Travel Photo Thursday: London Classics

August 2, 2012

in 2012 London Olympics, Travel Photo Thursday

  • SumoMe

Unless you’ve been traveling “off-planet” recently, you know that hordes of athletes and tourists from around the world have “invaded” London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

But London is a perennial travel destination so during its current 15 days+2 of fame, it seems fitting to look at a few classic images of that city.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

The Queen lives here, although now she’s probably on “summer holiday” at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, resting up after parachuting out of a helicopter into Olympic Stadium along with James Bon during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Games.

Most tourists go to the Palace to see the “Changing the Guard.” But when the Queen’s out of town, you can wander around part of her royal digs. Here’s how you can have a “Royal Day Out” and be “Queen for A Day.”

Parliament Buildings

Clock Tower at Westminster

Paris has its Eiffel Tower. San Francisco has its Golden Gate Bridge. London’s has “Big Ben,” the bell whose name has attached itself to this tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster.

Luckily for both King James I and modern-day visitors to London, the 1605 “Gunpowder Plot” by Guy Fawkes to blow His Royal Highness and the House of Lords to kingdom come was uncovered before its fatal culmination. Because that plot was foiled, you can tour the British Parliament buildings when the MPs are on their summer break.

And, of course, you can take your own iconic photo of London even if you don’t tour Parliament.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Saint Pauls Cathedral

The current, but still quite old, St. Paul’s Cathedral was built from 1675-1710, after the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the city. Four previous cathedrals—the earliest dating from 604 A.D.—occupied the same site.

Westminster Abbey might be a more famous church, but St. Paul’s designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is a distinctive landmark on the London skyline, blending architecture of the past old with that of modern times.

I highly recommend the docent tours of the cathedral; you can even take one led by Sir Christopher himself. And this year, St. Paul’s is hosting a number of special events to celebrate the 2012 Summer Olympics and the Paralympics.

Kew Gardens Conservatory

Kew Gardens Conservancy

If the hustle and bustle of London is getting on your nerves, hop on the Underground and ride 10 miles from central London to the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens.

Like St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kew has been around a long, long time. The Temperate House (at right) is the world’s largest existing Victorian glasshouse.

Construction on that ornate building began in 1859, but it was not completed until four decades later. According to Kew’s Website, “the South Wing and Octagon are home to African plants, the main rectangular hall hosts sub-tropical trees and palms, while the North Wing and Octagon contain temperate plants from Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific.”

London “Black Cabs”

Black Cab London IMG_4603

The “Black Cab” is the traditional taxi that you’ve seen in movies set in London. Today, some are painted black, but they come in variety of other colors as well.

The familiar old boxy “Fairway” cab has given way to sleeker models like the TX1 , TX2 (or TXII) and TX4.

While you can book a ride in a limousine, minicab, or private for-hire car by phone or the Internet, only “Black Cabs” are allowed to “ply for hire” or be hailed on London streets.

“Black Cab” drivers must acquire “The Knowledge”—where the heck everything in London is located. There’s even a 1979 movie by the same name in which four men try to gain “The Knowledge” so they can work as London cabbies.

Mason Arms Beer Taps IMG_0039

The Pub

At lunchtime, or at the end of long day of “work” as a tourist, nothing could be better than stopping in at a pub for a pint and a bite to eat. But alas, the world of English pubs is shrinking.

If you were a fan of the Inspector Morse TV mysteries, you’ll probably agree that “The Murder of The English Pub” would have been an apt title for one of the episodes in the series.  Pubs have been closing all over England during the past few years, and about a year ago, five per week were reportedly shutting their doors for a final time in London.

The photo of these beer taps in the Masons Arms on Upper Berkeley Street near Hyde Park is historic. It was taken at the beginning of my month-long trek across Europe in 2009, But the time I returned three weeks later the lights had been turned off and the pub’s regular customers had been forced to find a new watering hole.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots.)

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