Wednesday 29 September 2010

Off To London To See The Queen Part 3.....

After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast we met up at the coach for yet another trip into London for a tour around Buckingham Palace.   Bernard, one of our fellow travellers was nominated to collect the ticket (1 ticket for 47 passengers so we had to keep together until we got in the Palace) because parking restrictions meant our driver couldn't leave the coach to go and collect it himself.     After going through airport type security to get into the grounds of the Palace we were each given an audio set for our tour around the various rooms.    Unfortunately, yet again, photography in the Palace was prohibited so I am having to borrow images from Google again.

We entered the Palace through the Ambassador's entrance, then up the Grand Staircase leading to the first floor through the Green Drawing Room into the Throne Room.

The Throne Room, sometimes used during Queen Victoria's reign for Court gatherings and as a second dancing room, is dominated by a proscenium arch supported by a pair of winged figures of 'victory' holding garlands above the 'chairs of state'.

It is in the Throne Room that The Queen, on very special occasions like Jubilees, receives loyal addresses. Another use of the Throne Room has been for formal wedding photographs.

Princess Elizabeth & Phillip Mountbatten's Wedding 1947

We continued through the Picture Gallery, where painting by such artists as Holbein, Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto can be seen, into the Silk Tapestry Room, The East Gallery and on into the Ballroom  which is used for banquets on the first day of state visits. 

Each year the Ballroom is also the setting for twenty investiture ceremonies, at which the recipients of honours published in The Queen's New Year and Birthday Honours Lists are invested with their insignia by The Queen, this is where The Beatles received their M.B.E.s and Sir Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek fame) was knighted.  Examples of the civil and military insignia are on display when the Palace is open to the public during August and September.

On leaving the Ballroom we passed through the West Gallery and State Dining Room, Blue Drawing Room and into The Music Room, which was originally known as the Bow Drawing Room and is the centre of the suite of rooms on the Garden Front.

Four Royal babies - The Prince of Wales, The Princess Royal, The Duke of York and Prince William - were all christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Music Room.   It is also used for formal recitals but one of its more formal uses is during a State Visit when guests are presented to The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and the visiting Head of State or for receptions.

The great advantage of this series of rooms on the west side of the principal floor is the view of the 16-hectare (40 acre) garden.  Late summer afternoons find them flooded with sunlight and filled with fesh air, often carrying the scent of new-mown grass and instilling a unique sense of rus in urbe, the phrase which was carved on the cornice of the Duke of Buckinham's house on this site.   The initials of both William IV and Queen Victoria appear in roundels in the cove.

We carried on into the White Drawing Room where at each end of the room two pairs of ebony-veneered cabinets with gilt-bronze mounts are built into the wall beneath tall mirrors and one of them (in the north-western corner) was incorporated into a concealed door.  When opened, the mirror and cabinet move as one to provide members o f the Royal Family with a discreet means of entering the state rooms from the private rooms beyond.

From there we continued down the Minister's Staircase into the Marble Hall, the Bow Room and out into the magnificent gardens at the back of the Palace where all the Queen's Garden Parties are held.

Obviously there was no garden party taking place on the day we were there but this next photograph (courtesy of Google Images) show people assembled for a garden party at the back of the Palace.

Of course there is so much more to see in the magnificence that is Buckingham Palace, I have only shown you a very small part but I hope you've enjoyed it.

By the time we had finished our tour it was almost lunchtime and we had four hours free time before we had to meet the coach to travel back to our hotel so we hopped on the Tube to Tottenham Court Road and walked the short distance to Great Russell Street where the British Museum is located and popped into this pub (below) for a quick lunch before we went in the museum.

Last time we went to London we went to the British Museum but I felt quite ill within a few minutes of being in there so we had to come out without actually seeing anything, therefore I was determined if we had free time we would visit again.

One item I particularly wanted to see in the Museum was the Sutton Hoo Helmet.  Sutton Hoo is a group of seventeen certainly identified burial mounds of the 6th-7th century, overlooking the River Deben and the town of Woodbridge in Suffolk.   Mound 1 was excavated in the early summer of 1939, initially by Basil Brown from Ipswich Museum, for the landowner Mrs Edith Pretty. He uncovered the remains of a ninety-foot long, clinker-built wooden ship of the 7th century, outlined by its iron rivets in the sand.

It contained a fabulously rich burial, generally taken to be that of Raedwald, leader of the Wuffing dynasty of the East Angles, dated to c.625 A.D. The dig was completed under the direction of Charles Phillips, and the finds were given to the nation by Mrs Pretty, for conservation by the British Museum.

MWM took these two photos seperately but put them side by side to show the original and the restored version together.

