Friday, March 28, 2008

England 2008

*Drum roll please* Ta dah! Finally, I have posted my pictures and videos from England. As you'll see, I had an AMAZING time! I loved every day. I miss it and I wish I were still there. The people are so thoughtful and considerate. The food is excellent. The sites are incredible. I think I spent my week there in awe. It was an incredible experience. I've divided my trip up into various posts. I started with my videos. I'll tell you now that the videos, unfortunately, aren't that interesting. I usually took them somewhere where I either couldn't really commentate or the wind was blowing to loud for me to be heard. They can also be a little shaky because it was usually windy when I was taking video and so I don't want anyone to get queasy. After the videos the posts begin with London and take you through all the major places I visited. I've tried to post mostly in chronological order. There's also a post at the end that is completely unnecessary since it was meant as an introductory post but it's at the end. Yeah, I'm still learning how to do this blogging thing. Anyway, enjoy the pictures and thank for letting me share my trip with you!

Acknowledgements:
I'd like to thank my friends and family for being excited for me and allowing me to talk about this trip almost non-stop since I booked my ticket back in January or February.

I'd like to thank Jan for allowing me to interrupt her life for almost a week. She's a grad student working toward a second masters and a PhD. She probably didn't really have time for a visitor but she was kind, gracious, generous, and fun. I couldn't have done this trip without her!

I'd like to thank Rick Steve who's book led and guided me through my flight to London, through London, and my flight back to the US. Whenever I had a question, Rick had an answer.

Finally, I'd like to thank the Brits for their consideration, thoughtfulness, politeness, good food, marvelous history, and uber-cool country.

Videos

I took some video while I was in England. The first video is our bus ride back to York from Whitby. It had rained in Whitby but it had snowed up on the moors. The second video is of Whitby Abbey. You can hear the wind in the video. The third video is the drive to Whitby. The fourth video is on the moors at Haworth. You can hear the wind in that one as well. And I'm in that one (Brian) as proof that I really was in England! :-) The fifth video is a girl singing on the town square in York. The sixth video is traffic in London. I took it to prove that they drive on the left. I couldn't get over that. Now, honestly, these videos aren't that interesting as I didn't feel I could give commentary because I was on a bus or you couldn't hear me because of the wind. They can also be a little shaky because of the wind so if that will make you queasy, I want you to be forewarned.
video video video video video video

London

London Baby! I couldn't believe that I was really here. Actually, at first I didn't feel like I'd even left the US. (The Brits would probably find that last statement offensive.) The thing is, when I arrived in Latvija as a missionary, EVERYTHING was different. But when our founding fathers started developing Washington D.C., they came to Europe and modeled our architecture after what they saw here. And by "modeled" I mean "copied exactly." I really felt like I was in downtown DC. Fortunately, as I started getting out into the city and hearing that beautiful British accent and seeing how nice and friendly the Brits were, it started to sink in that I really was in Europe. I couldn't have had a more perfect vacation. Everything was wonderful. The weather was cold, windy, and rainy but that's what I expected it to be so it didn't bother me. I just couldn't have asked for things to have been any more perfect. England is an interesting juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern. Buildings that were built five years ago sit next to buildings that were built 1000 years ago. It can be a confusing city so I really stuck with the tube. I'm so grateful that things went as well as they did and that I didn't have any problems. If you've never been to England, go. It's an incredible place!

