Posts Tagged With: England

An afternoon strolling through Olympic London

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Out for a Royal stroll around London

With Royal Wedding fever lingering in the air, London is a great place to visit and take your own “Royal Tour” of the city.

As someone who loves this city, I’ve found myself playing tour guide on several occasions (possibly a future career option if the journalism thing doesn’t work out!)

London is a huge tourist city and there are tons of options for getting out to see the sights. You could take a bus tour to see the highlights, but since many of the major attractions are within walking distance and there are tons of walking tours available, you might as well get out and stretch your legs!

Crystal’s Walking Tour of London begins in Hyde Park. At over 350 acres, it’s one of London’s largest green spaces. Inside the park, you will find Diana Fountain, a memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales, which was opened by the Queen in 2004.


From here, walk through the Marble Arch to Buckingham Palace, where the world just witnessed William and Catherine’s first kiss as a married couple on the balcony. This has served as the Monarch’s London residence since Queen Victoria took the throne, but dates back to 1702 as the Duke of Buckingham’s city home. It’s the largest private house in London with 775 rooms! Weather permitting, you can catch the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace daily at 11:30 from May-July and on alternating days from August- April.

From the Palace, you can stroll past Canada Gate located at the entrance of Green Park before continuing down the Mall, or wander through St. James Park, past the pond where you’ll be greeted by swans and pelicans.



The tree-lined Mall endsat Trafalgar Square.  The National Gallery is located behind the notable Nelson’sColumn, which was built to commemorate Admiral Nelson’s naval victory in 1805.


The square also hosts a couple of impressive fountains and a giant ship in a bottle!tumblr_lkyn34cBwi1qctrdd


The mayor of London  recently banned pigeon food sellers in hopes that this would purge the square of the thousands of pigeons that call it home. So far, he hasn’t had much luck, as tourists continue to feed the birds.

From here you can continue on your tour by heading down Whitehall, which is lined with government buildings. Part way down Whitehall on the West side is 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister ‘s residence has been since 1792. At the South end of Whitehall you will find the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.



The current Parliament Buildings date back to 1840 after a fire destroyed the previous ones. During the summer opening when Parliament doesn’t sit, you can take a tour.



Next to the Houses of Parliament stands Big Ben. The famous old clock can be heard throughout the city as it strikes on the quarter hour.  A light in the clock tower signals when the House of Commons is in session.

The beautiful Westminster Abbey  where William and Catherine were married is located nearby.  The 700-year-old Abbey has been the venue for all but two coronations since William the Conqueror and many of the country’s monarchs and notable celebrities were buried here.



From there, the tour continues across the Thames River on Westminster Bridge after stopping for an excellent photo opportunity of Parliament before reaching Southbank.



Right across the river you’ll find the Aquarium and London Eye- the biggest observation wheel in the world, towering 135 m above the Thames River. The Eye takes 30 minutes to make a full rotation and on a clear day you will have a 25-mile panoramic view, so keep your cameras ready!

Continuing along Southbank you’ll find the National Theatre and the Tate Modern Gallery. The Tate has free admission and hosts modern and contemporary art from around the world.




But, it’s Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre that generally attracts the largest crowds on this side of the Thames. The original Globe was built in the late 1500s and by 1599 it was up and running, thrivingfor 14 years with some of Shakespeare’s best known work. Then, in 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, a cannon ignited the thatched fire and the theatre caught fire. It was quickly rebuilt this time but was closed under Puritan low in 1642 before being demolished in 1644. The current Globe was built in 1993 and continues to perform the best of Shakespeare.

Next, the tour continues back on the other side of the Thames River by crossing the Millennium Bridge and heading to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  A cathedral dedicated to St. Paul has been on this site since 604 AD!  The current cathedral is the fourth one to reside hereand was built between 1675 and 1710 after the previous one was destroyed by the Great Fire of London.



This gorgeous old cathedral has witnessed the weddings of many notable figures and its crypt is known as the foremost burial place, where those who have made an outstanding contribution to the life of the nation are now buried.


A short walk from here is Covent Garden, where you can take a break and get a much deserved drink or an ice cream cone and rest, wander through the shops or enjoy one of the many street performers found here!

If your feet aren’t killing you yet, you can continue on to Tower Bridge and Tower of London.  



Tower Bridge is just over 100 years old and is one of the most famous attractions in London with its twin drawbridges.

Below the bridge, overlooking the river is the Tower of London. Made famous as a place of imprisonment and execution during King Henry VIII’s reign, it has also been used as a royal residence, an armoury, a mint, a menagerie, an observatory and safe place to display the Crown Jewels, a main attraction for many tourists. Some crown jewels have been there since 1327!

With all this and more easily reached on foot, on your next trip to London make sure you get out and enjoy this Royal City!

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Portsmouth, England- A city with navy and family history

 Portsmouth has long been known as a naval city in England’s South end, but to me, this city has a lot more than naval history.  Portsmouth is my Grandma’s hometown and during World War II she worked here in the Women’s Land Army.  While working, she met a handsome Canadian soldier, fell madly in love, got married and moved to Canada after the war. Then, in the early 1990s she learned she had a younger brother she never knew about. She had been raised by her grandfather as her father took off and her mother wasn’t really around.  Long story short, John and his wife Jean came to visit her in Canada and we all got to know each other. Continue reading

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An Evening at the Globe

From my first visit to the Globe Theatre on a high school trip to England I’ve always been fascinated by it. On that trip, we got to go for a tour and spend sometime on stage (which as a theatre student was a huge thrill to me!) learning about what theatre was like in Shakespeare’s time and getting a history of the of theatre. The Globe thrived until 1613, when a cannon ignited the thatched roof  during a performance of Henry VIII, burning the building to the ground in under two hours. A new Globe was built and Shakespeare continued to perform many of his works until 1642 when the building closed under Puritan Law. No longer in use, the second Globe was demolished in 1644. The third and current Globe was finally opened in 1997, after tireless hours of fundraising and research conducted by the Shakespeare Globe Trust.

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To Market, To Market.


The markets of London seem almost endless on a sunny Saturday in July. Our market tour began in Portobello Market, one of the most famous markets in the world. Colourful shops line Portobello Road, selling everything from vintage clothing and antiques to artwork and souvenirs. Down the centre of the street were stalls selling crafts, clothing and jams as the sound of jazz music and the smell of spicy paella wafted through the air. By noon, the streets were filled with others out do some shopping or just enjoy the market atmosphere. Continue reading

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Beyond London

As much as I love London (and I really do) every time I visit England, I find myself loving this country even more, not because of the hustle and bustle of London, but because of all the smaller towns and cities found along the way. With it’s train system, England is so easy to get around and beyond each train station is a town just waiting to show you what it has to offer.

Last summer, I spent sometime in Horsham with it’s beautiful park and old English buildings. While London, Bath and Stratford are great, I began to see what England had to offer besides it’s main tourist attractions.   Continue reading

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