In February 2007, a group of VT'ers got together and had a stroll by the River Thames to check out the 'Switched on London' event. Switched on London was a 7 night lighting festival that took place in the "Pool of London" - the section of the Thames, between Tower Bridge and London Bridge.
Fondest memory: A number of sites in that region were temporarily illuminated to create a visually stunning river walk. Highlights included:
- City Hall, with its spiral ramp changing colours
- Part of the Tower of London glowing red across the river
- London Bridge all lit up pink
- A multi-coloured HMS Belfast
You can download a map from the website showing you locations of the lighting installations.
The festival part of an established event, so hopefully it will continue on for years to come. I have read that it is definitely being planned again for 2008 at this stage. It is well worth a look.
For more details visit: http://www.switchedonlondon.com/index.htm
For a map of the illuminations visit: http://www.switchedonlondon.com/pics/map3.jpg
If you plan to take a ride on the London Eye, it is worth the 3 pounds sterling to buy a 'view360' map pamphlet at their ticket office. This oval-shaped brochure features four swing-out maps (pivoted at one end) with bird's eye views of London in each of the four main compass directions. The prominant tourist attractions, buildings and bridges are identified on each map so you can quickly determine exactly what you are actually looking at as the 'pod' slowly makes it's arc above London.
The folded-out map in the photo (on the right side) shows the 'South' view of Westminster Bridge crossing the Thames with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on the north shore, as well as other landmarks off in the distance.
Trafalgar Square is the largest square in London and has been a central meeting place since the Middle Ages. At that time the site was called Charing. Later it became known as Charing Cross, after a memorial cross on the square. The nearby underground station - or tube station - is still named Charing Cross.
In the center of the square is the tall Nelson's Column which was built to commemorate the victory of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson over the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st of October 1805.
The Corinthian column was built in 1842 and is approximately 170ft or 52m high (including base). On top of the column is an 18ft high statue of Lord Nelson
Fondest memory: On the north side is the neo-classical National Gallery, built between 1834 and 1838. It houses a collection of more than 2300 paintings, including works from van Gogh, Renoir, Leonardo da Vinci and Claude Monet.
Piccadilly Circus is a busy square in the heart of London at the junction of some major streets: Regent street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly and Covent Street.
The famous statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus is one of the symbols of London.
At the heart of the square and backlit by colourful electric displays is a bronze fountain topped by a figure of a winged archer. At its steps, a crowd of people usually sit there to a little rest and people watching...
The statue is popularly called EROS, the pagan god of love, but it was in fact designed in the 19th century as a symbol of christian charity - a monument to Lord Shaftesbury, a philanthropist.
Every major city boasts a Chinatown. According to my guide book there has been a Chinatown in London since the 19th century and originally concentrated around the East End docks at Limehouse, where the opium dens were sited.
Check out the following website for maps and information about Chinatown : http://www.chinatownlondon.org/directory_overview.php
Fondest memory: Contains scores of restaurants, shops selling oriental produce, trinkets and souvenirs.
The Tower Bridge , named after its two impressive towers, is one of London's best known landmarks. This Victorian Bridge is now more than 100 years old. Designed by Wolfe Barry and Horace Jones, and completed in 1894, the middle of the bridge can be raised to permit large vessels to pass the Tower Bridge. It used to be raised about 50 times a day, but nowadays it is only raised 4 to 5 times a week.
The bridge is 60 meters long and its towers rise to a height of 43 meters. From the top of the towers, you have a great view on the center of London. You can also visit the inside of the tower, where you can observe the original mechanism used to raise the bridge.
Constructed between 1906 and 1911, Aston Webb's impressive triple archway was designed to serve as part of the Mall's ceremonial approach to Buckingham Palace. Built to honour Queen Victoria, the triumphal arch also incorporated a number of residences for senior navy officials.
Note in the picture the color of the street pavement... a perpetual "red carpet" for the Queen.
