London, England

Friday, August 5, 2011

Expedition London 2011 in Snapshots

Click the play button to run the photobook as a slide show;  or advance single pages by clicking the forward and back arrows.  If you choose the slide show, you can speed it up or slow it down by selecting "options" and moving the slider bar.

All photographs are original, taken by me, during the study abroad program

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Home Sweet Home

At several points today, I was not sure that I was going to make it home.   We missed the train because the screens in the station said delayed when it wasn't and it wasn't displaying the platform number so we didn't know which turnstiles to enter.  The flight out of Gatwick was overbooked.  It took an hour to get our bags from the international flight and then we had to go through customs, recheck the baggage, and go through security again.  But, after a healthy jog through the Atlanta airport, we (at that point, Jen and I)got to the plane about 10 minutes prior to the doors closing.

And, I made it!

It’s only been 3 weeks.  My family talks like it has been MONTHS.  But all is well.   And, a trip like this does make you appreciate things a little more and often it’s the little things.  So, aside from people and pets, what did I miss?
1.       Moe’s
2.       My own bathroom
3.       Free toilets everywhere
4.       The beach
5.       Drink refills
6.       Free water at restaurants
7.       Inexpensive movies
And what will I miss about London, aside from the people?
1.       The shows
2.       Car-free transportation
3.       Free museums
4.       Easy meals from Sainsbury
5.       The fruit (it’s super-fresh)
6.       The street life – there’s always something going on at Covent Garden or Piccadilly Circus
7.       Tax (UK sales tax) is built into the price, so you pay, what it is marked
Finally, what did I get from this trip?  What did I learn?  What has been reinforced?
1.       How to use Web 2.0 technologies
2.       That I can write to an audience
3.       Podcasting isn’t scary
4.       Video is fun
5.       Multiple audio tracks is easy with Audacity
6.       After  11 years of being constantly with my children, I can still do alone
7.       I’m pretty confident about being me, no matter the circumstances
8.       Most people just want to get along and do what needs to be done and want acceptance and have fears and dreams and we’re all the same that way
9.       People everywhere like M&Ms.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Queen's Residences

Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham House, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Balmoral Castle, and St. James Palace are all residences of the Queen.
I had the pleasure of visiting two of the Queen’s residences, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.    Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s London residence, while Windsor is her preferred weekend residence.  Windsor is the older of the two structures.  The first phase of Windsor was built by William the Conqueror and was meant to be a fortification.  King Henry I was the first king to live there fulltime and each successive king (or queen) has spent a large amount of time at the castle.    Take a look at my Glogster for pictures, video, and a podcast about this amazing royal property.

When the queen is in residence, her standard (her flag) is flown over head.  When she is not present, the Union Jack is flown.
Since the royal family visits Scotland every year for August and September, the union jack was flying during our visit to Buckingham Palace.   (It was flying during my visit to Windsor as well, because the Queen was in attendance at a wedding in Scotland.)

Buckingham Palace is a luxurious, but purposeful estate.  The state rooms are sumptuous, yet still practical.  Housed in those rooms are many collections, such as works of art and china.  However, each room still has a purpose, is used, and contains the furniture necessary for use.  Needless to say, I was impressed with both the decor and the usefulness of the each room. 

Interestingly, comparing Windsor with Buckingham Palace, I could feel that Buckingham Palace largely reflects Queen Victoria's tastes, while Windsor felt more like King Henry VIII. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Henry VIII's Hampton Court

Beautiful Hampton Court located in Surrey first came into Royal ownership under Henry VIII.  Prior to Henry VIII, Hampton Court was owned by Cardinal Woolsey, famous for his role in Henry’s plight to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.   Following Henry, other monarchs continued to use Hampton Court as a country house.  The palace that was initially built in the Gothic style would be redesigned by Christopher Wren, under the bidding of King William and Queen Mary.  This rebuilding coast 113,000 pounds in the early 1690s.  In today’s economy, that would be 17,100,000 pounds according to the measuring worth calculator (found at   The English kings and queens continued to use Hampton Court as a weekend house and preferred hunting ground until 1737, at which point it was divided up into apartments for “grace and favour” residents.  Finally, Queen Victoria opened the court for tours to all.

The tour at Hampton Court is decidedly different than some of the other Royal estates.  Because it is not in use as a Royal residence, it caters more to tourists.  Everyone gets an audio tour and there are several options to choose from, including King Henry’s Kitchens, Henry VIII’s youth, and Henry’s apartments, as well as, a set of tours about Mary and William.   The kitchens were the most intriguing to me.  I was surprised to learn that 75% of Henry’s diet was meats and that his diet was so out of balance, that some even think that he suffered from scurvy.  On a regular basis, the kitchen at Hampton Court prepared meals for over 600 people and the kitchen had managers who were responsible for the ordering of the supplies, counting the food before meals and counting the leftovers, and for caring for and keeping track of the dishes. 

