Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 56 - Nov. 12 - Travel Day

I have lots to tell about Tuesday, and our missed flight, United Airlines excellent customer service at Heathrow Airport, and the paramedics that work there.  We are both home safe and sound now and starting to recover.  I may not have many pictures to share, but I'll update this post as I put together the information I can share with you.

Hopefully, I can get to it tomorrow.  Until then....

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 55 - Veteran's Day - Remembrance Day - Last Day

Today is our last full day in London, and we spent most of it cleaning and packing.  We went through our check out interview and passed, so we got our $450 deposit back.

Tonight we plan to go out to dinner and see the lights of the city and take any last photographs.  So, first we head back to our restaurant of choice, where we had our first meal - Cafe Rouge.  I had my standard fare, but hubby tried something new.  We've never had anything we didn't like at Cafe Rouge before, so I guess there's always a first time.  Beef Bourguignon was not a favorite.

Cafe Rouge Minute Steak
Cafe Rouge Beef Bourguignon
After dinner we walked to Picadilly Circus and took some pictures of the lights on Regent Street before we took the number 12 bus to Hamleys

Regent Street Christmas Lights
Next we visited Hamleys, and finally took a picture of Carnaby Street.  I will need to add these at a later time.  Need to finish packing and set an early alarm so we have enough time to lug our luggage down the stairs of the flat and down the stairs of the tube.  Once we're at Heathrow, things should be a bit easier until we have to take out our computers for security.

I may not get on again until Wednesday, since most of our day will be either at an airport waiting, or in the air.  So, until next time....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 54 - Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday observance at the Cenotaph
Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognized as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month," in accordance with the Armistice, signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. ("At the 11th hour" refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 am) World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

The day was specifically dedicated by King George V on 7 November 1919 as a day of remembrance for members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I. This was possibly done upon the suggestion of Edward George Honey to Wellesley Tudor Pole, who established two ceremonial periods of remembrance based on events in 1917.

The Queen at the Centotaph
The Initial or Very First Armistice Day was held at Buckingham Palace commencing with King George V (The Queen's Grandfather) hosting a "Banquet in Honour of The President of the French Republic" during the evening hours of November 10, 1919. The First Official Armistice Day was subsequently held on the Grounds of Buckingham Palace on the Morning of November 11, 1919. This would set the trend for a day of Remembrance for decades to come.

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields". These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red color an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Flanders Poppy field
In the United Kingdom, although two minutes of silence are observed on 11 November itself, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday. Ceremonies are held at local war memorials, usually organised by local branches of the Royal British Legion, an association for ex-servicemen. Typically, poppy wreaths are laid by representatives of the Crown, the armed forces, and local civic leaders, as well as by local organisations including ex-servicemen organisations, cadet forces, the Scouts, Guides, Boys' Brigade, St John Ambulance and the Salvation Army. A minute's or two minutes' silence is also frequently incorporated into church services. Further wreath-laying ceremonies are observed at most war memorials across the UK at 11 am on 11 November, led by the Royal British Legion.

Veterans attending the Remembrance Sunday observation
The beginning and end of the two minutes' silence is often marked in large towns and cities by the firing of ceremonial cannon and many employers and businesses invite their staff and customers to observe the two minutes' silence at 11:00 am.

The Queen laying a wreath at the Cenotaph
The main national commemoration is held at Whitehall, in Central London, for dignitaries, the public, and ceremonial detachments from the armed forces and civilian uniformed services such as the Merchant Navy and Her Majesty's Coastguard. Members of the British Royal Family walk through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office towards the Cenotaph, assembling to the right of the monument to wait for Big Ben to strike 11:00 am, and for the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at Horse Guards Parade, to fire the cannon marking the commencement of the two minutes of silence.

Following this, "Last Post" is sounded by the buglers of the Royal Marines. "The Rouse" is then sounded by the trumpeters of the Royal Air Force, after which wreaths are laid by the Queen and senior members of the Royal Family attending in military uniform and then, to "Beethoven's Funeral March" (composed by Johann Heinrich Walch), by attendees in the following order: the Prime Minister; the leaders of the major political parties from all parts of the United Kingdom; Commonwealth High Commissioners to London, on behalf of their respective nations; the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the British Dependencies; the First Sea Lord; the Chief of the General Staff; the Chief of the Air Staff; representatives of the merchant navy and Fishing Fleets and the merchant air service. Other members of the Royal Family usually watch the service from the balcony of the Foreign Office. The service is generally conducted by the Bishop of London, with a choir from the Chapels Royal, in the presence of representatives of all major faiths in the United Kingdom. Before the marching commences, the members of the Royal Family and public sing the national anthem before the Royal Delegation lead out after the main service.

