A Travellerspoint blog

England

Don't lose your head, it's just the Tower of London!

sunny 19 °C

"Who comes there?", "The keys.", "Whose keys?", "Queen Elizabeth's keys.", "Pass Queen Elizabeth's Keys. All's well.", "God preserve Queen Elizabeth.", "Amen!" - The ceremony of the keys conducted each night at 10pm at the Tower of London

Cultural moment

The English were a brutal group. Not only were they vicious in battle and war but they were also incredibly thorough and brutal when they felt they had been wronged. The public and private executions at the tower were an example of this - often done with no trial, no evidence and sometimes no guilt! After being beheaded the heads were then displayed on spikes on the Bridge to discourage any other wrong doing!! Some unlucky prisoners (such as William Wallace) were hung, drawn and quartered for their crimes against the throne - and the removing of the heart was done while the prisoner was still alive!

Perhaps the best example of the British thirst for revenge is the story of Thomas Cromwell - he overthrew King Charles I (and executed him) to take charge of the country. When Cromwell died he was buried in Westminster Abbey but when Charles II was brought back to the throne he had Cromwell dug up and then hung, drawn and quartered for his Treason against his father.

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Wow moment

The Tower of London has had many uses; a fortress, a zoo, the royal mint, a royal residence but most interestingly a prison. Only the most important people were held (and sometimes executed) at a private execution at the Tower. These included Henry VIII's second and fifth wives, Queen Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. In fact poor falsely accused Anne Boleyn had both her coronation and execution at the Tower of London! The prisoners were always brought in from the river through 'Traitors Gate'.

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The tower is also home to the ravens. Legend has it that failing to keep ravens at the Tower of London will mean the great White Tower will crumble and a terrible disaster shall befall England. The legend says there needs to be 6 ravens so they keep 8 at the tower just in case, they have also clipped the wings of the raven - just to be safe!

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Although London bridge is the more well known bridge, it is actually Tower Bridge that is the most spectacular. The brightly coloured bridge mean it can be spotted from many parts of London, and an elevator ride to the top gives you views down the river in both directions.

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What we learnt today

The London Bridge experience is terrifying!! I'm still not really sure what the historical or educational benefits of this tourist attraction were. There were small snippets of information on London gory history, but with only very tenuous links to the London bridge! Part 2 of the 'experience' was just room after room of everyone's worst nightmares - blood streaked walls, zombies grabbing at you, chainsaw massacres, squeezing through small spaces, people jumping out at you and hissing and screaming, heads dangling from the ceiling and a scary circus. Needless to say, it wasn't one of the most pleasurable experiences I've ever had, but Mark seemed to enjoy it! (No photos inside allowed)

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Posted by travellinglise 09:38 Archived in England Tagged london tower_of_london tower_bridge Comments (0)

'Meet the Fosters' in London

overcast 16 °C

Please Mind the Gap!

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Foodie moment

We felt like a quiet night in so hit up the local Tescos for some food. In England, there is a massive range of ready made meals in the supermarkets which are really well priced. Tonight's meal was an example of that, bags of ready made Indian food - each bag containing a container of rice, naan and 2 curries - 3 bags for the price of 2 which came to only 12 pounds! Plus we only got through half of it!

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Cultural moment

The underground subway system, 'The Tube', may be one of London's most iconic features, but the people that use it daily see it as simply a way to get from point A to point B in the fastest way possible. This means storm walking along platforms and escalators, pushing people out of the way and cutting in front of ticket gates and elevators. Don't even think about standing still on an escalator on the left hand side! As much as you try to stay out of peoples way, you may still find yourself accidentally blocking people from the way they want to go, potentially delaying them a second or two, oh golly gosh oh my!

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Wow moment

The National History Museum is an amazing, informative FREE museum housed in one of the most architectural beautiful buildings I have seen, it almost distracts you from the exhibitions. It has a fantastic display of dinosaurs, including a life size moving T-rex. There is also a room full of models of some of the largest mammals in the world, including a massive Blue whale (something i still remember from when I visited when I was 7!)

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What we learnt today

The location of the UEFA Champions League Final of the soccer is pre-decided, long before the teams have been determined. This means that this year (today) it was played in London even though it was 2 German teams competing for the title!! Great for London tourism, but I wouldn't have been so pumped to travel across Europe to see my team play another team from my country!!

Posted by travellinglise 08:17 Archived in England Tagged london museum underground natural_history_museum Comments (0)

Chiling in Colchester

rain 12 °C

"No Man Needs a Vacation so Much as the Man Who Has Just Had One" - Elbert Hubbard

Foodie moment

Mark's first pub meal in England at Wetherspoons Playhouse. As usual he couldn't resist a burger - while i dug into my English favourite - Scampi and Chips (and helped myself to handfuls of mint and HP sauce packets!!)

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Delicious meal from Barbara - Lime and Parsley prawns, Fried Chorizo and Spiced Salmon (Sorry Barbara, couldn't remember the proper names

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Unfortunately the cheese we bought Barbara from France was a non-foody moment as it was unbelievably stinky and strong and unfortunately inedible!!

