Yet another London Post ... III

Did you know ...

... that this creation is made of meringue

Told you!

Do you know ...

I think this could be my favourite photo from our London trip.

It's just so .... so London. It's alive. Nelson's column is visible. Westminster is visible. Black cabs, people going about their business, scaffolding (London style, not Parisian).

We loved staying here.

(Did you choke on your coffee when you read that? Dearie me, if you didn't, it means you may have taken my comment seriously!

Erm .... Nope. We did not stay here!)

Did you know ...

that I was almost lying on the pavement taking this photo. On a busy London street, that is not always the wisest thing to do.

Did you know ...

... about Boris' Bikes?

... that this photo makes my  heart go pitter-patter?

And that it's another of my favourite photos from London?

~     ~     ~

This is Spittafield market, and I reckon everyone who visits London needs to get off the beaten track at least once, visit a local market, and maybe even get slightly lost in the process.

Not that I'm saying we did. Just saying you ought to do all of the above.

Before you visit London, make sure you find out where the Hummingbird Cake establishments are.

You must - must - visit.

Visit and enjoy.

Did you know ...

that the distance between Nelson's hat and the bottom of the column is the same as the height of the mast on Nelson's ship, HMS Victory?

Lady Thatcher lives on this street, and her house is easily spotted because of the permanent presence of a policeman outside.

Ex-Prime Ministers in the UK are given protection for the rest of their lives.

(Are y'all getting fed up of photos from London? If you are, please look away now. If you can bear to come on the tour with me, here are some more.)

This area of Belgravia - only minutes from bustling London streets - is quiet and secluded. When the bus stopped I was able to hear birds singing.

In the middle of this photo, you can see a Cabby Hut. These huts were set up around a century ago to serve tea and coffee to the cab drivers. Why? Well, to keep them from the drinking establishments, of course!

Some of my favourite scenes from London involve the Old and the New. Westminster Tower and Big Ben with the London Eye in the background.

~     ~     ~

Only the top of this tall monument is visible here. It's the monument to those who lost their lives in the Great Fire of London. And did you know...

that if you laid the monument on the ground in an eastward direction, the top would reach the spot on Pudding Lane where the fire is thought to have begun.

Did you know...

that this is a beach ... London style.

Okay, so that was a bit cheeky, but it was the closest I saw to a sandy beach.

This is the building which houses the London Assembly.

That means it's Boris' Building. The thistle image makes me sure that although Boris is a Londoner, his heart just may be in Scotland.

Ya reckon?

Another Old and New photo.

I am enjoying trawling through my London album. 

Can you tell!

Visiting the Arnol Blackhouse

We had the most fascinating visit to the Arnol Blackhouse today. It really was such an interesting visit and I am now in awe of those who lived here without all the modern amenities to which we are all accustomed.

We'll begin in the Living Room. This fire in the centre of the house is what makes this house so unique, and is what made Historic Scotland take the house over around 50 years ago. There are many other thatched houses preserved, but they have their fire in a fireplace and have a chimney.

This one - as you can see - has the fire on the slab in the middle of the floor, with the smoke rising to fill the house. 

And we'll begin with the smoke. When I went in the main door, the smell of the peat fire was the first thing that hit me. By the way, if you've never smelt a peat fire, you really are missing out on life. Big style.  I have to say that my own first thought was how bad this smoke must have been for those living in the black houses, but the smoke isn't all bad ...

If you look at the photo, you can see how blackened the rafters are. The soot actually helped preserve this wood. Even more fascinating, though, is that this same smoke which filtered out through the roof thatch killed bacteria which would have rotted the thatch. With the fire in the middle of the floor, the wood and thatch was protected and the lifespan of both was extended. 

In the photo you can see the partition between the living area and the bedroom. Notice that it doesn't reach the ceiling: that is so that the smoke is able to spread through the whole area of the house, and the benefits of the smoke reaches the whole roof area.

These dried plant stalks were used as hooks at times, but at other times, the folks hooked salted fish on them. They were hung from the ceiling and ... yes, you guessed it - they were smoked! 

Back to the first photo ...

The curtains surround the box-bed. The actual bedroom is through the doorway, but the blackhouse also has a box-bed in the living area. This bed was for anyone who was ill or elderly. In this particular house, this was the granny's bed. Having the granny or an ill person here meant they were close to the fire and were kept warm, but - most importantly - they were part of the family throughout the day.

This dresser was in the original house too, and all the dishes are exactly as the last occupants of the house had them. What is really interesting about the dresser is that it is made from driftwood. If you have never been in Lewis, you will not appreciate how tree-less the island is. There were simply no easy ways of finding wood for rafters, for box-beds or for furniture. And so driftwood was sought, and utilised. In fact, when a young couple were getting married, some driftwood was one of the best wedding gifts they could be given. 

If you look carefully at this wood (again, this is all exactly as the house was when it was being lived in) in one of the box-beds in the bedroom, you will see deep grooves in them. These grooves were made by sea worms and experts who have examined them have confirmed that the worms which made these grooves are found in the South Atlantic. This driftwood was swept from the South Atlantic to the shores on the west coast of Lewis. I guess that's the Gulf Stream for you!

