Thursday, May 27th 2010
Monday night I arrived into London from Liverpool one of the easiest and quickest train rides I had been on the entire trip making the evening still fun and putting me in a good mood arriving in London. After topping up my Oyster card which had a balance of -1.80; which I had no idea I could do; I met Tim and we were off to the apartment where after a couple hours of getting settled I more or less crashed in a far more comfortable bed than many I have been in on all of my travels. Mostly for the benefit of a war comforter, it being a full size bed and having an extra pillow.
Tuesday morning I really didn’t want to get out of bed, which just really reenforces that I really haven’t had a good nights rest in weeks. However by about 9 I rolled out and was psyched to go see some of the city. I guess all in all this lack of getting up and out the door before 10:30 proved a really good thing and this I will explain. My first stop was Piccadilly Circus which the tube let out right at the base of, so I snapped a few photos and then walked over to the London and Britain tourism center to fix my transport pass that I received with my London Pass because I didn’t get to come to London a month or so ago as I had originally hoped and planned. After this I thought I simply walk be Buckingham Palace to just briefly see it, I’m not really interested in the Modern Royal family, so I wasn’t too concerned. However as I was walking I hear some music and think hey let’s just go see I always enjoy a live band, as I walk over to where it’s all happening I realize this isn’t just a band playing it’s something much bigger! But being that I don’t really follow when the changing of the guard is (which originally I had no intention of going to due to the mass amount of people and chaos) or anything else I just thought hey there is music and something so I’ll sit and eat my lunch and see this for a bit. As time went on I noticed all the school groups that I had seen on the tube and then more and more people came down and stood against the guard rails. Then I had someone ask me if the Queen had gone by or not, I said I had not clue and thought oh no I couldn’t be lucky enough to see the QUEEN!
Well just about the time I was about to find a way out of the park a bunch more flourish and excitement came from the street in front and the intersection to my right. About 30 mounted people in full uniformed regalia rode by followed by another group and finally by a final group with the QUEEN’S CARRIAGE and her in it! There she sat an older white woman with her husband waving kindly to the crowds of supporters and thick individuals who just wandered in. Then more of the royal family rode by and from my distance I honestly couldn’t tell who was who, and again I don’t really follow who is who, however I saw them! Right after I had to tell everyone! So I ended up texting Carol and Fallon and Stuart oh and then calling my family at 5am to inform them! It was a moment of pure dumb luck and sort of disbelief and well now it’s something else that was lucky and silly I can brag about! Later on I learned it was a speech she was giving to Parliament on the changing of the government and that’s the reason she was out and about.
After this I couldn’t really exit the park because everything was sealed off for security reasons so I walked around a bit admiring the plants in between sneezing and scratching my eyes due to the new allergy I have discovered that I have. I also was chased by a squirrel who wanted my lunch and found a very cool bird with neat feet that reminded me of leaves.
After my park visit I was able to get out and walk back to the tube station and hope over to Leicester Square where there is a Charlie Chaplin statue in remembrance of him as a London citizen. I did of course look this all up ahead and did in fact plan time to see this one small statue! I’ll be honest it was a somewhat overrated move because it was simply just a metal statue and honestly it didn’t really look much like him. Oh well I’m glad I saw it. After this I decided to check out the National Gallery for half an hour just to see a main portrait that was there done by Jan van Eyck of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife. You may recognize it as the one with the couple standing and the woman in the green dress with a dog at the base and mirror in the back ground. I have always enjoyed this piece and was delighted to see it and surprised at how small it actually is but it has so many fine details! I also made sure I saw the only Da Vinci piece on display which is a sketch on large canvas of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist on this one I was surprised at how large it was! Anyway this quick stop was a nice one and then I was off to see the main museum of my day!
This particular museum isn’t well known to many and is sort of overshadowed by the other sights along the south bank such as the most visited London attraction the “London Eye”. It also its a newer museum that is constantly trying to update and expand it’s collection in the county hall. So, my draw to it was not original until I found out about their most recent permanent display on an individual who over the last 4 years I have become quite fond of if not obsessed on an unhealthy level. I am currently reading a third biography on him and constantly am found blabbing on about him to those that don’t know about him. This museum would be the “London Film Museum” or “Movieum” and this would be a Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, if you hadn’t already guessed.
