I'll be hitting the books pretty hard this September, so I thought it would be good to take a break/vacation while I still have the chance, time, and money before law school starts. So I took off for a bit to visit some friends and see some new and old places along the way.
I started my Euro 2007 tour in London staying with Sonja and Martin, family friends, for a few days. The last time I was in London was about 3 years ago when I came as a chaperon for a field trip with the French school where I was working. Needless to say I didn't see to much, so it was nice this time to see more of the city.
One of the first things that I wanted to see in London was the Tower of London. It's one of those places that has so much history and myth surrounding it that they can charge a fortune for entry and people will still pay it (£16, or about $35CDN!) It was more than worth it though as it has a bit of everything -crown jewels, castle, prison, history, torture, intrigue, etc. It was originally built as a fortification/castle for William the Conqueror, but was left by the royalty later on for more modern castles. That's when it became a prison for famous prisoners.
Two interesting side-notes. The first being that the famous red/gold uniforms that the Beefeaters (Yeomen of the guard) wear cost something like £12,000 each, which is why they only wear them on special occasions (i.e. not for my visit, I guess they didn't know I was coming). The second note is that the yeomen actually live at the Tower of London with their families, a doctor, and a minister and that they have a pub on site which opens after the tourists go home.
There are of course a few other places that I've wanted to see in London, such as Buckingham Palace. I have to admit that it looks more grand and a lot larger seeing it on TV. Having heard mixed reviews about the inside of the palace, and my budget being blown out of the water by the cost of things (especially food) in London I decided not to go in.
Also high on my list of must-see-London was the British Museum which houses some amazing artifacts such as the Rosetta Stone and a statue from Easter Island. I was told by a friend that there was a large white marble Buddha statue from the 6th century taken from a village near Baoding. So I went looking for it and actually found it in the stairwell, 2 stories tall. Quite weird to see something from where I lived in China in the British Museum.
I met up with James, who had taught law in Baoding, for a day. We took the boat from London out to Greenwich. It was amazingly sunny for London. Greenwich is a nice little area, with some cool pubs and old naval stuff.
I also spent a day out in Oxford, which is not too far from London. It's one of those places you hear about, but is still really cool to actually see. All the famous colleges, cools buildings, and even some punters on the river. It seems to make Harry Potter a bit more believable.