Archive for the ‘Luke in London’ Category


Luke: Royal Wedding

May 25, 2011

I arrived in Hyde Park the morning of the wedding to watch from the giant screens set up on the grass, but I realized I wanted to see it in person. No, I did not receive an invitation to Westminster Abbey, so I did the next-best thing: stand on the Mall in front of Clarence House (Prince of Wales’ residence) and watch everyone process past before and after the wedding. Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, the Queen and Prince Philip, etc all rode by. I didn’t catch any pictures of that because I was too busy making sure I could see for myself the historic day, but I did catch the Buckingham Palace balcony appearance and Royal Air Force flyover. Some of the planes in the flyover are from WWII, a reference to Britain’s indomitable spirit and successful resistance. The green boxes in front of the Palace and the media bleachers in front of the Abbey are not permanent; yes, there really was that much media hype for the event. 

Not everyone can go to Europe and say they saw the Pope and the Queen of England, but I can.

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Luke: Stonehenge and Bath

March 9, 2011

Stonehenge_416I ventured out west once again last month and arrived at Salisbury Plain to see Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site. The monument seems to have been constructed in several phases over about a thousand years. The oldest part is not much more than a circular ditch and is 5000 years old. The large stones inside this original ditch that make Stonehenge famous were originally arranged in such a way that you could tell what month of the year it was by observing which archway the sunlight from the sunrise passed through. Summer solstice is the most popular day for visiting Stonehenge. A few stones have been repositioned to their original places since excavation began 150 years ago. The stone came from Wales, so how on earth did it get all the way to Salisbury Plain? Well, it was probably floated up the River Avon, but they still had to be moved on land the rest of the way. The best clue we have to how Stonehenge was actually erected comes from the fact that a good portion of each stone is underground, much like teeth fitting into gums. Why is Stonehenge a ruin today? Giant stones like this shouldn’t just fall over by themselves. I think the answer that makes the most sense is that the Romans vandalised it 2000 years ago to spite local religions and to assert their dominance. It may have been used by Druids for religious purposes in Roman times long after it was built, and these Druids stirred up trouble against Rome. I have included concept art of what Stonehenge originally looked like as well as a photo of it from 1877 before reconstruction. The last couple pictures are burial mounds called barrows, as well as the “Heelstone,” which is labelled on the concept drawing. They also put two stones in front of the entrance, so I can proudly say that I have touched a part of Stonehenge.

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Dsc00619Next, I continued on to Bath, where the entire city is a World Heritage Site. It is noted for, among other things, which, don’t worry, will be discussed here, its Georgian architecture. Every single building in the entire city is made from Bath Stone, a local light-brown limestone quarried only a few miles away. You feel as if stepping into a time machine when entering the city. Jane Austen lived here, moving with her family when she was about 25. She, however, hated her time in bath when she considered her brothers off at university while she had to tag along with her family since she was a woman. Her novel Northanger Abbey is set in Bath. Bath is also home to two spots called the Circus and the Crescent, a circular road and half-circle block of high-end residences. Big Hollywood actors own real estate on the Circus or Crescent, so I do mean high-end. Bath is also home to the famous Roman Baths, which are 2000 years old and sit on the city’s natural hot springs. The baths were accidentally rediscovered 200 years ago, and the Roman statues and columns around the main pool are Victorian, not Roman. You can see clearly on the first picture where the original Roman work ends and where the newer Victorian begins. Also at the Roman baths was a Roman temple to the goddess Minerva, who was combined with the existing local goddess Sulis. The artwork on the temple was actually brightly painted, and so was the art that lined the Parthenon, some of which you can see in the British Museum. It all looks uncoloured today, but forensic analysis has discovered pigments. I visited Bath Abbey to end my stay in Bath. It is not called a cathedral because there is no bishop’s seat there. All the churches have priests, but not all have a higher-ranking bishop. Here are my pictures from Bath, and then I’ll move on to discuss my time at the British Museum, which I have so far overlooked on this blog.

Dsc00622 Dsc00635 Dsc00646 Dsc00654 Dsc00655 Dsc00657 The British Museum focuses on ancient artifacts, such as from the Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans. Highlights are the Rosetta Stone, which had Egyptian Hieroglyphics next to the Greek translation, allowing the glyphs to be read and understood for the first time. Some glyphs stand for sounds, and some for symbols. Before the Rosetta Stone, no one could figure out which was which and what they meant. I also saw Assyrian carvings depicting the capture of the city of Lachish, part of the kingdom of Judah under King Hezekiah. This period in history is described vividly in the Bible, and it was exciting to see a parallel account. I also saw lots of Greek and Roman pottery and sculpture, as well as a piece of the Great Sphinx in Egypt (the one with the broken nose). Finally, I saw some of the friezes taken from the Parthenon in Athens. They were originally brightly coloured, and they once lined the Parthenon around the tops of its columns. Dsc00195 Dsc00198

Luke: Westminster Cathedral/Houses of Parliament

March 9, 2011

I visited both these buildings for my Architecture in London class. One of them is built in Gothic style and the other in Byzantine style. See if you can figure out which building is in which style. I got a great view of London for the tower of Westminster Cathedral when I went inside. Enjoy the photos

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Luke: Tower of London

January 28, 2011

I visited the Tower of London last week. Even though I had been there three years ago, it was well worth a second visit. It was actually getting a facelift so as to be sparkly clean for the Olympics, so a giant drawing covered the canvas draping over one side of the White Tower, showing scenes from the Tower of London’s bloody history. The chapel was actual conducting a service since it was Sunday, and Beefeaters really do live at the Tower of London with their families. Who are the Beefeaters? Well, today they are retired members of the British military who still wish to serve their country. Tourists know them mainly as their guides for visits to the Tower, though. Also housed in the Tower of London are the Crown Jewels, including Queen Victoria’s famous “mini-crown” and the crown that George VI wore to India. Many of the items there dated to the year 1661 or shortly after. This is because Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament destroyed many objects owned by the monarch or that were symbolic of the monarchy, which was restored under Charles II in, you guessed it, 1661. Some interesting traditional items were the Coronation Spoon, which is 800 years old and is now used to put oil on the new monarch during Coronation, and the Sovereign’s Orb, which is placed in the new monarch’s right hand during Coronation and represents the monarch’s role as Defender of the Faith of the Church of England. I also saw crowns containing diamonds cut from the Great Star of Africa, one of the largest diamonds ever found.

