September 21, 2007 through September 22, 2007
Natasha and my travels to Europe began with a couple days in the city of London before we boarded our plane heading for Geneva, Switzerland.
Arrival in London
We arrived in London at 8:30am Saturday morning at Gatwick Airport which is located about an hour south of London. Since the London Bridge Train Station was shut down for maintenance, we then took a train from Gatwick Airport to Victoria Station. Upon arrival we got on our first double-decker bus heading to London Bridge. By the time we reached our destination at London Bridge it had already been about three hours since we had landed in the United Kingdom.
Reaching Our Destination
At London Bridge Station we met up with my friend Caner Turkel and then took yet another bus to Old Street, where we will be staying with Caner at his mates place. The house was two stories with a kitchen and bedroom (which was previously a living room) downstairs and two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. It was fairly good size for a place located in downtown London and I felt very comfortable there.
Caner and I actually hit it off right away and it was as if our friendship that started on-line was just as natural in person. I was a little nervous at first flying all the way to London and staying with someone I have only talked to online or on the phone but things turned out better than I could have predicted.
The rest of our day was then dedicated to freshening up and heading out on the town! Natasha, Caner and I then met up with Tim Jarman,
the President of the Young Professionals Network of London, in Soho. The four of us then were off to explore the city and see the many sites that we have only read about and seen in movies.
What We Saw and A Little History
China Town: We first visited the area known as China Town. Natasha has previously been to China Town in New York (which I have not been fortunate to see yet) but this was my very first China Town. Hopefully the first of many!
London’s Chinatown is located in the Soho area of the City of Westminster, occupying the area in and around Gerrard Street. It contains a number of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, souvenir shops, and other Chinese-run businesses.
The first area in London known as Chinatown was located in the Limehouse area of London. At the start of the 20th century, the Chinese population of London was concentrated in that area, setting up businesses which catered to the Chinese sailors who frequented in Docklands. The area began to become known through exaggerated reports and tales of (legal) opium dens and slum housing, rather than the Chinese restaurants and supermarkets in the current Chinatown. However, much of the area was damaged by aerial bombing during the Blitz in the Second World War, although a number of elderly Chinese still choose to live in this area. The present Chinatown, off Shaftesbury Avenue in London, did not start to be established until the 1970s. Up until then, it was a regular Soho area, run-down, with Gerrard Street the main thoroughfare.
London Piccadilly, Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and Eros: We then passed by the Eros Fountain where Caner attempted to take a picture of us.
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and Eros, located on the south west side of Piccadilly Circus, were completed in 1893. The fountain was built as a memorial to the works of Lord Shaftesbury. The fountain is topped by one of the most famous landmarks in London, the ‘Eros’ statue. This winged statue was designed by Alfred Gilbert and is actually called ‘The Angel of Christian Charity’. The statue is noted for being one of the first ever statues to be cast in aluminum, and it is the symbol of the Evening Standard newspaper.
The Crimean War Memorial: The Crimean War Memorial is located on Waterloo Place, at the junction of Lower Regent Street and Pall Mall in London, about a quarter of the way from the Duke of York Column to Piccadilly Circus. Originally it was unveiled in 1859, consisting of the statues of three Guards Men, with the female allegorical figure referred to as Honor. It was cast in bronze from the cannons captured at the siege of Sebastopol. The sculptor was John Bell.
The Duke of York Column: The Duke of York Column is a monument in London, England, to Prince Frederick, Duke of York, and the second eldest son of King George III. It is located near where Regent Street meets The Mall, in between the two terraces of Carlton House Terrace. The column was chiseled from pink granite, and the statue created by Sir Richard Westmacott in 1834. The statue is facing northwest, towards the Crimean War Memorial and Piccadilly Circus.
Prince Frederick, Duke of York was the commander-in-chief of the British Army during the French Revolutionary Wars. The Duke is remembered in the children’s nursery rhyme, “The Grand Old Duke of York”. When he died in 1827, the entire British Army had to forego one day’s wages in order to pay for a monument to the Duke.
The great height of the column (123 ft 6 in) caused wits to suggest that the Duke was trying to escape his creditors, as the Duke died £2 million in debt.
Jubilee Walkway: The Silver Jubilee Walkway was originally laid down in 1977 as the main feature of the work of the Environmental Committee, set up by the London Celebrations for The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, under the Chairmanship of Max Nicholson. Her Majesty the Queen opened it by unveiling a plaque on the South Bank Lion, on the night of the Thames fireworks celebrations on 9 June 1977. The walk is approximately 14 miles (23km) long.
Buckingham Palace: The Buckingham Palace was built in 1702 by the Duke of Buckingham as his London home. The house was then later sold to George III in 1761 by the Dukes son. In 1774 it was renamed “Queen’s House” as Queen Charlotte resided there.
Today, Buckingham Palace is used not only as the home of The Queen and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, but also for the administrative work for the monarchy. It is here in the state apartments that Her Majesty receives and entertains guests invited to the Palace. You can always tell if the Queen is in residence, look at the flagpole on top of the Palace, if the flag is flying then ‘the Queen is at home’!
Victoria Memorial: The Victoria Memorial is a sculpture in London, placed at the centre of Queen’s Gardens in front of Buckingham Palace. It was built by the sculptor Sir Thomas Brock, in 1911 and the surrounding was constructed by the architect Sir Aston Webb, from 2,300 tons of white marble.
It has a large statue of Queen Victoria facing north-eastwards. The other sides of the monument feature dark patinated bronze statues of the Angel of Justice (facing north-westwards), the Angel of Truth (facing south-eastwards) and Charity (facing Buckingham Palace). On the pinnacle, is Victory with two seated figures. The subsidiary figures were gifted by the people of New Zealand. The whole sculpture has a nautical theme; this can be seen in the mermaids, mermen and a hippogriff, all of which are suggestive of Great Britain’s naval power.
