This week’s listmaker: Megan Bennett. Megan is a writer/producer with Well Done Marketing…and an unapologetic Anglophile.
Visiting London for the Games? Here are the Top 10 things to do in London when you’re tired of men’s gymnastics.
1. Westminster Abby. Many people have married here and a bunch of crowns were plopped on the heads of fresh new monarchs at the Abby. But even more people are buried here. This macabre, gothic indoor graveyard holds the remains of A Who’s Who of notable dead folks, including Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Burns, Lewis Carroll (his marker is written in a circle like a spinning vortex to the heart of Wonderland), Geoffrey Chaucer, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, Sir Walter Scott, Alfred Lord Tennyson and about a bazillion other people you wish you could sit down and drink a beer with. If you miss this building when you’re in London or if you go and you’re not moved to the point of tears, then you’re dead inside and not nearly cool enough to be buried here.
2. The Tower of London. A number of people buried at Westminster found they needed a nice place to rest for eternity after taking a walk up the scaffold at the Tower Green here. This is one of the oldest buildings in London and over the hundreds and hundreds of years of its existence it has been a castle, court, fortress, jail, courtroom, and home. A few young monarchs have gone missing (permanently), along with the heads of more than a few unfortunate queens. If you’re curious about instruments of torture, then this is the place to get your learning on. (This iron maiden rocks!) And, if you’re lucky and if the Queen isn’t currently wearing them, this is the place to get an eyeful of the Crown Jewels.
3. Tower Bridge. London Bridge isn’t the bridge you see on postcards with the lovely towers and cables. London Bridge is a plain looking, somewhat modern looking bridge that decidedly lacks romanticism and style. The bridge that gets confused for the famous structure that is supposedly falling down is Tower Bridge. It crosses the Thames and leads to the Tower of London. It’s gorgeous. And, to my knowledge, no one ever wrote a song about it.
4. The British Museum. If the climate scientists are correct (and let’s face it, they are), then at some point in the future London will be under water. Before that happens, I sincerely hope that someone will hire a few thousand moving trucks and relocate this incredible repository of history. And it’s not just British history housed in this massive structure. The English (god love ‘um) snatched up important pieces of history from virtually every civilization on earth. You want to see Egypt without going to Africa? Well, the giant statue of Bast, the hundreds of mummies, the sarcophaguses, the fabrics, jewelry, and cartouches the size of small buildings should give you the impression you’re in Cairo rather than in a relatively small wing of this museum. If you don’t impress easily then maybe the fact that the FREAKING ROSETTA STONE is on an easel in the middle of a hallway will do it for you. Seriously, go. And leave a lot of time to do it right. Like, a month.
5. The National Gallery. Museums are cool. And, just because you’ve seen one, you haven’t seen them all. Short of the Louve or the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery in London is the damn bee’s knees. The complex sits right in Trafalger Square (which you should be checking out even though it’s not on this list) and holds Cezanne, Seurat, Titian, Vermeer, van Dyck, Monet, Rubens, Rembrandt, Botticelli, Raphael and some little known Italians named Michelangelo and da Vinci. And that’s just the beginning of the list.
6. The Tate Museum. This is the place for British art in London. So if you like that art stuff and you like English stuff, then this is the place to see lots of both. If one location isn’t enough for you or if there isn’t just one style you dig on, there are little Tate-lets all over England to keep you entertained.
7. Covent Garden. Way back when, Elisa Doolittle was hawking flowers in the market her trying to make a few pence in order to buy an extra lump of coal to keep her warm at night. Nowadays, Covent Garden is a thriving shopping hub with a whole hell of a lot more to offer than just cockney flower sellers. This is the place to be for theatres, restaurants, fancy upscale retail shops, and a whole mess of history, too. The markets themselves (there are three) are filled boot to bonnet with stalls selling everything from produce to ink pens.
8. St. Paul’s Cathedral. Five times the charm, right? In the case of St. Paul’s that may be right. The current cathedral is a stunner and is the fifth one to have been built on the grounds it sits on. Fourteen hundred years of history means there is a whole mess of cool stuff to look at, and you just can help but be pretty well awed at it all. Especially the dome. Park your butt in a pew before looking up or you’ll end up with a wicked case of vertigo. If you visit here after you visit Westminster, you’ll likely be surprised that there is anyone left in English history to be buried in the crypt at St. Paul’s. But hold on to your derby when you venture down, because a number of big historical muckity-mucks are enjoying eternal rest in the basement.
9. The Globe Theatre. If you didn’t read Shakespeare in high school, shame on you. But, thankfully you can make it up to yourself and your high school English teacher by catching a show at the Globe. This isn’t THE Globe of Will Shakespeare’s day, but, thanks to extensive research and attention to painstaking detail, it looks a whole lot like it.
10. Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to live here, but even though it’s had a rather short history in comparison to the age of the city, this little place (it’s only 830,000 square feet, after all) has had its fair share of adventures and excitement. World War II was especially explosive at the royal residence when the palace was bombed seven times. Since you’re not likely to see the Queen, or Charles or Camilla or William, Kate, or Harry walking around the gardens, the best photo op is likely that of the changing of the Queen’s Guards. They won’t smile or acknowledge you, so don’t try to make them. They’ve heard and seen it all and the best-case scenario is you’ll end up looking like a tool. Worst case? You end up in the Tower.
Westminster Abbey and Tower Bridge photos via Wikimedia Commons.
Tate Museum photo by Paul Farmer [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Buckingham Palace photo by Diliff (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.