It’s hard to believe, but I have been home from vacation in London, Normandy, and Paris for almost a month!
What is not too hard to believe is that it has taken me this long to blog about it 😉
This vacation was a bit of a departure for us because we were not going with a specific plan to DO anything. Not visiting friends, not hiking or backpacking. Paul was in London last Summer for work and liked it so much that he decided he wanted to share it with me so we planned a trip back this Summer.
This will mark the third time that I have travelled to Europe and I was really pleased with my travel outfit and plan this go round so if you are interested in learning more I posted a photo on Instagram of my carry on bag and a few of my essentials and I blogged about them HERE.
We stayed right by Parliament so it was one of the first things that I got to see after we arrived. Our first day in London we just got acquainted with the city and walked around taking in the ambiance. It was a good way to walk off some jet leg and get situated. I was also introduced to Gordon’s wine bar. They have the most amazing port and the whole place is a tiny underground cellar. Parts of the ceiling are vaulted and barely 6 feet tall. Always packed and a great place to unwind and people watch.
We kicked off Day Two with a tour of Westminster Abbey. We arrived fairly early and the line was already intimidatingly long, but like most of the other places we stood inline this trip the lines moved surprisingly fast. There is no photography allowed inside the abbey, but the building is one of the most magnificent that I have ever seen. The front entrance gives you a little idea, but the inside is just insane.
You might not know this, but I did not go to school for photography. I majored in Interior Design with a minor in architecture. This will explain why most of my vacation pictures are of buildings!
Once we got inside the Abbey we took a Verger tour. The Vergers are members of the clergy. Back when the Abbey was first built it was a much different environment. The aristocracy would sit in the Sanctuary of the abbey while the peasants would crowd into the Nave. The Verger said that it was often more like a market than a church in the Nave. It was the Verger’s job to carry the Virge, which is a ceremonial rod and precede the religious participants down the aisle. Our Verger said it was not uncommon for the Vergers of old to have to use their Virge to hold back unruly spectators or even animals.
Our Verger was a very good speaker and funny in the way that the British are, all dry humor and masked sarcasm. This tour was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.
We started our tour in the Nave of the church and got to see the coronation chair, which dates from 1297. Every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned here, with the exception of Edward V (who was murdered prior to his coronation) and Edward VIII (who abdicated).
There are more than 3,000 people buried in the Abbey and they are everywhere – the walls, the floors, in crypts. As we approached the Choir Screen our Verger pointed out that Charles Darwin was interred just to the left of the screen. He said that we might find it odd that Darwin would be buried in the Abbey, given his relationship with the Church but really the Church thought it was a nice way to ease the rift. And also since he is interred right in the middle of the walkway he hasn’t had a moments peace ever since. Turns out the Church of England is just as passive aggressive as the rest of us.
We got to sit in the Choir loft and see where the Queen sits when she attends service, which was pretty cool.
Part of the verger tour that you do not get access to with regular admission is getting to visit the Chapel and tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor. This was a really cool additional opportunity that I enjoyed. While we were in this chapel the Verger told us the story of how the British monarch stole the coronation stone of Scotland – known as the Stone of Destiny after they conquered Scotland and had the coronation chair built around it. Then when the King (or Queen) of England was crowned they were also being crowned monarch of Scotland. Recently England was convinced to return the stone to Scotland. The Verger told us all that if we ever visit Scotland be sure to say hello to the stone for them. And if we are feeling extra brave, steal it and bring it back because they miss it.
I also learned that the chained unicorn on the Royal Seal stands for a conquered Scotland. Ireland is included through the harp and the clover.
I find history and trivia really interesting so going on vacation with me involves a lot of spewing of random facts that I am learning. London Bridge and the Tower Bridge are not the same thing, though they are right next to one another. London Bridge (pictured above, is a very regular looking bridge. Tower Bridge (pictured below) is the one most people think of.
We visited the Tower of London and I was really looking forward to taking the tour led by the Beefeaters. Beefeaters are all active duty military and this is pretty much their retirement gig. I just really like the idea of a bunch of Sergeant Majors showing us all the sights.
Well, we stood in the little waiting area and they come out and tell us that they won’t be doing the tour today because it’s raining. Yeah, hahaha, funny guys. It’s England. It rains all the time.
They were serious. No tour for us.
It was still really fun to walk around and look at the place where so much history happened. It is much smaller in real life than I always imagined it would be reading about it. (I read a lot of historical fiction)
I took a photo of this statue in particular because Lumley is my grandmother’s family. The family castle, Lumley Castle still stands on the Eastern coast of Northern England. It is a hotel now and someday I hope to get to go visit it and stay there.
Our last day in London we went to the natural history museum and walked through Hyde Park.
The Museum was really cool. We only saw part of it because there was just so much to see. I especially liked the whale skeleton in the atrium and the animatronic T-Rex. Watching the people watch the T Rex was almost as amusing as the attraction itself.
One other thing that we learned while in Hyde Park is that in England roller dancing is still a thing.
Yep, dancing on roller skates. I wish I would have taken video.