The bedroom, with two box-beds, a table and two clothes chests.

Our fascinating and informative guide, here keeping the fire alive

At the other end of the living area from the bedroom was the byre. The two stalls here kept the cows, while the straw-filled boxes at the end were for the chickens. The opening above these is where the chickens  sauntered in and out at their leisure. 

Evidence has been found of similar houses to this in Norway and in other Scandinavian countries. They are also to be found in all the areas in which the Vikings ruled: Iceland, Scottish islands such as Shetland, Orkney and Lewis, and as far away as Newfoundland in Canada. The Vikings were in the north-east of North America long before Columbus discovered the continent. 

We had such a good time visiting this blackhouse today. A huge thank you to our guide, and a definite recommendation to anyone who hasn't visited and is able to.

Go visit! 

And ask for a 'live' tour guide. As we found out on the London buses - there just aint nothin' like it.


Paris I

I have to warn you that this post has an over-abundance of photos.

Paris simply does that to you.

Click. Click. Click.

I guess the Paris post is as well to begin with the Eiffel Tower. I believe when the Eiffel Tower was erected, most Parisians were horrified by the ugly mass of metal spoiling the classic beauty of their city.

It was, however, only to be a temporary building, and so the complainers were placated.

Having been there since 1889, I'm doubtful that there are any calling for it to be dismantled now. After all, none of us thinks of Paris without this image being in our mind.

One of the differences between the Paris open-top bus tour, and the London version we'd done the day before was that in Paris, the journey between the famous sites gave a display of buildings almost as beautiful as the best of London sites.

London's famous buildings are plonked right there within the working city. Buckingham Palace has traffic driving all around it; Westminster Abbey is surrounded by busy streets; St Paul's Cathedral, too, is to be found in the midst of busy-ness. 

But in Paris, it seemed that all the buildings were placed there to be a display of someone's talented architecture and design.

Simply beautiful.

And yet, though my eyes enjoyed and appreciated what I was seeing, Paris did not find a place in my heart like London did. I was glad to visit Paris. I'd love to go back for an overnight stay and do things and see places we simply had no time for, but ... the city did nothing for my heart.

My mind? Yes. My senses? Yes. But my heart? Nope.

See what I mean about the architecture?

When we were going through the photos as a family, the immediate comments accompanying this one really made me laugh.

In unison, Catherine and Katie said, 'Ooooh, look at the cute trees!'.

At the very same time, and again in unison, DR and the Wee Guy exclaimed, 'Oh, wow! See the cannons! Howitzers?'. (There then followed a discussion on cannons and what they were or were not.) 

I guess guys an' dolls really do see things differently.

This Love Bridge ...

glistened in the sunlight.

The reason?

Young couples have taken to attaching padlocks to the railings, and the overall effect makes the railings glisten like brass.

The Paris Opera House

The architecture of this building is simply breathtaking. 

Seriously breathtaking.

Along the front are busts of some of the most famous composers: Rossini, Beethoven and Mozart are all there. The architecture is so opulent. It really is captivating. Breathtaking. Stunningly beautiful.

And whilst I was able to appreciate the beauty of it - I really was - yet, there was just something in me that hesitated at the opulent display of extravagance. I was glad to visit Paris. I was able to delight in its beauty. And yet I was glad that my country's famous buildings were more ... well, more staid. 

Lovely, but more modest. Less flashy. More cautious, maybe. 

It may be the Scottish Presbyterian in me showing itself again!

It was just how I felt. Interesting to myself. Rambling to the rest of you, I suspect.

On to the next photo...

This is scaffolding. Paris style! How cool is that - their ugly scaffolding is hidden under this huge sheet which is part advertising, part building facade. 

Very French. Very attractive.

I think I'll end this blogpost now, and have another post with some more of my Paris photos. There's only so much opulence one can take, don't you think? 

I'm only kidding about the not being able to take any more. But I'm not kidding about another post. 


London III - The City at Night

Have I said that I loved London?

Some things are worth repeating, I guess.

The night we arrived in London and took the train from the airport into the city, I became aware of that 'feeling' I get in cities at night. I just loved it.

So here, I'll post some of the photos I took in the evening whilst in London.

Having been in Covent Garden, and having had something to eat, we took a wee wander around Chinatown. It looked so pretty at night.

We didn't have dessert in the first restaurant because we planned to head to ...

Yep, we headed here for our ice-cream, only to be met with this sign in the window:


Er.... WHAT?!?! How could they? Did they not know I was coming? Oh well, I didn't exactly starve: I had a beautiful crepe with chocolate sauce, strawberries, strawberry ice-cream and toffee ice-cream.

Yum. Yum.

~    ~    ~

Another evening - oh, hang on - it may have been the Haagen-Dazs evening. Food muddles my brain, but it matters not.... one of the nights we were there, we were getting ready to head home when we decided to take a detour just so we could see the following two sights at night.

