I’m in Paris!!!
All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.
– J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
The character of Peter Pan originated in a book by J. M. Barrie, The Little White Bird, published in 1902. The first version of the Peter Pan play was performed in 1904. Several chapters from the original book were selected and republished in 1906 as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Subsequent revisions and adaptations have resulted in the many films, plays, and books about Peter Pan. In 1929, Barrie gave all rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children here in London, providing a significant source of income through royalties.
This morning, I visited Kensington Gardens with the wife of one of Michael’s colleagues. I just had to stop and visit the Peter Pan statue. We also visited the memorial to Prince Albert (husband to Queen Victoria) and a beautiful memorial fountain to Princess Diana.
As you can see in the photo, the day was beautiful and temperatures were higher than they’ve been for a while. We strolled through the park, visiting some of the flower gardens near the Albert Memorial. At the end of the walk, we enjoyed some iced tea and a salad at the Orangery in the park near Kensington Palace.
Well, not really. But I did visit her house today.
Every summer while Queen Elizabeth is in residence in Scotland, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to the public. This is the final week of this year’s opening, so I managed to get in. What opulence! I couldn’t take pictures inside, but you can do a virtual tour of some of the rooms here: Buckingham Palace State Rooms. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to live in a place like this.
One big draw of the tour this year was a display of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. Apparently many visitors were drawn to the State Room tour just to see the dress. The lace work was beautiful and was appliqued at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. Her earrings, shoes, a recreated bouquet and wedding cake were also part of the display. Each flower used for decoration, whether in the lace, on the cake, or in the bouquet, was carefully chosen for its symbolism. For example, the flowers in the lace represented different parts of the United Kingdom.
Buckingham Palace is a popular tourist site, so I heard many different languages spoken. Lots of German visitors today. I was also approached by two different groups of Dutch students (about middle school aged), who had an assignment for their English class to approach individuals and ask them several questions. One question was, “What do you think about when you hear ‘Holland’?” I replied tulips and wooden shoes. Then they had to take pictures of me sitting with them. It was really cute. The two girls were very engaged, and the boys just tried to do the minimum amount of talking.
- Kate Middleton’s McQueen wedding dress breaks Buckingham Palace records! (graziadaily.co.uk)
In the past two days, I’ve toured two historic palaces, The Tower of London on Friday and Hampton Court Palace with Michael on Saturday. London is dripping with history, and the stories associated with these palaces and their royal (and not so royal) residents are fascinating.
The Tower of London tour by one of the beefeaters was especially
entertaining horrifying with stories of blood and gore, especially during King Henry VIII’s reign. But the Tower dates back to the end of 1066 when it was founded by William the Conqueror. The original part of the fortress is the White Tower, which served as a royal residence and a prison. Later expansions brought in more defensive features as well as other purposes, such as a royal mint. Today, the Tower houses the Crown Jewels, an incredibly impressive display of wealth. Photographs are not permitted in the building, but you can see them in this video clip:
While I was at the Tower, I saw a group of students with unusual school uniforms. The students said they attended a boarding school, and this was their uniform. It looked just like this painting, though the girls I saw wore lacy cravats. Their outer coat was floor length and they also wore yellow stockings. I was thinking Hogwarts and wondered how Visitation or Interlochen students would enjoy wearing these uniforms.
On Saturday, Michael and I took the train out to Hampton Court Palace. This palace originally belonged to Cardinal Wolsey, an important advisor to King Henry VIII. When Wolsey fell out of favor with the King, the palace passed on to Henry VIII as one of his many palaces. Later, William III and his wife Mary tried to rebuild and renovate the palace in the style of Versailles, but that project was never completed. This place is so huge, we didn’t get the chance to see everything. There are audio tours available, but the format (a pretend servant taking you around on Henry VIII’s wedding day) tends to get tedious and I wanted more straightforward information.
The gardens were especially beautiful. I’ve posted some photos on my Flickr account (you can click on the photos in the right column to see them), but I also put together another panorama, a little better than my first one.
Yesterday afternoon, I took a tour given by one of the official guides to the City of London. Various tours are given each day providing a great introduction to the city. The tour I went on was called City Highlights. Although it introduced me to some of the grand buildings of the city, we also visited some interesting, small sites.
One of these unusual places was Postman’s Park, a beautiful, quiet park tucked between the large buildings and busy streets of downtown London. In this park is a unique monument to “heroic self sacrifice.” In 1887, George Frederick Watts, an artist who believed in art as a vehicle for social change, proposed a monument to honor heroes in everyday life. By 1900, his vision led to the unveiling of this memorial, which consists of plaques honoring individuals who lost their lives trying to save others. There are more than 50 plaques in this memorial, with the most recent one being added in 2009.
Another interesting stop on the tour was down a small and narrow alleyway. The tour guide wanted to show us how the practice of building structures so close to one another led to the rapid spread of the Great Fire of 1666, when buildings were constructed of wood and wattle. This little alleyway shows how many of the streets of old London would have looked.
To the left of this photo is a chop house called the George and Vulture. An inn has been associated with this site since the 1200s. This particular chop house was frequented by Charles Dickens and is mentioned several times in his book, The Pickwick Papers.
In other news, I looked at an apartment yesterday. We decided to put in an offer, so keep your fingers crossed! This apartment is located on the street where Fagin had his hideout in Oliver Twist. Wouldn’t that be appropriate?
Today I visited the Museum of London to learn more about the history of this great city.
The Museum of London is set up for visitors to follow the exhibits in chronological order, “like IKEA” the information lady told me. (I guess I look like an IKEA shopper!) It begins with an exhibit on the area before the city was founded, continues with Roman times, the medieval era, on up to modern day London.
The Romans invaded the area around 43 AD, planning to build a bridge across the River Thames for better access to the rest of Britain. It is believed that the site of the original London Bridge is very close to the current site. The Roman city, Londinium, grew around the northern end of the bridge.
The museum is built right by the old city wall. Construction first began on the London Wall around 100-120 AD under the Romans. During the bombings of World War II and the subsequent rebuilding of the city, parts of the wall were rediscovered and researchers were able to determine the outlines of the city wall.
Near the Museum of London, on Noble Street, this section of the wall was uncovered during one of those German bombing raids.
Archeologists continue to make discoveries about Londinium today, especially when areas are excavated for modern building projects. The article below describes how an old Roman bath was recently found along the Thames near the site of the first London Bridge.