Outside, I walked on the green upon which many people were executed, including Queen Anne Boleyn, who demanded a particular style of execution, forcing King Henry VIII to get an executioner from France to come over to do the job. The oldest and tallest part of the Tower of London is the White Tower, which was built over 800 years ago under William the Conqueror. Nearby are remains from the original Roman wall which is 2000 years old. Inside is a great collection of armour and weapons from all periods of English history.

I also visited several buildings that are part of the Tower of London that have housed many famous prisoners. Sir Walter Raleigh was held at the Tower, the same one who tried to establish a colony on Roanoke Island and who, while inprisoned, wrote The History of the World. The best story about the Tower of London in my opinion is about the Princes in the Tower. The two brothers were the sons of King Edward VI and were living in the Tower of London (which was actually once a royal residence). The older one (Prince Edward, aged 13) was soon to be crowned king in 1483 after his father’s death, but that summer both he and his brother disappeared from the Tower of London, never to be seen again. Their uncle, Richard III, became king and is suspected of having the princes killed. Another suspect is Henry VII, who followed Richard III as king. He seems to have had a motive to get rid of the two boys, who were in front of him in the succession to the throne. Then again, we don’t necessarily even know that the princes were killed at all. I’d put my money on Richard III as the culprit, since the princes’ deaths directly cleared his path to immediately assume the throne.

Unfortunately this website can’t upload my pictures at the moment, so I can’t show you any. Hopefully they’ll get it fixed soon.


Luke: Mile End/ Whitechapel/ City of London/ Canary Wharf

January 19, 2011

Vibrant is an overused word, but for Mile End Road and Whitechapel Road it stirs all the right connotations. Mile End and Whitechapel are filled with all sorts of nationalitites, especially Bangladeshi and Pakistani. As you walk west from campus, the street is lined with myriad small shops, many advertising SIM cards and phone unlocking. There are all sorts of restaurants, ranging from curry houses to a place called Stepney Fried Chicken. Many of the restaurants have signs in front saying “halal,” which is roughly the Muslim equivalent of kosher. There is also the Whitechapel Market built into the sidewalk, which for a while widens to about 50 feet to accommodate all the tents for the vendors, very few of whom are Caucasian. This is where I hope to buy a lot of my fresh fruits and vegetables.

Once Whitechapel High Street ends, you are leaving the borough (region of London) of Tower Hamlets and entering the very ancient and well-known borough of City of London, which contains the major business district. The change is very apparent and very sudden. The proportion of minorities out and about plummets after walking just one city block out of Whitechapel (area within the borough of Tower Hamlets adjacent to Mile End, are you following this?) and into City of London. The buildings changed from small crowded shops lining the street to glamorous office buildings with receptionists sitting in 25 foot long ornate desks inside. A second business district that now rivals City of London is Canary Wharf in Tower Hamlets, which represents the emergence of the East End from its former shadow of poverty and undesirability.

My room in Pooley House (still getting organised)

Pooley House, including my flat, which house seven students

Old Jewish cemetery right in the middle of campus: it was there before campus was built around it. The East End was a hub of Jewish immigrants in the past and of Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants today.

Queen Mary Campus

Queen Mary Campus building

City of London skyline seen from Mile End Road

It's the Tube or the Underground, not the metro or subway

The brand new Heron Tower, set to open this spring: tallest building in City of London borough

Scene from City of London during a rainy rush hour

the old and the new in City of London

"The Gherkin," so dubbed for its resemblance to the fruit

At One Canada Square


Luke: Bus and boat trips

January 11, 2011

The past few days we had a bus tour around London with a few short photo stops and a boat cruise up and down the Thames. They were good ways to get acclimated to London, and the bus tour guide was quintessentially English.

1. London City Hall;
2. Tower Bridge, finished in 1894, NOT London Bridge (London Bridge is very plain and boring);
3. City Of London;
4. William the Conqueror must be doing some renovations on his White Tower, part of the Tower of London;
5. Lambeth Palace, across the River from Big Ben, where the Archbishop of Canterbury stays when he’s in town;
6. & 7. Houses of Parliament;
8. The London Eye at night;


Luke: Arrival In London (40º and raining, of course)

January 9, 2011

I am happy to say that my flight from O’Hare to Heathrow went smoothly, and I am now settling in on the Queen Mary College London campus. The College sent a coach bus to Heathrow airport to bring us to campus. The bus ride itself was a great introduction to London. I spotted Big Ben, St. Paul’s, and Westminster Abbey. I looked to my right and saw rows of old Victorian flats with little white columns announcing each front door. I looked to my left and saw shiny ultra-modern glass buildings with advertisements emblazoned across them. Seeing the old and the new side by side like that is not something you will encounter in the Midwest.

I will be studying abroad at Queen Mary College from January 2011 until June 2011. Glad you’re here for the ride, because I’m sure it’ll be a wild one!

Westfield Student Village (where I’m staying)

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