I’ve returned home after a glorious week traipsing around London! Yes, impossible to see it all or do it all, but one can catch a glimpse, and for this traveler the sights were awe-filled. What struck me more this visit than any other is the fast-paced new-innovations that are capturing the cityscape, and the fact that these new wonders reside along with all the historical treasures the UK boasts.
Starting with the ancient we traveled by train out of London and outlying towns to Windsor Castle. We thoroughly enjoyed the hour long train ride taking in the early spring popping all over the rural landscape. The castle rests high on a hill and we saw it as soon as the train neared the station. Stepping through the gates we were treated with a grand structure that has been inhabited by Kings and Queens for almost 1,000 years. Windsor Castle is still the present Queen’s weekend home, and has the distinction of being the oldest and largest working castle in the world.
Antiquity is everywhere: in the ironwork, the intricate stonework, and the iconic structures that form this majestic residence.
Outside a visitor is free to capture the beauty through photographs, but I did take a few inside as well, before I noticed the no photos sign. (Sorry! Jet-lag is my honest excuse!) In these few photos you can spy the interior grandeur. Queen Victoria was the first to open the castle to the public, and people have been queuing up ever since to drink in the majesty.
As we leave this stone and wood and gold embellished place we head back to one of the newest wonders lighting up the River Thames: the London Eye. Since its first ride in 2000, the Eye quickly became the UK’s most popular paid attraction. One time around takes about 30 minutes and on a clear day you can see 25 miles in every direction. Inside each spacious and comfortable capsule is great information on what you are viewing down below. The London Eye is open every day of the year (except Christmas) so there is no reason to miss this experience.
London knows no boundaries while mixing the old and the new. After several hours exploring the Tate Modern (and lunch on its most spectacular balcony) we strolled across the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were fortunate to arrive in time for Evensong and listen to the wonderful choir ringing through that high painted dome. Heading back we made our way past the Globe Theater to reach the new Shard by nightfall. (Along the way we passed this extraordinary excavated old church.)
Serendipity brought us to another fascinating combination of the old and the new: the Tunnel, which has been an authorized graffiti area since 2008 as it is no longer a pass way for vehicles. Set up by the infamous and elusive Banksy, this ever changing public art forum was quite an unexpected delight for us.
A trip to London is not complete without taking in a show– we were fortunate to attend a new and moving production of Ibsen’s “Ghosts”, as well as meet the downstairs cast of Downton Abbey, hard at work filming their 5th season. While Ibsen’s characters were trying to escape their ‘ghosts’, Julian Fellowes is busy reinventing them. Who can doubt that London is a city that knows how to fill a stage with drama?
As all good things end, so did my short week in London. But as I returned to the ground beneath the large metal wings, I felt content, knowing I bring home the treasure of memory and the surety that I will return to London, the city of dreams.