Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prime Meridian

The line runs down the buildind
and across the plaza...just
so you can take your picture!
I know you are all just begging for knowledge about the Prime Meridian. It just so happens that the north-south line that “divides” our globe runs through Greenwich, conveniently located just outside of London (well, close enough to get to anyway). It provides a few things for us, allowing an accurate map of the sky, establishing Longitude 0°, and helping us determine what time it is around the world. Got that?

Now, it was identified in about 1850 but in the 1880’s they decided it really was 43 ft over from that location. There’s now a mark on the building as well as a great photo-op that we all lined up for to get our picture taken straddling the East-West line. Reminded me of our trip to Ecuador and visiting the equator!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of medieval standing stones located in England. It is in the middle of a number of very old monuments in England, including many burial mounds (some explored, some not). Why they were built is still a mystery.
Some believe it was an ancient Roman temple, others claim it was built by the Druids. Astronomers across the ages suggest it was built to calculate the dates of eclipses, others suggest it was a center of healing, a burial site, religious significance or perhaps a pilgrimage location. Whatever the truth, it remains a popular site, filled with mystery, wonder, speculation, and a sense of peace.
Note the bump on the middle rock
to the right

Smaller stones inside the
outer circle
Numerous stones have fallen over the years and sadly some have been carted off for buildings elsewhere. They have reset the standing stones to prevent them from falling over and a few of the fallen stones have been put back up. The original people who placed the stones used a locking system to keep the lintels on top – there’s a bump on the tope of the standing stone that fits into a hole in the horizontal piece placed on top! I still marvel that they were able to move and place stones of that size – a humongous job!

There are hundreds of legends about the stones and many have devoted their lives to exploring the stones and everything they could find out about it. If you’re interested, this English Heritage website is filled with information.

The Cathedral of St. Mary
where the Magna Carta rests.
While we were in Salisbury, we did get to see the original Magna Carta, the original document that was established to limit the power of the King and give the common person basic rights. While we couldn’t read it (or take pictures) it was amazing to see that an original copy was still preserved – and supposedly the best preserved.

Globe Theatre

The pit taken from a prime
booth on the side.
The Globe Theatre has a long history, originally built in about 1599. It was the home for many of Shakespeare’s famous plays, although it was burnt down, rebuilt and finally closed by 1642. The Globe that now sits in London is actually a more modern reconstruction of the original theater, located a few hundred feet away from the first location.  The stage is located at one end of the circle, with a large open area called the “pit” in front of it. This was the “standing room only” section of the theater, the place where many of the “groundlings” (poorer people) stood to watch the play. Sometimes it involved moving quickly to get out of the way of the actors because all scenes were not carried out exclusively on the stage. Behind this area, there was more traditional seating located around the stage. The entire center of it was open, and the show went on despite the weather – you just got wet if it was raining – actors and audience both!

The "Heavens" complete with a "dead deer"
ready to descend to the stage.
The stage itself was amazingly plain, yet it was also extremely flexible. There was the traditional trap door that allowed performers to enter or exit from below as well as a balcony that might have the musicians, be used for storage, or for balconies scenes as a play demanded. In the “roof” of the stage there were more trap doors, painted to depict the heavens, with winches and such to enable performers or props to descend as needed.

The prime “box” seats were not across from the stage, they were actually right on the side and very close and apparently it was quite common for the royalty of the day to kibitz and interact with the actors, expressing their opinions and acting suggestions (or jeers).

Walking London

The Tower Bridge - with bus!
Our favorite part of the trip was the walking! We walked just about everywhere we went, whether it was along the river or just to the local Underground station. We explored many restaurants in the area where we were staying, including fabulous Thai, Mexican, Indian, and up-scale fusion restaurants. Fabulous food everywhere we went, in fact I’d probably say it’s a good thing that we are not living there because it would be way too easy to just want to out to eat every day.

A view of the old tower area as well
as the new "Shard" behind it.
Spent the first day walking along the Thames River, heading out across the new “London Bridge” (the original now resides in Lake Havasu, Arizona – obviously somebody had money to waste) and then on to the much more picturesque Tower Bridge. Spent the morning going through the Tower of London, a grand palace that has served as a royal residence, a zoo, as well as a prison for various famous (or notorious) historical figures. Most of the various monarchs expanded and built upon it, changing or embellishing upon the basic layout. They did, of course, highlight the various torture techniques used as well as information about the various prisoners and mysteries that passed through its walls.

Big Ben
We wandered along the banks of the river, getting numerous views of the famous Big Ben clock tower and the House of Parliament. Never realized that the name actually refers to one particular bell…the one that chimes the hour. There are actually 5 bells lodged in the top of the tower with the other 4 used for the quarter hours.

Eye of London
The Eye of London, at one time the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world, is also located on the banks of the river. Jeff definitely wanted to ride it to get that birds’ eye view of London but the lines were long, to put it mildly. There was one long line to buy the ticket and then another long line to get on the Eye. Looking at those lines, we estimated a 3 hour wait and decided we would skip it. Next time we will simply buy the ticket online for a given time, bypassing most of the long wait.

Colorful shade

Beautiful radishes
We also explored the Borough Market, probably the oldest food market in London. I think it could be described as an upscale Farmer’s Market. One section was all farmers with produce from all around the area. It was stunningly beautiful to see and the fruit and veggies looked delightful! Wish we had been staying longer because you sure could have stocked up a house and cooked up a storm with the bounty. 
The next section was a delightful collection of restaurants and small stalls (fancier than our Portland food carts but a similar idea) with wonderful tidbits to taste. Definitely made up for the inability to purchase all that fresh produce. I found a fabulous place that had a tremendous assortment of fresh, homemade salads. They offered a choice of 5 salads for one price – YUMM! I was amazed that the market even had wine available for sale…and you could walk around drinking it!