then.
One of the highlights of the London tour was our visit to Buckingham Palace. In the Mews (the Queen’s garage and stables) we found the most over the top vehicle in the world. The Gold State Coach, built in 1762, weights four tons and requires eight horses to pull it. It has been used in every coronation since George IV. The king wanted something to impress the public with the wealth of the monarchy. I think he succeeded.
Imagine being driven about London in a crown and ermine cape with four gold muscle studs at the corners of your carriage, cherubs on the roof and horses dressed by Versace. Now who’s fantasy might that be? This definitely deserves an ABS FLASH.