Saturday, September 29, 2007

In the beginning...

Oh, to be in England,
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf,
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now.
-- Robert Browning, Home Thoughts from Abroad

I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me for a tour of England! If you would like the full “England effect,” you’ll have to go make yourself a cup of tea.

If you don’t have time to take the grand tour, following the post archive on the left will navigate you to specific places. Also, labels at the ends of posts will take you to other entries with those same keywords.

Note: To enlarge any of the pictures, just click on them. Some of them just don't look as good when they're small!

I’ve set up the traveblogue so that you can start at the top and read the posts in order. You can click on "older posts" at the bottom of the page you've just finished reading in order to go to the next day.


Why England? Our family lived in England for 3 ½ years while my father was in the military, but we haven’t been back since 1995. We thought it was high time to visit again, and college graduation for my sister last year and for me this past year proved the perfect excuse. Also, my sister and I delight in all things English – literature, music, movies, tea, British accents! Presumably you also like those things if you are reading this.

So sit back, put up your feet, and prepare for a three-week tour of England. We began our journey in London…

Day 1 -- London: Denham village and general reflections on London

Wednesday, July 25th

Denham village – Home Again

After landing in Heathrow, we boarded the Underground (or “Tube”) for the first time in over twelve years and rode to Earl’s Court Station. Our hotel was just around the corner from Earl’s Court, so we dropped off our luggage and set out for Denham, the village where we used to live. The tube and train rides were delightful and brought back many memories. The slow drizzle all afternoon only heightened our realization that we were actually in England! But somehow it all felt slightly surreal.

We got off on the Denham Golf Club stop and walked down the hill – the one we used to run up when we were running late for the train! The little penny candy store closed long ago, and even our old house looked different. But despite the changes, it was good being home again. Where we lived was known as Higher Denham. It began as an encampment for US soldiers in WWII, and eventually became a community. The roads are cleverly named “Upper,” “Middle,” and “Lower” roads.

Our old house:

We also visited old Denham village, with its delightful 12th century church, St. Mary’s.

"The Vicar"

The high street is lined with old brick homes, many covered in ivy and flowers.

Sir John Mills, the famous movie actor, lived in Denham – I remember Christmas caroling at his house when I was a child, at this beautiful brick beauty covered in wisteria:

Here are a few more views of the village:

We boarded the train once again and began our trek back to Earl's Court.

I suppose this would be a good place to include some general reflections on London, beyond the sightseeing and museums.

Most of the crazy people who actually drive in London sport vehicles such as this one:

My sister dubbed these "Rollerskate" cars because of their impossibly small design. It was too funny to see four people crammed into one of these little things. Can you imagine what insurance is like?

We rode this line quite a bit in London:

This is not the type of sign you want to see if you are planning on using the Underground:

Sometimes you even get entertainment on the Tube! They were actually quite good, and very funny.

Few things are associated with London more than the iconic black cabs:

Just outside the Earl's Court station entrance was a newstand with this adorable occupant:

Day 2 -- London: Big Bus Tour, Tower of London, Charing Cross Rd., and "The Mousetrap"

Thursday, July 26th

A Turn About London

Our plane tickets had come with a complimentary Bus tour, so that was our first destination of the day. We hopped on at Hyde Park Corner and sat on the upper level. You have probably already seen pictures of these places, but I’ll post a few pictures that I liked in particular.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Tower Bridge

Westminster Abbey:

The Albert Memorial in Hyde Park:

Two classic London sights -- a beautiful park and a double decker bus:

The Marble Arch:

Trafalgar Square -- Lord Nelson and his constant companions:

Her Majesty's Theatre -- home of Phantom of the Opera:

Waterloo Station:

The magnificent Royal Courts of Justice:

One of many beautiful statues in London:

The architecture was simply stunning. So many styles, and they all seemed to fit together perfectly!

One of the Royal Horse Guards:

A portion of a Roman wall across the street from the Tower of London:

The Tower of London

We hopped off the bus at the Tower of London and toured the inside. We saw several Beefeaters (Excuse me, Yeoman Warders), and even took our picture with a particularly furry, cuddly chap. Come to think of it, he didn’t look too much like the other Warders… Oh well, he was a sweet old teddy bear!

Here are a few other views of the beautiful Tower compound:

As we wandered around one of old halls, we looked out a window and saw that the Tower Bridge drawbridge had been raised for a ship to pass:

Charing Cross Road

Eventually abandoning the Big Bus Tour, we caught the tube and rode to Leicester Square. After checking for theatre tickets, we took advantage of our proximity to Charing Cross Rd. to do a little book shopping. It was almost overwhelming to see so many antique books! But when you have to double the price to account for the exchange rate, most of them went out of range. Having seen the movie “84 Charing Cross Rd,” I was in high hopes that No. 84 would be a delightful little second hand bookshop. It turned out instead to be a rather modern Pizza Hut. But, since I was not especially fond of the movie whose title matches that address, and since the food at Pizza Hut was quite good, I was not overly disappointed to eat at 84 Charing Cross instead of shop there!

We finished the evening by attending Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” at St. Martin’s Theatre, which is a perfectly delightful Victorian theatre – complete with red velvet seats and an ornate ceiling. Tiffany and I spent most of our “binocular” time examining the actors’ costumes! The lead female had a particularly nice 50’s housedress that we fell in love with at once... but these are the ravings of a costumer. But really, what better way could there be to end an evening than with some Agatha Christie?