London’s Famous Department Store: Harrods
Much of London is comprised of beautiful museums, the palace, breath taking architecture, spectacular gardens, night clubs, pubs, and restaurants. However, you cannot mention London, without referring to the department store, Harrods.
It originated in the 1800’s by a wholesale grocer by the name of Charles Harrod. It grew tremendously to the point that 100 employees were hired.
A devastating fire occurred in the 1800’s but, the department store stood strong despite this devastating event. Most people could not believe that Harrods was able to come back after this horrible event and make all of their Christmas deliveries with no setbacks. They were able to supply Albert Hitchcock with fresh fish upon request and make and complete other promises as requested without exception.
The store itself is a beautiful statement of architecture including the terra cotta design and art nouveau windows and décor. The baroque dome encapsulates the store and is certainly beautiful in and of itself.
The famed family purchased the store in the 1980’s and has owned it ever since. The purchase price was well over a $1 billion dollars. They spent another several million to renovate and expand the operations.
Did you know that James Bond-Pierce Brosnan once worked in the pharmacy department at the store? Other notable Hollywood stars and starlets worked there also. The store is a shopping event. On any given day, you may find opera singers, choirs and other musicians and artists performing.
You may want to relax and have a beauty treatment in the salon or spa area. The cosmetic and perfume counter is sure to draw your attention and you may not want to leave.
What? You came to shop! Ok, well be prepared to visit seven floors. Yes, seven floors! Make sure you have tennis shoes on so that you are able to get your exercise in while you shop. Harrods housed the first escalator of all time. Unbelievable as it may seem, people had trouble climbing the stairs to seven floors, so they had to do something to accommodate their wishes! You may be asked to change one of the 10,000 light bulbs! Not really, but it would be quite a workout if you had to do it, wouldn’t it be?
Have you considered over 200 varieties of cheese or a unique tea or coffee. You will certainly find it here. If you are looking for an extravagant gift, you will find it here such as a $10,000 gold bunny or a specialty item made out of wax.
You cannot miss the crystal chandeliers that look like they belong in the Queens palace. The jewelry is exquisite, one of a kind and expensive! But, you came for the ultimate shopping experience, and you will most certainly find it to be true.
You can ask anyone in London for directions to get there. Or, you can make the tube, the subway system to the Station at Knightsbridge. Don’t miss it or you will miss the shopping experience of a lifetime!
London’s Architectural Masterpiece: Westminster Abbey
The original name was The Collegiate Church of St. Peter and then later known as Westminster Abbey. It was originally designed to be a church, cemetery with countless memorials. It is a study in history, and is known as an architectural masterpiece that was built in the 15th century. It has been used for great events such as coronations and other royal parties and events. The church is under the supervision of the crown and not the diocese which is highly unusual for a church.
You may want to visit to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, other Royal Tombs, Shrines, Winston Churchill, Lady Chapel and Poets Corner. Some very famous poets are buried here such as Geoffrey Chaucer. It was an honor to be buried here. Only aristocrats, generals, royalty, scientists and other dignitaries were buried here. Over 3,000 people have been buried or memorialized here.
Just inside the main door is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, from World War I. It is the only gravestone there that cannot be stepped on.
The design of the church is Gothic in nature, similar to the design of a cathedral. Most Kings and Queens of England are buried here.
There is a great deal of history and mystery behind these walls. In 2005, the vault of Edward the Confessor was discovered. There were also other vaults discovered later which date back to the 13th century.
There are enormous vaulted ceilings, and beautiful artistic grandeur throughout. The support arched are not visible and are there but enclosed within the roof.
There are beautiful works of art housed here such as a portrait of Richard the II which was painted in the 1300’s. From the south view of the Abbey, you can see the rose window with a rare medieval sculpture. During this period of time, three dimensional art was considered a sin.
Father Massey is a resident artist there. He has painted numerous paintings throughout the Abbey and other works on pillars inside the church.
Other dignitaries buried here include, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, Laurence Oliver, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Robert Browning, Thomas Parr, John Gay, John Dryden, Robert Adam, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Thomas Hardy.
In the 12th century, the Abbey was doing very well and housed over 60 monks and 200 others assisted in running the Benedictine Monastery. It was far one of the wealthiest churches in England.
The cloister area was built in the 14th century. This area was used by monks for prayer, meditation and exercise.
The Henry VII chapel was built in the 1500’s and is a very memorable chapel which has a magnificent vault. The chapel features an extraordinary huge stained glass window.
