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Fall in the UK Part 7: London

Amazing how fast time can go by.  Hard to believe we had been in the UK almost 3 weeks.  After our wonderful and busy time in Yorkshire, it was time to start getting ready to head home.  As we have done in previous visits, we stayed in London a couple days to wind down, get our things in order and prepare to catch our morning flight out of Heathrow.  We also like to take this time to explore areas of London off the beaten path, as we have already visited most all the “tourist sites”.  We stayed in the Notting Hill/Kensington Park area as our base and explored from there.

After the rain limited our walking in the moors, we decided to make up for it by walking in London.  On our first day, the weather was perfect.  Clear blue skies, crisp air, no wind and warm sun.  We headed out down Holland Park Avenue towards the British Museum.  It is a little over 4 miles straight down Holland Park along Hyde Park, past the Marble Arch, along Oxford Street and the big shopping district of London and into the Bloomsbury district. 

The British Museum should really be called the world history museum.  It is full of artifacts collected from all over the world, representing thousands of years of history.  The Museum was established in the mid 1700’s with an act of Parliament and is the first public museum in the world.  Most of the museum’s collection was either donated or bequeathed by private collectors in the 1800s and 1900s.  It is a fascinating cross-cultural collection of items from Egypt, China, Ancient Greece, Rome, and the British Isles.

The Rosetta Stone is there.  This is how Egyptologists learned to read hieroglyphics.  It is a stone table that contains a decree from 169 BC, written in hieroglyphics, Demotic, and ancient Greek.

There are sarcophaguses or sarcophagi 🙂 and mummies from ancient Egypt along with some amazing statues and monuments.

One of the more fascinating items, at least to me, was the Lewis Chess Set.  They were found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in the 1830’s and are dated to be from the mid-12th century.  Made of walrus tusk ivory, there is a lot of speculation about who made them, how they ended up in Scotland, and where they were made.  Ironically, I was reading a book about them, Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them.

We had a great walk back, the weather was still very nice, but the sun was getting low in the sky and the temperatures were cooling down.  We took a small detour and walked inside Hyde Park for something different and to get away from the evening traffic.  We found a lovely fountain in the Italian Gardens.   that were built by Prince Albert as a romantic present to his wife, Queen Victoria.

After our nice walk in Hyde Park, we decided to spend the next day exploring more of the Park and Kensington Gardens.  On the way, we made a short detour through the Notting Hill neighborhood.  Quaint, beautiful, pastel painted row houses and tons of little shops. Notting Hill is also the home of the Portobello Market on the weekends.

Across the street is Kensington Gardens which are a part of Kensington Palace and connect with Hyde Park. Kensington Palace is where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate and Prince William, live.  It is also where Queen Victoria was born.

Connected with the gardens of Kensington Palace is Hyde Park, a giant 350 acres in the middle of London and the largest park in the city.  On our last trips we skirted around the park, even cut through it, but never really spent time in it.  This trip we decided to explore.  There is a large lake, actually two lakes,in the center of the park, Serpentine Lake and Long Water Lake.  We walked across the bridge that splits the lakes and then all over the park.  I will never cease to be amazed at the thought and planning that went into major parks in cities.  You enter a beautiful world of nature where you escape the urban maze of steel and concrete surrounding you. They provide a serenity and quiet which can be soothing to the soul.

In complement to the Italian Gardens on the north side of the park is the Prince Albert Memorial.  It was commissioned by Queen Victoria after his death to commemorate the pinnacle of the Victorian age.  It captures the Prince’s influences and the scope of Imperial Britain.  It is an extremely ornate and gilded monument towering over 170 feet high.  Across from the memorial is Royal Albert Hall, one of the most famous concert halls in the world.  We did not get a chance to go in as there was a youth music concert going on.

After three weeks of touring, exploring, hiking, working, eating and enjoying our England, it was time to head home.  They say you should always stay long enough to enjoy what you experience and depart with things still left undone to keep you wanting to come back.  I would say we fulfilled that prophecy to its fullest.  We really did enjoy our time and all our adventures and we look forward to our next trip back.

 

 

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