Although a Grade I listed building, until recently, Admiralty Arch was used as a hostel for London's homeless. However, the building has now been refurbished and is currently being used by the Cabinet Office.
Big Ben, well.. Big Ben is one of London's best-known landmarks, and looks most spectacular at night when the clock faces are illuminated..
The name Big Ben actually refers not to the clock-tower itself , but to the thirteen ton bell hung within. The bell was named after the first commissioner of works, Sir Benjamin Hall.
Is it worth the long queuing and the 11,5 GBP? I still am wondering.
The view is however magnificent and you make one turn in the wheel lasting about half an hour and showing you London from high, with panoramic views you can't get anywhere else except if you should fly over London.
I would settle with a shorter turn and a lower price. I find the 11,5 GBP a bit exaggerated.
To avoid too many lining up for the tickets it is advisable to book it on internet or book it by phone if you have a visa card at hand.
I am not sure if you can book individual tickets by phone, you can by internet.
Anyway check it the website of
the London Eye to find out more
Fondest memory: it is magificent to view all those buildings from high on top of the wheel.
If you are not afraid of heights, then look down. The cabins are made out of glass to ensure you a great surrounded view.
At the end of the trip you might want to stand close to the exit door as on your way down they will make a picture of you.
You can purchase the picture at the exit. But beware, they are very expensive!
For more pictures of the London eye check my Fotki pictures.
The photograph of my daughter Jill on London Bridge brings back great memories of my visit to London.
As a child, one of my favorite games was to play "London Bridges Falling Down", and learning the history of this bridge certainly explains that childhood rhyme.
We ambled out onto London Bridge for a view of activities on the River Thames. The first bridge on this approximate site was made of wood by the Romans, and it has been rebuilt many times after it frequently fell down.
A stone bridge was finally built in the 12th century but was replaced by another stone bridge whose piers blocked the flow of water so much that it often froze over in winter. Until the 1800s, it remained the only bridge across the river. So, finally, in the early 19th century, they built another bridge. Of course, it turned out to be too small also.
Thus, in 1970, the London Bridge was dismantled, its stones were numbered, and the stones were sold for one million pounds to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where they re-erected it over a small lake.
Most of the bridge now lies in a disused quarry in Dorset, in the west of England! When the people who purchased it saw it reassembled, they were disappointed. They thought that they were purchasing the much more beautiful Tower Bridge!
In 1972, the new London Bridge was completed. Today, the Corporation of the City of London owns it. Finally, the London Bridge is wide, safe, and graceful; hopefully, its shakey history is over and the only "London Bridges Falling Down" are those played by small children.
Fondest memory: I remember the day I took this photo of Jill; we had such fun exploring this historic city. Since she lived there, it was great for me to have my own private tour guide!
CLICK TO READ THE SIGN BESIDE JILL
How ironic that an original garden of a Convent is now associated with fun and frolic!
If Covent Garden sounds familiar, it should. It's the vegetable market where Eliza Doolittle sold flowers in the play/movie, "My Fair Lady".
The once bustling market moved out in 1974, and the Greater London Council took charge. They took the central block called Fowler's Market and converted it into an upper and lower alley of small shops. Today, it's an area of boutiques and idiosyncratic shops. There are many interesting places in Covent Garden with its cobbled streets (for pedestrians only).
First, there's the quaint shops. In addition, there's the Royal Opera House, theatres, bars, and cafes. We also saw plenty of street performers.
The main Piazza was designed by Inigo Jones who was influenced by Italy's Palladion architecture.
Market Hall, the once flower market, is now the London Transport Museum (which displays the city's 1st underground steam locomotive) and several shops. The stalls of the market are often run by designers themselves.
St. Paul's Church is also found in the Piazza. It's affectionally called "the actor's church". I found out that the entertainers who perform outside the church must undergo auditions before they are given a licence to perform!
South of Market Hall is Jubilee Hall with its clothing, crafts, leathers, and household goods. It is not as upscale though.
