In May of 2006 my wife (at the time my fiance) and I traveled to England for 8 days for vacation. Our plan was to visit London, see the muesums, cathedrals and sights.
We flew out of Dulles Airport connecting through Logan Int. to Heathrow. This was at the very start of my interest in photography. For the trip I took 6 rolls of Kodak Gold 200 and 6 rolls of Kodak Gold 400 as well as my Olympus OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 silver nose and my vivitar 135mm f/3.5 stashed in my backpack.
Keep in mind I really picked up photography shortly before this trip and using an all manual camera, with a broken light meter, I was not quite ready to take award winning photos and I certainly hadn’t mastered sunny/16 yet.
Our first day involved flying to London and heading to our hotel which was located in the Kensington neighborhood. We checked in and decided to stroll Kensington and Hyde parks as well as find a pub to get a pint of bitters and some fish and chips.
Kensington Gardens, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Kensington gardens and Hyde park are very large parks located in the Western part of the city and are an enjoyable place to stroll, walk a dog, relax and any of the other dozens of things you would want to do in a large metropolitan park.
On our second day in England we started out early and headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were unable to see the inside as it was a Sunday, so it was closed for service (at least in the morning). We walked out Milenium bridge to walked along the south bank of the Thames for a little while passing the new globe theater and taking a tour. We popped into the Tate Modern Art museum for a few minutes and then grabbed lunch. We returned to the Globe to catch a showing of Coriolanus. We then headed up to Trafalgar square to see the National Gallery and to see the monument to Lord Nelson, but it was covered up for restoration work.
Trafalgar Square, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
On the 3rd day my wife and I headed back to the south bank of the Thames to get on the London Eye which is a giant ferris wheel like construction. It has great views of the downtown of London. We ran into a group of American students who were visiting London for a few days. We ran into the same group several more times during the course of our stay in London, which just proves that even a huge city can be quite small at times.
After riding on the Eye my Wife and I headed over to see Big Ben, houses of Parliment and Westminster Abbey. There are pictures of Big Ben everywhere, but seeing it in person is a different experience and makes it seem more real and impressive. The neo gothic architecture of Big Ben and Houses of Parliment is really quite interesting.
Big Ben, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Houses of Parliment, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
After stopping to take a few pictures of Parliment and Big Ben we waited in line to get in to Westminster Abbey. It was a LONG line taking probably 40 minutes to get in and the line was only getting longer as we waited. No pictures are allowed inside the covered sections of the Abbey, though pictures are allowed in the Cloisters. This is a common theme in Royal buildings. Westminster abbey was pretty neat because of all of the history sorrounding the building and seeing so many sepluchers of kings and queens. The architecture outside and inside was very interesting.
Westminster Abbey, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Westminster Cloisters, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
After Seeing Westminster Abbey we headed over to Harrods which ended up being a bit disappointing. Harrods of course is enormous, but without an exception things are more expensive then they are exclusive (okay with a few exceptions). Though it was interesting to walk around a bit, I felt like I had to hide my wallet or else it might evaporate just walking through the store.
On day 4 my wife and I woke up early again and rode the tube over to the Tower of London to take a tour and see Tower bridge. The bridge itself is quite nice, but it is in the end a bridge. The Tower of London was extremely impressive. I hadn’t realized just how large the castle complex was. Our tour was a lot of fun and I highly recommend anyone who visits takes a tour lead by one of the Beefeaters. They are all excellent story tellers and quite funny.
Tower Bridge, Vivitar 135mm f/3.5
Tower of London, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
After the Tower of London we went by the British museum and walked around for some time. The British museum is deffinitely one of the nicest museums I have ever visited. The only two that come to mind that come close or possibly surpass the British museum are the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city and the Louvre in Paris. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in history to visit the British museum. Budget at least a half a day if you want to see very much of it as the museum is huge.
Earlier in the week my wife and I had decided that we would be able to see much of the city before our 8 day visit to London was over with. So we booked a bus tour to visit Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. Very early the morning of the 5th day the bus picked us up outside of our hotel and took us to the bus depot. There we meet up with the rest of our tour. The first stop was Windsor, which is suprisingly close to the city of London, I would say within an hour to and hour and fifteen minute drive from the city center with modest traffic.
The town of Windsor is beautiful and picturesque, but I won’t describe it further as we had very little time to explore the town and almost all of our time was spent in the castle. Windsor castle is a sprawling complex covering a hill that has views streaching just about back to the city of London on a clear day. Pictures were forbidden within the building. During our walk we witnessed a changing of the guard, which was fun to watch as the British have the drill down to an art form.
Windsor Castle, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Windsor Castle, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
On the way back to the bus we were caught in a downpour and just made it to the bus before becoming completely soaked to the bone. We had some time to dry out and eat some lunch on the bus as we headed over to Stonehenge through the rain. As we got to Stonehenge the weather broke and we were greated with a mix of overcast and partly cloudy conditions to see Stonehenge.
Stonehenge, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Stonehenge is very interesting, but in some ways disappointing as it seems smaller in real life then pictures seem to make it out to be. It was none the less not something I would have skipped as I had always wanted to see Stonehenge. You can get up fairly close walking along a roped off path. The weather was cool and extremely windy.
Stonehenge, Vivitar 135mm f/3.5
Stonehenge, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
After Stonehenge we borded the bus and headed toward Bath. The weather rolled back in for the drive with light rain. The countryside between Stonehenge and Bath is beautiful and it makes me really want to move from the States to England and get a cottage in the countryside with a little English Garden spending my days sipping tea and eating sweets. It could just be my English roots pulling at me, but the countryside really was some of the nicest I have ever seen.
The city of Bath is larger then I had expected and it was styled primarily with Georgian architecture. The Roman baths are interesting and I suggest walking through yourself instead of taking a tour. Apparently in or around the gift shop you can try some of the water from the natural hot springs. I tried to find some, but I wasn’t able to. I don’t know that I regret it as it is supposed to put hair on your chest…or maybe it is supposed to make it fall out, either way it is supposed to be very foul.
Bath, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Bath, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
On the 6th day my wife and I visited the Victoria and Albert museum. The museum is interesting, but not quite as much fun as the British museum. They had a great collection on East Asian art at the time.
Victoria and Albert Courtyard, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
Afterward my wife and I head over and visited the natural history museum. In some ways it is a lot like the Smithsonian Natural History museum in Washington DC. It was fun to walk around, but there were many, many, many young school children running around.
Natural History museum, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
We then headed back to the area around Houses of parliment and took a river boat tour of the Thames. It was worth while, but I did lose the lens cap for my vivitar 135mm lens off the side of the boat. If anybody happens to find a 47mm screw on lens cap while on the Thames, please let me know. They are extremely hard to find in that size.
On Day 7 a tragedy occured. I misloaded my final roll of film, so none of the pictures came out from this day. In the morning we visited Buckingham Palace and then went to Piccadilly Circus to do some shopping and get lunch. Afterward we went back to St. Paul’s Cathedral to see the interior. While inside we went up to the top of the dome and then on to the very top of the cathedral. There are great views of the city, but the passageways and stairwells are cramped and it is a lot of stairs to climb.
On day 8 my wife and I packed our bags, checked out of our hotel and wandered Kensington and Hyde parks for a few hours before going back to the hotel and getting our bags. We then hopped on the tube and went to Heathrow for our flight back to the states.