Before the airplane touched down, I had the opportunity to see London from the air.   Heathrow was very busy and the pilot had to circle around London for about half an hour before getting clearance to land.   I saw the London Eye, Big Ben, the Thames and loads of other sights that I will mention in detail later.   It was early afternoon on a beautiful sunny day in June when I took the tube from Sudbury Town to Baker Street and began my whirlwind visit of London and Yorkshire.

The following pages will take you through my stay in the UK.   I've attempted to incorporate my own feelings and comments along with a bit of history and facts about each place I visited.   While in London I got around mostly on the Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge took 8 years and 432 construction workers to complete (1886-1894) and is one of the world's most famous bridges.   It's a very busy bridge as 150,000 vehicles cross it every day.   The bridge lifts over 900 times a year to let tall ships, cruise liners and other large craft pass through.

Massive piers had to be sunk into the river bed to support the construction, over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the towers and walkways.   This was then clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone, both to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the bridge a more pleasing appearance.   It is a beautiful and unique looking bridge.

You simply can't miss Big Ben, it's 320 feet high!   The four dials of the clock are 23 feet square, the minute hand is 14 feet long and the figures are 2 feet high.   Minutely regulated with a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum, Big Ben is an excellent timekeeper, which has rarely stopped.

The name Big Ben actually refers not to the clock-tower itself , but to the thirteen ton bell hung within.   The bell was named after the first commissioner of works, Sir Benjamin Hall.

During the second world war in 1941, an incendiary bomb destroyed the Commons chamber of the Houses of Parliament, but the clock tower remained intact and Big Ben continued to keep time and strike away the hours, its unique sound was broadcast to the nation and around the world, a welcome reassurance of hope to all who heard it.

To the left, the London Eye can be seen.   The view is just spectacular.   You can see up to 25 miles in each direction with views over some of the world's most famous sights, including St Paul's, the Palace of Westminster and Windsor Castle.   It is 135 metres above the London skyline. I had the pleasure of 'flying' on the wheel, but with all the excitement, I forgot to pack an extra roll of film...

Big Ben

The London Eye
Fortunately, a friend of mine did take some excellent shots on the London Eye.   With his permission, here are a couple:

I had a suspicion that I would be able to see over the roof tops but I don't think anything quite prepares you for the actual view!   I loved it, even though I am frightened of heights and wouldn't get too close to the glass walls.   I would do it again in a heart beat.
Big Ben and Parliament from the air

Palace of Westminster
The House of Parliament or more properly called the Palace of Westminster is one of the oldest representative assemblies in the world, having its origins in the mid-13th Century.   From the 14th Century, parliamentary government in the United Kingdom has been based on a two-chamber system.   The House of Lords (the upper house) and the House of Commons (the lower house) sit separately and are constituted on entirely different principles.   The relationship between the two Houses is governed largely by convention but is in part defined by the Parliament Acts.   The legislative process involves both Houses of Parliament and the Monarch.

The original palace dating back to the times of Edward The Confessor was burnt down in 1834, leaving only Westminster Hall and one of the Towers the Jewel Tower remaining.   It's an impressive view from across the Thames.

The flag was flying over Buckingham Palace when I took this picture, meaning that HRH Queen Elizbeth was at 'home'.   I didn't call in simply because I had much more of London to see!

Buckingham House was built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703.   George III (There's a good movie based on the life of George III. It's called The Madness of King George.   Related Links) purchased the house in 1762 and used it as one of the royal family's London homes.   George IV employed John Nash to build a new palace around the old house.   Nash designed the building with Marble Arch as the main entrance.   Marble Arch was later moved to Hyde Park.   It was not until 1837 that Queen Victoria made Buckingham Palace the royal family's principal London residence.   The palace has about 600 rooms and is surrounded by 20 hectares of gardens.   With that many rooms, it wouldn't take me long to get lost.   Perhaps Buckingham Palace would be a great place to host a season of 'Survivor'!

Buckingham Palace

Tower of London
The Tower of London was crowded but it was on my 'must do' list and how can one really see London without visiting the Tower?   It was a home for some and a prison for others.   The Tower still belongs to H M the Queen and is still classed as a royal palace.

William the Conqueror began building, what is now known as the Tower of London, in 1078.   The first buildings were the White Tower and its Norman chapel, which is the oldest church in London.   Over the next 400 years the garrison was rebuilt, altered and enlarged.   Henry II organised the construction of the inner wall which surrounds Tower Green, the White Tower and other buildings.   Edward I extended the walled fortress and built Traitor's Gate, Beauchamp and St. Thomas Towers.   The Bloody Tower was added in the 14th century.

Through Traitor's Gate, many a soul entered the Tower only to be held as traitors to the Crown until they were freed or eventually executed on Tower Hill.

According to legend when Princess Elizabeth arrived on Palm Sunday 1554 she refused at first to land at the gate, angrily proclaiming that she was no traitor.   A sharp shower of rain however, caused her to change her mind.   Later, when as Queen she visited the Tower she insisted on passing throughTraitor's Gate.   "What was good enough for Elizabeth the Princess is good enough for Elizabeth the Queen", she is supposed to have told the Constable.

Traitor's Gate

Yeoman Warder
The Yeomans are kept very busy nowadays with somewhat different duties.   They pose for tons of pictures daily with the multitude of visitors and they are at the ready to answer the many questions about the Tower they are asked.   They were originally established in 1485 as King Henry VIII's bodyguard.   The Yeomans are perhaps best known for their smart scarlet and gold dress uniforms which date to 1552 and are worn on state occasions.   In 1858, Queen Victoria granted the Yeomans the blue dress uniform as seen in the picture.

The Yeomen Warders, also known as the beefeaters, are armed with a haberd or pike known as a partisan.   The Chief Warder carries a staff surmounted by a silver model of the White Tower, while his second-in-command, the Yeoman Gaoler, possesses a ceremonial axe.

More of London awaits.

Exploring London

London Page 2

Exploring Yorkshire

Related Links
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