Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sybil & Bill, part II

When (aunt) Sybil and (uncle) Bill returned to London from their trip north to Edinburgh and York, the weather had taken a dramatic turn for the better -- warm, sunny, and glorious.  What a difference from when they first arrived!

On Saturday we went into central London and did some sightseeing...
The London Eye
From the Westminster Bridge
Big Ben
Westminster Abbey
Buckingham Palace
Setting up for the Jubilee Concert
Diamond Jubilee plaque in front of the palace
Wellington Arch
And for the grand finale, a West End performance of Wicked. It was a fabulous show, and more than made up for the dud we had seen the week before.
Sunday we took the train to Hampton Court Palace, former home of Henry VIII, Charles I, William & Mary, and George II.  It was a perfect day to explore the palace and its extensive gardens.
Hampton Court Palace Gates
Rose Garden
Main Entrance
This guy clearly doesn't trust Josh around his beer
One of six giant fireplaces in the kitchens
Fountain in Base Court
Great Hall
Beautiful stained glass windows
Henry VIII and pals
South Front garden
My new hat came in handy on this warm, sunny day
Late afternoon sun on the palace
 On Monday, we took a cruise along the Thames to Greenwich.
The London Eye
World's largest photograph from the Queen's Silver Jubilee
The Shard
Tower Bridge
Tower of London
The Cutty Sark
 We disembarked in Greenwich and visited the National Maritime Museum...
Ship in a Bottle
Prince Frederick's Barge, ca 1731
Baltic Exchange memorial window: VICTORY
 And the adjacent Queen's House -- now used as an art gallery...
Tulip Stairs in Queen's House
And we enjoyed the amazing view from the hilltop by the Royal Observatory.  The 2012 Olympic equestrian events will be held in Greenwich, so we also got a sneak preview of the venue, which was still under construction.
Greenwich Olympic venue
Another beautiful day in London!  If only we could have weather like this all summer...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Market Day in St. Albans

While my aunt & uncle were off exploring Edinburgh and York on their own, I took a day trip with some of my AWC friends to the city of St. Albans, which is just north of London.  It has a lovely cathedral and a history that dates back 2,000 years to Roman times.  Every Wednesday and Saturday there is a street market in the center of town, so we went on a Wednesday to visit the market -- and were treated to an unexpected bonus of beautiful weather.

We were amazed at the variety of products for sale at the market (and the reasonable prices).
Hats - I bought a turquoise blue one
More flowers
Baked goods
Thanks to the sunny weather, and the upcoming AWC trip to Ascot, we collectively bought a lot of hats and fascinators at bargain prices.
Fascinating ladies!
Once we had run out of things to shop for, we made our way to Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, one of the oldest pubs in England, for lunch.
Lunch at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
We were pleasantly surprised by the menu, which was a vast improvement over the standard greasy pub fare.  Most of us ordered the Salad of the Day, which was so nicely presented that we all pulled out our cameras when they arrived.
Greek salad with grilled lamb kofta
We were also relieved that, despite the name, there was no actual cock fighting taking place -- although there were a few impressive taxidermied specimens on display inside.

After lunch we walked through Verulamium Park, which reflects the original Roman name for the city.  It was a lovely, grassy park with a lake filled with aquatic birds and a spray park for children (which was mobbed on this rare warm, sunny day).
Verulamium Park
In the park is a section of the old Roman city wall.
Roman wall
And finally, we made our way to St. Alban's Cathedral, which is one of the largest in England and dates back to the 11th century.  It is named after a Roman soldier named Alban who (according to legend) was beheaded on this site around 250 AD for sheltering a persecuted priest, making him the first Christian martyr in Britain.  As with most cathedrals, it has been added on to and rebuilt over the centuries, but remains an impressive architectural wonder.
St. Alban's Cathedral

Interior view
Stained glass window
Tile floor detail
Ceiling detail
Another window
Tower ceiling
The Quire
Wallingford Screen, ca 1480
After a stop for a cuppa on the way to the train station, we headed back to London.  What a lovely day trip!  I would definitely do it again, especially on a sunny Wednesday.