Okay, so I arrived at Heathrow around 21:00. (In England they go by military time. Seriously, if I were British I would say that I arrived at twenty-one hundred.) The nice man at the Tourist Information Centre helped me get my train and underground ticket and told me which stop to get off at to get to my hostel. So I ventured forth into the city. I got off at the stop he told me and walked the direction he told me, took a right, and headed toward my hostel. I got there, checked in, and immediately went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I got dressed, ate breakfast, and headed to church. After heading the wrong direction getting off the underground and wandering around aimlessly, I finally found the church building. It was 9:15. I was sad that I was fifteen minutes late to church. Or so I thought. Oh no! In fact, I was actually 45 minutes EARLY for Stake conference!! That's never happened before! So I settled into my seat and eagerly awaited hearing church conducted with a British accent. The first guy that spoke was an American. GRRRR!!! But then things got better. The rest of the people were British and I thoroughly enjoyed Stake conference, and not just because of the accents. The meeting was great and the people were very nice and friendly. I met a very nice girl named Esa who is from Italy and is studying to be a psychologist. After church, I headed to the Tower of London and from there off to see the other famous sites. I've included pictures of unique things about London - things that set England apart from the US. I'm amazed how much British influence exists here in Virginia. It was nice to see that some things are, in fact, different.
My room at the hostel. I'd highly recommend this place, by the way. With hotel rooms averaging $200 a night (and we're not talking the Marriott Marquis here) my hostel was simple but clean, convenient, cheap, and safe. Plus, they include breakfast and I'm all about getting as into the culture as possible.
I even had my own sink. The only common room was the showers. Okay, that could be a bit awkward but they were all their own little rooms so I didn't have to worry about accidentally running into a naked guy.

A view of London on Sunday morning.
Another view of London
The Eye of London. This ferris wheel was built by British Airways. You pay $30 for a half hour ride. You go around once and get to have a nice aerial view of London. I figured that I'd already paid for an aerial view and I got it as we landed at Heathrow so I saved my $30 to spend on something else (like Cornish pasties ... mmmmm).
This is the pub where I tried fish and chips after my tour of Westminster Abbey.
This was one of my favorite signs. I took the underground everywhere. In England, you don't take the subway, you take the "underground" or the "tube." It's such a great system. You can get anywhere on the tube. In England, a subway is a place for people to walk under the street, such as...
...this. This subway takes pedestrians to the Tower of London. Only pedestrians are allowed here. Aren't the paintings cool?
Okay, how could I resist? Running across Cheers was fun. "Where everybody knows your name ... and they're always glad you came..."
I HAD to get a picture of the double decker bus. We took a double decker bus in York, actually, when we went to Whitby. I was glad because I never rode one here in London.
Here are the local pay phones. Aren't they charming? Everything about England is charming.
I figured out why people drive on the left here. They're trying to figure out how in the heck to get where they need to go. Check out that sign. I don't think I'd dare drive in London. I'd just end up going in circles and then probably end my British driving career in a head-on collision.
The front couple of cars are taxis. Charming!
This monument marks Trafalgar Square.
This is St. Paul's Cathedral. I went in and looked around and decided that the National Cathedral is just as impressive (even if Princess Diana was married here) and I'd rather spend more time at Westminster Abbey so I got this outside shot and moved on...
...to Westminster Abbey. This place is AMAZING!!!! It's huge and chock full of history. This is where coronations take place. This is also where kings and queens are buried. The Abbey was built in 1065. The nave is 10 stories tall, making it the tallest in England. Edward the Confessor, who built Westminster Abbey, Queen Elizabeth I, Bloody Mary, Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Mary Queen of Scots, Geoffrey Chaucer, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, T.S. Eliot, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, George Frideric Handel, Charles Dickens, and Laurence Olivier are buried here. The Queen comes to worship here, every coronation since 1066 has taken place here, and funerals of royalty are held here (Princess Diana's coffin was here before her burial). There are memorials to William Shakespeare, the Royal Air Force, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to take photographs in Westminster Abbey.
I have no idea who these guys are but they were practicing their military drills and actually kind of seemed to be showing off so I joined the throngs pressing their faces through the fence and took a picture.
The guy in yellow is a police officer. I wanted to get a picture with a police officer but felt kind of silly asking so I took this picture under the pretense of getting the Houses of Parliament.
Big Ben. When I saw Big Ben I finally really felt like I was in London and in England. IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Big Ben is one sight I really wanted to see. And I did!
Here's the clock face of Big Ben. "Westminster Abbey, the Tower of Big Ben, the rosy red cheeks of the little children"
Here are the Houses of Parliament on the banks of the Thames. WOW!!!!!!!! I was really there!
I love this picture. It's the Houses of Parliament at night from across the Thames.
This is London Bridge. Since it has a whole song about it, you'd think it'd be grander, wouldn't you? But here it is. A lot of people think the Tower Bridge is London Bridge, but it isn't. This is the real London Bridge. (You're all singing "London Bridge is falling down," aren't you?) :-)

