“I sustain myself with the love of family.” ― Maya Angelou
On the 16th of June, my family arrived in London. This time it was my parents and two sisters. We spent until the 19th in London, when we headed to Exeter to spend the remainder of the trip. Hang in there, this is going to be a long post. I already typed it all up once and lost it to the Internet somehow, so this is Take 2. Don’t even ask me how distraught I was when I realized it didn’t save. So, I am up later than planned.
I am going to largely skim over our time in London because many of the things we did and saw I already covered in my post about London with Kenny. However, there were some things that were new to both them and me. One of these was the Tower of London. We wasted no time from their arrival at the airport to exploring the city, jetlag be damned! The weather was less than ideal (quite chilly by the river), but this was more than made up for by our tour of the Tower by one of the Beefeaters. I had no idea what an extensive complex this was, and how much history it contained! Our tour ended in the Chapel Royal of Saint Peter ad Vincula, which is the resting place for Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Jane Grey, among others. I was most excited about Anne Boleyn, as I had done a report on her for my Funerary Archaeology module in first term. I had read the original excavation report and subsequent discovery of her remains, so to see this place was in essence coming full circle for me. I had developed a connection with Anne through this project, and I seriously considered buying a replica of her necklace, (a circle of pearls with a gold “B” pendant at the center), but thought other people might find it strange that a person with the initials MEC would wear the letter B around her neck. I settled on a plush Christmas ornament of her instead.
Next was the Tower Bridge. Mom did not want to go up to the top, citing her fear of heights, but Dad unknowingly bought her a ticket and she had to go. The people at the front desk assured us that it was all enclosed in glass, so all was well. This provided us with a lovely view of the river and the city along its banks. My favorite part was learning about how the draw bridge works. Even better? Seeing my Dad sit down beside me in the little TV room and enjoy it as much as I did 🙂
Day 2: Wellington Arch, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Natural History Museum, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Eye
New to me: Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey
What I learned this day is that if you want a good view of the changing of the guard, arrive at least two hours early. The fanfare we heard was nice, but we mostly saw horse butts the whole time. It was a necessary tourist experience, and one I am glad we attended regardless. Westminster Abbey was BEAUTIFUL. But unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside. This was remedied by the fact that we were provided with audio guides, a staple for the rest of our trip. These were both a blessing and a curse. You could listen at your own pace, pause and rewind if you missed what they said, and even “Click 4 for more information” if you were so inclined. Perfect for me, a lifelong learner. The downside, however, is that eventually these attractions need to close. Though a few places were closed by the time we reached them, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the people that were buried and/or honored in this place. Most exciting to me: Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. These men not only changed the field of science, they shaped the world as we know it. Ever heard of gravity or natural selection? Wow. I stood in awe of some of the greats. These are people I look up to as I work to contribute to science in my own little way.
Day 3: British Museum, Big Bus Tour, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus
New to me: St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral, like Westminster Abbey, was BEAUTIFUL. Again, no pictures allowed inside. I suppose they were saving my camera battery life and space on the memory card, but I had to make a bit more room in my head and my heart. Here we scaled 257 steps to reach the Whispering Gallery, which had possibly the coolest architecture I have ever seen. Elle and I ran to one side of the dome while Paige and Dad stayed on the opposite side (Mom, of course, stayed behind due to the whole heights thing). When you whispered loudly against the curved wall, the sound would ricochet around to the other side, and it sounded like the person was right next to you! We could have stayed there playing around for a long time, but we had to race up to the other levels before they closed–again, we had run out of time due to the audio tour. Up 119 steps to the Stone Gallery, then higher still, another 152 steps to the Golden Gallery, where the city stretched out like a map below. Steps: 528, Height: 85 meters, View: priceless.
Day 4: The Globe, Monument to the Great Fire of London, Boat cruise on the Thames, Hunterian museum, Ride in a taxi
New to me: All but the Hunterian
The Globe was a special stop for my sister Paige, a great admirer of the Bard. Our tour was interesting and informative, the tour guide entertaining and enthusiastic. I learned that the whole thing burned down due to a glitch in the “special effects” of the time: they shot off a cannon and accidentally set the roof on fire! This is the only building in London built since the Great Fire that is made of such flammable materials as wood and plaster walls and a thatched roof, in an effort to mirror exactly the original theater.
Our visit to the Monument was a spontaneous decision. We were riding the tour bus to the site of the boat cruise launch, when our tour guide announced that if you walk all 311 steps to the top of the Monument, you receive a certificate. Dad turned to us and asked if we wanted to go, we said YES, and we disembarked at the very next stop. After all, what’s 311 steps after climbing 528 the day before? This was a bit different since the stairs were of the spiral variety, but we made it to the top, snapped our pics, and got a nice certificate to show for it!
The boat cruise was the perfect way to recap our adventures by seeing the sights one last time, and I sure love boats. We even learned some more about the city, if we could possibly fit anything else in our brains, that is. After leaving the Thames, we went to the Hunterian. Now I said I wouldn’t repeat what I had done before, but I have to mention this. We didn’t get much time there because we still had to leave for Exeter that day, and we left Mom and Paige outside–they didn’t want to see the “gross” bones and animals in jars 😉 But we made the most of that limited time, and I loved watching Elle study each specimen, ask me questions, and when it was time to leave, say, “Go ahead to Exeter. Leave me here.” It was truly a special thing to share with my sister, to see her love something as much as I do. To see her curiosity and desire to learn. I think too many people give up on their passions because they don’t have anyone to share it with, and passions die if you don’t let them out for sunlight every now and then. This was a way for me to let my passions shine and be nurtured by nurturing someone else. I was definitely glad we made time for this right before we left.
The final activity in London was a ride in one of those classic black London taxis, per Dad’s request (though of course I had to hail it!). He was so happy, he said he wanted one shipped back to America! I loved watching my family fall in love with the country that has become my home, each in their own little ways 🙂
So, I thought I would fit all of my family’s visit in one post, but it looks like it is quite long already. Stay tuned for part 2.