Showing posts with the label London

The Pleasure of Getting Lost in London

Here are some snapshots of other places of interest in London. It was a pleasure to explore her streets; marveling at the fabulous mix of history, modernity and pop culture located at almost every corner. In fact more so than New York or Paris but equal to Chicago (still my favorite city outside of Manila and Cebu), I could actually see myself living here, maybe as a student, possibly as an expatriate. Time will tell.

* It seems that almost every corner in the city has a story to tell, a tale of heroism, tragedy, travesty or oddity, what with the thousands of random things you can find; such as this Memorial to the Royal Artillery located randomly in the middle of a park.

Saying Hello To Will, Kate and George at Kensington Palace

Continuing on my tour of British Royal Residences, I was able to spend a couple of hours in Kensington Palace. While the Queen certainly favors Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace as her official residences, Kensington Palace was the long-time home of Princess Diana and currently serves as home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) and their son, George.

* Some nice and quaint-looking buildings greeted us upon exiting the High Street Kensington tube station. It soon became apparent that we were walking along a more affluent side of town!

The British Museum - Of Mummies and Rosetta Stones

Pretty much every great city in the world has an equally great museum. And in all my travels, I have been fortunate enough to have seen a few REALLY awesome ones; Paris, New York, Chicago, Jerusalem and Rome come to mind.

So when I realized that I had a few hours to kill, I knew that I HAD to check out the British Museum, one of the largest and most comprehensive museums in the world!

I am happy to rank this as my UNDISPUTED FAVORITE museum ever; with collections originating from practically every continent.

Best of all, admission is FREE; with the rationale being that all objects found therein belong to all of humanity. God bless them Brits!

* Accessed via the Holborn or Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, the British Museum was established in 1753 and has a neo-classical exterior. Originally, the collections found therein were all originally owned and thereafter donated by the physician and scientistSir Hans Sloane.

Hanging Out at Trafalgar Square and Chinese Food at Chinatown

* Originally built to commemorate the British naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar over the forces of Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars, Trafalgar Square is today a bustling public space full of tourists, relaxed Londoners and the occasional protesters. It is also London's main venue for rallies and public celebrations such as the countdown to New Year's Eve.

* At the head of the Square stands the neo-classical National Gallery, the fifth most visited art museum in the world, showcasing a collection of paintings dating back to the 13th Century. Among the two thousand paintings featured here, are among those done by the masters: Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, and Van Gogh.

Windsor Castle - A Lovely, Livable, Fortress

While Buckingham Palace is designated as the Monarch's official residence, the current Queen, Elizabeth II, usually spends her weekends in Windsor Castle. Built by William the Conqueror(the same guy who built the Tower of London) in 1080, the Castle is the longest-occupied palace in all of Europewhose purpose was to guard the Western approach to London with its strategically important location along the River Thames.

* To get to Windsor, one has to take a 30-minute train ride to the county of Berkshire via the London Paddington Station. Thanks to the London Pass, we didn't have to worry about any lines or payment! Paddington is also the line servicing the cities of Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, Oxford and Worcester, thus making this a very busy place for travelers. 

The Resolute St. Paul's Cathedral

If Rome has the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica, London has the magnificence of St. Paul's Cathedral. Located in the ancient square mile known as the City of London(which is the ancient, historic city located inside the current city of Greater London), the Cathedral stands tall as a proud icon of the English people. And nowhere was this more apparent than during World War II, when images of the Cathedral standing resilient amidst a city devastated by Nazi bombing became effective propaganda symbols of English resiliency.

* Built after the Great Fire of 1666, the Cathedral was the masterpiece ofSir Christopher Wren, one of the most esteemed English architects in history. Having overseen the reconstruction of at least 52 churches after the fire, Wren was also popular within the scientific-intellectual community with his contributions to science being highly praised by contemporaries such as Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.

Laying Siege to the Tower of London

Of all the sights in London, only one place can claim to be as historically significant as it is significantly haunted. Built in 1078 by the Norman King, William the Conqueror, the Tower of London has served as a royal palace, armory, treasury, zoo and most famously, a prison where some of the most famous characters in English history have been imprisoned, tortured and executed. Today, the fortress is one of London's most famous tourists spots, as it also houses the Crown Jewels of the UK.

* After getting of the Tower Hill Tube Station, expect to take a 15 minute pleasant stroll towards the main entrance of the Tower.

Haunted London Walk!!!

For first timers to both London and Paris, I would highly recommend getting this nifty travelling tool known as the London Pass (or conversely the Paris Pass). For the price of £77, one gets access to all the major tourist spots with special cut-the-queue lines, discounts on various restaurants and services and more importantly, FREE access to the London Tube for three full days! A VERY good deal indeed for those planning on maximizing their visits on limited tour dates.

Upon looking at the London Pass booklet, my cousins and I were stoked to find a special offer for the Blood and Tears Haunted London Walk. For the price of £7.00, we got to go on this highly-rated and recommended walking tour, focusing on the bizarre, creepy and occult-ish elements of this medieval city.

* Having met our guide, Declan McHugh, on the Barbican tube station, we started our one hour and 45 minute walking tour of London's gruesome and freaky history, including areas where Jack the Ripper's victims…

Westminster Abbey - Burial Place of Legends

One cannot go to London and NOT SEE Westminster Abbey! To do so would be a grand disservice to your trip. I mean how can you not experience the most important (and heck, oldest) church in London: site of coronations, burials, memorials, and lookalike to every Citadel in our dreams?! Yeah, I'm a big fan of this place. So big that I purposely and happily went here thrice in the two times that I've visited London!

* Taking the tube to Westminster and getting off Westminster Station, short and sweet!! While I greatly appreciated the presence of English all around (compared to everywhere else in Europe), I must say that I found the Paris Metro to be more navigable compared to the London Tube. Must be because the Metro uses a numbering system (Get off the 6, Hop on the 9) compared to the system of the Tube which uses named lines (Jubilee Line... Jubilee Line.. Wait, what I am doing on the Metropolitan Line?!)

Big Boy at Big Ben, Parliament and Whitehall

Across the river from the London Eye stands Westminster, England's political and religious center. Since the 11th Century, Westminster has proudly been the center of power for the English people from the moment King Canute built his palace here and his successor, Edward the Confessor, founded Westminster Abbey right beside it. On a regular day, expect to see crowds of civil servants and tourists coexisting in this tiny yet hallowed area.

* Taken from Parliament Square is this shot of Parliament on the right and the Norman Shaw Buildings, the original site of the famous Scotland Yard synonymous with Sherlock Holmes and detective work, on the left.

Saying Hello To the Queen at Buckingham Palace

Being a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, the movie Eurotrip, British musicians such as the Beatles, Coldplay etc, and British imperial history, I knew that London would be the pinnacle of any European sojourn. There are just too many places here that I wanted to see! However to have the chance to visit the city twice in two years (one with family in 2012, the other for work in 2013), gave me a good appreciation of what this city has to offer.

And like any traveler in the good old days, I did what any newcomer in a strange locale was expected to first do upon arriving, and that is topay my respects to the Sovereign.

Buckingham Palace is known the world over as the official residence of the British Monarchy. As you can see in the succeeding photographs, there is a huge differencebetween the size of the crowd last year (2012) and this year (2013). When I visited last year, it was about the time that the London Olympics had just ended and for some reason, there was a shortage of tourists in…