Spring Break 2007 Part Four

March 13 – London

After the Arsenal tour, I rushed over to Buckingham Palace, intending to catch the Changing of Guards but I was too late. I think it was over by the time I got there. But there was something else going on because there were throngs of people at the Palace. I was there with Jerome, the French guy, whom I had arranged to meet at Victoria station. We later found out that the President of Ghana was in town for a state visit on invitation from the Queen herself. There were many kinds of guards from different divisions dressed in their respective uniforms and mounted on horses. Having participated in such state visits myself when Central Band was involved in ceremonial duties, it was interesting to observe how another country does it.

Of course, this was a procession more than the actual ceremony. From where I was standing, I could only make out that horse-drawn carriages were carrying very important people, presumably the President of Ghana and his entourage. I’m thinking about the Istana being hidden away from the public eye in the midst of a forested area whereas the Buckingham Palace is not. Anyway, the picture on the right is a badly taken shot of the buglers. Isn’t it cool? Buglers on horses… Below is a twenty-second video of the military band.

After the police cleared the barricades, we made our way towards Westminster Abbey. Jerome hadn’t been here yet but he didn’t seem that interested so after snapping a couple of photos, we moved off towards the London Eye, where I had a ticket for 14:30. Jerome didn’t want to go on the London Eye so he decided to sit in MacDonald’s and wait for me. After collecting my online ticket from the machine, I joined the queue, which moved pretty fast.

There were seven of us in one capsule and it moves so smoothly and so slowly. You can’t tell you’re moving if you have your eyes closed. As it rose higher, the views started to get pretty amazing. You start to see the buildings get smaller, and the Eye is at a great location along the River Thames, so you can look down into Parliament Square, the Parks and Buckingham Palace from an aerial view. It is a terrific experience, though it was hard to avoid the reflections of the glass in the photos. I originally wanted to go in the evening and see London with its night lights but Rowie has night photos so we decided I’ll go in the daytime. I’m now looking forward to going up the Empire State Building to look at Manhattan’s skyline.

St. James’s Park, Ministry of Defence.. See if you can spot Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square

St. James’s Park, the Lake, and Buckingham Palace

Finally a decently taken shot

River Thames

I really like this one. It started the fascination with b/w photos as you will see later on in my Paris photos. Westminster Bridge, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament.

County Hall returns to the classics as we were descending.

Blackfriars Bridge with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. After I got off the London Eye, Jerome and I walked along the River because Meishi recommended that I visit Tate Modern. It was a nice slow stroll while we chatted about France and Singapore. Jerome is working for Michelin in France but is looking for a job in London to improve his English. In the course of my week, I met many people like him – all striving to find a better life and it made me give serious thought about what I was doing with my life. There are so many people out there who do not have as sheltered or as privileged a life as I do, yet I don’t count my blessings and continually yearn for more.

Slide installation at Tate Modern. It’s exactly like a water theme park, just without the water.

Next to Tate Modern is Shakespeare’s Globe. I didn’t have the opportunity to visit London with my class when they went for a Literature field trip in 2000 because it clashed with the band’s New Zealand trip, so here I was, making up for it seven years later. There was a school tour going on inside so I didn’t go in. Entrance fee was really expensive too! £18 is S$54! So I had to make do with photos of the exterior. They have a very cool souvenir shop though. Shakespeare collectibles!

Couldn’t see the real thing, so I had to make do with the miniature.

That’s me on Millennium Bridge with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. It was almost four in the afternoon and had been a long day of walking, but I was far from done! Jerome was tired though because he had a leg injury in the past from playing football, and he said he wasn’t the tourist attraction type. We entered the Cathedral, which unfortunately was undergoing restoration works, so some areas were inaccessible. But it was very majestic and yet serene inside. Photography was prohibited though so I only have photos of the exterior. European architecture is breathtaking. I’ll say that again and again. Inside the Cathedral though, there are sculptures commemorating British soldiers who have died while serving the country. Perfectly fine in a museum in my opinion, but not in a holy sanctuary.

Jerome decided to return to the hostel for a nap after we finished with St. Paul’s Cathedral but I still had Tower of London and Tower Bridge on my itinerary so we agreed to meet back at the hostel after I was done. I tubed to Tower Hill station and walked over the the Tower, only to find that I reached ten minutes after the last entrance. What a bummer.

Anyway, the Tower of London is a World Heritage Site that houses the Crown Jewels and Queen Elizabeth I used to be imprisoned here as well. Many historical stories about this palace, too many to recall right now.

Again, restoration works at the Tower of London

History and modernity meets.

Another one that I like. Simple and pleasing to the eye.

Tower Bridge

I sat down beside the River and checked my itinerary. It was hard to imagine that I actually managed to finish all of what I set out to do in London. There was still plenty to do – I didn’t visit the West side of London – but that would have to wait for a later time. It was coming to the end of my stay in London and I would be boarding a flight to Paris the next morning.

That evening, I returned to the hostel to meet up with Jerome. Three other people had checked in to our room, Anthony (another Kiwi), another girl (Australia) and another guy (France). I spent some time talking to Anthony, telling him about my time in NZ when I was there in 2000. He is also here working and what’s amazing about these people I meet is that they are here looking for jobs, without any long term plans. To keep costs low, they move from hostel to hostel with whatever belongings they have. I don’t think I can envision my life like that, other than as a backpacking tourist. I need a proper home to return to each day! Well, it was nice meeting these people randomly and just finding out what each other’s lives are about. Maybe our paths will cross again someday.

Vanessa and Anthony, both Kiwis

Anthony and me


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