And We’re Off! – Day 1 – Our Arrival and Day 2 – British Museum, Bandaged Big Ben, The London Eye and the Majestic Westminster Abbey…And Dinner With Rosie!

We’re off! Well, let’s back up a moment……We were trying to get to the airport for our 6:30pm flight when “Durham’s Finest” (and I mean that in the utmost respect) pulled us over on the 115 Hwy, right where the speed limit changes from 100 to 90 kms. Caught us going 120 in a 90 – GULP, but reduced it down to 104 in a 90 and saved us the demerit points and a lot of $$. Not a great start, but we tucked that behind us and “kept calm and carried on”..

All ready to go!

After a great flight (Thank you British Airways!) and upon our 6:30am arrival London time ( 1:30am “our” Toronto time) we gave into a quick two hour nap. Our gracious hosts, Rob (Mike’s brother) and Sandra (Sis-In-Law) live in Egham, just outside of Staines-On-The-Thames. We decided to stretch our legs and went off on a 5 mile dog walk..(and no, I’m not complaining!) with Rob and his two white Alsatians (German Shepherds), Rocky and Barney, who would scare the poop out of you if you arrived unannounced. Good thing they can smell good “dog” people; luckily we were pardoned.

Later that evening, we headed to the High Street in Staines-On-The-Thames anxious for a pub dinner and at Sandra’s recommendation, arrived at Nostrano’s Lounge ( Although the food was excellent, they already had me at “Dog Friendly”

Our first full day starts with a walk to Staines train station, where we come upon a sculpture called “The Five Swimmers” built by British artist David Wynne in 1980. It’s located in the Memorial Gardens in Staines-On-The-Thames. It was vandalized and repaired after one of the five swimmers was ripped off. Who does that? Happy to see it back together and beautiful as ever.

The Five Swimmers

Another awesome monument is The Swan Master

The crown still carries on with an annual ceremony it started 800 years ago; Swan Upping. Every July, the Swan Master and his team of Swan Uppers row along the Thames for five whole days. When they see a brood of cygnets, they stop to count and measure them. It’s a way of monitoring the mute swan population. A cygnet census. Maybe once upon a time the census was carried out so the king would know how many swans he could have for his dinner. But now, it provides a good opportunity to give the swans a health check.

On the High Street in Staines, there is a very cool monument depicting men who worked on the “Lino”.

The Lino
Linoleum was invented by Surrey’s Frederick Walton in 1860. Walton then took over a mustard mill in Staines in 1867 to manufacture this highly durable floor covering made from combined renewable materials. Staines Linoleum Company, became an industry which achieved worldwide success over many years. Maybe that’s why Mike’s father started his flooring company, which Rob, still runs to this day.
Yes, that’s a roll of linoleum!

After arriving in Waterloo “Tube” Station, we decided to grab a quick bite and a coffee. We hadn’t as yet had our morning coffee, so we were anxious to have some java! “Coffee, please…cream, no sugar”…um, that didn’t happen as apparently the shop keeper had decided that “cream” was unhealthy and they only served “healthy” food and drink there. For me, it’s one or the other….”Coffee, please – black”. Off to the British Museum!

Armed with my trusty Nikon!

So, this is my first visit to the museum; Mike’s original visit was years ago and like most things London, it’s presence is over the top! AND IT’S FREE! Now I could add about a bazillion pictures here, but I’ll limit it to the really interesting one’s…hang on…that won’t work, so I’ll limit them to the most famous ones….gawd, as most of you know, I’m not good at culling.

One of the most famous attractions is the Rosetta Stone .

In the 19th century, the Rosetta Stone helped scholars at long last crack the code of hieroglyphics, the ancient Egyptian writing system. French army engineers who were part of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egypt campaign discovered the stone slab in 1799 while making repairs to a fort near the town of Rashid (Rosetta). The artifact, which is made of granodiorite, came into the possession of the British after they defeated the French in Egypt in 1801.

The stone features a decree issued in 196 B.C. by a group of Egyptian clergy and Egypt’s ruler, Ptolemy V, attesting to his generosity and devoutness. It originally was displayed in a temple, possibly near the ancient town of Sais, then centuries later moved to Rosetta and used in the construction of Fort Julien, where it was eventually uncovered by the French. The decree on the stone is written three times, in hieroglyphics, which was used mainly by priests; in ancient Egyptian demotic, used for everyday purposes; and in ancient Greek. The use of hieroglyphics died out after the 4th century and the writing system became an enigma to scholars.
British scientist Thomas Young, who began studying the Rosetta Stone’s texts in 1814, made some initial progress in analyzing its hieroglyphic inscription. Young surmised that the cartouches— hieroglyphs enclosed in ovals—contained the phonetic spellings of royal names, including Ptolemy, who was referenced in the Greek inscription. Ultimately, it was French linguist Jean-Francois Champollion who deciphered the Rosetta Stone and cracked the hieroglyphic code. Between 1822 and 1824, Champollion showed that hieroglyphics were a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs rather than just symbolic picture writing that didn’t also represent sounds of language, as earlier scholars had suspected. For his discoveries, Champollion is heralded as the founding father of Egyptology.

Today, the Rosetta Stone, which measures about 44 inches tall and 30 inches wide, is housed in the British Museum in London, where it’s been since 1802, except for a temporary re-location for safekeeping during World War I to an off-site, underground spot.

And the Portland Vase, which was the inspiration for Wedge-wood China

The Portland Vase is a Roman two-handled glass amphora dating to between the second half of the 1st century BCE and the early 1st century CE. The vase has a cameo-like effect decoration which perhaps depicts the marriage of Peleus and Thetis from Greek Mythology. After a long history of changes in ownership, disaster struck in 1845 CE when the vase was smashed to pieces in the British Museum. Fortunately, it has since been painstakingly restored so that it can once more take its rightful place amongst the very finest masterpieces of Roman art.