Also, I found it interesting the evidence of each of Henry’s wives can be seen in the state apartments.  As he was expanding Hampton Court, the rooms added reflect in some way, something about his wife at that time.  Even though he attempted to have all signs of prior wives removed, none were completely eradicated..

Henry VIII is most known for having six wives; however, it is impossible to forget the indelible mark he left on England in his building projects and in his politics.

Royal Historical Palaces. (2004). Hampton Court Palace. Retrieved from

Monday, August 1, 2011

Memorials to Princess Diana

Princess Diana was much loved by the British people.  After her passing, the Diana Memorial Fountain and the Diana Memorial Playground were erected in her honor.   These memorials speak to Diana's love for children and embody her spirit.  To the visitor, each feels like something that she would have created and both honor her memory in a very special way.

The first to open was the Diana Memorial Playground.  The playground includes a giant pirate ship, musical play, a telescope, swing set, teepees, and a number of other surprises peeping out all around.  It was inspired by the Peter Pan stories.  The playground captures the imagination of children and adults alike.  I was fortunate to be able to visit the playground.  It is open for adults only from 9:30 - 10:00 AM, and then at 10 AM, it opens for the children -- and no adults are permitted unless they have a child with them.  My classmates and I had fun trying out the instruments and hopping and climbing throughout the playground!

The second memorial is the Diana Memorial Fountain.  It is not a traditional fountain with a statue in the middle spouting water into a large bowl or pond at the bottom.  This fountain looks more like a lazy river.  Water bubbles up from the top and then two streams travel in a semi-circle down hill to a small wading pond at the bottom, creating a complete circle.  There are several bridges crossing the river, as well as a bumpy design in one area, intended to make the water look like a water fall.  It is no deeper than mid-calf (on an adult) at any point.  This is a fountain that children are supposed to play in -- and today they did.  

Both memorials have the same sense of tranquility and sweetness, as well as, feeling inviting to all ages, which I think truly represents who Princess Diana was to the world. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Some things are universal...

Today, I was out and about and stumbled upon the M&M London store.  The store was so crowded that it was hard to get to the merchandise. It was filled with all the things that I had seen in other M&M stores in the USA, but it also had a lot of items that were specific to London -- M&Ms dressed at palace guards, knights, and princesses.  The store has many picture opportunities with large M&M figures, M&M portrait paintings, and even a live, costumed M&M.  So cute!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

London Transportation

Mass transit in London is incredible.  It runs on-time, goes everywhere, and offers a variety of ways to get to most places.  In London, you can travel by bus, tube (aka subway), rail, taxi, water taxi, or rent a bicycle.  If you are going far, there are three airports (London City, Heathrow, and Gatwick) and the Eurostar.  Also, down by Oxford Circus there are rickshaws.  The government runs the tube and bus, while all other forms of transportation are overseen by private entities.  (Barclay's bank rents the bicycles.) 

Here is how I used mass transit today.  Today, I went to Windsor Castle, which is in Windsor, near Eton, about 35 minutes from London by train.  I boarded the Central line tube at Holborn station and took it to Oxford Circus;  there, I switched lines to the Bakerloo line and took it to Paddington Station.  At Paddington, I bought a train ticket and took the rail to Windsor, with a change at Slough.  Coming back, I did the rail (change at Slough), to Paddington station, then took the Bakerloo line on the tube to Oxford Circus, at which point I got on the Central line and went to the Marble Arch stop to do some window shopping. 

The beauty of this was that the maps are SO good, that it was EASY.

London has the oldest underground system in the world and it seems to constantly be being maintained.  With the upcoming 2012 Olympics being held in London, the event planners are looking to increasing the bus service and tube trips, and will be using the river as a major route to and from the Olympic grounds.    Several water taxi companies already accept the Oyster card.

Oyster card?  What's that? you ask.  The Oyster card is a prepaid card that riders simply swipe when they get on the tube, bus, or specific water taxis.  Its a smart system.  First of all, Oyster card users get discounted fairs.  Second, the computers track how much you've used it in a day and there is a cap.  For example, on Saturdays, no matter how much you use the tube, you will not be charged more than $6.60 on your Oyster card.  Finally, you can forgo waiting in long ticket lines, and you can top off using an automated machine.

Mass transit is important in London.  London has 7.5 million residents, making emissions a big issue.  To encourage people to use mass transit and try to curtail the ever looming problem of emissions and pollution, London has a congestion charge.  The congestion charge is an emissions-based fee that is charged to people who drive into London on weekdays.  The fee is 10 pounds per day for travel within the congestion zone between the hours of 7 am and 6 pm.  That money is earmarked for improvements to the mass transit system.  That is a hefty sum.  Fifty pounds per week times 52 weeks in a year equals 2600 pounds in a year.  People are finding that they need to use public transportation.

This system is an amazing engineering feat and while here, and carless, I have learned to use it and love it.