Today’s journey took us to Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and Trafalgar Square and St.Martin-in-the-Fields, followed by a independently arranged stopoff in Notting Hill to see the final Harry Potter movie.
I had been to Westminster Abbey before with family, but it was a very different experience to go with a tour guide who knew all about the various historical dead people there. Knowing the stories behind the plaques and tombs made the place come to life in a way it hadn’t on my previous visit. More properly called “The Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster”, the Abbey is an odd cross between a regular, if fancifully elaborate Gothic church, a mausoleum, and a formal government building – it’s been both the coronation and burial site for the English royalty for nearly a millennium, and an operational church for even longer. It’s also a general purpose memorial and burial site – lots of prominent Britons are buried there, and many other who are not have memorial plaques anyway.
But we were not just there to gawk at stones covering famous or once-famous dead people – we were actually there to gawk at the stones holding up the buildings too. The Abbey and its neighboring Westminster Palace (home of Parliament and seat of the UK government) are built largely in the Gothic style and revised over centuries, such that it actually exemplifies several different periods of Gothic design, including the particularly English Perpendicular style.
The show at St.-Martin-in-the-fields was a nice refreshing break as well, and it was great to finally see (even if only barely) the musicians I often heard on the NPR classical-music station as a child. The church itself was quite lovely as well.
We finished up the main part of the day with a trip around London Eye – and WOW is all I can say. The views from that high up are amazing and gorgeous. I even managed to take a couple of panorama shots!