Of course, a museum isn’t a museum without mummies….

And then there’s the Elgin Marbles, (which by the way, the Greek want back. They are safe here in the British Museum, where hopefully they will stay!

The half not removed by Elgin is now displayed in the Acropolis Museum, aligned in orientation and within sight of the Parthenon, with the position of the missing elements clearly marked and space left should they be returned to Athens. – NOT) 
The Elgin Marbles are a collection of  Classical Greek marble sculptures made under the supervision of the architect and sculptor Phidias and his assistants. They were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.[2][3]From 1801 to 1812, agents of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and Erechtheum.[4] The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. Elgin later claimed to have obtained in 1801 an official decree (a firman)[5] from the Sublime Porte, the central government of the Ottoman Empire which were then the rulers of Greece. This firman has not been found in the Ottoman archives despite its wealth of documents from the same period and its veracity is disputed.

Now off to my favorite…..Central London!

I love London. I’m obsessed with London. Especially Big Ben. And poor Ben is under major renovation! Well, all but the actual clock on one side, so we’ll take that. What I recently found out is “Big Ben” is actually the nickname for the BELL and not the clock. Oh well, the whole package of that historical Tower is breathtaking, even all bandaged up.

You’re still beautiful, Ben!
This statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, a bronze sculpture of the former prime minister, was created by Ivor Roberts-Jones. It is located on the spot referred to in the 1950’s by Churchill as “where my statue will go”... — in London, United Kingdom.

The majestic, beautiful Westminster Abbey is our next stop. One important caveat here is that Mike actually sang in the Abbey, as well as, St. Paul’s Cathedral as a choir boy in his youth! How awesome is that?!

Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom’s most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, Britishmonarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England “Royal Peculiar“—a church responsible directly to the sovereign.
According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the seventh century, at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present church began in 1245, on the orders of King Henry III.[4]
Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have been in Westminster Abbey.[4][5] There have been 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100.[6] As the burial site of more than 3,300 persons, usually of predominant prominence in British history (including at least sixteen monarchs, eight Prime Ministers, poets laureate, actors, scientists, and military leaders, and the Unknown Warrior), Westminster Abbey is sometimes described as ‘Britain’s Valhalla‘, after the iconic burial hall of Norse mythology.[7]

Above the Abbey’s Great West Door stand ten statues to modern martyrs – Christians who gave up their lives for their beliefs.
The martyrs are drawn from every continent and many Christian denominations and represent all who have been oppressed or persecuted for their faith. Among them are victims of Nazism, communism and religious prejudice in the 20th century. They include civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr and St Oscar Romero, Archbishop in El Salvador, both of whom were assassinated; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed by the Nazis in 1945; and Wang Zhiming, a pastor killed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Mike is obsessed with taking pictures of me taking pictures…this time shooting a video with my trusted iPhone!

Now off to Westminster Bridge to shoot the London Eye!

The London Eye was formally opened by the Prime Minister Tony Blair on 31 December 1999, but did not open to the paying public until 9 March 2000 because of a capsule clutch problem. The London Eye was originally intended as a temporary attraction, with a five-year lease.
Houses of Parliament (also currently under construction
The Houses of Parliament, otherwise known as the Palace of Westminster, symbolises Great Britain. Its image adorns everything from souvenirs to sauce bottles. And the decisions made in its corridors of power have shaped Britain, past and present.
The building that sits proudly on the banks of the Thames is the New Palace, built between 1840 and 1870. But within its walls is the Great Hall (or Westminster Hall), all that remains of the medieval Old Palace.
Built by William II between 1097 and 1099, it was the largest hall in England at the time, its sheer scale designed to fill his subjects with awe.

And who couldn’t resist a shot off the bridge showing the ongoing rebuilding of London?

On the other side of the Bridge, close to the Eye, we drop into a Chippy for a pint. Well no pints here, just bottles, so we had a couple. AND, we refrained from the fish & chips (although to fragrance was almost too much to bear) as we were headed next to meet Rosie, our Niece for dinner at the Duke of Sussex Pub! (http://Duke of Sussex Pub)

They didn’t even touch the sides!
Rosie waited patiently for us to arrive at The Duke Of Sussex, while we got lost
This is the result of two beers, a glass of wine and unsteady hand

…where we finally had our beloved Fish & Chips!

Next, on our way back to Waterloo Station, we come across an authorized graffiti area known as the hidden Waterloo Station street art tunnel.

Under Waterloo station’s crowded platform and rumbling tracks is a street artist’s playground. A five-minute walk from the main station exit is Leake Street (just off York Street), which will bring you to an authorized graffiti area known as the hidden Waterloo Station street art tunnel.
It’s a hidden art space stumbled upon by locals and spread through word of mouth. It’s a permanent fixture hidden from view and casually bypassed by those eagerly seeking the beauty of the Southbank and the London Eye. It’s a space where the creatives come to express themselves with relative freedom. 

After a full and wonderful day in London, we arrive home with 20,132 steps under our belts!

Stay tuned for more adventures….Reunion with old friends and Fawlty Towers!!!

2 thoughts on “And We’re Off! – Day 1 – Our Arrival and Day 2 – British Museum, Bandaged Big Ben, The London Eye and the Majestic Westminster Abbey…And Dinner With Rosie!

  1. i really enjoyed reading this , even me a londoner discovered things i never knew about the uk 🙂 can i just question one thing , where you say ,

    Maybe that’s why Mike’s grandfather started his flooring company, which Rob, still runs to this day.

    should that not be Mikes Father , i thought grandad was the lockkeeper , correct me if i,m wrong ,

    can,t wait to read next instalment ,


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