Wednesday, December 8, 2010

London and the Henges

Back to London! This time we were staying near Hyde Park. The weather was beautiful on the first day (rainy on the second). Our walk to the underground along the park, walking through the crunching leaves was really nice.

HUGE pile of leaves and I managed to get one of those cute London cabs and a red double-decker bus in the shot too!

Walking through the leaves!

Our first stop for the day was Westminster Abbey. I was really excited to see the Abbey considering all of the history there.... all of the coronations and weddings and funerals and all of the people buried in the Abbey. We took the guided tour lead by one of the priests there. I highly recommend that. It was only 3 pounds over the cost of admission! We had access to parts of the Abbey the other visitors did not. We got to sit in the quire (no, I didn't spell it wrong... it's the physical section where the choir sits) only a few seats away from where the Queen sits when she attends services and walk through the archway (it probably has a formal name but I forget it) where the royal processions pass through. The priest explained so much to us and pointed out some of the more important burials. There are over 3000 people buried in the Abbey, some in tombs (the kings and queens) but most under the floor. Just some of the people buried there are Edward I, Edward III, Henry III, Richard II, Henry V, Elizabeth I, Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles II, William III, Mary II, Queen Anne, George II, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Tennyson, Laurence Olivier, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. The priest was quick to comment that some eyebrows were raised about Charles Darwin. The priest told us the church takes the stance that it doesn't matter what uproar was brought about due to Darwin's findings, he is still an important scientist and an important Brit. I really respect that viewpoint and it made me love the Abbey even more. Unfortunately, we couldn't take pictures in the Abbey so you'll just have to visit it yourself! I got some nice pictures outside of the Abbey, though!

Big Ben was glowing in the sunlight.

Me in front of the Abbey.

After the Abbey we took a little walk to find a late lunch. We walked right by The London Eye. I might have to go on it next time!

The underground station here looked like Darth Vadar designed it.

At our final destination, killing some time before our next tour.

The Tower of London after sunset.

Finally it was time for our next tour of the day. The Jack the Ripper tour! It was really cool. The guide was this really old guy. He was a bit of a curmudgeon and had a theatrical flair. I liked him. He took us to all the spots where the murders occurred and even took us on the path where police followed a suspect and to the (then) dangerous neighborhood where the suspect disappeared. Very few of the buildings remain from then (wars have taken their toll) but the guide pointed out which ones were original.

We walked by this on the way to the first Ripper murder location. It's the old remains of the oldest city wall that still stands today. I think it's about 2000 years old.

The tour guide pointing out the parts of the wall that were built and rebuilt over the years.

One of the churches that was there during the Jack the Ripper murders.

These buildings were NOT here during the time of Jack the Ripper.


Another one of the original buildings near the Ripper murders.

One of the bodies was found in this yard.

Us walking down the narrow street to where Mary Kelly's murder took place.

Andrew standing outside the door leading to the room where Mary Kelly's body was found, partially skinned and butchered.

One last look at that door and passageway.

After the Jack the Ripper tour, our guide pointed us toward a great pub. There were apparently a lot of offices in the area because the number of pubgoers in business suits was staggering. It seems that Londoners really do just head for the pubs after work. There were business suits (both male and female) standing outside smoking, sitting inside at tables chatting, and even plenty sitting around the tables in the pub playing dominoes and cards. It was really busy but still a relaxed atmosphere. Andrew tried a different beer. He didn't really like it.

Our fish and chips. It was a HUGE piece of fish! And the peas again! I mentioned this in my first London blog. Peas with everything.

A delicious meat pie! This one was pork with veggies inside cooked with pears and a sweet and savory gravy! Yum!

The next day was henge day! We took a tour to Stonehenge, Avebury, Chalice Well and Glastonbury. I'll explain each of these locations in the photos...

The sheep greeted us when we arrived in Avebury. They were so still, I almost thought they were fake. Until one slowly turned his head towards us. It was kinda creepy.

The stone circle in Avebury. This one is much bigger, but less intricate than Stonehenge. The site was really huge and we could walk right up to the stones and touch them. You can't even walk among the stones at Stonehenge at all.

I had to photograph these trees. The foliage was so vibrant and the root system of the trees was pretty amazing. The roots were all over the surface covering the ground, making a sort of root labyrinth on the hill. Because of the elaborate root system, Pagans and other folk religions often come here to pray/meditate and tie offerings onto the tree.

A close up of the root system.

It started raining on us right about now. Boooo! My camera got just a little wet but it was just a sprinkle so it didn't break or anything.

The other side of the stone circle.

This stone is called the Devil's seat because it is one of the biggest stones on the site, and has almost a perfect little seat naturally carved into the rock... and because conservative Christians didn't like the site. They thought the whole thing was the work of, or in honor of the devil.



This stone was broken and put back together. The guy who bought this land made many attempts to restore the site after Christians' many attempts to destroy it. This is one of the more successful attempts at repair. The locals were torn about the restoration and most arceologists and historians today wouldn't support repair attempts like this. After all, the destruction of buildings and sites all over the world, however sad, is a part of each site's "story."

The Red Lion, one of Great Britain's haunted pubs.

Inside the inn, there is a well made into a table. Rumor has it, a lot of people were murdered by being thrown into this well. Creepy!

Stonehenge was our next stop. I didn't think I'd love being there as much as I did. But I really loved it. Imagining what the site was for, how they built it, how they felt about it, what they did there, etc. It was awesome. I took LOTS of photos.

Now we were on our way to Chalice Well. Some amazing scenery along the way!

Chalice Well. It's been in use for at least 2000 years and water issues from the spring at a rate of 25,000 gallons per day, even during drought.

A path in the gardens around Chalice Well.

A snail in the stone.

Charming little bench.

Leaning tree.

Cool vertical castle on top of the hill overlooking Chalice Well. Don't know what it is but I'm sure it's got a great story.

Pretty pink and white berries on the tree.

The stones and ground where the water flows turns this reddish color. Christians have claimed it to be the blood of Christ. Other religions have claimed various other phenomenon. In reality, there's iron in the water so it's just rust. People come here to drink the water for it's "healing" properties and apparently it tastes pretty metallic. I don't know because I didn't try it.

A bouquet of mushrooms!

Love the curvy bench! I think Andrew can make us one.

The grounds here were just beautiful. People of all religions (and lack thereof) come to pray, meditate, contemplate or just for a bit of peace and serenity.

Now we're in Glastonbury exploring the town. Loved the little post office and red post box.

It rained on us again.

Red phone booths are outside of London too!

Beautiful little town.

This is the Glastonbury Abbey. Or what is left of it. It is said to house the burial site of King Arthur and Guinevere.

The burial site that used to contain remains identified/acknowledged as King Arthur and Guinevere. Edward I, in a political move to please the people, was the one who acknowledged the remains as such.

And sadly, that's it. The end of our 4-week trip of a lifetime. The next day we were headed for home. It was hard to believe it was all over. I was sad but at the same time I missed our dogs and our own bed... and all my clothes. We packed light for this trip. Really light! We each had one small roller bag. The carry on type that can store in the overhead compartment on an airplane. I think I had 4 pairs of pants and 6 shirts. Andrew had about the same in his suitcase. We did laundry the entire time we were there, of course. But I was really tired of wearing the same things over and over!

My next step after this is to create a scrap book of our trip. I saved train tickets and some maps and a few brochures and admission tickets, etc. Oh, and a scrapbook for the wedding might be a good idea too. Will post wedding photos soon so stay tuned!