The “British Isles” Cruise, as I have mentioned, may have been a bit of a misnomer, as we really didn’t spend much time in what I would personally consider, Britain. “The British Isles” would include, in my view, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, and perhaps a couple of the smaller Islands in the vicinity. We were only in England during two days of the entire tour. The first day was Liverpool.
This the second day, our port of call was Dover, a port at the far southeast part of the country, where the English Channel empties into the North Sea. The “White Cliffs of Dover,” said to be the official icon of England, and the inpiration for Vera Lynn’s song, made famous during WWII, were prominent while we remained in port. The white cliffs are said to be the first sight of England you see when you cross the English Channel, and Dover is on the English side of the narrowest part of the channel.
Perhaps unfortunately, we didn’t see much of Dover
Dover is a rather small seaside town but has a few things going for it. Because we had only one day – which we allocated totally to London, we really didn’t see Dover. We took an early morning train from the quaint, but efficient Dover Train Station, to London. 20/20 hindsight is, of course, clairvoyant, and looking back we may have miscalculated at this port. When we planned the trip, 3 of the 4 of us had not been to London, and as it was only a 1-hour train ride, we felt that we really should use this opportunity to go there. What I did not appreciate is that you just cannot do London justice in a day – especially a very short day. We burned at least 2 hours on the train rides. Perhaps would have used our time better by staying in Dover and exploring the area. We later learned that there is a great military museum, as well as England’s largest Castle (nearby on the cliffs). If ever in Dover again, I suspect we will see some of those sights.
Not that London wasn’t great, and we certainly do not regret going. But the whirlwind nature of our tour of the city really didn’t do it justice. London is a place that requires some time to see everything, and when we do it again, we will plan to spend at least several days there. We also booked – inadvertently – a rather odd tour for our time there. It was in interesting tour, but would have been one of the side tours we might do if we had more than one day on location. It did not afford much opportunity for photography, though there are certainly some things I would liked to have shot.
When doing my post-processing, I realized I only kept and processed some 26 images, and of them, only about a dozen different subjects. I am pretty happy with what I did get. The capital and largest city in England (indeed in the UK), London straddles the River Thames, which ultimately empties into the North Sea to its east. As might be expected, London archtecture is generally massive and very impressive. There is no one dominating style and we saw classic mixed with modern. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of London, including the entire Medieval City of London inside the Roman Gates. Architect Christopher Wren was responsible for a great many rebuilt structures, including some 52 churches (perhaps the most famous amoung them; St. Paul’s Cathedral). I think another trip to London should incorporate a tour of the Christopher Wren buildings.
The St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel (where we began our day in London) was originally designed by William Henry Barlow and construction completed in the late 1800’s.
Downton Abbey fans may recognize the magnificent staircase inside the St. Pancras Hotel (like Game of Thrones, I have never watched an episode).
London gets it name from Londinium, the ancient Roman name for the Roman settlement that is still buried under central London. It is pretty certain that civilization dates back much earlier than the Roman Empire. Beginning with the conquering of the land by William, Duke of Normandy, the Normans probably most influenced the history of Modern England, and eventually, much of the United Kingdom.
The story of Henry VIII, (1509-47), a descendent of William, his split with the Roman Catholic Church (when Pope Clement VII refused to approve the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon) and his subsequent creation of The Church of England, in 1534, making himself the head of the Church) is well-known. St. Bartholomew’s Church is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in London, and one of few examples of Tudor London, surviving the Great Fire. The main, old church, built in 1123, was mostly demolished by order of Henry VIII. The church that is there today is the result of a restoration between 1887 and 1928. The arch, shown here, once the entrance to the church, is said to be original, except for the timbered structure on the upper facade, which was probably redone sometime in the 16th century.
Part of our tour involved seeing some currently standing buildings near the St. Bartholomew Gate, on Little Britain Street. Our tour was really focused on some historical aspects of London and not really on the big-picture, famous sights. But I was able to make an image of the entrance to the rather well-known (at least to us meat-lovers) Smith Field Market, just up the street from where we were stopped.
The Guildhall buildings were massive with many buildings and a large square, and was also a mix of modern architecture with some classic flares. The image of the Art Gallery is an example of much more modern lines.
Our guide, at some point learned that I was a recently retired attorney, and that my wife spent the bulk of her career working in the court systems, and decided to make an impromptu stop at the Royal Courts of Justice, a massive building taking up at least 2 city blocks, and housing mostly, what we would call “appellate courts” here in the U.S. With my little camera,and on the ground viewpoint, it was difficult (like many of the buildings in London) to do the building justice – pun absolutely intended 🙂 . Of course – and unfortunately – photography was forbidden inside the building.
We crossed the Thames on several ocassions during our tour, inevitably seeing different bridges over the river. The most eye-catching, perhaps, was London’s Tower Bridge (often mistakenly referred to as “London Bridge,” which of course, isn’t even in London any longer). It is one of those majestic sites that draws the eye. It wasn’t really part of our guide’s planned tour, but we cajoled him into finding us a place to get out and photograph it.
Our spot was a little park almost directly under the span, and as other photographers might imagine, photographing it was a challenge. My little Sony has a 24mm equivalent at the wide end – just not wide enough for this kind of photography. My final image here, was made with the able assistance of the transform perps
At the end of the tour, our guide drove us by Buckingham Palace. Again, it was not in his plan for us, but we pushed to have him drop us off for at least an on-the-ground photo or two. We were there only very briefly, and I would like an opportunity on another occasion to walk the grounds and spend some time. Again, the massive structure makes small camera, low viewpoint shooting problematic. But I made the best with what I had.
The gold guilded gate ornaments may be the most impressive feature of this particular building.
we finished our day in London, having only a couple hours left, with a ride on the London Eye. It offers a great, high perpective on the city of London. Working with reflections in the glass enclosures, presented its challenges, but I thought that all-in-all, I got some nice images and it was truly worth the ride.
Prior to our trip, I had read that one of London’s true icons, Big Ben, is currently under construction, not due for completion until 2021. I was able to get a nice image of British Parliament, with the famous clock tower at one end. But it is clearly under construction (in fact, I believe only one face even has the clock face visible). Nor did we ever hear the famous bells during our day.
The “birds-eye” vantage point of the London Eye did allow for some nice, long-view images of London as it sits on the Thames.
The London images were kind of a smattering of things we saw during a much too short visit. There certainly were things we missed that we really need to see: The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Savile Row, Trafalgar Square, St. Margarets Church, and …. well you get the picture (but I didn’t). See what I did there? 🙂 . I assume we will be back.