UK Leaders waiting to place their wreaths
Paying tribute to service personnel who died in conflict, the Queen stood as a two-minute silence was observed.  The beginning and end of the silence was marked with the firing of a round by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, using a 13-pounder World War One gun.

The monarch then laid her wreath at the foot of the monument, the focal point of the UK's Remembrance Sunday events since World War One, bowing her head after paying her respects. On a sunny but crisp autumn day, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry laid wreaths. Prime Minister David Cameron was next to pay his respects, followed by Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Former prime ministers Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, along with London Mayor Boris Johnson, also took part in the ceremony, as did military and emergency service chiefs and representatives from Commonwealth countries.

More than 10,000 military veterans and civilian representatives marched past the monument. Services also took place at memorials across the UK, in Commonwealth countries and at bases abroad.

Wreaths of Poppies laid at the Cenotaph
To view a video of the ceremony, please visit

We spent a quiet day at the flat, having heard that the pavements were lined 10-deep on Whitehall long before the start of the Remembrance Sunday ceremony. When the street was officially declared "at capacity" by the police, with 10,000 people lined up waiting to march past the Cenotaph once the Queen and the politicians had laid their wreaths, crowds were still piling into Parliament and Trafalgar squares to be present when the deep boom of a first world war field gun launched the eerie silence at the heart of the capital.

It is a somber day for reflection around the world for those who gave up their lives for their countries.

I hope you and your loved ones are all safe....

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day 53 - An afternoon with the Lord Mayor and an evening with Fireworks!

In position before the London School for Boys to watch the Lord Mayor's Show
The Lord Mayor's Show is one of the longest established and best known annual events in London which dates back to before 1535. The Lord Mayor in question is that of the City of London, the historic center of London that is now the metropolis's financial district, informally known as the Square Mile. A new Lord Mayor is appointed every year and the public parade that is made of his inauguration reflects the fact that this was once one of the most prominent offices in England. The position of Lord Mayor of London has a role in the Square Mile, whilst the Mayor of London (a position which has existed only since 2000) is a different individual entirely, namely the elected head of the Greater London Authority.  The current Mayor of the Greater London Authority is Boris Johnson.

The Scots Guards start out the procession
The event is a street parade which in its modern form is a fairly light-hearted combination of traditional British pageantry and elements of carnival. On the day after being sworn in, the Lord Mayor and several others participate in a procession from the City of London to the Royal Courts of Justice in the City of Westminster, where the Lord Mayor swears his/her allegiance to the Crown.  This year's Lord Mayor of London is Fiona Woolf, the first woman Lord Mayor in the 21st Century. For only the second time in 800 years, the City of London welcomes a woman to the office of lord mayor. In the world's largest unrehearsed parade, the streets of London becomes the stage for 21 bands, 150 horses, countless vintage cars, helicopters, robots, unicycles, dancers, beds, bathtubs, and one camel - not to mention half a million spectators.

Fiona Woolf, CBE in the company of the Household Cavalry Trumpeters
Lawyer Fiona Woolf took up office yesterday (November 8, 2013) as the 686th Lord Mayor of the City of London, becoming only the second woman to hold the ceremonial post.  Woolf, who replaced Roger Gifford at a ceremony in Guildhall, has worked for law firm CMS in London since 1978 and became its first female partner in 1981.

Lord Mayor of London's State Coach
After Lord Mayor Sir Gilbert Heathcote was unseated by a drunken flower girl in 1710, state coaches replaced horses. The last time barges were used was in 1856. Now the Lord Mayor travels in a State Coach with side panels painted by Cipriani, who also did the panels of the Gold State Coach used by Queen Elizabeth II. The Lord Mayor's Coach was built in 1757 at a cost of £1,065.0s.3d. (over £120,000 in modern terms). It is pulled by six horses - only two fewer than that of the Queen. Oddly, the postillions and close escort to the coach are liveried watermen carrying oars; when the procession was on the river the Mayor's barge was rowed by the City's members of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen the Doggett's Coat & Badge men who had achieved the distinction of winning Doggett's Wager. When the procession moved to the roads it was felt appropriate that this historic connection with the river, the Lord Mayor is Admiral of the Thames, be maintained by them becoming the escort to the coach.

