8 Days in the heart of a 21st Century city with roots dating back to the Romans.
09.02.2017 6 °C
FRIDAY 3 FEBRUARY - BARCELONA TO LONDON
Here are some photos that Colleen took out of the window of our aircraft as we crossed the Pyrennes and as we came into land in London.
London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, is a 21st-century city with history stretching back to Roman times. At its centre stand the imposing Houses of Parliament, the iconic ‘Big Ben’ clock tower and Westminster Abbey, site of British monarch coronations. Across the Thames River, the London Eye observation wheel provides panoramic views of the South Bank cultural complex, and the entire cIty.
Saturday promised good weather. We had a very late start and took the Underground from Southwark to London Bridge. We wanted to visit Southwark Cathedral and the Borough Markets.
Here is the view from ourhotel window.
On the way we saw one of the old London Buses and perhaps dozens of the new buses.
Southwark Cathedral or The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, Southwark, lies on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge. It is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark. It has been a place of Christian worship for more than 1,000 years, but a cathedral only since the creation of the diocese of Southwark in 1905.
Between 1106 and 1538 it was the church of an Augustinian priory, Southwark Priory, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, it became a parish church, with the new dedication of St Saviour's. The church was in the diocese of Winchester until 1877, when the parish of St Saviour's, along with other South London parishes, was transferred to the diocese of Rochester. The present building retains the basic form of the Gothic structure built between 1220 and 1420, although the nave is a late 19th-century reconstruction.
John Harvard was born in the parish, and baptised in the church on 29 November 1607. He is commemorated by the Harvard Chapel in the north transept,  paid for by Harvard University alumni resident in England. His father, Robert, a local butcher and inn-holder, was a business associate of Shakespeare's family and a parochial, school and church officer with the playwright's colleagues. Harvard, as a young teacher, went to the United Stated to open a school.
The first photo is inside the Harvard Chapel and the second is a memorial to Shakespeare.
The Shard can be seen in the background of this picture.
The replica of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hinde is twenty metres from here.
The Borough Markets were busy with the crowds and very good displays of fresh produce for sale.
The Imperial War Museum london at Southwark is the headquarters and one of five War Museums that include the Churchill War Rooms, HMS Belfast and an airfield at Duxford.
The building was situated in part of the old Bethlem Royal Hospital. There are excellent displays including that if The Holocaust. No photography allowed.
The fifth floor has the Lord Holcroft Gallery of 150 plus Victoria Cross and George Cross winners. Although women are eligible for the Victoria Cross, unfortunately there has never been a single awardee.
World War 2 military vehicles - a Long Range Desert Patrol truck from North Africa, Field Marshal Lord Mobtgomery's Humbe staff car and a foldable motorcycle used by paratroopers.
The Lord Holcroft Gallery
The Atomic Bomb known as "Little Boy".
Russian T 34 Tank
There is a fabulous WW1 display
MONDAY 6 FEBRUARY - The British Library and the Wallace Collection
Firstly, this morning we visited the British Library, It was opened in 1997 and is the biggest public building project of the 20th Century. The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and the second largest library in the world by number of items catalogued. Formally, officially classified and certified in the U.K. as a Grade I listed building "of exceptional interest" because of its special architectural and historic interest, the library is a major research library, holding well over 150 million items from many countries, and receives a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland (approximately 8,000 per day). Items are in many languages and in many formats, both print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings. The Library's collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC.
As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. It also has a programme for content acquisitions. The British Library adds some three million items every year occupying 9.6 kilometres of new shelf space.
We went there to look at the Sir John Ritblat Gallery that is the Treasures Room. The Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery hosts more than 200 beautiful and fascinating items: magnificent hand-painted books from many faiths, maps and views, early printed books, literary, historical, scientific and musical works from over the centuries and around the world. Here are just a few of the objects you can see:
Gutenberg's Bible of 1455, Magna Carta, The Lindisfarne Gospels, Codex Sinaiticus, Leonardo da Vinci's notebook, Handel's Messiah - in the composer's hand, Celestial globe, 110cm across, Handwritten lyrics by the Beatles, Beowulf. Beside one of only four copies of the Magna carts there is the Papal Bull of Pope Innocent 111 dateed 10 days later declaring the Magna Carta null and void.
Leonardo Da zvinci's hand written notes. He wrote in mirror reverse in Italian using his left hand from right to left.
From top to bottom are the gandwritten songs by John Lennon - Ticket to Ride, Hard Day's Night and Michelle.
We took the underground to Leicester Square to buy tickets to The Mouse Trap, the world's longest running show now in its 65th year.
A rare find for us at Manchester Square was the Wallace Collection. It is an art collection in London open to the public, housed at Hertford House in Manchester Square, in the City of Westminster, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford. It comprises a world-famous range of fine and decorative arts from the 15th to the 19th centuries with large holdings of French 18th-century paintings, furniture, arms & armour, porcelain and Old Master paintings arranged into 25 galleries.
