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Archive for the ‘British History’ Category

The British Museum sat on my London bucket list for a long time. Luckily, it was on Sarah and Temi’s list too when they came to visit from Texas.

Walking up to the front doors I felt a tingle of excitement. Once inside I was blown away by the Great Court.

The Great Court

Other highlights included the section on ancient Greece, complete with opulent drinking cups depicting engagement in naughty lustful activities, Hokusai’s colour woodblock print, The Great Wave, which is on display until 8 January, and the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone

This is one tourist attraction I won’t mind returning to, unlike the Changing of the Guard which I refuse to accompany any more visitors too. I’ll give you guys a map to that one and you can go on your own. 😉

The British Museum

The British Museum is free and open daily 10.00–17.30, Friday until 20.30.

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War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

– Bertrand Russell

Women selling poppies outside of Westminster Abbey.

You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.

– Jeannette Rankin

War memorial outside of Westminster Abbey.

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

– Albert Einstein

Waiting for the veteran's parade at Parliament Square.

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Since I had scoped out the Mall and Buckingham Palace the night before, I knew there was no way I was going to get a glimpse of anything royal. Nonetheless, my plan was to descend into the crowd with a good spirit and a bottle of cava. In the morning I called my friend, Vanessa, and we decided to meet up at Hyde Park. St James Park was already full and Hyde Park promised jumbo screens of the events and port-a-loos.

Whether or not you agree with the monarchy and the royal family, it’s great to see everyone get together and celebrate. It’s nice to have a community vibe for at least a day in a big city where we are most often in each other’s way.

Hyde Park during the Royal Wedding

Straight off the plane with suitcase in tow.

There were people dressed in bridal gowns and tons of Will and Kate look a likes. Vanessa’s flatmates were well prepared with Will and Kate masks, the ring, and matching outfits. They were a huge hit with the rest of the crowd and you can see why.

The Kates

Re-enactment

Showing off the ring while Will lurks behind

I didn’t see much of the royal kiss from my position in Hyde Park. In fact, I bent down to fix my shoe and I missed the first kiss entirely. The jet flyover that accompanied the kiss was visible from Hyde Park and made everyone feel like part of the experience.

Jet flyover

Best of all, it didn’t even rain like the forecast predicted. I can’t wait to do it again for Harry’s wedding. I’m considering Will’s wedding a great practice run.

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The night before the Royal Wedding, the Mall and Buckingham Palace were already packed with people who had flown across the world to sleep in a tent in a foreign country’s public park along side strangers. Their dedication made me envious. I knew it was impossible to sleep in a comfortable bed AND get a glimpse of the royal couple on their wedding day. You can guess which option I chose.

The dedicated hailed from many backgrounds with the Americans making a big showing. Also making a big showing were flags and pajamas.

Pajama Party along the Mall

These ladies were making it a Girl's Night Out

Home sweet home

Having a kip. (That means nap.)

This guy offered to trade me a cupcake for a kiss. Thanks, but I'm not hungry.

Country of Georgia, represent!

Texas girls, represent!

We all know why the souvenir shop owners are smiling.

Prepared for the big day.

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After my post about bluebonnets and daffodils, I was pointed to this Guardian article on bluebells in Southwest Britain. Seems like the UK has it’s own spring time sea of blue. In the past few weeks I have started to notice blue flowers in small and large patches of green around town. For an excursion, a friend recommend I check out Abbey Wood.

A walk through the ancient south east London woods did not disappoint.

Bluebells at Abbey Wood

Bluebells in Abbey Woods

As we wandered through the woods, we eventually came up on Lesnes Abbey. The abbey, now in ruins, was founded by Richard de Luci in 1178 as penance for his involvement in the murder of Thomas Becket. In 1524, Lesnes was closed by Henry VIII along with scores of other monasteries in England and Wales. The ruins make an interesting backdrop for picnics and the like. The proximity of the woods and abbey to London makes it an easy place to visit.

Lesnes Abbey

Lesnes Abbey

Lesnes Abbey

After our outing, we stopped by the Old Mill, a converted 18th century mill with a large beer garden. The locals were on good form and so was the owner, so we ended our day in Southwest London with a few real ales. I am embarrassed to admit that  real ale tastes like flat warm beer to me. Perhaps I need to spend more time at the pub to develop a true appreciation.

Authentic Real Ale at the Old Mill

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I keep swearing that I’m not obsessed with Kate Middleton and the Royal Wedding but I’m starting to think that may not be true. As a foreigner, I find the pomp and circumstance and the entire concept of a monarchy utterly fascinating. But most of all, it’s downright impossible to ignore all the preparations going on around London for the big event. Here’s some photographic evidence of the massive effort to make it the perfect day for Kate and Will.

Flags hung over Regency Street near Piccadilly Circus.

It must be weird to have your face showing in every other window all over town.

Suspiciously nice looking flowers suddenly appear at Buckingham Palace. Accompanied by flags and supervisors.

Walking route through Green Park disrupted by massive tent structure.

Still a week and 4 days to go. I’ll do my best to post on something else during the next few weeks, but I can’t make too many promises!

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Leroy and Mariah were both in town visiting. We were at a pub looking through our travel guides  and trying to decide what exactly it was we wanted to do with our week. The contrasts were stark.  Husband was completely embarrassed by our public display of tourism. Mariah, ever the planner, had her wheels spinning. Laid-back Leroy was agreeing to every suggestion without too much enthusiasm. That is, until we mentioned visiting a few monoliths. The Discovery Channel buff in him suddenly perked up and Mariah and I knew we had to make it happen.

Since Stonehenge is a little cliche and Mariah and I had already been there, we decided to visit Avebury. Word was that it was better and the oldest stone circle in Europe. The stone circles are multiple in number, more accessible and integrated into the town. In fact, the town is built inside these massive stone circles.

Luck was with us as the sun was shining for our drive out to Avebury. We parked the car and quickly found the main attraction: strategically placed large stones. Although Avebury does not carry the iconic image that Stonehenge has blazed in our collective consciousness, the sheer number of stones and organization was much greater than that of Stonehenge.

Avebury

After a bit of walking around the stones we headed into the museum. I needed context for what we were viewing. The staff at the museum was a breathe of fresh air. Tourist sites have a tendency to make one feel like cattle. The people at Avebury seemed generally excited to have our company. It was a bit like dating the sister of the prom queen.

A walk through the stones.

Let’s consult Wikipedia for historical background.

Constructed around 2600 BCE, during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises of a large henge, surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is not known, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremonial usage. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones in the monument, and a village was built in the centre of it. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologists proceeded to excavate at the site in the 20th century.

It’s wild to think about someone chopping down this ancient stone arrangement to build onto their house. I guess it felt silly to go in search of new raw materials when these had been delivered right to your doorstep. Plus, the historical nature of the stones may not have been widely understood or respected in the Late Medieval and Early Modern times.

Stone Marked Road

One thing about Avebury that I absolutely can not recommend is the Red Lion Pub in the village. The service was more than atrocious, it was comical.  The food was just plain bad. They were out of half the menu. I don’t know how you mess up fried food that badly but the chips were terrible. We were treated like an annoyance by the kid behind the bar. They forgot to bring our dessert. They were out of coffee cups. Not out of coffee, just out of vessels (for there or to go) to hold it in because they had a rush of visitors a few days earlier. Not that morning. Not yesterday. A few DAYS earlier. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either.

Do not eat here.

Constructed around 2600 BCE,[1] during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises of a large henge, surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is not known, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremonial usage. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones in the monument, and a village was built in the centre of it. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologists proceeded to excavate at the site in the 20th century.

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