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Sunday, October 26, 2014

DAY 10 - Tribute to Winston Churchill (Part 1)

Sept 12 - Blenheim Palace and More...

I woke early and while the boys were sleeping, I went for a walk in Green Park (close to Buckingham Palace).  It is one of the Royal Parks of London, covering almost 50 acres.  The entire park is comprised of mature trees - very beautiful and old.

One of the monuments in the park

I picked up a fruit smoothie and some pastries for breakfast in the subway station.  - YUM!

This is something famous ??

 We met our tour guide for the day in his car and he was prepared to take us to several places today.  He had his work cut out for him to go to a few places in London on our way to Blenheim Palace and Oxford.

We left from our hotel - the Flemings, but only after Lloyd waited for the bank to open since the ATM machine wasn't working. 

Waiting area at the Flemings - beautiful, isn't it?

Calken Gallery - some pretty flowers and greenery outside the store.
 Famed for the beautiful flowers and hanging baskets that tumble out onto the street, The Churchill Arms was a 'London in Bloom' winner two years in a row.

It is said that this was London's most famous watering hole.  Built in 1750, this Pub was frequented by Churchill's grandparents.

November 1874 – 24 January 1965
  Sir Winston Churchill was a British politician and Nobel laureate who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, and an artist. Churchill is the only British Prime Minister to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature since its inception in 1901, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United states.

 More about Churchill later and in the next post.  He was an AMAZING man!
Westfield - home of ultimate shopping in London
  Blenheim Palace - is a monumental country house in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.  It is the principal residence of the dukes of Marlborough, and the only non-royal, non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England's largest houses, was built between 1705 and  1722.
The palace is also notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill.
Both Lloyd and John are excited to learn more about Churchill, one of WWII's heroes.

Following the palace's completion, it became the home of the Churchill family for the next 300 years,

 Lloyd is enjoying finding out more about these Oxford University students and how they come from different parts of the world.
 The museum was VERY interesting and the home was so beautiful!
One of his favorite quotes during WWII.

 Aren't these Christmas cards so cute?  Churchill was an amazing artist, so there were many examples of his artwork - especially in his Christmas cards.
 Some snapshots of Churchill's bedroom and other rooms that he grew up in.

John chats with a gal who is there with the Horse Show

They're getting ready for a banquet at this L-O-N-G fancy table.

3 knives & 3 forks? - HELP!
In the northern end of the library is housed the largest pipe organ in private ownership in Europe, built by England's great Organ builder, Henry Willis & Sons.
The pipes in this organ are amazing!

He gave a demonstration which was so interesting.

After this man talked and gave a demonstration of all the things the organ could do, he asked if anyone in the audience could play organ.  I raised my hand and he had me play.  I flipped through his music and chose a Bach piece that I hadn't read before.  The sound was so amazing as he kept changing the stops.  I wasn't so good when it came time for the feet to play along, but it was great fun and Lloyd captured it on video.  Someday I'll have to get a copy of it.
The inscription on top of the organ.
He told a story of how the palace once housed an orphanage of boys.  One of them stole one of the original stops in the organ.  It never turned up, so they had to fabricate a new one and that it never was quite the same as the others.  Many years later (probably about 70 or so), a dying man on his deathbed told of his childish prank and produced the stolen stop which was returned to its original place.  I'm sure he felt relieved of the burden on his heart all those years!
The chapel is housed close to the organ.

We took a quick walk out to the gardens by the Palace....very nice!
We looked for the huge old Cedar tree at the lakeside in the Park.  This tree was featured in the flashback scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Here is a photo of the tree that I got off the internet.

And to think that we were right there!

Headed back to the Palace - isn't it massive?
Practicing for a horse race which we sadly will miss (just outside the grounds).
Blenheim Tea Rooms & Guest House

Churchill Street and the cool rock walls that they have in the UK

 Churchill was buried in 1965 at St. Martin's Parish Church near Woodstock at Bladon.
 This current church was built on a 11th-12th c. ancient church.
Such a gorgeous day to visit Churchill's resting place - what a great man he was!

 Sir Winston Churchill had expressed a wish to be buried at Bladon with the common folk. So, on the 30th of  January 1965, after his sate funeral service at St. Paul's Cathedral (the largest ever held in world history up to that point), his body was taken by train to Bladon.

 There, the private burial took place, conducted by the rector. By contrast with the earlier service, only relatives and close friends were present.

A monument to Churchill from the Danish Resistance

Our guide told us some interesting things about Churchill.  What a simple grave for a magnificent man!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DAY 9 - What a Way to Spend a Birthday!

