Our summer Elderhostel trips took us about London, travel on our own through Scotland, then on an expedition cruise to the Arctic

London (Independent London--from Roman Outpost to Modern Day)
[to Scotland] [to Polar Star cruise]

Our flight from LAX to Heathrow took us over some of Greenland's glaciers. They fairly shone in early-morning light.

Our instructor, Kevin Flude, was the perfect professor: distracted, desultory, discursive, and deeply knowledgeable about London's history, archeology, art, and pubs. He typically lectured in the mornings, and left us to follow self-guided maps on walking tours in the afternoons. We walked 5 - 13 miles a day.

Our hotel, the Radisson Kenilworth was in a central location in Bloomsbury, about 2 blocks from the British Museum. Our second-floor room looked out on Great Russell Street, at eye level with the double-decker busses.

Among our first London lunches was fish and chips with mushy peas and malt vinegar. An amber ale and Sauvignon Blanc completed the fine repast.

 

You know you are in London when you see:

Big Ben,

red phone booths (at British Museum) and

Coldstream guards (at Tower of London)

This is the main entrance to the British Museum, which contains one of the world's most comprehensive collections of art and artifacts.

The transparent ceiling of the main lobby in the British Museum fills the large space with natural light.

Roman Emperor Trajan stands sentinel near the Tower of London (really, a large walled complex enclosing many buildings), where Chris Green took us on one of our few guided walks.

This glass monument lists the names of all those who lost their heads at the Tower of London. The glass pillow is a nice touch.

The Jewel House, behind the White Tower (above) includes a marvelous display of the Crown Jewels--no photos allowed!

After seeing the Crown Jewels, the best gift-shop present is ...

 

...your very own crown!

A Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) walks near the White Tower, a central feature of the Tower of London complex.

We walked from the Tower of London to St. Paul's Cathedral, seen here from the Millennium Bridge. "Wings" on the suspension bridge were added to dampen harmonic oscillations resulting from pedestrian footfalls.

On this walk, we passed

the dragon-delimited London City limits, past which the Queen needs permission to enter; a monument to the Camel Corps, in Covent Garden =>

...and a phone-booth advertisement asking the eternal question.

A refreshing stop at the Cittie of Yorke elicited the question "Which ale today?" Before we went to London, I downloaded GPS coordinates of the 38 pubs within walking distance of our hotel (culled from nearly 500 English pubs). A TSP guide!

We preferred the intimacy of Christopher Wren's reconstruction of St. Stephen Walbrook (following the Great Fire) to the grandeur and large crowds of St. Paul's.

Our favorite "Local" Pub was the Museum Tavern, where imbibing spilled out into the streets. Note the sign: it is sport-free.

In a rare moment, just after it opened, the Museum Tavern had few patrons. Their best (darkest) ale was Old Peculiar.

Chris took us on a guided tour of Southwark, the part of old London that provided "nasty, but necessary", goods and services (prostitution, drink, ...). Here is the (new) Globe Theatre, developed by Sam Wanamaker, the American actor.

The George Inn is typical of those south of the Thames--rebuilt after a fire (1676). Charles Dickens lived here while writing Little Dorrit. South-side pubs were gathering places for those leaving town (such as Chaucer, who left the Tabard on his trip to Canterbury), or those arriving after London's gates were closed.

Even the south bank has become gentrified in the last few centuries.

The Tate Modern occupies an old power plant on the south bank. We spent several hours perusing its eclectic collection.

Walking back to the north side of the Thames, we passed Cleopatra's Needle. The decorated elephant is one of over 250 in a city-wide exhibit, Elephant Parade. They will be auctioned off to raise funds for an elephant conservation fund.

Among the many musicals playing in Covent Garden was Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre (build by Richard D'Oyly Carte of Gilbert and Sullivan fame).

London is one of the few cities in the world with a first-rate city museum. Here is a fragment of a Roman wall (ca. 200 A.D.) that stands outside the Museum of London.

An extensive exhibit in the Museum of London covers the Great Fire of 1666, depicted in this oil painting.

Our self-guided walk, following the route of the Great Fire, started at Christopher Wren's Monument to the Great Fire.

 

Perambulations also took us by the monument to WWII fire fighters, The Blitz, outside St. Paul's Cathedral. The Blitz killed over 43,000 civilians in an eight month period.

Another guided walk took us through Trafalgar Square,

which is adjacent to the National Gallery. Trafalgar Square features large lions that guard Nelson's Column and provide climbing for children and the occasional adult

The National Gallery has an impressive collection of fine art pieces. As Kevin guided us through, he pointed out paintings showing the evolution of perspectivity from the ancient Greeks to Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors, which depicts a slant-anamorph perspectivity in an imbedded foreground print.

Fountains in Trafalgar Square range from extra large (above)
to personal (right):

After Trafalgar Square, we walked on a self-guided tour past Westminster Abbey (founded in 960 AD), the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, and ...

...Buckingham Palace, with its view of the London Eye (below):

Kevin also took us on a guided tour of the Inns of Court. Our group paused outside Ravenscroft, purveyors of legal wigs and gowns for barristers. They provided Rumpole's attire!

The Chapel of Lincoln's Inn, designed by Inigo Jones, is built on Pillars in this undercroft..

Somerset House, along the Strand, provided government offices. It is now a cultural center.

London's oldest public loo (a multi-holer)--no longer accessible.

Our group dined at the Princess Louise Pub. Our pub fare included steak and kidney pie, together with a Samuel Smith pint.

Yet another fine meal at Tas, a Turkish restaurant near our hotel.

Because our Elderhostel group was small (seven), Kevin invited us to his home for a lasagna dinner, prepared by his daughters.

We quaffed at two of Kevin's recommended pubs on the way: The Olde Cheshire Cheese, and The Ship Tavern.

At our farewell supper, Kevin proudly displayed his new book: Divorced, Beheaded, Died,... It is available on Audible.com and also graced the shelves at the Edinburgh Castle.

-On to Scotland
-On to Polar Star cruise

-Back to Ron's Home Page