The Movieum overall was decent for any movie biff wanting to see relics from some of their favorite films such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Hell Raiser and Austin Powers to name a few. I enjoyed the main exhibit very much and took far too many photos of scripts and costumes, statues and props. However the main part for me and really for the entire museum were the four rooms on Charlie Chaplin. It started with a max figure of him and then went into his parents careers, his early life in theater and then movies. It had amazing original playbills and scripts, notes and posters that made me absolutely giddy. Then the next room had the god of all items in regards to Sir Chaplin, his original hat and cane! At first I did not notice it for they had a screen showing snippets from his early films which I could simply watch all day if they would have let me. Anyway as I was watching a piece from “The Masquerader” one of my favorites of his short films I looked slightly to my right and there in a display case they sat. Elegantly perched upon empty film canisters and literally from joy I began to cry. Not like balling my eyes out but if anyone has had that it’s the tears streaming with the biggest smile on your face. I was there to admire these two somewhat unassuming regular everyday objects that have brought myself and millions so much joy and pleasure for almost 100 years! I actually had to stand for about 10 minutes in admiration and then walk back before leaving completely to look once more.
After the hat and cane there was a room with costumes from the movie “Chaplin” made in 1992 starring Robert Downey Jr., this included the main suit worn in the beginning of the film and the chicken costume used for scenes about “The Gold Rush”. There was also set up a small seated section showing pieces from Chaplin’s longer films and one where he went away from playing the Tramp. Such as The Kid, The Great Dictator, Monsieur Verdoux etc. Which I gladly sat for way too long laughing and crying at all of my favorites.
The final part of the exhibition was the room towards the end with pieces of old memorabilia and toys along with information on his trials in the 1950’s. All of which were done with respect and well researched. I really enjoyed the final thing I spent a considerable amount of time watching which was a collection of home videos made at his home in Switzerland and with his children there and on vaction. It showed that all along he was a sort of clown, happy, amusing and simply eating up any chance to get people to laugh and be happy. He never really seems to have lost that twinkle in his eye, that naughty streak that you didn’t know what he might pull. He was a genius of acting, directing, composing music and overall being a magnificent entertainer! Though my obsession is a tad odd I love his art dearly and I can’t think of a better way to waste time researching a single other person in this world! Seeing this exhibit was truly one of my happiest moments and I really didn’t stop crying from joy until well gone from Charlie Chaplin land!
After the Movieum everything was basically closing so for my days of sight seeing I was out of options, but thought a stroll around might be fun. So strolling the south bank I did and it was worth the time and effort. I saw street performers such as a clown in police uniform and too-too then a few living statues and I also enjoyed seeing the tale end of a book market where one man was selling grand elaborate prints from the last 300 years. My walk also included a walk over Blackfriars bridge, seeing the outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral and walking over the Millenium Brdige once to see the outside of the Globe Theater and then walking over again to a tube station which was more direct then going in the opposite direction. After all this walking I was indeed exhausted and did not have the energy for a write up.
The next morning was again a slow start, but proved to be fun none the less as I delved into the deep dark world of the Tudors! I went to the world famous “Tower of London” which was AMAZING and I had said at the beginning of my trip that I was not leaving until I had seen it! I spent from about 11 am until almost 4pm walking the grounds and going on the tours that my audio guide talked of. I decided going about the tours in a sort of time line would be best. I started with the tour that went back in details to that of the Roman’s pointing out pieces of the old city walls which were put in place about 2,000 years ago and roughly 1,000 years before William the Conqueror built his mighty white tower which is so highly thought of as “The Tower” as it sits as the highest point in all the grounds in the dead center of the main sort of courtyard. The next tour I went on went into the private chambers built in the 13th century which were used as the sort of fancy royal quarters. The great thing about the audio guide is that a good half was the recorded voice of the head of the sort of historical research of the grounds. So when she spoke of what people would see along the Thames when seeing this structure it would just low them away with stained glass windows and brightly painted walls glimmering in the sun away from the mud and filth of the rest of the world. She also made sure of stating that a huge part of the castle sits not on real ground but rather 700 year old logs that were put in place into the Thames when wanting to expand the castle. I guess they must have done something right because it hasn’t all fallen into the river yet; granted I’m sure modern supports have been added for additional security.
Other things mentioned about the medieval part of the building were the fine linens that royal family would have used on their beds. The grand tapestries on the walls, the fabulous canopies on the bed and warm down comforters and pillows. It would have been beautiful and definitely the type of stuff you’d want to sleep on at that time I can’t imagine many had anything quite as nice! Another highlight were some minor artifacts such as the remnants of a toy horse and soldier and wonderful pieces of pottery many still in great shape that had been found.
