A Tale of Two Cities By Four People

My Visit to London & Paris

June 26th - July 15th 2010


e planned the trip for almost a year, and went through a number of variations: who would go, what was the best time to go, what did we most want to see and do, and many other questions. Eventually it was decided that Art and Melanie, Lillian Lothamer, and I, (Zoé Enyedy) would participate.

On Friday, June 25, Lillian drove from her home in Ft. Wayne, IN to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio where her son, Patrick, was working; picked him up and continued to Roseann’s home in Strongsville, OH. The next morning Patrick drove back to work at Cedar Point (with the car for 2½ weeks), and I joined Lillian at Roseann’s house.

We gave ourselves plenty of time for our international flights; first to Toronto, Canada, and then on to London, Heathrow, England. Fortunately, the Cleveland airport was not busy and we made it through baggage checking, and security easily with time to spare. People were interested in the World Cup Soccer Games; and we met a man who was trying desperately to change his flight. He had been watching the games on TV so intently that he mistook his seat number for his flight number; and missed his flight – to Rome! He was trying to get there any other way, even by going via London to Rome, but our connecting flight was full.

Our flight arrived ½ hour late, which did not bother us, since we had a reasonable layover time in Toronto. The plane was a small DeHaviland, with 2 propellers. I was thankful it did not flap its wings! It held about 20 passengers. The landing gear was right outside my window, and it was interesting to see it disappear into the wing. Hopefully it would reappear once we reached Toronto. The flight was reasonably smooth, as we flew over Lake Erie and then Lake Ontario. Toronto was farther away than I had realized, and our flight took about 1½ hours.

In Toronto we had to go through Customs, because we were entering a different country, even though we would not leave the airport. There was a seemingly endless line of back and forth, like those found at amusement parks, but this was not amusing at all. Eventually another desk was opened up, and then it moved much more reasonably.

It was a very long walk to the place where the huge jet planes would take off for international flights. Someone with no sense at all had scheduled 2 flights, each holding 300 people, exactly next to each other, and leaving at almost the same minute. No one knew which line to stand in because there was no one line, but just a mass of people milling around. People were boarding, while others were arriving, and probably were uncertain which plane to get on. What a mess! A difference of only 50 feet would have solved the entire problem. We waited and waited in the mob, which moved very slowly, and eventually got to the gate where an agent looked at our tickets and sent us on to the correct plane. It took a very long time to seat everyone.

The sunset was beautiful as we left for our overnight flight to London-Heathrow to begin our adventure

Sunday, June 27, 2010

leep was at a minimum last night. A miniscule breakfast was offered, followed by immigration cards to be filled out before landing. It turned out that the airline had lost our bags so we began our visit to England by filling out claim cards. It turned out that they had missed the connecting flight to Toronto, because of the delay of the Cleveland flight. We were promised that they would be delivered to our apartment by 11:30 PM. The advantage was that we didn’t have to carry them. I had fortunately packed a change of clothes for just such an emergency.

Lillian had carefully studied the maps and time tables of the London “Tube” and found our way around to the proper line which would take us to our apartment. She was especially good at this, and I admired her ability to find her way in a foreign country, even though she had never previously been overseas. She knew the correct street to take to walk down to our apartment, and never missed. After setting down our carry-ons and being glad to finally arrive; we decided to attend Mass since today was Sunday. Lillian suggested Westminster Abbey which was not too far by Tube, and a place which we both wanted to see anyway.

estminster Abbey was beautiful indeed from the outside, but it was the inside that we were interested in at the moment. A man in robes who stood at the door, refused to let us in while a service was going on. We asked where nearby might there be another Mass we could attend instead. He replied “Oh, Mass! You want Catholic. This is Anglican. Walk to Westminster Cathedral 5 blocks that way.” as he pointed in the proper direction.

We walked 5 blocks that way and came to Westminster Cathedral where Mass was far along in progress. We came in at the Our Father, but still managed to receive Holy Communion. We trust that the Lord knew that we made a good effort to get to the proper church.

Westminster Cathedral, the largest Catholic Church in England, looked very nice. It opened in 1903.

We returned by way of the Tube and walking to our apartment. As we walked down Draycott Street, Lillian said “Look who’s coming the other way!” I could scarcely believe my eyes – for it was Art and Melanie walking toward us. Never with the most careful planning could this ever happen!!!! We must have traveled 7,000 miles and they 10,000 miles, and here we meet on the street of our apartment! We had just the right amount of delays, and they had none, so it worked out that both groups arrived simultaneously at the door to the apartment we had rented. The coincidence continues to amaze me still.

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Our street. Our apartment was on the top floor of #42 Draycott Street.

Of course we were all eager to see London, so we decided on a walk. We saw a very, very large glass-walled building, very modern and up-to-date.

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I was uncertain whether this church was very old or very modern, and never did identify it.