The Sutton Hoo Helmet is remarkable but the face mask is the most remarkable feature of the helmet: it has eye-sockets, eyebrows and a nose, which has two small holes cut in it to allow the wearer to breathe freely. The bronze eyebrows are inlaid with silver wire and garnets. Each ends in a gilt-bronze boars-head - perhaps a symbol of strength and courage.

Placed against the top of the nose, between the eyebrows, is a gilded dragon-head that lies nose to nose with a similar dragon-head placed at the end of the low crest that runs over the cap. The nose, eyebrows and dragon make up a great bird with outstretched wings that flies on the helmet.

The helmet was badly damaged when the burial chamber collapsed. By precisely locating the remaining fragments as if in a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, the helmet has been rebuilt. A complete reconstruction has also been made.

The museum houses some fabulous Anglo-Saxon treasure such as these solid gold collars which were found in Wales.

We came across a table containing some anglo-roman artefacts dated from the 4th Century AD, which we were allowed to hold, watched over by an employee of the museum of course.  To be able to actually handle something so old was a dream come true for me and a huge attraction at the museum as you might imagine.
Another artefact I particularly wanted to see was The Rosetta Stone and see it I did.

Soldiers in Napoleon's army discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799 while digging the foundations of an addition to a fort near the town of el-Rashid (Rosetta). On Napoleon's defeat, the stone became the property of the British under the terms of the Treaty of Alexandria (1801) along with other antiquities that the French had found.

The Rosetta Stone has been exhibited in the British Museum since 1802, with only one break. Towards the end of the First World War, in 1917, when the Museum was concerned about heavy bombing in London, they moved it to safety along with other, portable, 'important' objects. The Rosetta Stone spent the next two years in a station on the Postal Tube Railway 50 feet below the ground at Holborn.

The term Rosetta Stone is now used in other contexts as the name for the essential clue to a new field of knowledge.

We looked at lots of other things in the museum - mummies and other Egyptian artefacts - but there is so much to see one would need so much longer than a couple of hours to see just a small part of what is on display.  
There was another famous London landmark we wanted to see, so we caught the Tube again to Knightsbridge to have a look at Harrods and here I am standing just outside the famous store (I'm just near the plaque on the wall).

MWM bought me some of my favourite perfume for my birthday, (which isn't until November but it was a golden opportunity) because I wanted a Harrods bag.  Unfortunately Jo Malone comes in it's own bag so I didn't get one!   After a mooch round the store we headed up to Hyde Park Corner to make our way to the meeting place for the coach but as we were a little early we sat outside an Armenian Bistro and enjoyed a glass of wine and some delicious pitta bread, hummus and olives, then it was time to board the coach back to the hotel.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day, I hope you did too.   Do join me for our visit to Windsor Castle and our journey home.   

Monday 27 September 2010

Microfiction Monday #21

Susan at Stony River hosts this fun theme each Monday, so do pop over and read the others who have signed Mr. Linky. The rules are thus:

Every Monday Susan will post a picture for the subject of your story. Microfiction means the shortest of short stories. Think Aesop's fables, comic strips, or even jokes: complete stories that can be told in under a minute. For this game, the limit is a tweetable 140 characters or fewer, including punctuation and spaces.
Here's today's picture and my contribution.

Gazing across the water, May wrinkled her brow,

as she watched her shoes float away,

wondering how she’d get across the rocks without them.

Friday 24 September 2010

Friday 55 Flash Fiction #134 The Spoils..

The terrified driver watched powerlessly as they drove off with his truck.

In the garage they unloaded the boxes of 'Marlboro' cigarettes.

"We'll make a packet from this lot" said the boss gloatingly.

"Er, I don't think so boss, look at this" said one of the highjackers.

"the boxes are full of cardboard advertisements, sorry!"

Friday 55 Flash Fiction is brought to you by G-man (Mr Knowitall). The idea is you write a story in exactly 55 words. If you want to take part pop over and let G-man know when you've posted your 55.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Off to London to see the Queen Part 2.....

Our first excusion in London was a ride on the London Eye - here's MWM posing on the green in front of said eye.

I'm not good with heights, due to a traumatic ride on a Big Wheel at a funfair when I was young when the carriage I was riding in was stuck at the top of the wheel for what seemed like an eternity when the weather turned nasty.  However, a ride on the Eye was something MWM really wanted to do so I pushed my fear down deep and went along and I'm glad I did because it wasn't half as bad as I was expecting.      The pods are large, fully enclosed and travel very slowly, so slow in fact you barely realise it's moving, it's only if you look to either side and see another pod moving up or down that you realise you are moving.    The views are magnificent and I've put together a slide show for you.

After our ride on the London Eye we had a couple of hours before our next excursion, which we spent sightseeing after having lunch in this typical London pub.

A stroll down Whitehall found us outside Downing Street which is of course where the Prime Minister lives at number 10 and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at number 11.

