London Old & New

Far from the Madding Crowd
Casts of the Past at the V and A

The rain cleared overnight, and we woke to a sunny clear day, so we headed straight for the London Eye. Given that I don’t like rides much and I am afraid of heights, it’s odd that I do love Ferris Wheels – but I do – and the London Eye is the granddaddy of Ferris Wheels. It is enormous (apparently the height of 64 red London phone booths piled on top of one another!). It is naturally very popular, so we had to queue for a while (longer than we needed to because we joined the wrong queue first!) but soon we were flying (it is run by British Airways). It is remarkably quiet and you do get a fabulous view. You only go around once, but it takes 30 minutes so there’s plenty of time to look at everything and take photos. Although you really need to do it 3 times – morning & afternoon (to get photos in both directions) and at night to see the lights. But at ₤12.50 ($30) each, and the rest of London to visit, I don’t think that will happen.

We crossed the Westminster Bridge, past the Houses of Parliament, and popped in to Westminster Abbey. And stayed there the rest of the day! It is an amazing place – it contains a thousand years of English history — 3,000 tombs, the remains of 29 kings and queens, hundreds of memorials and the coronation chair on which every king and/or queen has been crowned since William the Conqueror. There’s so much to look at, and so much history there; we were completely mesmerised (and wondered later why our legs were so sore). The history books coming to life! (or death, in this case). There are so many nooks and crannies, huge memorials and tiny plaques all jumbled in together, you could spend hours exploring.

You weren’t allowed to take photos inside but I managed to sneak a few until I got caught. It’s a bit annoying for an avid snapper like me, but most places won’t let you take photos. I can appreciate the problem of using a flash, but I reckon the only reason for the ban is so you buy more postcards or guidebooks. At Westminster the excuse was that it is a house of worship (and it is) but that doesn’t stop them letting in millions of tourist, (charging handsomely I might add) and running guided tours that disturb the serenity. I don’t mind paying because it must cost the earth to maintain a thousand year old building, but I did want to take photos!

In the evening we had dinner with my sister and her children at a nice Kosher restaurant. The food was excellent and it was great to catch up with them – we hadn’t seen each other since 2003.

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