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Victoria Palace was not very grand, compared with the palaces I hoped to see.

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There was an Egyptian obelisk in London, but I was unable to learn about its history.
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From across the Thames, was this great view of Parliament.

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Art and I enjoyed being together.

The London Eye

et’s take a ride on the London Eye! The London Eye is an immense ferris wheel built in 1999 to celebrate the new millennium. It was intended to be temporary only, but it was such a great success, they never got around to tearing it down.

As we planned our trip we each made a list of the places we most wanted to visit; then we listed sites of lesser priority; and lastly we listed places to see and do only if there was extra time. Melanie planned the trip so that everyone got to see all of their most wanted and second choices too. At one point, Art said he wanted to see the London Eye. I had not heard or read about it yet, so I responded that I didn’t care much for the London Eye, but would like to ride on the big ferris wheel. Now, what kind of an argument is that?

The London Eye experience was lots of fun and a great way to begin our trip! I loved being able to look out over London, and try to recognize landmarks that I had read about.

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The London Eye stands 443 feet tall, and slowly spins its 32 capsules, each filled with up to 25 passengers. It revolves once each half hour which is so slow that it never stops revolving to load or unload passengers. The door opens at the bottom of the loop, the returning passengers get out and then new ones get on.

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I found the structure of the wheel itself, with all the many angles to be interesting.

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As the ride begins, the cars swing out

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The Houses of Parliament, the center of government of England, stand elegantly here.

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Big Ben clock tower is 315 feet tall, and is named for its 13 ton bell, Ben. The clock faces are 23 feet across, and the 13 foot long minute hand sweeps the length of your body every 5 minutes.

From the top of the London Eye, you can see a lot of London.

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Those little specks down there are people enjoying picnic suppers on the lawn.

Whitehall has long been the center of offices of government for Britain. The Ministry of Finance, the Treasury and others all have their centers here.

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All too soon we were back to ground level again, and it was time to disembark.

There were all sorts of face painters, sidewalk artists, musicians and every sort of entertainment along the “South Bank” in London’s new arts and cultural zone.

Monday, June 28

City Bus Tour and Thames Boat Ride

hat is the best way to get acquainted with London? Why, by taking a trip on a double decker London bus. Of course, it must be a red bus, and you must ride on the upper deck! Fortunately, there were many red double-decker buses still in service, probably because of the tradition. We bought 4 tour tickets, and climbed upstairs. This was a “hop-on, hop-off” line, so that we might spend time in any place of interest we wished and get back on a later bus, which also followed the same route. This was another of my goals during my London trip: to ride a red double-decker bus on the top story.

Marble Arch, of white carrara marble in Hyde Park, London. Originally it was erected on The Mall as a gateway to Buckingham Palace, but was moved to its present location in 1851.

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We got off at Hyde Park near Marble Arch, and Lillian posed there for us
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Special screens had been installed to prevent the pigeons from soiling the carvings
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Nearby was a lovely planting of white petunias and red geraniums.
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Art joked that I could get lost in all those flowers, with my red top, and white slacks. Were you able to spot me in this picture?

The Phantom Of The Opera was playing in town that week. It seemed appropriate that it should be presented in London.

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I knew before I left home that I wanted this view of Parliament, from this point on this bridge. Fortunately the traffic was slow enough for me to get it.

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The George, was one of the last of the coaching inns stretching from London to points south. They offered food, drink, beds and entertainment for travelers. Coaches were forbidden inside the city.

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The “Eye” seemed much different by day, than it had by night.

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City Hall designed by Sir Norman Foster, is newly built, and not well received by all Londoners.

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It was a pleasant day, and perfect for a boat ride.

The boat ride began at a dock near Westminster Bridge, so our first sights from the river were of Parliament and the London Eye.

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Tower Bridge looks medieval, but was actually built in 1894 of steel & concrete. Sophisticated steam engines raise and lower the bridge, allowing tall-masted ships to pass through.

Builders have converted old warehouses and offices into apartment houses...

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...and built new (and expensive) apartment houses as well.

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Greenwich

e got off the boat at Greenwich to visit the Observatory, from which all time is measured throughout the world. Here is the prime meridian (0°), (0 min), (0 sec). This is the basis for accurately measuring longitude at any point on earth. It reminded me of my trip to Kenya, Africa where a sign read (0°) (0 min) (23 sec) at latitude of zero. Then, of course, I was on the equator. I felt very privileged to have been at point zero of both latitude and longitude. I don’t think many people can say that. The point of (0°), (0) min, (0 sec) longitude is here – precisely here! It is marked in this stone with a metal strip inlaid in the ground; and from this point degrees of longitude are measured all over the world! If someone puts one foot on one side of the metal stripe, and places their other foot on the other side, he/she has one foot in the western hemisphere and the other foot in the eastern hemisphere at the same time! Of course we all did that.