In London, the Show occurred annually on 29 October. However, In 1751, Great Britain replaced the Julian Calendar with the Gregorian Calendar; the Lord Mayor's Show was then moved to 9 November. In 1959, another change was made: now, the Lord Mayor's Show is held on the second Saturday in November. The Lord Mayor's Show has regularly been held on the scheduled day; it has not been moved since 1852, when the Show made way for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington's funeral. The Show was not interrupted by the Second World War. The Lord Mayor has been making that journey every year for 477 years, surviving plague and fire and countless wars and insurrections. The modern Lord Mayor's procession is a direct descendant of that first journey to Westminster.

Lord Mayor's Show Route (Click for a larger image)
Formerly, the route was varied each year so that the procession could pass through the Lord Mayor's home ward; since 1952, however, the route has been fixed. The Lord Mayor rode on horseback or went on a barge via the River Thames, based on the route chosen. The river transport for the Lord Mayor's Show gave rise to the word float, used in the context of parades.

Below are a few pictures we captured of the parade.

CMS Cameron McKenna Float
Anne Boleyn - Clio's Company
London Transport Museum - Railway Children
Recycling in the City - with Binbot
The Worshipful Company of Marketors (Branding)
The Royal British Legion - Poppies for Remembrance
Gog and Magog representing the Society of Young Freemen
The Household Mounted Cavalry
The new Lord Mayor
After the parade, we walked back to Fleet street to get something to eat and warm up a bit.  After some looking about, we decided to try Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of a number of pubs in London to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. There has been a pub at this location since 1538. While there are several older pubs which have survived because they were beyond the reach of the fire, or like The Tipperary on the opposite side of Fleet Street because they were made of stone, this pub continues to attract interest due to the curious lack of natural lighting inside which generates its own gloomy charm. In the bar room are posted plaques showing famous people who were regulars.

Hubby sat under the portrait of Samuel Johnson in what was reportedly his favorite seat
(near the fire),  and I sat in Charles Dickens favorite seat.
Some of the interior wood panelling is nineteenth century, some older, perhaps original. The vaulted cellars are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite Monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this London pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside visitors will realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms. In winter, an open fireplace is used to keep the interior warm.

I opted for the beef rib-eye with Yorkshire pudding and roasted potatoes and a glass of cider.  Hubby opted for the Steak and Kidney pie, which I thought was very brave of him, until he mentioned he thought there would be beans.  I informed him the kidney wasn't kidney beans, but rather the organ from the cow.  He quickly lost his appetite at that point, but he wasn't enjoying the meal much prior to that, either.  Kidneys have a bitter taste, and not everyone enjoys them.  I tried them once, since Steak and Kidney pie is a very English dish, and didn't much care for them myself.

Horseradish sauce, steak, roasted potatoes  and Yorkshire pudding

Steak and Kidney pie with roasted potatoes

As we left, we took a picture of the outside sign stating the different monarchs the pub had operated under.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Sign
Pictures taken, we headed back to Victoria Embankment to watch the fireworks, another part of the tradition, scheduled to begin at 5 PM.

After the show, we walked back to the flat and came across a building in the area of the Inns of Court.  Turns out it is Two Temple Place.

Two Temple Place
Built to elaborate specifications by William Waldorf Astor, later first Viscount Astor, in 1895 as his residence and estate office on reclaimed land following completion of the Victoria Embankment in 1870, Two Temple Place has been acquired and preserved by the Bulldog Trust and offers a unique location in the heart of central London, overlooking the River Thames.

The Bulldog sign on Two Temple Place
The architect chosen, and with difficulty obtained, by Lord Astor was the late John Loughborough Pearson, R.A., who brought unabated creative power to the making of the building and was given full liberty of expression, unfettered by considerations of finance.

Two Temple Place has two floors and a lower ground floor, and stands upon sixteen feet of concrete. Of Tudor design, sometimes with an infusion of Italian feeling in the detail, the property may be described as a casket built entirely of Portland stone. The carefully wrought and fully detailed weather vane, set high above the parapets of the building, at once attracts attention. It was intended by Lord Astor to be a representation in beaten copper of the caravel in which Columbus discovered America, and not, as has been stated, a miniature of the fur-trading vessel which helped to establish the wealth of the House of Astor a century and more ago. This gilded weather vane was executed by J. Starkie Gardner, the well-known English metal worker, who was responsible for the metal work both inside and outside the building. The clear glass windows are models of leaded quarry-glazing, the upper range being flanked by oriels. The stonework from the twin chimneys downwards was meticulously carved by Hitch, and is completed by the grilles and screens of ornamental ironwork.