Sept 11 - Our 2nd Show:  The Jersey Boys

While the rest of the world was remembering 9/11 and the horrific Twin Tower's bombings, we, here in London set out to have a fabulous 85th birthday for my cousin, Lloyd.  He's had his own trials this year with the death of his beloved wife and a fire catastrophe to his 45 year old home.  So we all determined that we would make this a day to remember!
We have hired a private tour guide in a limousine to take us all around London to see the main sights.
 Kensington Gardens
Exciting!  I sang here with the American Youth Symphony & Chorus in 1969.
 Our 1st stop is the famous Royal Albert Concert Hall.  It is located on the northern edge of South Kensington, best known for holding the Proms concerts annually each summer since 1941. 5,272 seats is its capacity.

Its opening was in March of 1871 by Queen Victoria.  A concert followed, when the Hall's acoustic problems became immediately apparent.

It used to be jokingly said that the Hall was "the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice".

The Hall on opening day from Kensington Gardens.
 Queen Victoria was raised in Kensington Palace, so when Prince Albert died at the age of 42 in 1861, she placed a monument in the Park.         Queen Victoria was born and raised at Kensington Palace, so when Prince Albert died of typhoid in 1861 she placed a memorial in the park. - from The Albert Memorial was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1872 and measures 180-feet from tip to toe. The whole thing is gilded-gold and surrounded by 169 marble figures from history. - from The Albert Memorial was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1872 and measures 180-feet from tip to toe. The whole thing is gilded-gold and surrounded by 169 marble figures from history. - from The Albert Memorial was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1872 and measures 180-feet from tip to toe. The whole thing is gilded-gold and surrounded by 169 marble figures from history. - from
The whole thing is gilded gold.
 The Prince had told his wife that he didn't want a statue, but he didn't get his wish as it turned out to be the most exuberant statue in all of London.
 Our guide took us through town pointing out so many amazing sites and gave us tons of information.  I don't remember everything, of course, but following are some tid-bits of information.

Harrod's is an upmarket department store in the Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea.  The store occupies a 5-acre site and has over one million square feet of selling space in over 330 departments making it the biggest department store in Europe.

It was started in 1849 as a small grocery store.  Today its motto is:  "Omnia, omnibus, ubique".... -"Everything for everyone, everywhere."  The shop even once sold a baby elephant from its pet department.  Our guide said the store recently was sold for 2 billion pounds.  Whew!  Guess what?  The 2nd most widely spoken language in London is....Arabic, so I wonder who bought it. 

 The 'Green Men' will kick you out if dress code is not adhered to - even jeans or leggings.
  Its motto is a simple Omnia, omnibus, ubiqueEverything for everyone, everywhere. - from London Drum city guide

Harrod's - the BIGGEST department store in ALL of Europe....LET'S STOP NOW!!

Buckingham Palace -
 5 minute tour of the outside of the residence of her majesty, the Queen.

This was, after all, a tour around London for just a day, so we only had a taste of it.  We'll come back here in a couple of days.

Buckingham Palace was built by the 1st Duke of Buckingham in 1702.  It was originally planned to be a country mansion at the edge of St. James Park.

No changing of the guards for a couple of days PLUS the Queen is not at home - the flag is flying.
 Queen Victoria Memorial -commemorates the longest-reigning monarch.  It is carved from a 2,000 lb. block of solid marble.  It was unveiled by George V in 1911.
Buckingham Palace was built by the 1st Duke of Buckingham in 1702. It was originally intended as a country mansion at the edge of St. James’s Park, - read more at
Buckingham Palace was built by the 1st Duke of Buckingham in 1702. It was originally intended as a country mansion at the edge of St. James’s Park, - read more at
Florence Nightingale - founder of modern nursing
This statue of Florence Nightingale, sculpted in 1867 by AG Walker, backs onto the Crimean War Memorial. Oddly, she carries an oil lamp, instead of her actual candle lantern. Nurses leave a wreath here every year on May 12 - the anniversary of the death of ‘The Lady With The Lamp’ who transformed military hospitals.

 Trafalgar Square was laid out between 1829 and 1841 to commemorate Lord Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.  There are four plinths around the edge, with statues of important men on three.  The fourth has been empty because of lack of funds until recently when a contest was held. 
Katharina Fritsch’s “Hahn/Cock,” an ultramarine cockerel meant to symbolize male-dominated Britain
John is all smiles when he sees the horses of the Queen.  He's around them every day back home in Kansas, so he's really missed the 4-legged creatures.
These horses have to stand still still still for 3-4 hours at a time.  Poor Black Beauties!!

London police in their highly visible jackets.

