Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Another SUNNY day. Seriously - I'm already sunburned (which no one is going to believe happened in London,of all places) and we're expecting two more days of sunshine and minimal rain. It was gorgeous out this morning.

Our room at the New Linden Hotel is in the basement. It's a nice hotel, and the room is nice, but somehow I feel like a second-class citizen with tile floors and having to walk through the laundry area to get to the room. They promise to move us when possible. I'm actually ok with the room -- it's cool, the bathroom is pretty large, tehre is a full-size window -- but we'll see.

Mark promptly locked thingsi n he safe this morning, and then realized that it was slightly different than the room safes at home and he coudln't open it. I rather sheepishly had to report this to the desk clerk ad luckily they do have a master key. We weren't the first (or the last) to have the same problem. Crisis averted, we trooped out to catch the Tube to Westminster Abbey.

Much less crowded today, although we were on a different line than last night. We were dumped out directly in front of Parliament and across the street from the Abbey and took some really nice photos of the Big Ben clocktower (the clock is NOT Big Ben, that's just the bell inside!) before queueing up for the Abbey. Every tourist in London comes to Westminster Abbey, it seems, and t was packed full of people almost immediately.

Of course, I can see why. It's really rather spectacular -- over the top gothic and other decorations, and hundreds (if not thousands) of tombs and monuments packed inside. there are so many of them, I wonder if they can even have services in the church -- they block every possibleo pening with casckets, giant self-aggrandizing sculptures and effigies, and huge, ornate declarations of greatness.

We intended to walk up to see the changing of the horse guards (not the Buckingham palace guard thing which is always so crowded) and were thwarted by construction in St James Park for the Olympics. But, we did manage to find the temporary parade ground and watch the guards do their thing--with almost no people!

Up toTrafalgar Square, to see Nelson's column and the bronze lions, and then to lunch in th crypt of St Martin in the Fields( which is nowhere near a field now, of course, but hemmed in closely on all sides by buildings. I dragged mark in a quick run Through the National Portrait gallery, just so I could see the Holbein cartoon of the famous painting of Henry VIII. We just started up on the top floor and spiraled down.

Seeking out food as much as anything else, we popped into st Martin in the fields and had lunch in the crypt. The church is lovely, though, and looks immediately familiar to anyone who has visited the east cost of the US--the "colonial" church we are all familiar with is based on this classical style. Portico, white columns, central steeple, all there. There are lunchtime concerts I. The church most days, and we caught just the end of one, with local students singing bits from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

I, being the architectur buff, dragged us back down Whitehall to see the Banqueting House. It is the only remaining building from the original palace, although it feels unbelievably modern, to be honest. And it's not that it has been updated, but that it was designed as a completely new sort of building. Inside, it is rather plain, a double cube, with pale walls and white columns...but the ceiling! Nine enormous panels exalting the divine right of kings, by Rubens. They are gorgeous...and at least part of the reason that King Charles was beheaded. We spent too long inside ( the audio I guide is interesting, but interminably long, especially for a building that is, really, one bare room.)

I really wanted a glimpse of the hammer beam roof in Westminster Hall in the parliament building, but the only way in was to go through the while hoopla of security and queues to get in to watch parliament. Then nice security person did tell me that while she couldnt tell me it was ok, they wouldn't stop me if I got inside, looked around, and decided not to go in. But, mi would probably be prohibited from taking pictures, so...we passed on the hour-long queue, and instead pressed on for the Jewel Tower across the street. It's just a small tower house, once the storeroom for parliament, and before that the repository for the crown jewels...but I love castles of any sort, so we climbed tot the top and looked around. I get extra points for noticing that the spiral staircase(de rigeur for any stone tower)was spiralling the wrong way.

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