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The latitude of every place on this planet is calculated by its relationship to this very spot.

Art even made a panorama of the scene from the observatory

There was one of the oldest electric public 24 hour clocks, still working here. It was called the Shepherd’s Gate Clock and was installed in 1852!

The Shepherd's Clock had a 24 hour dial

The Greenwich Royal Observatory was founded by King Charles II in 1675. It's mission was to discover an accurate method for determining longitude for ships out at sea.

There was an interesting exhibit of how the longitude problem was solved by designing accurate time pieces based upon springs. Pendulum clocks were made completely useless by the pitching of ships. A large monetary prize (£20,000) was offered for an accurate, workable solution to determine one’s location out of sight of land. John Harrison won the prize with his marine chronometer.

The Pavilion Tea House at Greenwich. Lillian and I enjoyed an ice cream treat here

Britain’s Houses of Parliament

he Houses of Parliament are open on Monday evenings, so we decided to take advantage of this opportunity. Being inside the building is intimidating – it is so old and so grand and so huge. But we kept going, found a place where we filled out entry cards and left our cameras, and were guided to seats in the lower House of Commons. Members of the House of Commons are elected by their districts, just as we are; and have more power than the House of Lords.

There were few people this evening, so we were taken directly into the viewing chamber to listen to the proceedings. There were few members present, and I wondered how they could conduct business with only a few people. Someone was reading her speech, and at the end there was a call for a vote. A couple stood up.

We were glad to have had the opportunity to visit such an important part of England – and I thought that I have never witnessed the proceeding of either my own state nor the national government of my own country.

As we were getting ready to leave, one of the guards asked us “Would you like to also see the House of Lords?” Would we ever! None of us ever even thought about asking for such a favor. We were taken through a stringent security procedure – apparently the House of Lords is considered more important than the House of Commons, and asked to wait because they were beginning their recess. We did and used the time to fill in more cards. Lillian was not quite finished with hers, so stayed behind. It ended up that when the House resumed their debate, the ushers paged “Lillian Lothamer” over the P.A. system. So Lillian has the distinction of having been paged in the House of Lords of England!

We felt that our first full day in England had been very worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 29

Westminster Abbey

oday we thought we would go to Westminster Abbey as tourists, and perhaps we might get in that way. It worked! We arrived before they opened, and waited patiently; well maybe not so patiently, but we did wait.

Westminster Abbey was begun in 1065. Its name means “Church in the west,” that is west of St. Paul’s Cathedral. For the next 250 years The Abbey was redone and remodeled to become essentially what we see today. Thankfully, later architects honored the vision of the original planner, and the building was completed in one relatively harmonious style.

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Lillian stands at the front entrance to the Abbey

The Abbey’s 10 story tall nave, is the tallest in England; and although the chandeliers are 10 feet tall, they seem small in comparison.

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Westminster Abbey front door.

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This guard was careful to let only proper visitors use this entrance into the Abbey.

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Detail of carvings on Westminster Abbey exterior

It was King Edward the Confessor who built Westminster Abbey. It was finished just in time to bury Edward, and to crown his foreign successor, William the Conqueror in 1066. After many answered prayers, Pope Alexander III canonized Edward. His elevated, central tomb, which lost some of its luster when Henry VIII melted down the gold coffin-case; is surrounded by the tombs of 8 kings and queens.

Westminster Abbey is where every English coronation since 1066 has taken place. Imagine what it will be like when Prince William becomes king.

Stonehenge

tonehenge is about 90 miles southwest of central London, so requires at least a half day trip. Stonehenge is as old as the pyramids, and older than the Colosseum. It amazed medieval Europeans, who believed it to have been built by a race of giants. It is one of Europe’s most famous sights; so, of course, we couldn’t miss it. Nearly one million people visit it every year.

The stones themselves are cordoned off by rope to prevent people from walking among them and damaging them; but it is possible walk in a circle all around them.

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Welcome to Stonehenge
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The heel stone

On Dec 21st the sun shines through the hole in the heel stone and lands directly on a stone in the circle. It then reverses its path each day back to where it began at the summer solstice. It probably meant something to the people for planting their crops, or for religious ceremonies.

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An illustration depicting how Stonehenge might have originally looked

Wednesday, June 30

St. Paul’s Cathedral

oday we decided to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is England’s National Church. There has been a church on this spot since 604 A.D. (No, I didn’t forget to type another digit – that’s how long it’s been there). It was the symbol of London’s survival from the Great Fire of 1666, and the Blitz of 1940, and is today the center of the Anglican Faith. Its dome is 365 feet high. It is 515 feet long and 250 feet wide – the fourth largest church in Europe after St. Peter’s in Rome, and churches in Sevilla and Milan.