Our next stop was St. Margaret's Church, which stands between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament and is commonly called "the parish church of the House of Commons".     Originally founded in the 12th century by Benedictine monks, St Margaret's was rebuilt from 1486 to 1523 and became the parish church of the Palace of Westminster in 1614.    St Margaret's has a very unsual clock on it's tower as you can see in the next photos which should enlarge if you click on them.  That's Big Ben in the background of the first photo.

St Margaret's is a beautiful church and I was able to take some photographs

The stained glass window above the altar

The above picture is the monument to Marie, Lady Dudley, a daughter of the Lord High Admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham, and grand-daughter of Thomas, second Duke of Norfolk. She died in the year 1600, having married first Edward Sutton, Lord Dudley, and secondly Richard Montpesson, Esq., who erected the tomb.

There were lots of interesting plaques on the walls of the church, here's just a small selection (click to enlarge).

We left St. Margaret's to go just across the road for our next excursion, which was a tour of the The Palace of Westminster (The Houses of Parliament) where we joined the queue.

We entered the Palace through Westminster Hall where people such as The Queen Mother, George V, Churchill and Gladstone have laid in state and the trials of Charles I, Guy Fawkes and William Wallace (Braveheart) were held there.   There are plaques on the stairs paying testament to these trials and plaques on the floor of the hall showing where people laid in state.      Unfortunately Westminster Hall is the only place in the Palace where photography is allowed but I only took two and they are too dark to actually see much so all the following photographs are from Google images sorry.

Westminster Hall

Our guide took us through St Stephen's Hall into the Central Lobby, a large octagonal hall, is the centrepiece of the Palace. When waiting to see (or 'lobby') their MP, members of the public wait here.  Whenever you see a reporter broadcasting from The Houses of Parliament they are here in the Central Lobby.

 From here we passed through the Peers Lobby into the House of Lords Chamber.

This is where the formal state opening of Parliament takes place by Her Majesty The Queen.  Members of the House of Commons are summoned to the Lords Chamber to hear the Queen's speech by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, generally shortened to just Black Rod.    From here we passed through the Royal Gallery which forms part of the route that the Queen follows at the State Opening of Parliament. The walls contain portraits of past Kings and Queens and huge frescos of famous battles. Because the Gallery belongs to the Royal part of the Palace, it is one of the few places where both Members of the House of Lords and Members of the House of Commons can meet. It is 'neutral territory'. For this reason it is often used when important people want to address both Houses of Parliament.

The Royal Robing Room was our next stop, this is where the Queen puts on her ceremonial robes and crown before the State Opening of Parliament. The room is often considered to be the most elegant room in the Palace. The interior, including the ornate ceiling, was designed by Pugin. The walls are decorated with frescos by William Dyce.

We backtracked from here to The Members' Lobby which is next to the House of Commons Chamber. It is a place where MPs can collect messages and where the Chief Whips' offices are located. When the House is sitting it is a hive of activity. During the Second World War the Lobby suffered extensive damage and was subsequently rebuilt. It is decorated with statues of former Prime Ministers, you will perhaps recognise Winston Churchill in the photograph.

We passed through the door in the The House of Commons Chamber which was rebuilt to a design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott after it was damaged during the Second World War. The new Chamber was built in a style that was in keeping with the Chamber that had been destroyed. The layout of the Chamber consists of two sets of green benches that are opposite to each other. There is a table in the middle and the Speaker's Chair at one end. This arrangement means that the Government and Opposition MPs sit facing each other. The Chamber is actually quite small and there is only room for 427 MPs to sit down when there are 646 MPs in total. MPs who do not manage to get a seat in the chamber must sit in the gallery.   Any MP wishing to speak in the chamber must get a seat as they are not allowed to speak from the gallery.

You will notice the two red lines on the floor of the chamber just in front of the front benches - it is alleged that the distance between the two lines is slightly wider than two drawn swords thus preventing disputes between members in the House devolving into duels (though there is no written evidence of this "fact").  Protocol dictates that MPs may not cross these lines when speaking; a Member of Parliament who violates this convention will be lambasted by opposition Members. This is regarded as a possible origin for the expression "to toe the line".

We found the tour fascinating and the Palace of Westminster is a beautiful building, I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Join me next time for our tour round Buckingham Palace.

Monday 20 September 2010

Microfiction Monday #20

Susan at Stony River hosts this fun theme each Monday, so do pop over and read the others who have signed Mr. Linky. The rules are thus:
Every Monday Susan will post a picture for the subject of your story. Microfiction means the shortest of short stories. Think Aesop's fables, comic strips, or even jokes: complete stories that can be told in under a minute. For this game, the limit is a tweetable 140 characters or fewer, including punctuation and spaces.

Here's today's picture and my contribution.

Ruby and Thomas set off on the long walk to church.

It was their wedding day.

There was just one thing worrying Ruby.

The smell of sweaty feet.