Countdown: Top 5 Places & Why
Changing of the Guards, Buckingham Palace
“It’s important that God often saves us from ourselves.”
– Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom,
Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen,
Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith
At the end of travelling Europe for 5 weeks I had the opportunity to conquer London in one week. I stayed with long-time family friends who graciously opened there “flat” for me, right in the heart of downtown London (it was only a 10 minute walk to Buckingham Palace.) In that week I was able to see more than 25 of London’s top sites.
Here are but some of the highlights:
- Big Ben & Westminster Bridge – crossing this famous bridge is an experience: one way will bring you to Big Ben and the Parliament buildings, the other way gives you access to the London Eye & if you stand in the middle of the bridge on the sidewalk you will have an uninhibited view of the River Thames
- London Eye – a huge, enclosed ferris wheel with a 360 degree view out the cabin windows, with a wooden circular platform to sit on if you don’t want to stand; got to see the city from above on a very clear day
- St. Paul’s Cathedral – an enormous, majestic cathedral with very high ceilings. I could literally sense and feel the presence of God in this place; walked the winding staircases up to the 3 galleries: Whispering Gallery (257 steps up); Stone Gallery (376 steps up), & the Golden Gallery (528 steps up). From outside the top gallery, I could see the city for miles with the River Thames meandering through it. The crypt, or basement, stores the burial grounds of some of London’s most famous people, including the likes of: Lord Nelson, Sir Christopher Wren ( the architect of St Paul’s), & Lord Wellington
- River Thames – went on a boat cruise on this well-recognized river. The vessel took us from the London Eye to Tower Bridge, and back again, stopping to see the Tower of London. It is an eye-opening experience, as on either side of the Thames there are famous buildings, landmarks and monuments, not to mention passing under the many bridges that London affords
- Trooping of the Colors – is an annual ceremony celebrating the official birthday of the British monarch. This tradition, since 1748, is also referred to as “The Queen’s Birthday Parade”. Essentially, each year on a Saturday in June, the Queen rides her royal carriage from Buckingham Palace down The Mall and back again, & leads the Royal Family out on the royal balcony of the palace for the grand finale of the Royal Air Force flypast
- Trafalgar Square – an enormous, wide-open square that has 2 large fountains with very blue water, huge lion statues that greet you at the entrance, with the Canada House right next to the square, and of course Lord Nelson’s column, an Olympic digital timer on site counting down the number of days until the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, & culminates with the National Gallery standing at the pinnacle of the square
- Metropolitan Tabernacle – this is the actual Reformed Baptist church where the world-famous, highly-accomplished, and well-loved Charles Haddon Spurgeon held his pastorate and led his congregation from the pulpit. For 38 years Spurgeon pastored this church and under his ministry tens of thousands were converted to God under the preaching of the Word. In its day, it seated 5,000 people and was by all accounts & standards, a megachurch. Spurgeon was enormously productive during his lifetime as John Piper has said, “I think the word “indefatigable” was created for people like Charles Spurgeon”, and his influence was such that Mark Driscoll says he is “[t]he greatest Bible preacher outside of Scripture.” Located at Elephant and Castle, I got to attend a Sunday evening service and had the tremendous honor of walking through the very church where Charles Spurgeon preached in & where God worked mightily through this one particular man.
- Westminster Abbey – during my tour of this famous Gothic church, I noticed it has fascinating side rooms loaded with tons of history and containing the “who’s-who” of British history. It houses the grave sites of prominent people, such as: Sir Isaac Newton, Handel, William Wilberforce, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth I of England, to name a few. Also notable, the last thing you see before leaving the Abbey is Winston Churchill’s memorial (his memorial service was at St. Paul’s Cathedral & he is buried in Bladon churchyard.)
- Tower of London – had a fun time checking out the Crown Jewels and other nifty war weapons (though I was a little disappointed there weren’t any demonstrations being offered.) The grounds were cool to explore and were sloped up from the banks of the River Thames. It was a really cool experience being inside this humongous and well-kept castle.
- Tower Bridge – a perfectly symmetrical, war-like bridge that hinges in the middle to allow large boats and vessel carriers to pass through & is located on the River Thames, right after the Tower of London
- Churchill War Rooms – a fascinating history crash-course of Churchill’s involvement during WWII. This was the very place (bunker) where Churchill set up camp & commanded the British government from during the war. I got to see Winston’s private quarters (where he slept and ate his dinners) & saw the attached museum for more learning about this highly influential 20th century giant.
- Covent Garden, Leiscester Square, Piccidilly Circus, Regent Street & Oxford Street – each of these sites are all interconnected and I couldn’t believe how short a distance it is to walk through each of them
- City bus tour – went on double-decker bus & sat on top deck with the open-air and took in a scenic and educational ’round-trip of this beautiful city of London
- Theatre show – went to see a great performance of “Billy Elliott” in the West End theatre, Victoria Palace
- Windsor Castle – as the oldest working castle in the world, it has been said this is the Queen’s preferred residence as she is away from the busyness of London life and her administrative duties. It has very large grounds with lots to walk around and see & is located about an hour drive directly west of London, in the suburbs.
- The Queen – really enjoyed learning more about the royal family and the Queen herself. The timing was perfect as I was able to take part in celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, as she has ruled for 60 years in 2012 as the British monarch (2nd only in length to her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years and seven months.) I had the privilege of seeing the Queen on two occasions, one at Buckingham Palace, and the other at Windsor Castle.
“Mind the gap.” – London Underground (AKA: “the Tube”)
“This is London.” – Edmund H. North
“London, thou art the flower of Cities all.”
– William Dunbar, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 18th Edition
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 18th Edition
Making a friend at Windsor Castle
“The man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.”
– Oscar Wilde
“It is not the walls that make the city, but the people who live within them. The walls of London may be battered, but the spirit of the Londoner stands resolute and undismayed.” – George VI
Front entrance to St. Paul’s Cathedral
“The best bribe which London offers to-day to the imagination, is, that, in such a vast variety of people and conditions, one can believe there is room for persons of romantic character to exist, and that the poet, the mystic, and the hero may hope to confront their counterparts.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.”
– Samuel Johnson
“I’ve been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day.” – Walter Besant
“The streets of London are paved with Gold.” – Proverb
“The world can never be in the state of right order, strong government, and good influence unless London is truly and literally established as its capital.” – Kedar Joshi
City view from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral
“America is a nation with no truly national city, no Paris, no Rome, no London, no city which is at once the social center, the political capital, and the financial hub.”
– C. Wright Mills
“Ambition is contagious. Be driven.” – London billboard
“I try not to take myself so seriously.” – Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II