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Front view (West entrance)
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Side view (South entrance)

Since Queen Anne was on the throne when the church was completed in 1710, the statue in front of the church portrays her.

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Me standing at the massive front door of St. Paul's
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Looking upward at the dome of St Paul's
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Top of the tower

There are many memorials throughout the church and in its basement.

Behind the main altar is a smaller altar on which is placed an open book, in which is written the names of every American serviceman and servicewoman who gave their life in defense of England. I thought that a particularly good gesture of appreciation. A couple were standing behind Lillian and I, and they said they were from Belgium. I told them about Kay Haggerty’s husband who was saved by a Belgian farmer, who hid him in the barn after he was shot down from his airplane. Lillian was surprised because she had never known that. The friendship continued after the war, and the Belgian family came to the States to visit.

P1050104 St.Paul’s Monument
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Art, Melanie and Lillian climbed all the way up to the top of the dome, and saw a great view of London.

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Looking west from the dome over the roof of the nave of the Cathedral
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Looking down on the pedestrian Millenium Bridge, which leads to the Tate Modern museum
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The tower bridge is visible behind the construction cranes
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Looking east toward the financial district
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The Globe Theater on the far bank of the Thames
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Lillian at the top of St Paul's Dome. The London Eye is visible in the distant left.

The Millenium Bridge

he Millenium Bridge is London’s first new bridge across the Thames in a century. It is a pedestrian bridge linking Tate Modern museum with St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is a sleek minimalist design, 370 yards long, and 4 yards wide, made of stainless steel. Its clever aerodynamic handrails deflect the wind over the heads of the pedestrians.

As we came to the bridge, we noticed a great many people dressed in wet suits, standing along each railing. TV cameras and people who seemed to be directors were moving around trying to get something organized. I walked right through them, and took their picture, thinking that they were planning to jump into the Thames for some sort of commercial. As I took my picture of the cameraman photographing the group; Lillian took a picture of me! So here is a picture taken by Lillian of me taking a picture of the cameraman taking a picture of the models.

I don’t think they ever did jump into the river.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

hakespeare’s Globe Theater has been reconstructed in detail in London; and his plays are dramatized there today. Each detail has been copied as accurately as possible. Most of the audience stands on the main floor, and can heckle with the actors if they wish. During our visit, the actors were doing a dress rehearsal of Henry IV, and we were permitted to sit in the seats (actually benches) and watch. This new theater was built in 1997 is constructed with fire-repellent materials, using wooden pegs. Performances are staged almost nightly in the summer.

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A model of today’s Modern Globe Theater
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In the winter people used to set up carnival-like entertainment on the frozen Thames.
The rebuilt Globe Theater Today

High Tea In London

illian promised me that for my birthday gift she would treat me to High Tea some time on our trip to London. I was so excited, I even brought a special new skirt for the occasion! There are a number of places where one can have high tea (actually lunch), and Lillian selected “Maids Of Honour Tea Room,” which was just across the street from Kew Gardens.

Lil Pix, High Tea 1, The Tea Parlor
The Original Maids of Honour, the name of the tea shop
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Me at the Tea Shop
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A granite monument outside the shop proclaims “In this shop are made the original “Maids Of Honour” which were served to Henry VIII and his royal household.”

At High Tea each guest may select which dainties she prefers, which are then served on a three layer plate, along with a pot of tea of your choice of flavor.

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Lillian and I enjoy High Tea
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We had a triple layer of treats. The Maid of Honour Treat is the round one on the bottom shelf. It was delicious!

We selected which of the tiny triangular sandwiches we wanted, and of course, we wanted the famous “maids-of-honour” as dessert. All of this was served on English fine china.

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English China

We certainly felt like very fine “Ladies.” The “maids-of-honour” were delicious, like a tart, and I don’t blame Henry VIII for liking it. I’m sure it was high in calories, and since Henry was not known for self-denial, it may have accounted at least partially for his very large size. I, however, enjoyed every bit, and so did Lillian. Doing this was a wonderful treat, which I will always remember gratefully to Lillian.

Kew Gardens

ew Gardens covers 300 acres, with 33,000 different types of plants. There are 3 buildings of glass, including a Waterlily House that “Monet would swim for,” according to Rick Steves. I spent a fair amount of time there, I must admit.

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This Fish Tail Palm tree was collected as a seed in Western Indonesia, 12 years ago. By last year it was 12 meters tall and threatening to grow through the roof. Just as the caretakers were about to cut it down, it began to flower instead. Starting from the top, it is growing huge mop-like clusters of flowers next to each leaf all the way down. After about 2 years, the plant will run out of energy and die. The caretakers are hand pollinating it, to try and produce seeds and more plants.

