Saturday, July 2, 2011

London Part 2

My last post about the trip to London was mostly about the places that I visited while there. This one's more about some of the interesting things that I saw.

I mentioned in the last story about the kid's nursery rhyme London Bridge. I figured that I'd show a photo of the real London Bridge, which seems to be structurally sound much to the relief of children all over the world. It's basically just a multi-lane concrete span with the words London Bridge on each of the support columns:

It's not nearly as nice looking as the nearby Tower Bridge, which I think is a more iconic image of London. On the other side of London Bridge from the Tower Bridge, just in front of the Tate Modern Museum, is the Millennium pedestrian bridge. I liked this view of the bridge across the Thames where you can see Saint Paul's cathedral to the left, the pickle-shaped Gherkin building to the right, and a bunch of other interesting-shaped buildings between them:

I've written in the past about how there are certain things that I'd like to see one day but that aren't something I'd plan a whole trip around. They're places like the Taj Mahal or Teotihuacan that I'd like to see but only if I was already going to be in the area. One example is when I got to see Picasso's Guernica painting while in Madrid last year.

While in London, I got to see another of the items on that list: the Rosetta Stone. This 2,000-year-old chunk of rock was originally carved in Egypt. It has the same text written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, Egyptian Demotic, and ancient Greek, which has allowed modern-day people the ability to translate the Egyptian hieroglyphs. I've especially wanted to see the Rosetta stone since I went to Egypt last year and got to see lots of hieroglyphs first hand. The picture isn't too great since the stone is kept in a glass case but it was very cool to get to see such an important artifact up close and personal:

This next item is not even in the same league as the Rosetta Stone but I wanted to take a photo for my sister-in-law Zahra who loves Freddy Mercury and Queen. It's a giant statue of Mercury advertising a Queen musical taking place at the Dominion theater in London. I figured she'd like it:

As you probably know, they drive on the "wrong" side of the street in the UK. You may not know it but about one-third of the world's population drives on the left side including Japan where I lived for a time last year. A couple of google search results suggest that people have been traveling "on the left" for a very long time so that they could use their right, dominant hand to defend themselves from people passing to their right. I'm not sure of the validity of that story but it is easy to visualize.

When I'm in left-hand driving countries, every time I cross the street, it's a bit nerve racking because I conscientiously have to think about it: look left-right-left instead of right-left-right, which I'm used to. I'm sure that many people end up getting hit by cars while they're on vacation in London since you have to actively think about it every time you cross the street. I definitely appreciate that they've taken the time to paint "Look Left" or "Look Right" at almost every corner.

Something that was a little surprising to me was the happy hour traditions that I saw. In Spain, people generally go hang out in an outdoor cafe or inside somewhere if they go out after work. It's part of the tradition to have lots of outdoor cafes in Barcelona and California but, probably due to the typical weather in London, bars and restaurants just aren't designed with outdoor seating all that often. I saw many scenes like this one below where people would go into the pub, get their drinks, and then go back outside to hang out on the sidewalk in front of the place. It's a fairly informal and fun practice in a city that seems on the surface to be relatively formal.

Finally, one of the other things that I've heard about all my life is the term Greenwich Mean Time. I had never spent much time or effort thinking about it except when I'm crossing the international date line 12 hours away. While we were over near the O2 arena, I saw a plaque showing the location of the mean and couldn't resist getting my picture with it. Also, it turns out, that my watch has been off by three minutes for who knows how long.

Even though it's super pricey, London's a fun town to visit at least once. I got to see and experience a bunch of fun and interesting things while there, including gorging myself on Cadbury chocolates and pub food, which I'll write about next time.

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