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Further explorations of London

Ludgate Hill, St Paul's Cathedral, Museum of London, the Bank of England Museum and the South Bank


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After Dave departed for Manchester in the morning, I took a train into London. I had arranged to meet up with a friend there for dinner and before that I fancied visiting a couple of museums and having a nice wander round.

I got off the train at City Thameslink and walked up Ludgate Hill, past St Paul's Cathedral and then north to the Museum of London.

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What a treasure trove that place is! It tells the story of London, and pre-London, from prehistoric times right up until the 2012 Olympic Games. Special mention to the prehistoric auroch head and mammoth's foot, the Bronze Age and Medieval weapons, the Bronze Age Sunbury Hoard, the Romano-British artifacts, the copy of Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia, the view out of the window of a section of the Roman London City Wall, the displays on the Great Plague & the Great Fire of London, the display of items found in the Thames over the last 1100 years, the Pearly King suit from the late 19th century, and the testimonies of ordinary people from WWII.

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It was short walk to my next destination, the Bank of England Museum. Even for someone like me, who has never been interested in economics and finance, this was definitely worth a visit. I got to hold a 13 kg gold bar, watch a video tour of a bank vault full of gold bars, read about the lives of employees here since 1694, and look at such interesting things as the charter of the Bank of England from 1694,14th-century Chinese mulberry paper money, the earliest known Bank of England running cash note (the most direct forerunner of modern bank notes, this one dates from 1697) and a handwritten cheque from 1660.

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My friend R and I had decided to meet at a pizza restaurant on the South Bank. I walked there via The Gherkin (aka 30 St Mary Axe), the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, a little out of my way but of course well worth it!

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It was great to catch up with R over some pizza, panna cotta and a drink or two.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:58 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged trains london united_kingdom museum cathedral river_thames st_paul's_cathedral Comments (0)

London explorations

Dr Johnson's House, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Hunterian Museum, Turkish meze in Bethnal Green


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Day trip to London :-)

Dr Johnson's House was my first destination. This 300-year-old Georgian townhouse is where the famous lexicographer Samuel Johnson lived and worked for a while in the 18th century. In contrast to other parts of London, there are not many other examples of houses of this era within the Square Mile of the City of London.

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It was lovely looking round and seeing all the period furniture and appreciating the wooden panelling and so on, but especially interesting for me were the famous stained glass portrait of Dr Johnson that hangs in front of one of the windows, his framed last will & testament and most of all, the loft room where he compiled his famous Dictionary.

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I flicked through a huge original copy which lay on a table, making sure to stop at his famous entry about Oats; 'A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people' (unlike modern impersonal dictionaries, Dr Johnson didn't hold back from including one or two of his own opinions).

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From Dr Johnson's House I walked on to the Hunterian Museum, a medical museum within the Royal College of Surgeons. It's not far. On the way there I admired a famous Fleet Street institution; the historic Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub. I've eaten here before (it does some really good food as well as drinks) and it's incredibly atmospheric both inside and out. A lot of famous literary characters have drunk here over the years; Charles Dickens, P. G. Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. Although there's no written evidence that Dr Johnson ever visited, the fact that his house is only about 100m away and that he was a famously sociable literary figure makes it highly likely that he did.

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The Hunterian Museum was fascinating, just like I guessed it would be. It's filled with anatomical, osteopathic and natural history specimens, mostly from the 18th century but some from since then as well. A lot of them were interesting to me, but the stand-out was the skeleton of Charles Byrne, 'The Irish Giant'. I also loved the 18th and 19th century pictures of exotic animals such as a hippo and one of a yak.

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After leaving the museum I headed eastwards to Matthew & Andrea's new flat, where I met up with them, Mum and uncle Justin for a delicious dinner of Turkish meze. I've read that Bulgarian food has a Turkish influence gained from the Ottoman period; I think I will like it! Soon I will find out...

Posted by 3Traveller 05:38 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom museum river_thames house_museum ye_olde_cheshire_cheese_pub turkish_cuisine historic_pub Comments (0)

Return to the UK: 100th anniversary of start of World War 1

Madrid Airport, London City Airport and St Albans


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At check-in I had to pay about 40 euros because my case was three or four kg over the weight limit. I had a feeling it would go over - I had no way of measuring it beforehand. Unfortunately I had no space in my rucksack or laptop bag to move 3-4 kg worth of stuff into, so I had no choice but to leave it in there and just pay up. At least I got to choose a window seat :-)

Once through security and baggage x-ray I had plenty of time to look round duty-free but not buy anything.

