Then back outside and onto the Houses of Parliament and the Thames.
I was by now a little tired of walking and since there were river boats leaving from just in front of Big Ben and one just about to depart, I bought a ticket and hopped on. It turned out to be a very nice way to see the city.
Barges, I would like to go with you
I would like to sail the ocean blue.
Barges, have you treasures in your hold?
Do you fight with pirates brave and bold?
We passed Shakespeare’s reconstructed Globe Theater.
And something else famous, which for the moment did not appear to be…
We floated along until we came in sight of Tower Bridge…
and then London Tower itself.
The Tower of London surprised me by being more blockish and castle-y than tower-ish, but I suppose that back when the original bit was built, it towered over the scrappy little houses that stood nearby. The bit of arch that you can see in the left foreground is the Traitor’s Gate, in fact the printing on the quay reads “Entry for the Traitor’s Gate.” All sorts of famous tragic characters came through there by boat, including Elizabeth I when her sister Mary (who now lies beneath her as previously noted) still was queen.
Judge me if you will, but I decided that after the unplanned large block of time I’d spent at Westminster Abbey, I just wasn’t up for the 2 1/2 hour tour of the tower and the gory stories involved, even though it meant missing the Crown Jewels. (I do hope to go back some day.) At that point, what I really needed was some Lunch. So, after some sustaining potato leek soup in view of the entrance and a little visit to the gift shop, I began walking again. Walk, walk, walk, through old parts of London that I had floated past earlier.
I liked this sign: very English and to the point.
These helpful signs were painted on the streets wherever a hapless tourist might be crossing.
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag.
|“Mary Poppins? Never ‘eard of ‘er!” — Pigeon|
A few more narrow streets and I came to the Old Bailey ~ for any Dickens readers.
Here’s the inscription over the doorway.
Then I saw a bus that was more remarkable for its destination than its double-deckerness – the name of my old hometown! I did pop on a bus though around here for a short while and I sat upstairs and pretended that I know all about riding double-decker busses in London.
Then onto the British Museum – and my legs are about falling off here, but I made it. How could I not go when I could see – with my own eyes –
The Rosetta Stone!! oooooo!
There were also some astounding artifacts from the Assyrian Empire. Do you see those young whippersnappers on the left?? They were patting the winged creatures! Shocking! I tattletaled on them to a guard, and he kind of laughed and looked at me like I was some sort of busybody. Well, maybe I am, but….they’re really old!
Past the winged creature Assyrians, I came to the room with the other big attraction for me: the Pediment marbles that were originally on the Parthenon in Athens. They’ve been studied in every art history class ever since, including mine.
Look at the folds of fabric!! Carved out of stone!!
There was an interesting brochure defending the case for keeping these statues at the British Museum. Greece would rather like to have them back. But apparently, when the British guy who brought them back originally saw them, the Parthenon was being used as an old storage barn and the statues were falling apart. No body really cared about them. The guy, whose name escapes me, realized their artistic value and asked the authorities if he could take them down, which they quite willingly let him do. “And now,” the brochure ended, “they remain in the British Museum where millions of visitors see them free of charge every year.” Exactly how accurate the story is, I am not sure, but as it was right about then that Greece was having big riots, I was quite grateful that they were safe in the British Museum and that I was there looking at them.
Then it was time for me to hurry and take the underground and go meet Zeus to catch our taxi, train, and flight back home. But just before I left I took a picture of me with my twin sister.
A little bit like this one, that I took of a shop window the night before. A little bit…but not much.
This was very strange, actually. And has nothing to do with literature as far as I can tell.
So there it was… a wonderful, if very quick introduction to London and Great Britain. And strange nymph toilets aside, I do hope to return someday and visit a little more thoroughly. Maybe go to Jane Austen country or see where Poirot and Jeeves and Wooster lived, and Peter Wimsey, and Beatrix Potter, and….
If memory serves, that British chap was Lord Elgin. -dh
Yes, dh, thank you! The Elgin Marbles, which makes it sound like he's going out to play with them on the playground. Of course it all clarifies what's going on in Greece lately; they've lost their marbles!!
Yes, the Elgin Marbles…rats, I was hoping to be the first to post that! 🙂 Jenny, you are the coolest tourist-writer ever to visit London 🙂 I love reading your journey journals. What energy you kept up. I loved seeing the Rosetta Stone, too. But you do need to go back and see the Crown Jewels and ride the moving walkway that takes you past them 🙂 Fun. Very sparkly. Love from two hours away… xoxoxoxo Katherine
Oh , your story is great and brings back my visit to Great Britain seven years ago. Such amazing things to see.
Mark & I are heading to Great Britain in a couple weeks, & I'll have 3 days to explore on my own while he's in a conference! I will be scouring your blog posts for any tips (and am welcome to any you might add!)