Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vacation in the UK-4

We returned to London late Sunday afternoon and rushed to get to the service at Kathy's church, St. Helen's Bishopsgate, located in the City of London. We enjoyed both services we attended there; it's wonderful to find a church where the preaching of God's Word is solid and applicable—just like our own church here in Denver. Music in worship is very important to me, and I loved hearing new songs as well as singing "old" ones. And they have an awesome pipe organ! Singing "Be Still My Soul" accompanied by the pipe organ (we happened to be sitting right next to it! LOL) is one of my highlights of the entire trip. *smile*

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we explored London and nearby places, some on our own, but mostly with London Walks, guided tours specializing in specific areas or topics. Kathy had sent us the link ahead of time, and we already had several walks we'd highlighted.

Our first walk was the Shakespeare walk that included a short boat ride down the Thames from Big Ben and the houses of Parliament to the location of the new Globe Theatre. We got discount vouchers to go back and tour inside the theatre later, so our walk concentrated on Shakespeare's London and what would have been there (like the old site of the two previous Globe Theatres), what was still there, and what life was like in the late 1500s, early 1600s in London. Interesting stuff.

Roger forgot the camera that morning, and he bought a disposable that we took the morning pictures with. So when the walk was done, we headed for the tube and went back to the hotel to grab the camera and eat lunch at a café. Then we were back to meet the next group for an afternoon tour of Westminster Abbey.

We met at the same place outside the tube station across the street from Big Ben. The group was much bigger, and we divided into two groups just outside the church so that it would be easier to hear our guides inside the church. I loved doing the tours with London Walks because we seemed to get so much more information than an audio tour of the church would give us. The guides are very knowledgeable about the history and unique aspects of whatever topic is central to the walk.

Even then, I found that with each site we visited, I wanted to have a written record of the history and points of interest, so we visited the various shops connected with each site and bought a souvenir/guidebook. I know I'll use them in research for future projects, so it was a good investment. Plus in many of the buildings we weren't allowed to take pictures, and these books have those.

Westminster Abbey is huge and chock full of the history of England, including my favorite part—Poet's Corner. Of course much more than poetry is represented here, but this section of the cathedral is dedicated to memorializing those who were active in the arts: music, writing, painting, etc.Cloister area of the Abbey.

Tuesday we met at the Tower of London to start our tour of Greenwich. We learned that William the Conqueror was responsible for building the tower and it was directly related to Greenwich as well. From the Tower we went on another, longer boat ride on the Thames to Greenwich. The captain pointed out many historical aspects of the river and points of interest on each side of the river, like the area where Charles Dickens set Oliver Twist. (I missed getting to take the Dickens walk because they do it on Friday afternoon, and we weren't in London then. Next time!)

In Greenwich we walked around the palace, former naval academy, and now university owned buildings. Behind the Queen's palace is a 168 ft. hill—the highest point in the entire London area. (Being from Colorado and living at about 6,000 ft. . . . well needless to say, we weren't too impressed! LOL Neither was our guide.) The Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian (0° longitude [pronounced "long-i-tude"—hard g] marked out, as well as shops, a park, and (most importantly) a café were at the top. With our group, we watched the ball rise just before 1:00 p.m. and fall at exactly 1:00. Very interesting. *smile*

After exploring the Royal Observatory, we headed back to London and Kathy's flat, where we met her roommate and Kathy fixed a delicious dinner for us.

Wednesday we did one of London Walks day trips to Oxford and the Cotswolds. This was my favorite of all the walks we did. We met our guide at Paddington Station and took a train to Oxford, via Slough and Reading. Once there we were ushered onto a coach (tour bus) for our ride in the Cotswolds (cots are sheep pens or fields where they graze; wolds are hills—a very apt description of the countryside).

We drove through Oxford on the way to a small village, Old Minster Lovell. On the way, Richard, our guide, talked about the various places in Oxford we drove by, like the Ashmolean and the Eagle and Child Pub where C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein met with their writer's group, the Inklings. He also talked about the history of Oxford up to the founding of the colleges and university.

Old Minster Lovell is tucked away off the main road. Don't know how the coach driver did it, but the road leading into town including a very sharp right turn onto a very narrow stone bridge. Once in the village, we got out and walked down the one street. Richard showed us the typical architecture of houses in the village, including thatched roofs and stone roofs (look like slate). We got an idea of what life in a village, especially in earlier years, was like. We also walked around to a ruined manor house with an intact chapel next to it, and learned about the family who first built the house and church.

Roger and I both love history, so we really soaked up all the history we saw before us. *smile*

For lunch we went into Burford, a larger village with several places to eat, for lunch. We ate at a tea shop Richard recommended,
then strolled down to take a peak at Burford's church that has been standing since the 1200s. What is unique is that no additions in later architectural styles has been added to this church. The village has kept the building as it was originally built—very unusual.

On the way back to Oxford, Richard told us how the various colleges and university got started, and explained the tutor system of teaching that goes on at Oxford and Cambridge—the only universities in the world that still employ this style of education. Very interesting to this teacher! We walked the streets within the university proper (and I'm sure glad this was done with a guide! I would have been lost with all the alleys and roads we walked down), learning about the various colleges, the Bodleian Library, chapels, and stories connected with each. At New College we went in and toured their chapel (the largest of all college chapels in Oxford, complete with a pipe organ) and dining hall.

At the end of the afternoon Richard gave us about forty-five minutes to shop, explore, whatever, before meeting him again for our train ride back to London. Roger knew he couldn't keep me away from the Blackwell Bookshop just across from the university—a huge bookshop, with room after room of books, miles upon miles of book shelves, according to the information we were given. After he pulled me out of there (not without spending some money!), we went in search of the picture of the Eagle and Child, then met the group and headed back to London.


CrazyBunnyLady said...

Some good pictures.

Jill said...

Thanks Margie...I don't feel so far behind now keeping up with your crazy life.

angelin said...

Hai, hope you have enjoyed your vacation in UK. Lovely pictures and your description takes me to the original spot. I felt I got all the blessing standing in front of St. Helen's Bishopsgate church. Thanks for sharing.
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