The flight left on time. I managed to get some photos of the Spanish landscape after take-off and then after a while some food was brought round; a pot of couscous and vegetable salad and a pot of chocolate mousse. It felt like quite a novelty to hear English being spoken by British accents by the cabin crew.

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I took some photos of the coast of England as we approached. I noticed white cliffs, but I'm almost certain we were passing over Dorset/ Hampshire rather than the Dover area. Landing in London City Airport was a novelty because I'd never been there before and it was something different to see us land so close to the Thames.

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I had no problems at all in security and my case arrived OK. Emma, Kate and Mum were waiting for me in Arrivals - a wonderful moment.

After looking round the house and settling my stuff back in, Mum and I had some dinner and then watched the service at Westminster Abbey commemorating the beginning of World War One 100 years ago today. We both thought it was exceedingly well done, especially the choice of music (Vaughan Williams' 'A Lark Ascending' worked brilliantly, for example) and the way everyone in the congregation held a lighted candle at the start of the service and then gradually sections of people blew theirs out until only one candle was left, at the grave of the Unknown Warrior. This candle was blown out at 11 pm, the time that war was declared in 1914. The candles going out was done deliberately to echo Sir Edward Grey's famous comment that "The lamps are going out all over Europe".

We also did the 'Lights Out' event, where all households across the country were encouraged to turn their lights off between 10 and 11 pm. We had the TV going to watch the service on, but all other sources of light were switched off.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:22 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom airport spain madrid sisters mum st_albans Comments (1)

Departure eve

London and St Albans


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I went back to London this morning, this time to Wimbledon to collect my CELTA folder. I finished the CELTA course near the end of March last year and we were told then that six months afterwards we could come back and collect our folders if we wanted them. So in September I emailed to ask if I could come and collect mine at Christmas. The college has two sites and unfortunately the site from where I had to collect my folder wasn't the one where I actually did the course, which was a shame. I would have really liked to have gone back there for a look round. Technically I could have walked to the other site, but I couldn't hang around at all in London because my flight is due to leave Heathrow very early tomorrow morning and I hadn't packed yet. There were two other things I had to do in St Albans as well.

On the way home from St Albans station I stopped at the cemetery and said hello/goodbye to Dad and also my grandparents, who are buried very close by.

Once I got back I finished off a project I had been working on for the past few days... sticking down letters and cards Dad's patients had written about and/or to him and given to the surgery when Dad retired last summer. I stuck them in the same special hardback notebook his colleagues at the surgery had all written messages in at his retirement party. A notice had gone up at the surgery asking patients for anecdotes involving Dad. Months later they were still receiving them, from irregular patients who had come in and seen the notice for the first time. The surgery had passed them all onto Dad and after reading them he had tucked them into the notebook but not stuck them down... something I'm sure he was intending to do but never got round to due to chemotherapy cycles. So I did the sticking down for him. I felt very touched and proud reading them, though very sad as well of course.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:52 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom dad english_teaching st_albans Comments (0)

Borough Market and Bethnal Green, London

London


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I went into London today to do several things.

The first thing I did, after arriving at London Bridge and taking one or two pictures of the Thames, was go to Borough Market for the first time.

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Since it was a Tuesday, the full market wasn't on, but I did buy some late lunch at a pie-and-mash stall and have a nice wander round what other stalls were open. I winced at some of the prices (they contrast quite a lot to those in Ecuador) but I still definitely want to come back here in the summer when I am back from Ecuador!

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After Borough Market I went for a walk round the area. I popped into Southwark Cathedral next door first;

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Then I passed by the Clink Prison Museum and a bit later the Old Operating Theatre Museum... both are places I've wanted to go to for a long time now because they sound really interesting, but today I was put off by the price. I will definitely go to them both when I'm back in the summer, but not both on the same day.

Three more missions were in order after this; the first was a stopoff in Bethnal Green to buy some jalebi. These are some of my favourite sweets in the world and I have not seen any in Ecuador so far so I thought I'd make the most of my opportunities in London while I'm here! I walked down Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane in the dusk and promised myself that I'd come back to Brick Lane in the summer and on a Sunday, when the market's on.

After leaving Brick Lane I turned left and carried on along Whitechapel Road to the Royal London Hospital, where my uncle is currently recovering from a heart operation. He had to have a valve replaced. It was a major operation but when I saw him he seemed to be recovering pretty well, thank goodness. I was really glad I'd come.

I went straight to Waterloo Station after leaving the hospital. The reason was to meet up with Roz, an old friend who I really wanted to see before I leave the UK tomorrow. We had dinner at a restaurant & bar at Waterloo before we both had to catch different trains. It was really lovely to see her.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom market museum cathedral river_thames explorations british_cuisine Comments (0)

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