After the medieval section I went on to learn about those that had been imprisoned and executed such as two of Henry VIII wives and Lady Jane Grey. There was a statue commemorating those executed there many in one specific spot where they would build a wood platform and let the sward or axeman do as they must. It was actually considered a privilege to be executed inside the castle because many times you were set up outside of the walls where all of London could come see you die. Inside it was only open to a select handful of nobility and other important persons at court. After seeing the yards where such deaths occurred one went into one of the rooms where people were imprisoned. Notably the irony of Lady Jane Grey having used the same room to get ready for her coronation as she used to be held before her execution at the age of 16.
The sad thing is that the entire place is held with such things and I learned even more today when I went to Hampton court but more on that later about the Tower for consistency and organizations sake. At the Tower for instance the “Traitors Gate” where people would pass under before imprisonment and likely death. Well say in the case of Anne Boleyn only three years previous she was brought to the tower with such a lavish succession and welcome because at the King’s affection for her. Then you have say Lady Jane Grey who was queen for a mere nine days before being over thrown! This was thanks to a power hungry father in law who thought he got his foot in the door to take over but lo and behold her happiness and that of the families was short lived and soon she had to bear witness to all of her families deaths and even had her husbands body paraded in front of her before her own death. Though a beautiful palace and I’m sure it has had many happy times there is a lot of horror and great sadness that fills the grounds as well. You can feel it in the air all the thick brutal death, pain and suffering and I think it’s something that will never go away but sit heavily in the air at the Tower of London.
Ongoing with the sort of dark past I also went into the “Bloody Tower” where it is said that the two young Princes were murdered by Richard III their Uncle in order to gain the thrown. Of course there also seems to be great evidence that it may have been linked to Henry VII; Henry VIII father in order to get his family on the thrown in some form or another. None the less there is an exhibit on them and it’s even marked on the white tower where their skeletons were found several hundred years later.
After the gruesome bits I went to see the mass Royal Armory which was a good time looking at all the lavish things that can be done with a suit of metal. I thought the suits of armor made for the royal children were quite interesting due to the fact the child would still be growing and that it was simply a way to show just how much fun money these people actually had! Probably the grand piece was that of Henry VIII which was a parade suit with skirt and details and almost full armor for his horse! Pretty impressive I must say! The armory was fun but I sort of felt, being it’s housed in the white tower, that aspects of what the White Tower was like originally were missing and gone due to whatever renovations were needed for it to be a museum. Luckily though I was able to find a few spots along staircases and what not to sort of hide away and imagine the old happenings. Another thing about this sight is that the “Beefeaters” and other military persons in charge of the sight actually live at the castle in apartments with their families. So a large part of the castle is closed off for this reason making it almost disappointing that there isn’t more to explore but this is very much like it was at Versailles and many other castles I’ve been. This is how it goes I suppose and many of these castles parts of them are in horrible shape and the restorations would be massive and very expensive and a lot of these sights only started going through repairs to make them a tourist attraction say 75 or so years ago.
I did of course stop off to see the Crown Jewels briefly this was of course not my favorite bit and I almost didn’t go but since I saw the Scottish Crown Jewels I figured I should see England’s. I almost ran through this because I really hated being crammed like sardines into the what felt horribly small rooms with a bunch of pushing and shoving tourists with their really only intention at the sight was to “see something shinny” which is really a shame.
Other things about the Tower is that they keep Ravens there because of an old saying that says that the White Tower will fall if Ravens leave the palace. They even have a Raven keeper that has seen many generations of Ravens live on the grounds. In the Audio Guide he went into some stories about the black birds such as them barking to confuse people, stealing ribbons from people’s hair and other shenanigans.
Well finally after getting my fill of the castle I decided I had to leave to do other things and get myself excited for the next day at Hampton Court.
Being I had a little time before everything started to close I decided to go ahead and see the “Tower Bridge Exhibition” which also came with my London Pass. This was I’ll be completely honest, a total wast of time. If I didn’t have the London Pass it would have cost far too much for the rather boring walkway above the bridge with some vague history on the bridge. A couple cartoon like videos on how it was built and a reconstructed old engine room on how they used to raise the bridge and a cheesy gift shop. It was alright seeing it just not nearly as interesting as I thought even the engine room was bland and essentially went over just ow steam power worked which I had learned about many years ago. Well you live and learn and I learned this was a waste of time.
