I was home from my Easter weekend trip to Victoria for just a few days before leaving on the longest trip of my life so far - my first trip abroad to London, England! My husband needed to go there for work, as he has several people there who report to him, and so I went along for the ride and got to play while he was working during the week.
We spent the day on Sunday with his best friend from high school and her family, wandering about the east side of London. Much of our day was spent walking along the towpath next to one of the canals, which had all kinds of interesting things to see including a floating bookshop.
On Monday I was on my own, so armed with my trusty Oyster card to ride the Underground, I headed off to the day's sights - St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. I climbed all the way to the top of the Golden Gallery at St. Paul's, which is nearly 600 steps from the cathedral floor, and took some wonderful pictures. One of my favorites is the one below, taken with the fisheye lens attachment I got for my iPhone camera - the weather couldn't have been much better for my visit that day!
Of the two cathedrals, I much preferred St. Paul's to Westminster. Both are absolutely stunning buildings and both had wonderful tourist/visitor support with self-guided tours, but it was St. Paul's that really stood out to me as being true to its origins and much more "holy" in some ways. Westminster has been much more the "royalty's cathedral" and as such there are tombs and memorials stuffed everywhere in the building, so much so that it's almost too crowded to walk around in some areas, and that really made the ambiance a bit spoilt for me. I much preferred the flat plaque memorials in the cloisters, especially the section for scientists (and Edmund Halley, whose memorial is in the shape of a comet!), as that seems like a more appropriate location for such things.
After visiting the two cathedrals, I wandered over to Piccadilly and ended up on Carnaby Street, which is stuffed full of shops both local and international. There were a few too many American stores for my taste, which I did not visit just on principle, but I found the most whimsical and fun shoe store I've ever seen - Irregular Choice.
I ended up taking home a pair of shoes that I fell in love with, which have little rosettes and trim made of measuring tape plus clear lucite short heels - they're wonderful, and something I can wear. I was amused by many of the other shoes there, but none were quite able to fit in with my possible uses for them, sadly - I just don't wear crazy clothes or heels.
On Tuesday, I took a tour through Golden Tours that took me to the city of Bath, the village of Ludlow, and then to a sunset after-hours and up close tour of Stonehenge. Despite storms in London, the sun was out for our time spent in Bath, where the restored Roman Baths are available for touring. I only had a bit over an hour to go through the tour, and I wish I'd had a bit more time, but it was quite enjoyable nonetheless - and I did drink a bit of the water, and left a coin in the wishing well while I was there. Before I got on the bus to continue the tour, I bought a tasty beef pasty from a Cornish pasty shop, and then got a very disappointing milkshake from a cookie shop - apparently the British don't make their milkshakes the way Americans do!
Much of our day was spent driving through the rainstorms around southern England, which gave rise to a beautiful rainbow that developed from a short double bow into a full arc over the course of our trip in the morning.
The village of Ludlow was very nice, although again I wish I'd had more than an hour to explore around the village and to see the abbey. I found and bought a hand-spun and hand-knit hat from local wool, and found some of the most beautiful wool capes that I seriously considered buying. Both the village and the abbey have been used for some of the filming of Harry Potter in addition to other shows, and the grounds are absolutely lovely.
Finally, we made it to Stonehenge, which was visible from a pretty good distance away and which was deserted now that it was after closing time. With a quick go-over of the rules (don't touch anything!) and a bit more on the history and theories of the site, our guide turned us loose and we had about an hour to walk around the stones and enjoy the time there. The weather was cold, sunny, and windy while we were there, which gave me opportunities for some very neat pictures.
Back of one of the standing stones that still has its lintel stone in place. The sun is setting behind the stone on the left.
Overall view of Stonehenge.
Closeup view of some of the lichen growing on the stones - that's why you're not supposed to touch them, as much of this lichen is very rare and some only grows on these stones. It was pretty neat to see it, very different from other lichens I've seen.
The setting sun provided plenty of opportunity for shadows and interesting shots - I am particularly proud of this one. Yes, I'm wearing my new hat for this picture!
That's plenty of stuff for one blog post, I think - I will stop off there at the end of the day Tuesday, and leave the rest for my next post!