The Theatre Museum is nearby on Russell Street , and it traces the history of the stage over the last 400 years.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory is watching the street performers around St. Paul's Church lure the tourist with their antics. This is such a fun spot and so unlike the atmosphere around most churches.
The Houses of the Parliament , also known as The Palace of Westminster, here seen from across the river Thames are the political center of the United Kingdom.
Although the current Gothic-style building dates from the mid-19th century, the site has been a royal palace since the 11th century.
There's not much else to do at the Parliament, of course, it is after all a government building. If you walk around the building, you will find some very impressive artwork and architecture, especially the royal entranceway for the rare visits the Queen might make to Parliament.
The two imposing towers, well known landmarks in London, are the clock tower, named after it’s thirteen ton bell called Big Ben, and Victoria tower, on which's flag pole the Union Jack flies when parliament is sitting.
Fondest memory: Well... I didn't feel like, but actually it is possible to visit the Houses of the Parliament...
Entry is through St. Stephen’s Entrance, where you can join a queue for the public galleries, known as Strangers Galleries. Debates in the commons take place on Mon. Tues. and Thurs. from 2-30 pm; Wed. & Fri. from 9-30 am.
The busiest and most interesting time to visit the House is during Prime Minister's Question Time. If you wish to attend Prime Minister's Question Time you must book a ticket through your MP or your embassy. Prime Minister’s Question Time is on Wed. from 12pm - 12-30pm.
The House of Lords sit on Mon. - Wed. From 2-30; On Thurs. From 3pm; If a sitting takes place on Friday it commences at 11am.
Both houses recess at Christmas, Easter and from August to mid October.
London's history is fascinating to read & to see - but you won't see much on London Bridge. As the old nursery rhyme goes - London Bridge is falling down my fair lady - & indeed it did fall down many times. The original stone bridge was built in 1176 & took 30 years to complete with the death of 150 workers. After numerous upgrades to strengthen the bridge it was finally sold. If you want to see the original London Bridge its location since 1972 is in Lake Havasu City Arizona USA
Fondest memory: I love glass buildings they provide a great picture opportunity with their reflections. The picture is taken from London Bridge but the reflection is Cannon Street Station.
On Picadilly Circus you can find a small statue of the Angel of Christian Charity myde by Alfred Gilbert, erected in 1893 in memory of the Victorian philanthropist, Lord Shaftesbury.
Today, however, the statue is commonly regarded as Eros, the Greek god of love (No wonder...this youngsters of today...:).
The area around the statue is a general meeting place for the people going to the theatres or to the night spots of the Soho.
Do not set meetings with people you heaven't met already...it will be hard to spot someone in the crowd...:)
You'll either love or hate Soho. It's a busy area filled with a profusion of places to eat, and some of them are, I think, the best in London.
We found outstanding chocolates, equisite wines, the freshest breads, the best pasta, and, by far, the finest cups of coffee in all of London!
Daily, if we wanted, we could go to the market in Berwick Street where they sell fruits, vegetables, music, and various bits and pieces.
Although it feels larger, Soho is made up of two dozen streets, a number of narrow alleys and courts, and one small square. On Wardour Street, we saw businesses devoted to advertising, media, and especially the film industry.
The name Soho comes from an old hunting call. The French came to this area first; then the Italians and Greeks. After awhile, they were joined by the Germans, Russians, and Poles. This foreign mixture added to the wild, colorful atmosphere and Bohemian flavor
At one time Soho was called "Sex-Spot" of London because of the strip parlours, clip joints, and brothels. So, the once exotic Bohemian charm gave way to seedy exploitation.
In the 1970's, some of the remaining residents banded together to save Soho, calling themselves the "Soho Society" Unfortunately, there is still the "seedier side of Soho" as you can see from the photo.
Fondest memory: Even though there are places to avoid in Soho, I loved the hustle, the great places to drink coffee, the good places to eat, and the diversity.