Monday, November 14, 2016

Whirlwind Weekend in London

Tom was invited to speak at a conference in London. Because it was on a Friday, it was a perfect opportunity for us to spend a weekend in London while still based in Europe. Fond memories of reading to our daughters popped into my head when we were greeted by Paddington Bear at of course, Paddington Station. 


While Tom headed off to his conference, I went to the All England Tennis Club, home of the Wimbledon Championships. I've never been able to get a ticket during the tournament, but there are daily tours available. I loved walking the hallowed grounds and hope to return some day to watch the matches. 

wristband ticket

The tour started outside Centre Court - seemed perfect to me!

home of so many famous matches

Centre Court with royal box in wood on far end

Centre Court isn't nearly as big as I expected - so much smaller than Arthur Ashe stadium in NYC. A top row seat wouldn't be awful.

I love this topiary even though it needs a trim
court 18 - home of the marathon Isner vs Mahut match

outside courts are much closer together than I expected

obligatory post match interview

BBC broadcast booth - I've seen this often on TV

The museum is similar to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, but of course, all focused on Wimbledon lore.

everything tennis at tea time

racket making
I'll be back!

After listening to the tour guide, I understand more about how to get a ticket to the championships. I will definitely try to get back there during the tournament.

For my next stop, I headed over to Kew Gardens which had been recommended by a British friend. 

Victoria Gate - closest entrance to Kew Gardens Underground Station

Palm House


Not surprisingly, the interior of the Palm House was very warm and humid. The pretty stairs called to me, but going up them brought me to an even more uncomfortable climate. I did not linger!

Since I was at Kew Gardens without Tom, I took the opportunity to visit the giant bee hive.  He would not have wanted to go inside. Its purpose is to bring more awareness to the importance of bees. There were no real bees, but the sound of a bee hive was simulated. Buzzzzz.....

it is huge

looking at the top while standing inside the hive

Kew Gardens plants specific varieties to help provide food for bees.

Waterlily House

some waterlilies are tall!

This is just a bit of the Great Broad Walk Borders - I think it is supposed to demonstrate how we could create lovely borders in our own gardens. I will not try this. I do not think I can afford the staff required!

How do you top what has already been a terrific day? Head to the West End for musical theater! We chose Beautiful, the Carole King Musical and it was fabulous! I loved her songs in my younger years and still do. The show was the story of her life - I didn't realize that she started out as a song writer with other people recording her songs.

ready to start

There were many familiar tunes, but I managed not to sing along. I did glare at someone in the row behind us who had less self control. 

me too!
Tom and I have both wanted to see Stonehenge for a while and this weekend seemed like a very good opportunity. We opted for a combination bus tour stopping at Windsor Castle, Bath and finally Stonehenge. It was a very full day, but at least we weren't in charge of driving.  Our tour guide said we only scratched the surface, but I think we did enough in Bath and at Stonehenge. I wouldn't mind going back to Windsor another time. We didn't explore the village at all. 

First stop, Windsor Castle.

castle as we approach

at the entrance to Windsor Castle

aerial view - this is a big place!

Windsor Castle is supposedly the Queen's favorite. How are we to know if that's true or if we should challenge the tour guide? Do we really care?
there are always guards doing their thing

No pictures were allowed inside the castle. I rolled my eyes, I'm sure, and bought the souvenir booklet so I could scan some interior pictures and include them here.  

I had to have a picture of the king's bedchamber complete with crown on the bed

Grand Reception Room

St. George's Chapel

chapel interior
chapel ceiling

some of the fanciest organ pipes I've ever seen!

shopping area at the Windsor station

As we walked through the Windsor station, I found it amusing how the tour guide pointed out how to get back to London. He was adamant about the meeting time back at the bus and that the bus would not wait for latecomers. No one tested him.
exterior of Roman baths
After our very brief stay in Windsor, we got back on the bus and rode to Bath. Named for the Roman Baths built there centuries ago, the baths were the main focus of our visit. Having been in Sicily earlier this year and seeing other Roman ruins, we may have been less enamored than some of the other group members. We toured the old Roman baths and then walked around the town a bit.

Cathedral of Bath

Finally, we made it to the last and most important stop of the tour, Stonehenge. The prehistoric monument may have been a burial ground, but details are unclear. Whatever its purpose, the builders knew how to move huge rocks large distances without mechanical devices. (I suspect slaves were involved and many died in the process.) The sun direction on both the winter and summer solstices makes it clear that the architects also had a expert knowledge of the earth's rotation. 
getting closer

stones are much larger than humans

Placing the horizontal stone on top of the vertical stones looks impossible!

With the three stops, it was a long day with a lot of ground covered, but well worth it. I expect we'll be back to London, but Bath and Stonehenge are officially "done".