The interior and exterior sights of this beautiful legacy are visible in numerous works of arts and pictures. It is easily recognizable and offers a thousand years of history in one glance.
Visit the Queen! Buckingham Palace
If you are considering a trip to London, you must visit Buckingham palace. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions. It remains the official home of the noble monarchy including the Queen and has been since the early 1800’s.
The palace was originally constructed for the Duke of Buckingham in the early 1700’s. The house is designed around a courtyard and has 3 wings. The house was expanded after George the III purchased it.
In the early 1900’s major modifications were done to add a formal ballroom, extra bedrooms for visitors, and other additional rooms such as a nursery.
Most of the palace is open to visitors daily, and approximately 40,000 guests as well as invitees visit the palace annually. The palace is comprised of office and residential areas.
During late Summer and Fall, the state rooms are open to visitors. Throughout the year, various rooms are open to the public for viewing. The building is a pleasure in and of itself but, there are also crowned jewels, furniture and luxurious décor.
The Queens gallery contains unbelievable original paintings done by Rubens, Vermeer and other great artists. In the Royal Mews, there are ever changing works of art on display year round and are a spectacle to see and admire!
While at the Royal Mews, which has stables, which are a must see! A three ton coach with 6-8 horses is used for special events for coronations and balls.
The Royal garden is at least 30 acres, and provides a peaceful walk with breath taking flowers and a gorgeous view of the lake.
The Palace has been guarded since the 1600’s and I am sure you have heard of the changing of the guard. It is formally known as the Guard Mount and their job is to protect the palace. Although the actual changing of the guard is a spectacle in and of itself. The well rehearsed event is meticulously done religiously at the same time every day. Spectators come from across the world to view the changing of the guard.
The band performs a traditional march as the guards replace each other and man their post. There are four other guards that stand at the front of the building. If the Queen is away, there are only two guards present.
The guards are trained to be attentive and are not distracted by others. Although there are attempts to gain their attention, they do not succeed. The guards wear a red tunic and an animal skin outfit. It is an honor to guard the Queen and whomever mans the post realizes they have a lofty order that they easily obey and take pride in.
The ceremony begins at approximately 11:15 in the morning and takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes. It is an unforgettable event and one that you should observe if you travel to London.
One of the World’s Most Famous Prisons: Tower Of London
|Tower Of London|
Have you visited the Tower Of London? It is probably one of the the most famous prisons besides Sing Sing Prison in New York. It has been in existence for well over 800 years. It is twenty towers high and is filled with a mixture of ancient history, culture and jewels.
The initial structure was a fort used by William the Conqueror. It was completed in 1000 AD. It stands over a hundred feet high with walls as thick as sixteen feet thick. It was obviously built to be very sturdy and to withstand all weather conditions and it remains a fortress. Once completed, it was the tallest building in London. A king had it painted white in the 12th century and thereby named, White Tower.
It then became and is still a prison. It also houses a crown jewel collection Many former kings housed their collections here.
It has also been used throughout the years as a storage facility for records, the Royal Mint, the beginning of the Zoo, and an observatory. The observatory was built in the 1600’s.
Since the 1400’s the Tower has been guarded by wardens known as Beefeaters. They have bright red costumes on. Military personnel now provide this function.
The distinct spiral staircase runs through the Towers. There is also a national museum of arms, which is London’s oldest museum. The museum contains over 30,000 pieces of armor.
At one time there was a moat that was drained in the 1800’s. Other buildings have been added through the years to make it a complete complex housing a Middle Tower, Byward Tower, Garden Tower and a gate.
It is a study in history as there were at one time, famous tenants housed there such as Henry the VIII’s second wife, Little Princess and other victims of former Kings. There are torture devices on display and other items to view and other items to confirm that it was indeed used, such as particles of blood on stones.
Under King Henry’s orders, his wife Anne Boleyn was executed in the Tower. She had been accused of inappropriate acts. However, she was executed because she had a daughter and not a son. Her daughter became the future Queen Of England. There are rumors of Anne’s Boleyn’s ghost lingering, so if you go there, be careful!
The Crown Jewels is definitely worth seeing. There is an actual Jewel House that contains stunning necklaces, earrings, rings and other beautiful jewelry.
Former Queens have their jewelry stored here such as Queen Victoria and others. There is also the Star of Africa which is a large diamond which contains over 2,000 carats. This gem was found in an African mine in the 20th century.
