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London: The Very Fascinating Capital Of England
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London: the Very Fascinating Capital Of England

My two quick day stay happened in a blur. I spent the first day in Wimbledon (see my article “Wimbledon, England: a short visit).

You’ll need to get tickets to ride the Ferris wheel called the London Eye. The slow turn of the wheel gives you a “bird-eye” view of the 32 boroughs of London.

The Palace of Westminster or the House of Parliament, constructed in 1840 is a Gothic Revival building with two chambers; the House of Commons & the House of Lords. On the north end of the palace is Big Ben (still commonly known) but officially called Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Queen after the Diamond Jubilee. Completed in 1858, Big Ben is the prominent symbol of London and all of England. The hour hand is 2.7m (9 ft.) long and the minute hand is 4.3 m (14 ft.) long. In 1941 the German bombing raid damaged two of the clocks dial and sections of the Tower steep roof plus destroyed the House of Chamber. Despite the heavy bombings the clock ran accurately and chimed through the Blitz.

Opened in 1090, the large Gothic Westminster Abbey is famous with a million visitors a year. The UNESCO site holds some notables buried here including Charles Dickens and Isaac Newton. At one time the church asked for donations but now you have to pay a fee. Someone stated in their website that this church “anyone should visit with no fee”.

Next to the Abbey is St. Margaret’s Church founded in the 12th century but the original structure was demolished in the 14th century. The recent building (1486-1681), has been the House of Commons place of worship since 1614, with galleries added in 1641-1681. This World Heritage Site had extensive repairs done after the bombings of WWII. It's a famous church for burials including Sir Walter Raleigh who’s buried by the altar. As for marriages, the most famous among many is Sir Winston Churchill tied the knot to Clementine Hozier in 1908.

I walked down Whitehall Rd. passing by a memorial to women who served in World War II unveiled by the Queen in 2005. Its 225 ft. high bronze sculpture depicts uniform and working clothes worn by women during the war.

I could only see 10 Downing through locked gate with guards around. At one time people could walk freely but because of the 1991 bombing, I could only see the house through black, thick gates.

An annual service of remembrance is held on the Sunday closest to November 11th to pay respects and remember the service people at the Cenotaph.

At the House of Guards, built 1745, has two mounted cavalry posted outside daily between 10am-4pm. Get there before 11 am to watch the changing of the guards. This was built to house the old palace guard

Behind of House of Guards is a very pleasant St. James Park to rest and relax on a bench of one of the deck chair. Hard to imagine this one was a marshy land that Henry VIII used as a deer-hunting park. These 23 hectares is the oldest of the eight Royal Park in London. The small lake has two islands which are home to waterfowls including the pelicans introduced in 1664 as a gift from the Russian ambassador.

I visited in May so the flower beds were rich in a variety of colours. And lots of deep green shrubberies. I stopped to the 20 foot water fountain called Tiffany Fountain. You can see the London Eye in the distance behind the fountain. The fountain is illuminated on special occasions.

From this park you can make your way to Buckingham Palace. This is the official residence of the Queen. The 1708 building has 775 rooms. and was built for the Duke of Buckingham. The changing of the guard is at 11:30 for 45 minutes.

Piccadilly Circus is London’s Time Square in New York. Circus is Latin meaning circle. This is an open space street junction full of life day and night. There are plenty of shops or you can just sit at the steps of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and watch the world go by that is if you can find room.

Trafalgar Square I spotted a man with some creative ground work of flags. I didn’t see my Canadian flag but didn’t have time to wait since he was still drawing. He was drawing in front of the National Gallery (1834-1838) which holds 2300 paintings including da Vinci, Van Gogh and Monet. In the middle of the square is Lord Nelson column, to commemorate the British victory over France in the Battle of Trafalgar. Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson,was killed by a French sniper.

St. Martins-in-the-Field named after a saint who helped beggars. The church has welcomed homeless since 1916 for a hot meal and shelter. The steeple of the church resembles a wedding cake.

The only place one drives on the right hand side in London and maybe all of England is the shi shi (very expensive) Savoy. This hotel opened in 1889. Quite often Winston Churchill took his cabinet for lunch. Frank Sinatra sang and played piano.

The Great Fire of London happened in 1666. With businesses devasted, new life started in the district in London’s eastern fringes of West End called Covent Gardens. It’s also famous for street performers, bars, restaurants, theatres and the Royal Opera House.

London is a great city to get around. To help getting to places quicker, the Tube is fast, safe and fun. On one of the oldest is called Waterloo Tube Station opened in 1898 and the first underground tube.

There is so much to see and do in this vibrant city. This was my fourth visit to London. It won’t be the last.

Street Talk

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