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"Fish Tail Palm"
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Nymphaca, violacea x colorata
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Nmyphaca, Kew’s electric indigo
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Nmyphaca, violacea, Manton Lake
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Nmyphaca, carpentariae x violacea
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Overall View, Nmyphaca carpentariae, Julia Leu

It was beautiful indeed, but not very peaceful or quiet. The gardens are evidently situated at the end of the international runway of London’s Heathrow’s airport, and regularly, every minute without fail, a very large plane would roar directly overhead. The noise was not deafening, nor did it interfere with conversation, but it was distracting. I finally took to photographing the planes and managed to catch one of United Arab Emirates.

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Jet with landing gear down as it flies over Kew Gardens
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There were so many beautiful flowers and shrubs
Lavender is not only a beautiful plant, but noted for its fragrance.

Imagine building this in 1861! Even more amazing is the fact that it is still standing and serviceable!

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The Temperate House is another glass house. It was reopened by Her Majesty, the Queen on May 13th, 1982.

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This different view gives an idea of the size of this operation. In it we found many tropical plants, and those that live in temperate climates. The building must be well heated in the winter.

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This fuchsia, Tom West, was unlike any other fuchsia I had ever seen.

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Melanie watched a peacock displaying as it walked past.

Lillian noticed a very fragrant bush with white flowers. I told her I remembered that my Father used to grow such a bush, called “Mock Orange.” She hunted around for a name tag, and found that said “Mock Orange.” I was pleased that I could recall its name even though I can no long enjoy its fragrance.

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Sorbaria arborea

There was a Japanese Garden as part of Kew Gardens so we went to explore it. It was neat and well cared for, as were all parts of the park. Japanese Gardens have a purpose for everything, and one must walk slowly through it, to truly appreciate its meaning. Lillian and I did not walk slowly, but we did pay attention to what we saw.

This Japanese Pagoda was very tall, and drew attention to the Japanese Garden from a long distance.

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Here are some other scenes around the Japanese Garden area:

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We had come around to the other side of the Glass House and saw this view. Kew Gardens really is an enormous place!

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We stayed until the park closed, and then hastened to leave on time, lest we be locked in for the night.

Thursday, July 1

Windsor Castle

indsor Castle is in the town of Windsor, and has been the official home of England’s royal family for 900 years. It claims to be the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world.

In 1070 William the Conqueror built the first castle on a chalk hill above the Thames. Later kings added onto his early designs by rebuilding and expanding the castle and its surroundings.

The town of Windsor has very old castle buildings on one side of the street, and modern buildings on the other.

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Queen Victoria’s statue welcomes Lillian to Windsor Castle.

We had arrived just in time for the famous ceremony of the Changing Of The Guard, which I dearly wanted to see and photograph. I went up to the lone guard who was about to be relieved, and stood next to him for a picture. I knew he was not allowed to talk or move, but when I thanked him; his face had a hint of a smile.

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All of us wanted to watch the changing of the guard.

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The ceremony was quite impressive, with much pomp and circumstance. The band played well, although I was surprised that some of their selections were Somewhere over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz, and the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean.

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The ceremony ended all too quickly, and the band marched off, leaving the new guard on duty.

We had time now to explore the castle grounds now, and began eagerly. No photographs were permitted interiorly, but we could enjoy the grounds outside.

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St. George’s Chapel

St. George’s Chapel looked much more like a church to me. The inside was beautiful also.

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Flying buttresses
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Entrance to St George's Chapel
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Lion statue outside chapel
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Turret at chapel corner
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Me at Turret
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A remodeled moat!

Windsor Castle looked the way I expected a castle to look, with turrets and high walls.

We toured the castle, and especially liked the Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, a palace in miniature.

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Like all castles, Windsor Castle was surrounded by a moat. Gradually the need for a moat decreased, and eventually it was drained and made into gardens.

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Flowers in the ancient moat.

Here are some scenes around the castle:

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It was time to leave, and we were tired and hungry. Lillian said that Tom always found good food in a pub. We looked around at several, and settled on one called “4 TUNS.” Tom was right – the food was good, and reasonably priced.

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I’m actually in a pub!

Train Stations and Platform 9 3/4

While we were at the “Tube” Station, one of the very fast trains came by. These trains go 80-90 KM/hour, and are used for longer distances than within cities. It took a train with its engine and 6 long cars, 15 seconds to pass through the station! WHOOOOSH and it’s gone!

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An ordinary train.
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A high speed train. I used a high speed for this picture, so it would not be blurry.

What parent would go to London, and not remember Harry Potter? We had to find King’s Cross Station – which is actually St. Pancras Station. So we took another train which would get us to St. Pancras. Then the trick was to find platform 9. Of course, it should be after platform 8, but we could not find that either. So Lillian asked an attendant how to find platform 9.

“Where are you goin, Ma’m?” he questioned.

Lillian was embarrassed to admit she was looking for Harry Potter’s embarkation point so she mumbled something.

