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London Travel Blog

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Notting Hill

For the last three days we have been in London. The last job interview for me, and the final destination to research for Lydia. London is immediately attractive to us because of Luke and Shyla. A city feels so much warmer when you can turn up and already be surrounded by good friends who show you the best parts about living there.

We have been staying with Luke and Shyla since Saturday night. On Sunday we went out for an English breakfast on Portobello Road in Notting Hill (which was fantastic), then they took us out to London Zoo.

Tower Bridge
The Zoo is quite small, being in London, so they have concentrated on the most interactive exhibits and having only a few large exhibits rather than lots of small ones (with the animals needing the most space out at their second zoo).

 

I especially enjoyed the bug exhibit and the giant stick-insects. I was really interested to hear the origin of the saying "one for the road". When we were on the bus down Tyburn Road, Shyla told us that the people to be executed at the Tyburn gallows were allowed to stop on the road to have a final drink. We had a great Indian dinner just across the road from Luke and Shyla Sunday night.

Monday was my day of interviewing, and Lydia's day of stationary and paper museums.

Tower Bridge
Once again, Mill Hill awed me with the fantastic people working there. In my opinion it is one of the best places in the world to be working on cellular immunology. The people are motivated, intelligent and collaborative. The bulk funding means they can focus on top research and not worry about applying for grants or getting the micky mouse papers. And the commitment to mouse biology is shown by the direct absorption of mouse costs by the institute, so individual labs don't have to factor it into consideration. The building is old, and on the very edge of London, but there are hundred good reasons to work there.

Today was the day for World Heritage sites. Shyla had to work, but Luke, Lydia and I caught the tube down to the Tower of London.
Beefeater
The Tower was founded by William Conqueror after the Norman conquest of England in 1066. He founded the central tower, the White Tower, in 1078. Other towers and fortifications were progressively built, being completed by Edward I in 1285. The inner wall is the highest, at 15 feet high, with 13 towers. The outer wall is the thickest and has 6 additional towers, giving 20 towers in all. The moat around the tower is 125 feet wide. It was originally built too deep, such that it collected debris from the Thames rather than being washed clean by it. On this plus side, this has made the moat an archaeological gold mine. Our tour was conducted by a Beefeater (Yeoman Warder). The Beefeaters have been guarding the tower since 1485. They live in the tower with their families, and are locked in every night at 10pm (there is a whole little village inside the tower).
London Tower
Last September the Beefeaters gained their first female Yeoman Warder. To become a Beefeater you ust have served in the army, royal marines or royal airforce for 22 years (people from the navy are not accepted as they do not swear to the monarchy), rising to the level of Sergent Major and having good conduct medals. The post seems to be an odd retirement position, being locked in at night and conducting tours during the day. They must go mad bellowing out the same poor jokes every hour, on the hour. In the tower we also saw the Crown Jewels (guarded in the tower since 1303, and including the largest perfectly cut diamond in the world) and the old armoury. Also interesting were the ravens of the tower. They are fed by the beefeaters (with beef) and their wings are kept clipped so that they do not fly away, due to the myth that if the ravens leave the tower, the city will fall.

After the tower Luke had to leave, but Lydia and I caught a ferry down to our next World Heritage site - Greenwich village.
The Prime Meridian, zero degree longitute
We wandered through the charming streets of the village, including the oldest brewery in Britian, and on the campus of Greenwich University. We then climbed up to the Royal Observatory of Greenwich. Interestingly, this used to be in the Tower of London until the Royal Astronomer John Flamsteed complained about the ravens to Charles II. It was after Charles II ordered the ravens removed that he was given the prophecy about the city falling, so instead he moved the astronomers out to Greenwich. The highlight of the observatory is the Meridian line, the definition of zero degree longitude, and the clockwork defining Greenwich mean time. Afterwards we went back into town to meet up with Gwyn and Lyn for a beer at the Mason Arms, and then had a great pizza dinner with Luke and Shyla.

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Notting Hill
Notting Hill
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Beefeater
Beefeater
London Tower
London Tower
The Prime Meridian, zero degree lo…
The Prime Meridian, zero degree l…
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
London Tower
London Tower
London
London
Greenwich
Greenwich
London Tower
London Tower
London
photo by: ulysses