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Stayed at Rob's place in London. He really rolled out the red carpet. He lives in Wimbledon, a suburb in the south west of London, cosy house a bit smaller than my townhouse. Getting there was easy enough; took the tube to Wimbledon, using what is called an Oyster card.

First map a trip to the Tower of London. The Tower hasn't changed of course but there is now a brand new visitors centre which conducts the ticket sales. The crowds were large, this being summer.

Then walked across Tower Bridge to HMS Belfast. Surprisingly, she was the British first ship to be saved since Nelson's HMS Victory due to her historical importance. Actually, HMS Belfast is hardly a famous ship but is the largest surviving example of Britain's twentieth century naval power and now a museum moored in the Pool of London between Tower and London Bridge. It is well preserved and you can see things that you can't in many other preserved ships, like the magazines. There are displays inside, depicting the ship's role in the Battle of the North Cape in 1`943 and the landings in Normandy in 1944.

Went for a "flight" on the London Eye. Built by British Airways (!) in 2000, this provides a marvelous all-round view of the city. It takes 30 minutes for this giant Ferris Wheel to make a full revolution. Visibility was good and St Paul's was clearly visible. There was a haze about 25 miles distant. Actually, the work on cleaning up the air pollution in London has been remarkable and you can even see some stars at night.

Westminster Abbey hasn't actually been an abbey since 1540 but is not so much a relic of the past as a piece of living history, each generation having made its mark. Some too much so, cluttering the place with statuary honoring both the famous and the utterly obscure and unimportant. The Abbey Museum and the Chapter House alone are worth a visit. Whereas St Paul's Cathedral remains an awe inspiringly large structure.

For the actual history of the city, the Museum of London was a fabulous surprise. The history unfolds as you walk though in a spiral pattern. There are all manner of astonishing artifacts, including the Duke of Wellington's boots and a marble urinal from Victorian times. This was really good.

The British Museum still contains magnificent collections, although its being reorganised a bit. What used to be the Library now houses temporary displays.

The Imperial War Museum contains some fabulous stuff, including an exhibitions on Field Marshal Montgomery and the Holocaust and a thought-provoking 30-minute film on Crimes Against Humanity.

Took the train out to Greenwich to see the Maritime Museum. This is another well-presented museum. It had me thinking about how shipping had changed over the last fifty years. It seems strange that a country so well known for its sea-faring and commerce should have taken so long to build museums to it.

Finally, went out to Hampton Court Palace. Spent a pleasant day looking at the Stuart and Tudor era palaces and even the digs where twentieth century hangers-on lived.

England was pretty hot and air conditioning was unusual. Even most tube stations are not air conditioned and the British Museum's idea of air conditioning was to open the doors.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
mintogrubb
6th Aug, 2006 17:24 (UTC)
Glad that you got somebody to show you round, Hawkeye.

Over the heatwave, I even had an aussie tourist complain about the heat. The thing is, we are not used to this in England, and people have got away with not having air con in the past, so no one installed it. i reckon that this is about to change, though.

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