The London Eye: When we reached Buckingham Palace along the Jubilee Walkway we were able to see the London Eye above the tree line of St. James Park below.
The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, is an observation wheel in London, England. At the time of building, it was the biggest in the world at 443 feet high. Designed by architects David Marks, Julia Barfield, Malcolm Cook, Mark Sparrowhawk, Steven Chilton, Frank Anatole and Nic Bailey, the wheel carries 32 sealed and air-conditioned passenger capsules attached to its external circumference. Each capsule holds approximately 25 people. It rotates at 10 in per second (about 0.5mph) so that one revolution takes about 30 minutes.
St. James Park: St James’s Park is the oldest of the Royal Parks of London in the City of Westminster, London, just east of Buckingham Palace and west of Whitehall and Downing Street. The St James’s area, including St. James’s Palace, is just to the north. The park is 58 acres in size.
The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk: The Diana Memorial Walk winds its way in a figure-of-eight through four of London’s Royal parks, linking three palaces and two mansions associated with her life. Marked by 90 handsome circular plaques set into the walkways, the $1.9 million Walk is seven miles long and has been described in the British press as “one of the most magnificent urban parkland walks in the world”.
Westminster Abbey: The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster, which is almost always referred to by its original name of Westminster Abbey, is mainly a Gothic church, on the scale of a cathedral (and served as one from 1546 – 1556), in Westminster, London, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster.
It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English monarchs including:
Also many poets and writers have been buried here at Westminster Abbey better known as the Poets Corner. These include:
The following were buried in the abbey but later removed on the orders of Charles II:
*Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector
*Admiral Robert Blake
Church of St. Margaret, Westminster: The Anglican church of St Margaret, Westminster, historically part of the hundred of Ossulstone in the county of Middlesex, is situated in the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Parliament Square, and is the parish church of the British Houses of Parliament in London. It is dedicated to Margaret of Antioch.
Originally founded in the 12th century by Benedictine monks, so that local people who lived in the area around the Abbey could worship separately at their own simpler parish church, it was rebuilt from 1486 to 1523. It became the parish of the Palace of Westminster in 1614, when the Puritans of the 17th century, unhappy with the highly liturgical Abbey, chose to hold Parliamentary services in the more ‘suitable’ St Margaret’s, a practice that has since continued. The Church of St. Margaret is now a World Heritage Site.
Methodist Central Hall: Methodist Central Hall, Westminster is on Victoria Street in London, just off Parliament Square, next to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre and facing Westminster Abbey. It is a multi-purpose building – a Methodist church, a conference and exhibition centre, an art gallery, an office building, and a tourist attraction. The Great Hall seats up to 2352 people. Central Hall was erected to mark the centenary of John Wesley’s death and was built in 1912. Central Hall hosted the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. It has been regularly used for political rallies where such famous speakers including Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill have delivered speeches.
The Palace of Westminster: The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, in London is where the two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) meet to conduct their business. The Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the London borough of the City of Westminster close by other government buildings in Whitehall. The palace is one of the largest Parliaments in the world.
On 16 October 1834, most of the Palace was destroyed by a fire. Only Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower, the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel and the cloisters survived. In 1836, the Royal Commission chose Charles Barry’s plan for a Gothic style palace. The foundation stone was laid in 1840; the Lords’ Chamber was completed in 1847, and the Commons’ Chamber in 1852.
Clock Tower, Palace of Westminster: The Clock Tower is the world’s largest four-faced, chiming turret clock. The structure is situated at the north-eastern end of the Houses of Parliament building in Westminster, London. It is almost universally called “Big Ben” which is actually the main bell housed within the Clock Tower. The tower was raised as a part of Charles Barry’s design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire on the night of 22 October 1834. Although Barry was the chief architect of the palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower.
Monument to the Women of World War II: The Monument stands 22 feet high, 16 feet long and 6 feet wide. The lettering on the sides replicates the typeface used on war time ration books. There are 17 individual sets of clothing and uniforms around the sides, symbolizing the hundreds of different jobs women undertook in World War II and then gave back for the homecoming men at the end of the war.
Nelson’s Column: Nelson’s Column is a monument in Trafalgar Square, London, England. There is a common misconception made that the column was built so that a statue of Nelson could stand on top. The truth however is that the statue of nelson was added afterwards and the column was originally built as a monument to British building capabilities. Built between 1840 and 1843 it was than designed to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The four lions, by Sir Edwin Landseer, at the column’s base were not added until 1867.
The Motorized Hackney Cab: The Motorized hackney cab is a conventional four-door saloon car that only London, and several other large cities, uses. These specially-designed hackney carriages are manufactured by just one company—LTI. These vehicles normally allow up to five passengers in the back, but some cars are rebuilt and licensed to carry six.
At the End of the Day
Then at around sun-set we grabbed some food for take out from a Turkish Restaurant that Caner eats at frequently. We decided to dine at a local park where we sat under a tree and indulged in our kabobs and rice. It was very nice to relax after our long day exploring the streets of London. We then returned home where we were going to take a nap before the night life began. Natasha ended up retiring early to get over her jet-lag while Caner and I spent the night on the town. I got to see London by night and visit a club that played hip- hop…techno style. Very interesting I must say, not quit how we do things in America 🙂 Last but not least, on our way home we witnessed a fight that had broken out between a number of guys in the streets of London.
*Indented information was copied from Wikipedia to display accurate information on some of the sites that I had visited during my stay in London