It was established in 1897 from the private collection mainly created by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800–1870), who left both it and the house to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890), whose widow bequeathed the entire collection to the nation. The collection opened to permanent public view in 1900 in Hertford House, and remains there to this day. A condition of the bequest was that no object should ever leave the collection, even for loan exhibitions. Admission is free. We took a guided tour with a hugely knowledgeable volunteer.
We walked back along Bond Street, one of the more upmarket areas of London.
TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2017 - ELIZABETH TOWER, HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, ST MARGARET'S, WESTMINSTER ABBEY, THE MOUSETRAP
It is always a beautiful sight to look around Westminster Square and see Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), the Houses of Parliament, St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey and the bronze statues of very notable leaders such as Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi.
Situated beside the side entrance of Westminster is St Margaret's Church. The Church of St Margaret, Westminster Abbey, is situated in the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Parliament Square, and is the Anglican parish church of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in London. It is dedicated to Margaret of Antioch with construction started in 1486.
Westminster Abbey has been the Coronation Church since 1066 and fir many other events such as 16 royal weddings. It is the burial place of kings and queens and of other distinguished figures in the nation's history.
One of the oldest parts of the Abbey is the Styx Chamber, now a chapel but previously the strong room for treasures.
One of my favourite sections is known as Poets Corner.
Here are some views inside the Abbey.
We were booked to see Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. This is a murder mystery play by Agatha Christie. The Mousetrap opened in London's West End in 1952, and has been running continuously since then. The longest running West End show, it has by far the longest initial run of any play in history, with its 25,000th performance taking place on 18 November 2012. The play is known for its twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre. We saw the Show number 26 777.
Today, we did the usual thing people do when in London. We went to Green Park underground to walk across to Buckingham Palace. The Queen was in residence as the flag was flying at full mast.
Above is the Mall.
We saw Matilda the Musical. It is a stage musical based on the children's novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. It was adapted by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. The musical's narrative centres on Matilda, a precocious 5-year-old girl with the gift of telekinesis who loves reading, overcomes obstacles caused by her family and school, and helps her teacher to reclaim her life. After a twelve-week trial run staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at Stratford-upon-Avon from November 2010 to January 2011, it received its West End premiere on 24 November 2011 at the Cambridge Theatre where we saw the show. Though we were in the Upper Circle we really had good seats.
As today, Thursday 9 February was our last full day of sight seeing we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum and Harrods.
The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A), London, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The V&A is located in the Brompton district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area that has become known as "Albertopolis" because of its association with Prince Albert, the Albert Memorial and the major cultural institutions with which he was associated. These include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
We had a very knowledgeable volunteer takes us on a tour. Here are some pictures of the items from the tour.
Above is a Tabernacle from the 12th Century with a wooden box inside that was used to hold the host.
Below is an enamelled tryptych from the 15th Century depicting the marriage of Charles V111 of France to Anne of Brittany. The photo below one that of a set of 9 Flemish tapestries bought by Charles for his wedding.
The Virgin and Child with Four Angels, before 1456, Donatello, Victoria and Albert Museum.
Glass mould of The Virgin and Child with Four Angels, before 1456, Donatello, V&A Museum no. A.1-1976
The Virgin and Child with Four Angels, also known as the Chellini Madonna, is a bronze roundel by the Florentine artist Donatello in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The roundel was given by Donatello to his doctor Giovanni Chellini in 1456. This was documented in the physician's account book on 27 August 1456: "while I was treating Donato called Donatello, the singular and principal master in making figures of bronze of wood and terracotta... he of his kindness and in consideration of the medical treatment which I had given and was giving for his illness gave me a roundel the size of a trencher in which was sculpted the Virgin Mary with the Child at her neck and two angels on each side." The reverse of the roundel is hollowed out, creating a mould for casting replicas of the image in molten glass. In order to test out this unique feature, copies of the roundel were made from which glass versions were cast.
Wood and iron doors from France thst are more than 700 years old. The trunk in the picture below this is a thousand years old.
Here are a few more favourites. The first picture of a tryptych altar piece from a church at Boppard on the Rhine.
The picture above is interesting as it comes from a person's living room. The tables are from 1800 but the porcelain vase known as a bell krater is 390 BC and is exactly what your kids are likely to throw out as 'shit' after your death.
Last stop was at Harrods. Harrods is a luxury department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London. It is owned by the state of Qatar. The store occupies a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site and has 330 departments covering 90,000 m2 of retail space.
The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is Latin for "all things for all people, everywhere". Several of its departments, including the seasonal Christmas department and the food halls, are well known.
I loved the food halls. Colleen went off shopping while I went to a tea house to have a Harrod's beer.
The Wellington Arch is a famous landmark. It is far more important for us in that it is the site of Anzac Day celebrations in London and it has a really interesting little WW1 Museum within the arch.
Tomorrow we leave our hotel at Southwark for another hotel at Heathrow as we need to be in the terminal at Heathrow at 4.00 am for our flight to Barcelona to connect with our Emirates flight to Dubai. We have been able to use our points to fly Business Class from Barcelona to Dubai then on to Brisbane three days later. We are back home on Wednesday 15 February.