And that is just what I did, arriving at the time of Charles III coronation. The royal tradition runs deep in English history and culture, starting back in the 800’s with the Anglo Saxons, and is, of course, an intrinsic part of the English life today, some approving and some not. Despite how one thinks of the monarchy, any trip to England will be permeated with that history and it is indeed a great pleasure to wander through buildings so old, with so much historical impact from those who ruled over England. A great way to orient yourself is to start in London. Plus, it’s wonderful to see the old and the new blending together in this high energy capital, filled with immense ethnic diversity (citizens from the he vast British Commonwealth now living in London).

Having been to London on various trips over the years, I was eager to view new things, and that meant starting with the London Eye, often thought to be the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, though is just the fourth tallest. It was opened in 2000 to honor the millennium. They thought they would leave it for five-years, but it is so popular, it remains. Unlike some Ferris wheels, this one takes 30-minutes to make a full revolution. From the new to the old, Hampton Court, a Tudor palace (later with a Baroque addition) was started by Cardinal Wolsey back in early 1500’s. Ultimately, it was taken over by Henry III who lived there with all six of his wives. Unfortunately, the wives did not fare well, not did Wolsey. Two wives were beheaded and two he divorced. Jane Seymour died in childbirth (after the birth of his only son, Edward) and one survived. Wolsey was ultimately accused of treason as he refused to grant a divorce to Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and would have been beheaded had he not died of natural causes prior. Hampton Court is massive, with over 280 extravagantly decorated rooms and is surrounded by beautiful gardens to wander through. While once it was considered a country palace, today, it is just a short drive outside of London. By the way, Henry VIII was a large, strong tall man, at about 6-foot, 2-inches, and had a penchant for fancy attire!

From the old to the old, we headed off to the supposedly oldest riverside tavern in London, the Prospect of Whitby, dating back to 1520’s set on the bank of the Thames. Kings from as far back as Henry VIII came there now and then and might even have had “fish and chips”—big, fat and tasty, washed down with a pint!

You can’t visit London without a trip to the Tower of London, which is a hillside fortress/palace/prison infamous for imprisoning and torturing enemies and guarding the royal jewels. Once upon a time, you would encounter the Yeoman Warders in their bright red garb, nicknamed Beefeaters, but they seemed to be in short supply now. But you could see some coronation crowns from past kings and queens on display. Some of the famous imprisoned there and ultimately beheaded were Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and Guy Fawkes, considered a revolutionary in early 1600’s. Given the position of the Tower, there are some great views across the London Bridge.

Again, from very old to super contemporary, we made our way to The Shard. This is a glass building, the tallest in the UK, looking just like a piece of glass, hence the name. This urban concept building encompasses a hotel, residences, offices and restaurants and is certainly a striking place to unwind with views over the Thames and London. Their fish and chips were luscious!

Winding our way back to our lovely hotel in Mayfair, very Victorian in style, we stopped off in Harrods. Who can resist anything in their Food Court? Yes, this food court goes far beyond the franchise foods we see in the US in shopping malls and airports. There is room after room, of fresh fish, breads, pastries, coffee and teas with a coffee bar, chocolates, truffles, pates, cheeses and take-away as they like to call it in England… a perfect place to organize a picnic for your hotel room if you wish to stay in and relax after a day of sightseeing. Given the coronation festivities, we could not enter a lot of the known places which were closed such as Westminster Abbey (where coronation took place), Buckingham Palace (where parade went and balcony wave occurred), Windsor Castle where the major music concert took place (Lionel Richey was the draw). No time for the quality museums like Tate and Victoria and Albert. But it was a wonderful visit to a wonderful city. Next time I will take you out into the English countryside.

Linda Stack is owner of Travelinda.


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