It was cold and grey and damp during most of our days in London. Exactly how it's supposed to be. This of course is parliament and Big Ben and the London Eye in the background. Our first stop after the obligatory post trans-Atlantic flight nap as we figured we might as well get all the mandatory stuff out of the way early. Parliament was not in session on this particular day so we didn't go inside, but we've seen it on C-Span a few times and it sure looks like fun.
Before visiting the more famous Westminster (just next door), we visited St. Margaret's church. This is where everyone famous who isn't a member of the royal family seems to get married. Far far older than Westminster (it was built in the 11th century originally), the church seems most notable for the sheer volume of monuments inside it. Every available bit of floor space is filled with tombs. The walls several meters up are full of monuments, even the pews, the stained glass windows and the stand the fire extinguisher is on (check it out!) are dedicated to someone. It's basically a form of sanctioned graffitti wherein you also donate to the church.
Westminster abbey. No pictures allowed inside, so this is all you get. Inside, is the tomb of every person you've ever heard of who was born in the UK, and a few who weren't but seem to have been adopted anyway. (There's even a monument for Edgar Allan Poe) There's a basic roll call of English monarchs buried inside along with sections for politicians, war heros, scientists, poets, artists and composers. That's not counting the cloisters. Between this and St. Margaret's you'll never want to see another tomb again. However, the 13th century chapter house is worth the price of admission alone and was the one thing I would've really like to take pictures of.
Opposite the clock tower that contains Big Ben is the second major tower on the houses of Parliament. The Victoria tower contains the archives but it's really every bit as impressive as its more famous counterpart. This picture is from a nice riverside park where you can hide if you've survived crossing the traffic circles on either side of parliament.
This picture was taken from the train bridge leading into Charing Cross station. I could have saved a whole lot of effort by walking out on the pedestrian bridge next to it and taking the same picture in one attempt. Instead it took about 17 attempts to get a several-second exposure at night as the train entered the station. It wouldn't have taken so many attempts if the train hadn't needed to enter in tiny little spurts of a few feet every couple seconds interspersed with sudden stops.
Pictures from the train are actually much easier during the day. Here is a closer view of the London Eye which we did not bother to ride in. The views are supposedly quite good, but we decided to climb to the top of St. Paul's cathedral which is nearly as expensive but far more strenuous.
That's where we took this picture of the Globe Theatre from. We walked past it a few times but we never visited it. It seems well, strangely new and shiny somehow. We did visit a whole lot of museums though. One of the truly great things about London are the free museums. The background of this page is of the Rosetta Stone, which can be found in the British Museum surrounded by 700 people with cameras. Like us. The British Museum may have the worst floorplan of all museums on the planet. The basic design has several critical junctures between sections, and in each of those junctures they put one of the best known exhibits so that there's a huge crowd there. Oh yes and if you're looking for all the school children in Britain, try the mummies.
Pictures aren't allowed in St. Paul's either. Christopher Wren's masterpiece, made nicely possible by the London fire of 1666 involves a whole lot of stairs. Those of us who were missing an ACL during this trip (that would be Melanie) found this extra daunting. The view is nice though, even if you have to take it between annoyingly close columns. I'm sure Mr. Wren was just worried about visitors' safety though.
Despite the fire of 1666, most of central London rebuilt quickly into the warren of small alleys that had existed before the fire. This makes handling traffic nearly impossible but it gives the central district a nice intimate historic feel. In between St. Paul's and Westminster are other assorted bits we don't seem to have pictures of. That would include Trafalgar Square, where we were far too busy dodging pigeons, Piccadilly Circus, where we dodging American tour groups, and Soho, where we weren't really dodging anything but were mostly inside darkened pubs.