London sunset

Westminster Palace and Thames River at sunset, October 2007.

The Clock Tower of the Westminster Palace or Houses of Parliament. This tower is home to the famous Big Ben - the name that's mistakenly used for the clock or the tower but actually refers to the main bell.
Me at the Westminster Station of London's subway system, simply called Underground. I was impressed by the efficiency and cleanliness of the subway, considering its size and age. In contrast, my impression of New York's subway was that it was filthy and unsafe at night. Toronto's subway is clean too, but it's a baby compared to the size of both London and New York subway networks. I was surprised though that the service ends around midnight - which is very early considering London is the most populous city in the European Union.
Kensington Gardens on a wet morning. Right next to Hyde Park, this was once part of the private gardens of Kensington Palace. We stayed in a hotel that's just a short walk from the Gardens.
Kids and parents feeding birds and swans at the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens.
The path leading to the Prince Albert Memorial, a monument Queen Victoria built in memory of her husband. Right in front of it is the Royal Albert Hall, also named after the Prince Consort.
The side of Westminster Abbey where England's monarchs are crowned since it was built by Edward the Confessor, also known as St. Edward by Catholics. Taking photos wasn't allowed inside the abbey but what I found interesting inside were the very old St. Edward's chair still being used for coronation ceremonies, the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I and her arch rival Queen Mary of Scots, and the grave of Sir Isaac Newton that's a popular destination for fans of the book (of which I'm one) and movie, The Da Vinci Code.
This was taken in front of Westminster Abbey though the camera was facing away from it. In the background is The Sanctuary (still part of the Westminster Abbey complex, I believe), which was a temporary safe place for those escaping prosecution in medieval times according to my travel book. There was a right of sanctuary at the time which accords criminals protection from arrest or prosecution when they're in consecrated grounds. This right was founded on an ancient belief that one entering a holy place assumes part of that holiness. This practice still exist today for I've heard of cases of illegal immigrants taking refuge in churches so they won't be deported.
The London Eye at night. More photos of this London landmark and of ones I took while I was on it, are on the London, England-Part 2 page. I took the sunset picture of Westminster Palace at the top of this page, from a London Eye capsule.
I travelled to London with my friend Sunny. He's Chinese and originally came from Hongkong. This was taken inside the London Eye capsule. When we're back in Toronto and I was looking at the pictures I took, I realized that we didn't have a picture together because we usually took turns taking each other's photos.
The world famous British Museum. Established in 1750s, the collection is mind-boggling. There's so much to see that a one day visit to this place isn't enough.
Me at the Great Court inside the British Museum. This modern court is a surprise to visitors who enter the old-looking building and expecting old architectural design inside. I learned only later that it's relatively new, and was opened to the public only in 2000. It was built after the British Library that previously occupied the space was moved to St. Pancras in 1998.
The Nereid Monument (ca. 390-380 BC). This is partial reconstruction of a monument excavated from a location in Asia Minor previously known as Xanthos, Lycia which is in present day Turkey.
The Rosetta Stone (ca. 196BC) - the historic key to our understanding of Egypt's ancient hieroglyphic text. This was discovered in 1799 at a Mediterranean coastal town of Rosetta in Egypt. I went to the British Museum with this as the first item in my must-see list.
The Cyrus Cylinder (ca. 539BC). This is an ancient clay cylinder excavated in 1879 with a declaration written in Babylonian cuneiform script, from the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great. It has been described as the world’s first charter of human rights predating the Magna Carta, but some say it's a common royal declaration at the time. To bible believers, the cylinder is regarded as confirmation of some biblical passages that referred to the Jews being allowed to go home from their Babylonian exile.
Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in London. This is a popular tourist destination, and at the time I took this picture, a lot of people were watching the changing of guards ceremony.
Me with the Queen Victoria Memorial and the Buckingham Palace in the background.
St. James Park, which is close to Buckingham Palace and used to be hunting grounds of the royals.
St. James Park Lake.
The unique and modern City Hall building. It's on the south bank of the Thames river, close to Tower Bridge.
Inside Covent Garden, which is a remarkably busy place on weekends.
Me at the front of Covent Garden.
I took this picture while I was walking to Shakespeare's Globe Theater because it reminded me of the old London I see in movies.
The modern reconstruction of the Globe Theater built close to its original location in Southwark, London. Completed in 1997, it now offers regular performances of Shakespeare's plays but only in the summer because the structure is open in the middle, leaving some of the audience exposed to the elements. It's interesting to know that the theater was built on the south bank because in the 1590s, there was opposition to theaters (especially from the church because of the "bawdy" nature of some of the plays) that city authorities banned all theaters within the city limits of London. Theater groups were forced to move and operate south of the river because it was outside the city boundaries then. In the 1640s, the Puritans who had no sense of fun, even closed all theaters altogether.
A typical rainy day in London. Notice the ubiquitous red telephone booth which is another London signature symbol like the double-deck buses.
Beautiful row houses/apartments that's another common sight in London. It reminded me of San Francisco.
The silhouette of the Tower Bridge on a dark cloudy day. I find the natural lighting in this picture interesting.
One of the towers of the famous bridge up close.
This picture was taken while we were crossing the Tower Bridge. In the background is another modern London landmark - the building nicknamed "The Gherkin" which was completed in 2004. Londoners jokingly call it the "The Towering Innuendo" or the "Crystal Phallus", but its unorthodox architecture has won awards and is innovative, even revolutionary in its energy efficiency. In 2005, it was voted as the most admired new building in the world.
A visit to London isn't complete without watching a West End play. We watched 4 plays, including Wicked that was playing in Apollo Theater. I ignored this musical when it was playing in Toronto thinking it was a Wizard of Oz retelling for children, but I was pleasantly surprised by the story, the music, the humor, and the overall performance afterwards. Highly recommended.
The replica of the Golden Hinde, the galleon that Sir Francis Drake captained in his global circumnavigation in 1577-1580. This working replica, launched in 1973, also navigated around the world and retraced Drake's route but now sits as a museum. Francis Drake received knighthood from Queen Elizabeth I for his feat.
Trafalgar Square - the popular and default gathering place for Londoners when they're celebrating a momentous event like winning a war or a soccer game. It's also used for public demonstrations.
Lord Nelson's monument at Trafalgar Square.
Me on Trafalgar Square. The egyptian statue was a temporary weekend fixture used for promoting the King Tut exhibit at the British Museum. The building on the north side of the square is the National Gallery. I spent one whole day in the Gallery and didn't even get to visit all the gallery rooms, but had a fill of seeing the original works of masters like Monet, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, and Michaelangelo.

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