Visit the Wax Museum! Madame Tussauds
Have you ever wanted to get up close and personal with Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Will Smith and Shakespeare? The Madame Tussauds wax museum would allow you to meet the likenesses of these as well as other famous historians, Hollywood stars, musicians, authors, sports stars, world leaders.
The wax museum is known for its ancient roots and modern connections to present day stars and people in the news. It has expanded with other locations in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Las Vegas and New York City.
Madame Tussaud was a wax sculptor who learned her craft of modeling by creating masks of those killed in 19th century France. She was a housekeeper for a physician Dr. Curtius who taught her the craft. When he died, he left his collection to Marie. She then opened an exhibit of the works in London in 1835.
One of best known, grisly attractions is the Chamber of Horrors. It is not designed to horrify however, the wax figures include the likes of victims of the French Revolution, murderers, criminals, warlords and others.
Some of the original sculptors done by the artist herself are still standing. She did a likeness of herself which is on display at the entrance of the museum.
It is a popular London attraction with well over a million visitors a year. Whoever your favorite personality is, chances are that their likeness will be at Madame Tussaud’s. Many people want to have their picture taken with their favorite celebrity.
Some other famous wax figures include, Beyonce Knowles, george Clooney, George Bush, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Adolph Hitler, Ozzy Osbourne, Woody Allen, Andre Agassi, Arnold Palmer, Michael Jordan, Michelle Kwan, Tiger Woods, Luciano Pavarotti, Tina Turner, Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis,Blue Man Group, Bruce Springsteen, Charlie Chaplin, Robin Williams, Bob Hope, Princess Diana, George Burns, Nicolas Cage, Judy Garland, Jerry Springer, Joan Rivers, Yoko Ono and Shirley MacLaine.
The sculptors are fastidious in their craft to assure that the figures are true likenesses as well as a desire to have the image look alive.
The same building contains the London Planetarium which is located at the west wing of the building and is now called The Auditorium. Shows are scheduled throughout the day. You may want to call ahead to find out exact times the shows are open.
If you are interested in either one or both of these attractions, the best time to visit is early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Otherwise, you will need to wait in line for at least 30 minutes or so. Madame Tussaud’s is a very popular tourist attraction, as well as for natives who visit to see the latest additions of wax images.
Another Royal Residence: Kensington Palace
The history of the gardens started in the late 1600’s when King William bought the Nottingham house. The house was remodeled into a palace and the 12 acre garden was expanded into 100 acres through Hyde Park.
This palace is has been a home to royalty since the early 1800’s. It is still known as the royal residence and there are some public areas that tourists can visit. The palace was opened to public view in 1899.
The palace was remodeled and improved numerous times while Queen Anne and George the I and George the II were in power. In the late 1890’s the house was beginning to falter, and they talk of demolishing the building. Queen Victoria insisted that it be restored which was completed in the late 1800’s.
The infamous Red Saloon which is located on the first floor is the place where council meetings are held. Portions of the palace have been restored.
There is quite a collection of clothing including a dress collection and hats and handbags. The apparel on display dates back to Queen Elizabeth the II.
Nearby are the Kings and Queens apartments, which house some originals works of art and many family portraits dating back to Queen Mary the II.
The Victorian rooms are open to public view. The rooms are furnished with personal belongings of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert.
The exterior of the palace is an architectural legacy as well as beautifully landscaped gardens.
The palace’s gardens blend into Hyde Park. George the II’s wife Queen Caroline initiated the project and was at the forefront to assure that the landscaping project went well. Between the palace and Hyde Park there are over 600 acres of gorgeous gardens.
The palace is surrounded by a mile long lake, Serpentine and is a popular spot for boaters and nature lovers. There are also several ponds around the palace for feeding ducks and where children can play.
There are sculptures galore including peter Pan, an Elf and a statue of Queen Victoria, done by her daughter. The gardens are elegantly landscaped.
There are many ornate and elaborate fountains and peaceful paths to walk down. The park is available for flying kites, roller skating, biking and hiking.
Most recently, a memorial to Diana was done and placed in the park. It is a large black granite sculpture surrounded by flowers.
Another memorial there is Albert Hall which was completed in the 1870’s for the Queen. It holds a theatre for concerts and plays. It is beautifully designed with a domed glass roof.
London is such a beautiful city, it you are there for a limited visit, it will be difficult to see it all in one trip!
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