After all this I needed a rest and opted to use my access to a river cruise. This was a good way to end the evening, the ship went from the base of the Tower to Greenwich and then back again where it finally let off at the Houses of Parliament. Along the way the host pointed out odd novelties of London such as Cleopatra’s needle and “The Women’s Bridge” built by women during World War two. Then there were old markets and places that were once horrible slums. Then the place where the “Mayflower” took off from before picking up the pilgrims in Plymouth. All was peaceful and fun and as I sipped a cider it again was a really nice way to end my day.
Yesterday morning was HAMPTON COURT! The more or less playground of Henry VIII where he entertained many a royal court guest. The entire court moved around all year to I believe 50 some homes and basically they went from place to place and they left more or less when food in the area was running low! At Hampton Court you get a free audio guide and that helps immensely with your wandering about the castle and the best parts being done in the first person. I started in the kitchens which was mainly narrated by food historians who had studied the old recipes and tools used to make the food at that time. Most all of the kitchen areas still existed with only minor changes made over the centuries. One even saw a 16th century fridge which was basically a walkway between two building made so that little to no light could get in and all the rain and cold could keeping everything crisp and fresh. There were eve side rooms for say storing fish and then for storing veggies and other items. The stoves were pretty interesting and could actually have been used for a variety of things such as boiling, frying, broiling, grilling etc. The food historian even said that he thought that their stoves were even better than out modern ones for the mass amount of heat and versatility.
After the kitchens I went into the private royal chambers of Henry including the lavish and mind blowing Great Hall! This was narrated by a man in the personage of a close friend and servant to the king which added a lot of flair. The Great hall was massive and ornately carved with false deer heads and a spectacular ceiling! It was pretty easy due to the excellent Victorian renovations to really place yourself at that time and when most people could only dream of living in something so nice it would have been so humbling to be in the presence of all of this wealth. According to the Audio Guide guests would have private two room suites at Hampton where they would even have a private toilet or Privy as it was known. From the great hall you go into the holding room where those wishing to address the king could sit and play games and then hope to speak with him. From there it went into hallways and other small rooms including the small room where he married his final wife Katherine Parr. It is rumored that this hall is where his fifth wife Catherine Howard ran screaming down it to beg for her life from the queen and that her ghost still does it today.
After the chambers I went on into the bit about a young Henry VIII which talked of his early and more successful years as a young king until his break with the pope and divorce of Katherine of Aragon. It also talked about cardinal Wolsey who actually began the building of Hampton and actually went through some of his lavish wood paneled rooms. When he fell out of graces with the king he lost the estate much to his dislike.
After the young Henry it was on to learn about the later residence who refurbished 1/3 of the estate in the late 1600’s William III and Mary II. The third of the house was redone in a baroque style and I must admit very beautiful, definitely in an attempt to sort of keep up with Louis XIV in France if you ask me. However he didn’t quite have the money to do this due to his constant wars that he was waging. Anyway, probably the most magnificent part of this were the wall paintings in the main staircase and on into the private chambers especially the bedroom. On with this lavishness were the large gardens that some dated back to the 1500’s and others had either been done in later years or simply redone in a style reminiscent of that of the 17th century. Nonetheless they were all very pretty and for sack of them closing I only explored the maze, rumored to be the hardest in all of Europe I think it said but I was in the center in about 5 minutes! HA! Anyway, I also walked through the rose gardens and admired many of the fine statues everywhere. Eventually due to tired feet and a fairly long commute back to Ilford I said good bye to the beautiful Hampton in a hopes to one days wander around in it’s alleys and back areas, hey maybe I could shoot for a job as one of the costumed actors walking around! Oh and a final note for the cafeteria which was really cool they had a lot of traditional food they served and it was placed in some of the original kitchens and as for sitting areas it was tables and benches with echoing walls. So in an odd way it was an attempt to make you feel a bit like you were in the great hall and having a good time with everyone. Or maybe you were simply hanging out with the other serving staff enjoying a good bite after hours.
Well today it’s off to see the Globe, a surgeon’s theater and St. Paul’s cathedral, well I hope to get this all done anyway.
Peace and Love,
Rebecca RobinsonAustin Powers suitI cried when seeing this, out of joy of course!