“Are you looking for Harry Potter, Ma’m” he asked.

Lillian admitted she was, and he gave her some complex directions. He obviously had answered this question many times though not for 2 adults. We did actually find platform 9, and lo and behold, there was ½ of a shopping cart sticking out of the brick wall. Actually, it was bolted to the wall. Higher on the wall was a sign reading 9¾. This was just too funny. We took turns photographing each other appearing to push the cart through the wall as in the story, laughing all the time. Then Lillian noticed that on a nearby train track (probably track 10) was a train loaded with passengers, all watching the crazy Americans being fans of Harry Potter! And no children anywhere around! That was the greatest laugh of all!

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Friday, July 2

Trafalgar Square

rafalgar Square is the center of London activity, and we wanted to join in. Admiral Horatio Nelson stands atop the world’s largest Corinthian column, 170 feet tall. In 1805 England was in danger from Napoleon on the other side of the English Channel, ready to attack. More than 900 miles away Lord Nelson attacked the French fleet off the coast of Spain at Trafalgar. The French were routed and England was saved.

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The most prominent building in Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery, filled with paintings. I looked around at some of them, The Supper At Emmaus by Caravaggio; Sunflowers by Van Gogh, and Water Lily Pond by Monet.

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The National Gallery
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I'm standing at a fountain in front of the National Gallery
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Fountains in Trafalgar Square
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A lion watches serenely over construction commotion
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King George IV
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Also on Trafalgar Square is a model of Lord Nelson’s ship, HMS Victory, in a bottle. This creation is 3.25 M high, 5 M long, and weighs 4 tons! That’s quite some model!
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The fountain in Trafalgar Square was so pretty on a hot day!

Red Double Decker buses were everywhere, all the time!

St. Martin-in-the-Fields

ince it was getting close to noon, and there was a free noon-time concert at St. Martin-In-The-Fields Church right next door. I wanted to attend that, so agreed to meet Lillian, Art and Melanie at a particular time on the steps of the National Gallery.

St. Martin-In-The-Fields was built in the 1720’s with a Gothic spire atop a Greek-style temple. St. Martin cared for the poor and the church continues to do so. The first church was on this site “in the fields” in the 13th century. It is famous for its free concerts at lunch-time. On this particular day a pianist was featured; a very talented young woman, who played a number of complicated pieces very well, and received an ovation.

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St. Martin-In-The-Fields Church
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Interior of St. Martin-In-The-Fields
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Looking up
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Ceiling Detail
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Corner Trim
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Pulpit
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Molded plaster ceilings
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Organ

Today we ate our sandwiches on the steps of the National Gallery.

Buckingham Palace

his lavish home has been Britain’s royal residence since 1837. If the queen is at home, the royal flag (red, yellow and blue) flies, otherwise the Union Jack flies. The queen was in Canada while we were there, so there was no chance to see her. There are no tours even when she is away, unless it is August or September. Our visit was in June.

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There is a long driveway up to the entrance of the palace, as you see. We found it easy to enter the palace grounds , simply by walking through the open arches on the side of the main gates.

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The ornate front gates of Buckingham Palace
Art standing at the front gates of Buckingham Palace

Close to Buckingham Palace, at the edge of Hyde Park, stands a giant memorial to Prince Albert, the beloved husband of Queen Victoria. After his death, she had this huge edifice erected in his memory.

Art at the Prince Albert Memorial

Changing of the Horse Guards

his arched entrance which leads to Buckingham Palace has been guarded for 200 years by soldiers in cavalry uniforms. They form the Queen’s Bodyguard. We just happened to walk along the street when they changed the guard, so stopped to watch.

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Ceremony of the Keys

friend had told Lillian about a ceremony of the keys at the Tower of London, which required reservations. Art wrote to the Tower of London and successfully reserved four tickets for us. Unfortunately photography was not permitted. The ceremony is very old, and involves the closing and locking up of the Tower for the Night.

While we waited to be admitted to the Tower before the Ceremony of the Keys, I noticed the seals on the gate. They were good sized; about 12 inches in diameter. Imagine having your initials at your front gate!

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After the ceremony, we walked down to the Tower Bridge area. It looked different at night than by day.

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Tower Bridge at night

Ministry of Defense and War Rooms

lmost everyone knows about #10 Downing Street, which is where the British Prime Minister lives with his family. There really is such a place.

Although the entry to the War Rooms appears modest, it opens up in to large formal dining rooms and offices. This is where foreign dignitaries come for official government dinners, and the cabinet meets on Tuesday mornings.

It is from this place that the British directed their strategies during the second World War. While Hitler’s planes bombed London, for 57 consecutive nights, at one point during the fall, winter and spring of 1940-41, and people took refuge sleeping in the “Tube” (train tunnels), and sent their children to the countryside for safety; Winston Churchill directed the resistance from here. The attacks killed 20,000 people, and leveled half the city of London, but Churchill urged the people to give their all, their “blood, toil, sweat, and tears.”

