Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Favorite Sites

With London in the rearview mirror, I can now report out on my favorite sites (along with my favorite picture from each).

1) Tower of London. No other place, book, movie, or tale has better helped me understand the English people and their history than the day I spent here.

2) Palace of Westminster. The home of Parliament told me a far more fascinating tale of political symbolism and heritage than I imagined it would. It was more impressive and intimate than any experience I've ever had in the U.S. Congress. It's not just England's history and evolution of politics one sees here, but it's the very evolution of democracy in Western society.

And the history isn't always pretty. Many were condemned to death for reasons we'd now consider unjust in this hallowed building.
3) Churchill War Rooms. Run by the Imperial War Museum, this is the location where the cabinet met during the War Years. The real history is a little bit less dramatic than one would imagine. The facilities weren't truly bomb proof. Mr. Churchill only slept there overnight three times. Really, this became safer extra office space for the principal military and government leaders. That means, though, that Allied victory was planned in these spaces. The darkest years of the Allied effort against the Axis were plotted here, when it really was just Britain vs. Germany and Italy in Europe while Japan pressed on against China. Good exhibits explaining Churchill's leadership and background, too.

Map used by Mr. Churchill as a reference tool at Potsdam.
4) Imperial War Museum. Originally set aside as a museum to honor the Tommies' accomplishment fighting in World War I, it now offers interpretation about all wars in which Britain has been engaged since then. The exhibits on World War II disappointed me a bit, to be honest. But the World War I exhibit did a very good job teaching Sam and I about The Great War. In short, it seems less monolithic now, a contest with ebbs and flows rather than a four-year-long stalemate. Also, Sam and I got to listen in on a polished but informal presentation about the Atomic Bomb led by a staffer. It was the anniversary of Hiroshima. I was impressed at how the young man took about 12 minutes to establish context for the decision to drop the bomb through 10 short stories. It was balanced, academic, and held the attention of Sam.

Many uniforms were among the artifacts that captivated Sam. 
5) Buckingham Palace. This was a close call over Westminster Abbey. The Palace surprised me in that we spent two-and-a-half hours there; I really thought the State Rooms would take us one hour or even an hour-and-a-quarter. I appreciate the care of the staff in setting aside a special exhibit that, though it wasn't my taste, tailored the trip to the tastes of many of its visitors, including my daughter. The regal nature of the State Rooms helped me better understand the bond between the monarch and the British people. It reinforced much of what I learned at the Tower and Westminster. In many ways, it offered a fitting conclusion to my time in London. 

Good picture? No. But photography is strictly prohibited inside the Palace. 
More later. 

No comments:

Post a Comment