The Tower of London

My first stop in London after church on Sunday was the Tower of London. Again, I went here on a suggestion. Thank you, Nathaniel. I probably would have ended up here, but I wouldn't have seen nearly as much as I did. The Tower of London is quite the place. This is where some very famous people were imprisoned and killed. If you were sent to the Tower of London, it was most likely a death sentence. Very few prisoners left here alive. Despite its bloody, gory history, nowadays this is where the crown jewels are kept. SO COOL!!! It was totally worth coming here just to see those. You aren't allowed to take pictures, but as you're waiting to get in to see them, they play a video of the Queen's coronation. I didn't realize how simple our ceremonies are. Talk about pomp and circumstance!! There were ladies in waiting dressed in white and men dressed in Victorian clothing - complete with powdered wigs. It was like stepping back in time. She had on a trailing cloak and she was given a scepter and they put the crown on her head and it looked really heavy. I'm glad she doesn't have to wear it everyday. Anyway, if you go to London this is a must see! I've posted some pictures of things I was allowed to photograph.
The Tower of London
The moat that surrounds the Tower of London.
The wall around the Tower of London.
Another view of the Tower of London.
The Medieval Palace. This is where the royal family slept.
This is where King Henry VIII sat his bloody behind.
This is where Henry begged forgiveness for killing everybody.
This is the Queen's House. I believe that the green lawn in front is where people were beheaded.
Here are the famous ravens of the Tower of London.
This sign is in Russian, so naturally, I had to take a picture.
A toilet. I've seen worse.
This lion was cool. I believe the lion was also the symbol of Richard IIIs reign.

This crest is cool, so I took a picture and put it on here for your viewing pleasure.
Prisoners in the Tower of London would inscribe notes, bible verses, thoughts, pictures, whatever they felt like, really, on the walls of the Tower while they were waiting to be executed.
This is how they let people into the Tower of London.
Prisoners were brought by boat through here: Traitor's Gate. Elizabeth I was brought here before she became Queen. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed here. Elizabeth was one of the very few lucky ones to leave alive.
I wanted a picture of this suit of armour and those dang people WOULD NOT MOVE!!!!!
There were floors of weapons that they used during the time the Tower of London was used actively. I decided not to post 18 pictures and just posted this one as a representative of the weapons.
Aaaahhh ... the chopping block. This used to be on the execution site (remember the green lawn?) but it has been moved into the White Tower. I'm really glad we don't do public beheadings - or any beheadings, for that matter - anymore. Gross!
This church was pretty so I took a picture. I was surprised that there was a church here. Well, not really surprised, I guess, but it does seem strange that you'd have a church and an execution site housed all cozy in the same tower. Kill them off then ask for forgiveness maybe???
This guard was guarding ... well, something important, I'm sure ...
This is a really very extremely old wall.
This is Tower Bridge, not to be confused with London Bridge.
This is the River Thames.

Buckingham Palace

Ready to be impressed? I thought we had a lot of traditions and big buildings in DC. I stand corrected. Buckingham Palace is HUGE. I couldn't fit it into one picture - not even standing across the street! It's very grand and elegant. I liked being here and seeing it. Some important people drove in while I was there so we had to wait to cross the street while whatever VIPs were pulling into the palace driveway/parking lot.
The gates the lead you onto the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
St. James Park borders the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace
The gates that would actually allow you to approach the Palace.
The guys that will shoot you if you try to approach the palace.
The cool statue atop the cool monument across the street but still on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
The Queen's Flag, I believe. If I understood correctly, this flag is flown when the Queen is at Buckingham Palace. If she is away, they fly the regular British flag. Kind of like a flag is flown over the White House if the President is there and isn't if he's away. Funny how many of our traditions have survived our long separation from England.