The exhibits were well done, and many of the objects reminded me of what was common usage at that time: dial telephones, typewriters in which the advance to the next line was done by a lever (but be careful about hyphenation). It seemed so out-of-date now, but the enemy had no better and no one guessed what was to come.

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Entrance to Churchill War Rooms Museum
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In the nearby street was a monument to the women who contributed so much to the success of the war effort
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The red telephone booth was so special about London, I had to have my picture taken in one.

Saturday, July 3

The Tower of London

he Tower of London has acquired a reputation as a prison, and a horrible place. In fact, kings lived in it. William The Conqueror built the White Tower in 1077-1097. Those who followed him enlarged it to its present 18 acre size. Because of its security, it has served over the years as the Royal Mint, The Royal Jewel House and most famously, as the prison and site of execution of those who opposed the crown. Today it is home to the 25 Yeoman Warders (known as the Beefeaters) who are easily identified by their red uniforms. They host about three million visitors a year.

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The Tower of London
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Beefeaters
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Entry corridor to Tower of London
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This gate prevents swimmers from entering the castle from the moat.
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This spiked gate was lowered each night (and still is) to prevent trespassers.

The Coldharbour Gate foundations and this ruined wall are all that survive of the formidable laate 1230's defenses built by Henry IV to protect his royal palace. Coldharbour was defined by huge cylindrical turrets, but was sadly demolished in the 17th century. The wall was concealed for centuries by later buildings until it was re-exposed in 1940 by Second World War bomb damage. Coldharbour was later used as a prison though it was not escape-proof. Alice Tankerville, charged with piracy, broke out with help from a love-lorn Tower servent in 1533.

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Part of the castle wall which still remains (see explanation).
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Explanation of the original wall.
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The royal weathervane
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Inside the Tower of London were actors dressed in period costume
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Anne Boleyn and Me
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We were careful to arrive early, and fortunately, walked right up to the place where the Crown Jewels are kept. The room where they are kept resembles the kind of room where our safe deposit boxes are kept, with thick steel walls, and timers and dials and the like. The jewels in the crowns are kept inside clear plastic boxes (which I am sure are bullet-proof glass), and the visitor stands on a slowly moving conveyor belt to admire them. The moving belt is to prevent people like me from standing and gawking at the jewels; and thereby holding up the line. Normally, one must move on after having passed by the jewels, but since no one was around this early we went back around and passed by again. We actually did this four times! The Beefeater guard didn’t mind at all, since there was no one else there.

Lillian wondered about something about the jewels, so we asked the guard her question. He was most helpful in giving her a complete answer; and then showed us how to look at the gems sideways to learn how deep each one was. He told us that sometimes when a particularly rare jewel was wanted by some king or queen, they could remove it from its original place; and return it later. This apparently was done fairly often.

The guard then took us to another room and showed us a whole case of tableware saved for state dinners. There were platters, bowls, candelabra, and many more items, all made of gold (real gold). It was a wonderful experience.

No pictures are permitted of the Crown Jewels, but these are scans of postcards which I purchased.

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Small Diamond Crown for Queen Victoria
purple crown
Purple Crown of King Edward
state crown
Imperial State Crown

rods
Sceptres and Rods

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Sovereign Sceptre with Cross

trumpet
State Trumpet

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Coronation Robe

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Crown of India

There was much to see at the Tower of London. We chose to go to an exhibition of armor next.

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A suit of armor

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Different types of armor

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The horses had armor too

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A model of the Tower of London, the red line marks the boundaries of its liberties

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Saint Johns Chapel in the Tower of London as it might have appeared about 1700

It was announced that there would be a demonstration of a trebuchet, a medieval form of artillery. Heather Lothamer had recently completed a paper on trebuchets, a weapon used in the late Middle Ages. I had no idea what a trebuchet was.

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This actor dressed as an announcer of that time period explained how the trebuchet works. The missile to be launched is placed in the cup, and then the 4 people load the weapon by pulling on its ropes. When they have pulled as much as they can, the leader calls out, and together they let go. The trebuchet’s bucket spins around and is flung forward, and its payload is sent flying. In our demonstration, the payload was a water balloon, but in wartime it would be a large rock to break down the enemy’s castle wall, or perhaps burning oil to set fire to the interior of the castle, if they can launch it high enough to clear the top of the castle wall. First a team of women from the audience tried it, and then a team of men. As expected, the men’s balloon went farther because men are usually stronger and heavier than women. It was very interesting, since I had never heard of a trebuchet before.