I'm telling you ... coming up from the tube at Westminster, and walking onto the pavement to be met by this sight was absolutely worth the hour less in bed.

I have to admit to being blown away. Even speechless (hard as that is to imagine).

I loved London. I loved the city at night. And I loved seeing our Houses of Parliament with the clock tower and Big Ben all lit up. Sadly, I wasn't there to hear the midnight chimes, but we did hear the 11.30 ones. 


When I made a 180 degree turn from taking the above photo ...

... this is what I saw. 

The London Eye - lit up at night and very beautiful.

This giant Ferris wheel was opened in 1999, and I believe it's one of the most popular visitor sites in the UK. Apparently on a clear day, you can see for a distance of 26 miles from the top. Sadly, we didn't have time to go on it, but it was worth making the effort to see it at night.

~    ~    ~

One more night-time-in-London

On Thursday evening, we were at Horseguards Parade for the Beating Retreat ceremony. 

I can't tell you how much we enjoyed this experience.

The event warrants a separate blog post, so for now I will only post these two photos. The first photo shows  a 'horse' from the War Horse play. His entrance was accompanied by music from the Mounted Bands of the Household Cavalry and the song Only Remembered, sung by a solo singer.

The second photo shows the Mounted Band and Musical Ride from the Royal Cavalry of Oman. Male and female riders gave such a display of elegance and beauty. It really was breathtaking.

There really is something about nighttime in a bustling city. I suppose the last time I really experienced this was in Glasgow's West End many moons ago, before babies took over my life. Of course, y'all know me well enough to know that I wouldn't choose to live back in a city, but I did love experiencing the hustle and bustle of city life last week.

I loved it far more than I'd expected to.


London II - the Royal Mews

The Royal Mews

The Royal Mews, or Royal Stables, are to be found at Buckingham Palace, and they are definitely worth a visit. The first photo shows the quadrangle, and the upper windows are those of the living quarters of the actual stable workmen. Even to a visitor, the place had a 'village' feel to it, with the owners' cars parked around the square. At one time, there were more employees than there are now, and in the mid-19th century, Queen Victoria set up a school, at her own expense, for the children of the Mews workers.

The courtyard

Oh, before I say any more: did you wonder why it's called the Mews. Apparently, the area was originally where the king's hawks were kept, and when they were 'moulting' - the word mew means to moult - they were confined in here. When the use of the area changed to stables, the name remained: The Mews.

Queen Alexandra's State Coach

On the day of the State Opening of Parliament, the Crown is carried to Westminster in this coach. The crown is accompanied by members of the Queen's staff, including the Queen's B
argemaster - a throwback to the days in which the crown was taken to parliament by barge, rather than by carriage.

 The Irish State Coach

This coach was built for Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. She never used it after Prince Albert's death - yet another of the numerous evidences of her heartache at her loss. 

Isn't the detail on the top of the coach amazing! This was all added after Queen Victoria had become Empress of India.

You can see the Irish shamrock, the Scottish thistle, the English rose, and a palm tree, representing India.

The Australian Coach

This coach was gifted to HM Queen Elizabeth II by the Australian people in 1988, Australia's bicentenary year. Later that year, the Queen rode in it to the 1988 State Opening of Parliament.

The crest is clearly Australian!

It's worth noting that all the crests and paintwork is done by hand. Many of the craftsmen who are involved in the upkeep and restoration of the coaches and the livery are from families who have been involved with the  Royal Mews for generations. 

Seeing their work, their craftsmanship reminded me of some of the amazing handiwork we saw in Colonial Williamsburg a couple of years ago.

It's a delight to see these skills being preserved, and being passed through the generations. 

The first motor car was introduced to the Royal Mews in 1901 by Edward VII.

Its presence did not go down well!

Below are the specifications of the Queen's Rolls Royces and Bentleys.

Oh, did you notice there was no number plate on the car? If you ever see a car with no number plate being driven along the road you'll know the car belongs to HM.

(If you're not living in the UK though, and you see a numberplate-less car being driven down the road, then I reckon you ought to be suspicious rather than excited. Just sayin'.)

And finally, on to the grandest of all the coaches...

The Gold State Coach

This coach was built in 1762. Don't you love that it goes that far back? 

In 1762, the Americas still belonged to us! 

The coach was totally refurbished and re-gilded in 1977 for the Queen's Silver Jubilee, and as far as I know, the Silver Jubilee was the last time it was used. It has, though, been used for every sovereign's coronation since George IV's coronation in 1821.

The decoration consists of four titans - one at each corner - depicting the strength of the United Kingdom, especially on the seas.

The coach weighs four tonnes, and needs eight horses to pull it.

Isn't the livery on the horses incredible! What handiwork!

Eight horses, with a rider for each pair. 

We loved our visit to the Royal Mews, and would have no hesitation in recommending it as a place to visit. I loved the feel of the whole place, loved that it was living, working stables, and that centuries-old craftsmanship and skills are being preserved there from day to day.

Related Posts with Thumbnails