Parliament (Westminster) – we’ve passed it so many times and took lots of photos in front of the Big Ben but this time went inside for the first time. And it was worth it – gothic style, the decorations are very tasteful, gold mixed with the wooden walls has pleasant and soft feel. The great fire in 1834 destroyed everything except the Westminster Hall (dated end of XI century) and currently used for lyings-in-state (The Queen Mather in 2002)
We visited House of Lords (red sits) and House of Commons (green sits) and learned that:
· three is 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 3 miles of corridors.
· speeches may not be read out during debate, although notes may be referred to
· the reading of newspapers is not allowed
· the food inside the parliament is not taxed – shot of whisky only £1.50
Greenwich - mainly known because of the observatory and the zero longitude but how many of you heard the fascinating story of John Harrison who spent his entire life trying to solve the biggest navigation problem of the 17th & 18th centuries: marine navigation, or the longitude problem for which government offered the £20,000 reward (after working for 50 years on the solution Harrison received the reward couple of years before his death at the age of almost 80). Harrison's answer to the problem was chronometer (accurate clock on ships at sea, keeping 'home time' to compare with 'local time' to give one's position east or west of the home port), on display in the museum.
Another ‘discovery’ for us were The Tulip Stairs in Queens Ann house (part of Marine National Museum), is were the picture of a ghost has been taken in 1966. For centuries this house was used as royal marine school were boys of age of 6 trained from early ages to become marines.
Warrick Castle – built by William the Conqueror in 1068, 2 hrs drive from London; The exhibitions have wax figures which make it easier to imagine the life there in previous century. You can spend time climbing the castle towers, walking through the gardens and watching special outdoor events (archery or falconry).
Change of guards in front of the Buckingham palace draws huge crowds and seeing the change is almost impossible. The Clarence House is open to public in summer – this was the home of late The Queen Mother and the current residence of Prince Charles, William and Harry. This was disappointing –only 5 rooms opened, the house is small and doesn’t have a royal splendor, deco was not exceptional, garden tiny and traffic noise from the nearby The Mall. The tour guides will tell you a lot about the paintings on the wall but nothing about the day-to-day life – apparently everything because of security.
Charwell country house of Sir Winston Churchill – just off M25. Magnificent residence with very homely warm deco surrounded by massive garden (trees, lakes, hills)
The rooms and gardens remain much as they were when he lived here, with pictures, books, maps and personal mementoes strongly evoking the career and wide-ranging interests of Churchill.
Old Operating Theater Museum – near St Guy’s hospital – visiting it is like being in the horror movie, wooden operating tables, no anesthetic – how the patients survived is hard to imagine
Tower of London – the place were lots of executions have been performed – 2 wives of Henry VIII were executed here (Ann Boyden and Katherine Howard). The Queen's crown is kept here – apparently there was only 1 attempt to steal it made in XVIII century. The weirdest thing we were told, was that king's tantrum and red hair were associated with the excess of blood – after the king got over exited the physician would drain some blood from him – how weird it sounds now? The most badly botched execution was that of Duke of Monmouth, after missing 5 blows with the axe the executioner had to use his knife, butchering the Duke like a pig.
Tower Bridge - completed in 1894, Tower Bridge was instantly hailed as a London icon and one of the great engineering marvels of its age.
The original raising mechanism was powered by pressurised water stored in six hydraulic accumulators.
London is a great city with rich history - I wish we had more time to take advantage of it more often but with work and Mike's training it is not easy.