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This area was where the Trebuchet was demonstrated.
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A young assistant puts away a crossbow.
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Notice the length of the line now, waiting to see the Crown Jewels! Good thing we came early! The line continues behind the people walking, too
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The fancy living quarters of the king.
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This room has a painted door.
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The king has his own private chapel in which to pray.
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This may have been a confessional?
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This room may have been used to receive guests

Kensington Gardens

ensington Palace was the home of English court life from 1689 to 1760, when the royal family moved into Buckingham Palace. Princess Diana lived here from her 1981 marriage to Prince Charles until her death in 1997.

The palace had beautiful formal gardens, so we decided to explore them. These were the first formal gardens we had seen on our trip.

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Kensington Palace
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Statue of King William of Orange, King of Great Britain and Ireland 1689-1702. Presented by William II, German Emperor and King of Prussia to King Edward VII for the British nation, 1907
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The Kensington Sunken Gardens, beautifully displayed
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Deep pink phlox
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Lighter pink phlox
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Foxglove
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Fading light brought out the remarkable shape of the leaves of this unidentified plant.
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Lavender Foxglove
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Yarrow
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Closeup of yarrow
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Formal border with pond

Sunday, July 4

St. Mary’s Church

he British don’t celebrate the fourth of July (remember they lost the war) so it was just another day to them. Lillian and I decided to attend Mass at a small neighborhood church, just around the block from our apartment.

During Mass a couple of children literally screamed on and on. It was the worst behavior I have ever witnessed. They should have been taken out of church at the first instance, but for some reason, no attempt was made to stop them.

Although small, the church was beautiful inside and after Mass I took some photos. There was also a small garden in an attached courtyard.

The British Museum

he British Museum begins with the Rosetta Stone. Everyone should understand its importance in history. For a thousand years, Europeans were unable to decipher the inscriptions on Egyptian statues and buildings. The Rosetta Stone contained a single message in three languages. The top message was Egyptian, and the bottom was Greek. Anyone who knew Greek could now read the Egyptian message too; and from there proceed to other Egyptian writings. Now, translators could figure out the hieroglyphics.

I was surprised at how large the Rosetta Stone was. I had not pre-determined a size in my mind, but this was amazing.

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The Rosetta Stone
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A sarcophagus in which was laid the dead body of an important person.
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Red granite head from a colossal figure of a king, possibly Amenopis III.
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Human head, winged lion. Assyrian, about 865 – 860 BD, from Nimrad
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Natural History Museum

he Natural History Museum is known to contain many wonders, but our time was short. I therefore focused my attention on the gems and minerals section, which I have always found especially interesting.

This is the largest cut stone in the museum; a topaz weighing 2,982 carats. It was found in Brazil in Mine De Francisco, Brazil 1965. Topaz is known for the size of its crystals and the large flawless gemstones that can be cut from them. This cool blue topaz shows off these qualities. It is the largest cut stone in the collection. It took months of planning and special equipment to produce this super-sized gem.

Zabargad. A tiny island in the Red Sea, is famous for the deep green stone peridot. Over hundreds of years, the island has been lost and rediscovered many time by different civilizations. At one time it was fiercely defended by the ancient Egyptians, at another it was ruled by pirates. More recently it has been mined by private western companies. This crystal, one of the largest ever found, and the magnificent step-cut stone next to it, display the most prized bottle green color.

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Olivine, variety: peridot, gemstone. In 1924 weighed 686 carats, in 1932 weighed 146 carats.

In 1830, a peasant charcoal burner discovered the first Russian emeralds in the roots of a tree that had fallen during a storm. Emeralds from Russia are generally badly flawed. This unusually good example has been polished into a smooth cabochon to display its fine, dark green colour without emphasizing its flaws.

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Beryl, variety emerald. 20.45 carats. Tokovaya mine, Urals Region Russia, 1867.

This rare colourless beryl has a peculiar history. It feasured in an 1877 edition of Nature Magazine, described as the “Scotch Koh-i-Noor,”one of the most brilliant gems ever seem. It is very unlikely this is from Scotland as no other similar specimens have been recorded there. It is much more likely to have come from Brazil, like the deeply etched crystal mass behind it. It is not known whether the owner was deceived when he bought the stone, or it he made up it Scottish origins to add interest to what was already a remarkable gem.

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The Scotch Koh-i-Noor
Beryl, variety Goshenite. 88 caraats. Originaly listed as Perthshire, Scotland, but more likely Brazil. 1878.
Beryl variety gosherite, etched crystal, Brazil , 1961
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Precious opal in jasper, Queensland, Australia
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Precious opal in iron nodule, Queensland, Australia
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Black precious opal, Australia
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Black precious opal, locality unknown
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Stalactitic, Restomel mine, Cornwall
Radiating groups of acitular crystals, Tennycayse, Nova Scotia
Groups of brilliant twinned crystals Panasquerra mine Portugal
Latrobe nugget

Click here to view the story of the second half of this trip, my visit to Paris

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