Palace of Westminster
A view of Westminster Abbey - we got to go inside for a tour!

Victoria Tower in all her splendor.  Completed in 1858, it was the tallest secular building in the world.
The Jewel Tower is a 14th-century surviving element of the royal Palace. 
It was built between 1365 and 1366, to house the personal treasure of Edward III.

There were a couple of different rallies/protests going on while we were there.

Another view of Victoria Tower

The famous Elizabeth Tower or "Big Ben" in the background.

I really enjoyed going through Westminster Abbey - SO MUCH HISTORY!  It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for British monarchs,

St. Margaret's Church - next to Westminster Abbey
John Wesley is credited with the foundation of the evangelical movement known as Methodism.  Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the established Anglican church, insisting that "the Methodist movement lay well within its tradition."  He became widely respected and, by the end of his life, had been described as "the best loved man in England".
John Wesley - Father of Methodism  1703-1791
Lloyd and John wanted to go to another English pub, so we tried the Old London Pub. 
"Bring us in good ale - bring us in good ale."  I remember this song from college.

Having a "jolly good" time with our tour guide.

The boys had a typical British meat pie dinner with peas - what else?

I had salmon and it was VERY good.

Not sure what this is, but it was interesting.

"Now this is an interesting building".....

The Tower of London
The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror after the Norman conquest.  It survived the next 900 years as palace, prison, royal mint, and execution yard, before becoming London's top tourist attraction.
To commemorate the 100th year since WWI began, poppies are all around in the moat.  BEAUTIFUL!!
The red poppies to honor the dead are made of ceramic.  It was quite a sight!

More photos of the Tower of London.  We had to do the visit in an hour (most people have a whole day) because our driver had to get back to another job.

The oldest part of this historic site is the White Tower.  I think this is photo of it, but I'm not sure.

Beautiful glass monument commemorating the executions here.
Anne Boleyn was one of the unfortunate ones to lose her life here at the Tower of London.  The year was  1536.  Remember, she was Queen Elizabeth I mother.
Augghh...there goes my head in one clean swoop!
“Gentle visitor pause a while,
Where you stand death cut away death cut away the light of many days.
Here, jeweled names were broken from the vivid thread of life.
May they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage,
Under these restless skies.”  (The wording on the Tower Green monument)
On to the Crown Jewels exhibit.
Crown Jewels refer to all the things worn by the sovereign of the United Kingdom during the coronation ceremony and at other state functions.  The earliest dates from 200-150 B.C.

The Imperial Crown has over 3,000 precious gems and weighs over 2 pounds.  That's it worth??!!!
The presence of 7 ravens is traditionally believed to protect the Crown and the Tower; a superstition holds that "If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it."

Designed in 2000 by Renzo Piano, The Shard is London's tallest skyscraper and the UK's 2nd tallest building.  Its pyramidal shape and glass exterior quickly lent it the nickname, "The Shard of Glass."

Sculptured Animals overlook the old moat of the Tower of London.

5-Star Hotel - The Ritz - in Picadilly
Now it's time to "Put on the Ritz" and dress up for another show.  YEAH!  After all, it is Lloyd's birthday, so we're going to see a show about the famous 4 Seasons Band that we all grew up with. 
In the lobby of our hotel.

There are 241 theatres in London - isn't that crazy!  People really love culture and it's the thing to do!
The Jersey Boys show - and I'm with MY boys!
....but first, let's EAT!  Lloyd's request is to go to the BEST Pub in town and we have less than an hour to do it.  After some inquiries, we find a 300 year old "best in London" pub and IT WAS GOOD!

Famous for their "Steak and Ale Pies" - made boys are very intent on eating!
I can't really remember who ordered what, but they ALL were great!  I think I had the meat pie!

Fish 'n Chips & mushy peas

We're looking pretty content!
Our cute little English the way they talk.

Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London's West End in the City of Westminster, built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. In this context, a circus, from the Latin word meaning "circle", is a round open space at a street junction.  Our show was right here, so during intermission I went out and took a couple photos.
I loved the music of the Four Seasons.  Guess which song REALLY made them famous?   In 1962, the group released their first album, featuring the single "Sherry," which was not only their first charted hit but also their first number-one song. I ended up changing my name from Sharon to Sherry shortly afterwards to the chagrin of my family.  ha!

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Everyone LOVED it!

Our carriage tonight was all lit up and played music.  Is that "Happy Birthday" I hear?

Thank-you London for a wonderful city.  Thank-you Tour Guide and Driver for a lovely tour.  Thank-you Lloyd and John for your companionship and for asking me to accompany you to the UK!  What a day!!