Weather vane on Two Temple Place
The fine iron gates lead into a paved forecourt, with a delightful lawn and arcaded boundary wall on the one side, and on the other the Portico, by W. S. Frith, with its balustraded stone steps leading up to massive entrance doors. The steps are flanked on either side by stone pedestals bearing bronze lamp standards, modelled by Frith, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy, and are constantly being sketched by artists and others. Each of these two finely-proportioned lamp standards is crowned by a miniature ship, whilst around the base the figures of little boys playfully represent the marvels of electric illumination, telegraphy and telephony. These figures now find themselves looking towards the headquarters of a yet greater wonder, that of communication by wireless. The entrance doors are of solid bronze, embellished with delicately-worked mouldings, and are surmounted by a magnificent columned and pedimented stone screen, on the center panel of which are carved the Arms of the Astor family. The doors lead past fine inner swing doors of bronze into a stone-lined Vestibule, which presents a good example of early Renaissance carving, a style of architecture which is followed in some other parts of the building.

It was night, so we weren't able to go in, but the building is open to visitors, so it maybe something we will want to check out during another visit.  Below is a picture of the building lit up at night.

We're back at our flat now, and it's 4:30 AM, so I'm off to bed.  Tomorrow we'll probably stay close to the flat, but we may venture out again on Monday, our last day of freedom.

Until tomorrow.....

Friday, November 8, 2013

Day 52 - Raining Home Day and visiting with Queen tonight

Raining on Long Acre
Today, hubby braved the elements while I did some housekeeping.  I don't want to spend all day Monday cleaning, so I hoped to be able to get some things done today.  Things that I'm hoping won't need to be redone on Monday.

Anyway, while I was playing Hetty Housekeeper, hubby braved the elements to take some pictures around our home base - Covent Garden.

Interior Court of Covent Garden
When he came back we fixed some hamburgers and soup for dinner, then left the flat and walked to the Dominion Theatre to see "We Will Rock You."

On the way, we went through Seven Dials, and they had their Christmas Lights up as well.

Seven Dials Christmas Lights
Seven Dials Christmas Lights

On May 12, 2002, the hit stage musical We Will Rock You, based on the songs of Queen, created by Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor together with British comedian Ben Elton opened at the Dominion Theatre. The show was due to close in October 2006 before embarking on a UK tour, but due to popular demand has been extended indefinitely. The show is currently in its 11th year and as such is the longest running musical ever to play at the Dominion Theatre.

Dominion Theatre
 The musical tells the story of a group of Bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and does the same. Musical instruments and composers are forbidden, and rock music is all but unknown.

The Future where everyone dresses and thinks alike

The Bohemians

The musical was originally panned by critics as having a ludicrous plot that merely allowed for one of Queen's songs to flow after another, and, in a way, they are right, but it's one of those musicals (similar to Let it Be and Jersey Boys) that pulls you out of your seats and makes you want to join in the fun.  This is our second time seeing it, and a lot of changes have occurred since our first viewing, so some lines were changed to bring it more "up to date," and in line with things that have happened since it first opened.

I have to say that despite any short comings the show might have, and since it's been running in the same theatre for over 11 years now they clearly don't matter, that I enjoyed its sometimes silly and irreverent dialogue, and I stood up with everyone else.

The Killer Queen of "Global Soft"
Young Bohemian Lovers

I need to confirm this, but I believe the guitar soloist who was spotlighted at the end of the show during Bohemian Rhapsody was the original guitarist, Brian May.  He has often appeared at certain performances of We Will Rock You, and at the end of the show, his voice was heard requesting money for one of the charities the show supports.  This is Veteran's Week in London, with the Queen placing a wreathe of poppies against the Centotaph on Remembrance Sunday, so a lot of the West End shows are requesting money for Veterans and other charities.  I had thought that perhaps Brian May's voice was a recording, but as I was collecting information for this post, I discovered he has made many appearances at the end of We Will Rock You by emerging through smoke and playing his well-known solo.

Not sure how I can find out, but I will do my best.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with a picture of Brian and his famous guitar.

Brian May
In addition, I'd like to leave a small tidbit of information about the band Queen, and their lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury
Queen is a British rock band formed in London in 1970, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). Queen's earliest works were influenced by progressive rock, hard rock and heavy metal, but the band gradually ventured into more conventional and radio-friendly works, incorporating further diverse styles into their music.

Sadly, Queen's lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) died in his Kensington home of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on 24 November 1991, only one day after publicly acknowledging that he had the disease.  He was only 46 years old.

I'm also going to embed a promotional video for the show that was released today.  If you listen to it, please be aware that the music is very loud, so you might want to turn the volume down on your computer.

Until tomorrow, then....