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Cultural moment

People in England still do a lot of their shopping on the 'High street' - small shops catering for all your different needs (chemist, greengrocer, clothing, bank, newsagent). There are very, very few 'shopping centres' as we have in Australia, in fact we have only seen one, just outside London (Westfield Stratford) which seems to be a tourist attraction. There is a decline starting in the use of high street shops though so perhaps these small shops are starting to lose out to the big commercial chains.

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Wow moment

Cold weather, tiredness and the impulse to just stop after being 'go go go' in France meant we spent a lot of time relaxing and not much time out of the house so not many touristy moments.

We went to Whetherspoons pub, which is part of a chain, but this one was built in an old playhouse. It was quite cool, with some of the seating up on the 'stage'. When you looked back from the stage the upper dress circle was still there and they had set up an 'audience' to watch you eat!!

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What we learnt today

Spring in Europe means rain, rain, rain (Not that we haven't already learnt that a few times this trip!!)

Posted by travellinglise 06:29 Archived in England Comments (0)

Colchester, Essex - the nice bit of Essex

Still a couple of fake-tanned teen mums walking around though!

semi-overcast 13 °C
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Colchester is Britain's oldest recorded town, and was for a period the capital of Roman Britain. It is also been named as one of Britain's fastest growing towns.

Foodie moment

Barbara's signature dish, learnt during her years living in Spain, is her Seafood Paella. As always it is delicious, especially with the traditional crunchy bits from where it sticks to the pan...Yum!!

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Cultural moment

Although in an expanding population there are always new houses built, the majority of houses in Colchester are over 100yrs old. Having said that, unless you live in a 19th century or earlier house, it is very unlikely your house will be heritage listed. Even so, you see very few houses being bulldozed, and modern houses being erected. The British home-owners seem to respect the history of their houses, the periods they were built, and they continue to maintain the details (particularly in terms of the tiling on the roofs). It is so nice to walk down the street and still see history in each building - even without laws forcing them to keep them that way.

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Wow moment

Colchester Castle and Gardens are stunning. The castle's keep (tower) was the largest ever built in Britain and the largest surviving example in Europe. The building of the castle was completed in 1100, 913 years ago, but it still stands tall and strong. The gardens that stretch out below the castle are beautifully maintained and full of local wild life such as squirrels, magpies and ducks.

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What we learnt today

Today, unfortunately, we learnt that just like all other councils around the world, Colchester is capable of making big errors when deciding to build attractions to 'attract' tourists (Yes Melbourne council, we refer to Fed square). In Colchester, it is the 'First Site Modern Art Museum'. 28 million pounds later there is a circular art gallery (as pointed out - not the best shape for displaying art) filled with the most random modern 'art' possible. Our favourites were a wall covered in blue tack blobs, an empty sleeping bag on the floor and a basketball in a glass vase.
The only redeeming feature in the gallery is the Berryfield mosaic (the only permanent exhibit). Discovered by a gardener in 1923 when digging a hole for rubbish, the mural dates back to 200AD and is in beautiful condition

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Posted by travellinglise 14:02 Archived in England Tagged colchester colchester_castle Comments (0)

Hello the UK, welcome to Col(d)chester

Talk about climate shock! Don't forget your jacket!

sunny 10 °C
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"The highest temperature ever recorded in England was 38.5 degrees in Kent in 2003"

Introduction

So here we are, finally in England. After a 13 hour flight through the night, catching maybe 2 hours sleep in economy seats, 1 day of jet lag recovery and a bout of tonsillitis, we have our first blog entry from actually within Europe. We are currently staying in Colchester, at Lisa's aunty's house, 1 hour out of London, where we are being spoilt and are very very grateful for it.

Foodie moment

What do you want your first morning in England? A good old fashioned fry up - and that is what we got courtesy of Barbara!

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First night off the plane, totally brain fried, we were taken to a pub in Colchester that had a £10 a head Gurka set menu, and oh boy it was amazing! So much food we didn't even get close to finishing it all. Absolutely great value for money! Curry, now the other traditional dish of England

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A nice trip out to Mersea Island, Barbara took us to West Mersea Oyster Bar. So much amazingly fresh sea food, we had oysters, a seafood platter, cod and chips, and lobster. The best fish 'n' chips I've had!

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Cultural moment

History and culture is something England definitely isn't short of. Most buildings here are hundreds of years old, something that is hard to comprehend when coming from Australia that is only 200 years old! The Peldon Rose, a pub in Colchester has been serving customers for over 500 years! The building is in original condition, and displays such ancient architecture as the entrance way which is only 5 feet tall, a common design of such times.

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Wow moment

Mersea Island, an island on the coast near Colchester, is only an island when it is high tide. When its not, you can get to it by driving over the mud flats. We went on a nice sunny day, even so it was icy cold with the wind off the water. The beach, piers and boats make for a truly picturesque landscape. The below 10 degree temperatures didn't stop the kids from kayaking and fishing for crabs though. The food at the oyster bar was amazing. It was a really awesome day!

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What we learnt today

Driving over here is pretty much the same as back home, except for a few differences. The biggest one that we still can't get used to seeing is parking on either side of the road facing any direction you want. You have cars nose to nose, or end to end on the same side of the road. It's perfectly normal to parallel park on the wrong side of the road facing the oncoming traffic. Doing this back home is a quick way to get a ticket, or the attention of the police pretty quickly.

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Posted by travellinglise 10:43 Archived in England Tagged england colchester mersea_island Comments (0)

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