Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Monday, September 3, 2012

London in Seven

In November 2005 I asked my family a tricky question. P or L? A majority chose P and it turned into $300 plane ticket to Paris on a now-defunct airline. It was the first international trip for my children on Valentine's Day in 2006. L would have been London...

The children liked Paris and enjoyed returning there in 2009, but at least one of them held it against me for not getting to London until now.

London this summer - it's all about the Games

With the girls' break to the States, it was our reunion place and my parents decided to join us. The three of us travelled from Edinburgh by overnight bus. A horrible experience, very uncomfortable, very slow, yet a cheap solution. I booked rooms at the Generator Hostel back in March; that in itself was a save of $400 over regular rates. It had shared bathrooms, one for every floor, we had two private rooms, of three and two beds. The Generator is a crazy huge youth hostel with tons of rules, vast public places on the ground floor and people of all ages coming and going at all hours of the night. The wifi was only on the ground floor forcing people to get out of the rooms. It had a restaurant with fixed menu and a loud bar with karaoke, table tennis and Wii, until 3 am. Unfortunately for them, the children were not allowed to enter the bar premises; they would have liked to try the Wii. With tons of people lying around it was surprising that we never managed to exchange one word with any of the other travelers (first world symptom?). We slept 6 nights there, the girls had five nights, my parents had a different hotel for four nights. Overall we barely had four days of visiting around.

We saw the British Library. Just one room containing incredible history, from the Magna Carta to Beatles' songs on napkins. While there we read the History of England by Jane Austen (don't look it up, it's an opinionated school paper she wrote when she was 13), and I browsed through the last pages of Captain Scott's journal.

After my parents came, we saw Westminster Abbey, an evening visit only available on some summer nights, a magical experience. The 1000 year old church is packed with tourists during the day, but we had it all to ourselves for a couple of hours. The internal courtyard was lit only by the full moon...

The children with their grandparents visited Buckingham Palace. Ileana was upset that she was stopped from finishing the Leonardo da Vinci drawings exhibition so her siblings could watch the "stupid changing of the guards." We had no idea why they were not coming out, just spent an hour waiting for them on a bench behind the palace.
Wellington Monument

We saw quickly the highlights of the British Museum. The hostel was close to it, my family left and I remained by myself one evening, until I was the last one to be kicked out. Among a myriad of things it was funny to discover a huge board of worthless Zimbabwe bills, including the same 20 billion dollar bill that I got as a present for my birthday! The British museum houses the best of the world's three earlier civilizations, Assyrian, Egyptian and Greek and with a good guidebook the masterpieces can be seen in a couple of hours. But what else is there?

The Parthenon

Lord Elgin's marbles

Benin art

The coronation of the Emperor of Ethiopia depicted as  the last supper!!!

I got lost in the less important galleries, first going to see African art and then the Asian art gallery. The African art is interesting, there are 100-200 years old objects, some much newer than that. There are several art objects made of dismantled guns, a strong antiwar message from people who know what it means.
Some people really know what to do with guns

A tree from parts of weapons

In the Asian part I had a nice feeling seeing one after another representative pieces of all the cultures that we've encountered through our journey: China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Thailand and even one of the Buddha heads from Borobudur.
Unfortunately there is nothing even close to this to see in Nepal

Further on, incredible objects of art from the earlier Celtic and Gaelic cultures.
Goldcape, 1600 BC, from Wales

A gallery of clocks, nothing like what we've seen in the Forbidden Palace of Beijing, but impressive nonetheless. And in the end, a numismatic collection where you learn that one in 35 pound coins in circulation is fake and my 20 billions as part of the following display:

Last one coming down the stairs

We went to the Tower of London. We got there a few minutes before opening; tickets bought online, we would be the first to see the Crown Jewels. To our dismay, there was a huge group that entered the Tower before the official opening, they were all crammed in the first waiting room before the jewels. They were Paralympics and they had a special tour. Luckily they also had a guide that had a script to say, he kept them for a while and we had private time with the most famous crowns in the world. There is not much more to say about the Tower of London, there is enough to keep somebody busy for a half day and we saw it all at a slow pace. We did get to St. Paul Church after that, it was my first time there, a magnificent construction. We went all around it, in the crypt and up three levels to the top of the top to have a bird's eye view of London.

The long line to see the Crown Jewels

Recurring theme

Arms as art

Tower bridge

Old and new

The third largest church in the world

London 2012

View from the top

A nice ending to a busy day

On the last day we decided to spread out and tour individually in the National Gallery. I went ahead to check out the National Portrait Gallery and we all met at some point in the proper gallery. Everybody was happy. I first went looking for the Tizian that was missing in Edinburgh then I improvised a history of the arts course for Ioan. He diligently followed me around and helped me track aonepainter or another. The rest were also happy (to get away from me). Then we just sat for a few hours in Trafalgar Square. It was the time of Paralympics, the Londoners came out to encourage their favorites, have a picnic and concert in the square on a Sunday summer afternoon. Maria and Ioan played ping pong in front of the National Gallery!

Trafalgar Square entertainment

So this is London in a few days, not too busy if you ask me, it would be a cool place to take in slowly, a couple of weeks or a month or more. It is surprisingly affordable now, the pound is cheaper than it used to be, all the big museums are free (but you pay to visit the churches!), transportation is simple and relatively cheap. My parents went back to Romania, we will meet again in Greece in just 3 weeks. We flew off to Vienna.

My parents waving goodbye, see you in Greece!

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