As you may know, especially because of the lack of recent posts, Kurt and I are both enrolled in grad school. While Kurt is focusing on Educational Technology, I’m focusing on History. It’s been a bit crazy at times between teaching high school and taking two graduate classes a semester, but I’ve managed to retain a 4.0. When the opportunity arose for me to go on a study abroad trip to London, Normandy, and Paris this summer, and take two classes in the process, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Luckily, Kurt was able to come with me and instead of auditing the classes, he decided to get credit for them as well. Thus, we left on a week long adventure in England and France, chock full of history and adventure.
After a long flight and a six hour time difference, our study abroad group landed in London. With barely any sleep on the plane, we were all exhausted, but in order to beat jet lag, our professor thankfully forced us to stay awake. As soon as we got off the plane, we met our guide through Ambrose Tours, Mark, and our awesome Dutch bus driver, Hiei. They would remain with us throughout the rest of our trip.
Our first stop was England’s National Army Museum. Inside, we saw all the major British Campaigns throughout history. One major missing campaign was the American Revolution; we all thought it was funny that they left that one out. We got to see different uniforms, paraphernalia, and even the skeleton of Napoleon’s favorite horse. Though not one of the top things to view in England, it was interesting to see England’s history through it’s wars.
We then went on a driving tour of London, viewing Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and some other various sights. We stopped to eat at Covent Garden, a little shopping district. Still feeling tired, I didn’t want anything heavy, so I opted for some hummus, goat cheese, olives, and pita bread. Yum yum! Covent Garden looked like a fun place, right on the fringe of West End, with plenty of cool shops, but since we only had a little bit of time there, I didn’t get to experience much. Oh well, something to save for our next London trip, right?
When we finally made it to the hotel, I forced myself to stay awake as long as possible; however, by 6pm (London time), I could not keep my eyes open. I slept until the next morning, where I was wide awake and free of jet lag.
The next morning was the Queen’s Official Birthday. Our destination was the Churchill War Rooms, which was right next to the horse yard where the Queen’s presentation and such was occurring. We were able to see the grand stands, the royal guards, and the long lines of people, though we didn’t catch a glimpse of any royalty.
Churchill’s War Rooms were extremely interesting and well worth it. They were a secret underground headquarters for the British government throughout WWII. We were able to see the maps Churchill used, his bedroom, other official’s bedrooms, and many of Churchill’s personal effects in the Churchill Museum also located there. Extremely cool to see, it is highly recommended, especially if you love WWII or secret, underground headquarters that aren’t *quite* bombproof.
We then went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Kurt and I had done St. Paul’s when we came to London in 2010, so we didn’t climb the steps or do the catacombs again. Instead, we opted to take a quick tour of the church itself, then head to Westminster Abbey, which we did not go inside last time. As we’re about to enter, we see all these planes flying overhead, which included a Lancaster bomber and Typhoon fighter, and ended with the Red Arrows, leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke across the sky. They were part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations.
We then enter the Abbey, final resting place of dozens of monarchs and British nobility. Highlights of the tour included the tombs of Edward Longshanks, Edward the Confessor, Henry V, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret Beaufort, Winston Churchill, Charles II, Mary I, and Henry VII, among others. They also had a poets corner which included Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, and Oscar Wilde, among others. I very much enjoyed seeing the final resting place of the old monarchs, since I love British history, even if I was not allowed to take pictures of their final resting places. There was even a small museum showcasing some crown jewels, Queen Mary II’s coronation chair, and the oldest surviving altarpiece in England. I would definitely recommend it if you love British monarchs.
We finished with the Abbey in just enough time to make our 3pm appointment at Westminster Palace, otherwise known as where the House of Lords and House of Commons presides. Though most of the original palace burned down in 1834, it was still an impressive sight. The Lords and Commons are completely separated, and it’s hard to imagine conducting work in such an exquisitely beautiful complex. Once again, photography was not allowed, so I bought many postcards to remember and scrapbook it. One funny memory is that Kurt was tired of standing, so as we’re listening to the tour guide talk about the House of Lords and we’re standing in the pews the Lords sit in to debate and such, Kurt decides to sit down in the pew and rest. Well, another tour guide saw him and fussed him for sitting where the Lords sit. Not many people can say that they sat down in the House of Lords!
After a brief jaunt to the hotel to drop off our wares, we then take a stroll around London. We made our way down Fleet Street, even finding a demonic barber, found Twinings, which sells some of the best tea, though it was unfortunately closed, walked across Black Friar’s bridge before eating at Doggett’s on the Thames River, walked to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, walked across the Millennium Bridge (remember Harry Potter?) toward St. Paul’s again, then made an impromptu decision to find Abbey Road. After attempting to invoke the Beatles, we went back to Westminster for some night shots. Since the sun doesn’t set until around 10:30pm, and we are always so tired after long days touring, we had never seen London at night. It was pretty all lit up, I must say. Finally, we headed back to the Regency Hotel for some sleep.
Tomorrow, we leave London and go to Portsmouth before crossing the Channel on a ferry for Normandy. I can’t wait!