Great Britain 2012

Great Britain 2012

The trip to Great Britain in Feb 2012 was supposed to be a trip just to London for four days while waiting to catch a freighter on the fifth day in Southampton, an hour and a half southwest of London.  Please refer to the “Freighter Cruise” tab for an explanation of the freighter delays and photos of that leg of the trip.

I rented a nice room in a B&B in the Chelsea neighborhood fairly close to Hyde Park, west of Central London.  The location was perfect as it was close to the tube (underground) and a Hop-on/Hop-off station, making travel in London a “snap”.  I did a lot of walking also and was glad to see quite of few of these signs:

A good number of foreigners “Look Left” before crossing and have had disastrous results.  I was very aware of this but still had to catch myself a few times !!

London is too big and too rich with history to try to do it justice in 4 or 5 days; therefore, I was selective in what I wanted to see and what I wanted to wait to bring wife Karen to London to enjoy together.  As the photos show, I experienced quite a bit in a short period of time including a river cruise on the Thames and a ride around the London Eye.  Here is a unique perspective of the Eye from underneath, where it looks like a giant bicycle wheel.

Once I found out that I had additional days to enjoy in Great Britain, I rented a car, scratched together a quick plan and headed for the countryside.  I was fortunate to see a nice World War II museum in Portsmouth (from the English perspective), the HMS Victory, Oliver Cromwell museum in his home town of Huntingdon, and some white cliffs !!  Outside of London I stayed at several B&Bs and a couple of hotels.  The morning specialty was always the “Full English Breakfast” – yum !

I also made a quick trip to southern Wales to the tiny coastal town of Porthcawl, the childhood home of my 83 year old aunt who left there at age 17.  She still has a thick accent and I love to hear her talk.  While she has been back a few times, I knew she missed her country and I told her that if I happened to have time, I would go to Porthcawl and “check it out”.  I did and brought her back one of the famous porcelain Welsh dolls (fairly inexpensive, but a BIG hit with her).  Aunt Mary shed tears of joy over the thoughtfulness of the gift; I had no idea it would mean that much to her.  The lesson to be learned here my friends, is that sometimes the smallest gesture can bring the greatest joy for the giver as well as the receiver.

Life is short, life is good.  Enjoy the photos !

- Post script -.
My dear Aunt Mary passed away five months (August 2012) after I came back from her beloved Wales with the Welsh doll. At her funeral her daughter told me how Mary was so proud of her doll and that she showed it to everyone who came to her home. Mary Smale, you will be missed by many, loved by all, and seen again in heaven one day.

Everyone can recognize Big Ben !  It is the nickname of the bell in the clock at the Westminster Palace  – the Houses of Parliament.

  Trafalgar Square and the Admiral Lord Nelson column.  It commemorates the battle of Trafalgar which was a decisive victory over Napoleon’s navy.  Ten years later, Napoleon would be defeated at Waterloo.  More to come on Nelson.
London Eye.  Essentially a giant Ferris Wheel, built in 1999, it is 443 feet tall and is a modern rival and tourist attraction to Paris Eiffel Tower.
London Eye at the top. I took this photo of the capsule next to ours at the top. The wheel has 32 passenger capsules and it never stops, so you get on while it is moving slowly; it takes 30 minutes to make a revolution.  The view of the city is spectacular.
Tower Bridge.  When people see this bridge many think it is London Bridge, but that is incorrect, London Bridge has had many iterations and the current bridge was built in 1973.  The TOWER BRIDGE (built 1886-1894)  is upstream and near the Tower of London from which it gets it’s name.  It is a draw-type bridge and has a very nice museum in it.
Tower of London.  The early seat of government built in 1078 by William the Conqueror.  I had always thought it was some huge tower structure, but is quite small. It houses the Crown Jewels and has excellent museums.

Beefeater Tour Guide. Officially called the Yeoman Warders who supposedly look after prisoners in the Tower and guard the Crown Jewels, they are in reality now – tour guides. The initials ER on their uniforms stand for Elizabetha Regina (Regina is Latin for queen). This guide was one of the two best guides I’ve ever had – great with old and young.


Cromwell Museum.  This is the school house of the young Oliver Cromwell in Huntingdon, north of London and is now a nice little museum.  Cromwell overthrow the Stuart monarchy and became Lord Protector for five years.

Guards. These British Foot Guards are wearing the traditional bearskin hat which is 18 inches tall, weighs 1.5 pounds. They were marching in the Tower of London looking very official.

Bobbies. I asked permission before I photographed these guards at 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Ministersince 1735.  Hidden behind these friendly guards were two more guards, less in tune with the public, carrying AK-47s and appearing very serious.

St. Ives Bridge. I didn’t know about this bridge when I booked a B&B in this little town which was close to Huntingdon where I wanted to see the Oliver Cromwell Museum.  The town was very quaint and pleasant.  This 15th century bridge is noted for being one of only four bridges in England to incorporate a chapel.  During the English Civil War the bridge was partially blown up by the troops of Oliver Cromwell to prevent King Charles’s troops from crossing.

HMS Victory.  This ship was launched in 1765 and was captained by Lord Nelson in the defeat of Napoleon’s Navy at Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson was mortally wounded during the battle; but instead of burying him at sea which was normal for the common sailor, Nelson’s body was well perserved in a barrell of brandy so he could be honored in London.


Beachy Head.  The guide books stated the white cliffs here, east of Brighton, were better than the more famous ones at Dover.  This is near the town of Eastbourne, just east of Brighton.  I will definitely bring Karen to this town and stay again at the Hilton Royale Parade.


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