We are especially mindful of and thankful for the Lord’s care and protection and what we were able to enjoy and experience in London in light of the tragic events in London on the 22nd March. – Beth Bogue
Walking up the stairs from the underground onto Old Street in London was a pretty exciting moment for me! It was like that scene in Enchanted when Giselle pops up out of the manhole and stares around with an open mouth at the new world that she’s in. Minus the fact that I was not standing in the middle of the road in a ball gown, and it was also not New York City. I did do one of those classic slow spins though to take in my surroundings—the old buildings, the red double-decker buses, a couple big billboards, and some very strange outfits. Beth, and Ethan, and I walked to a cemetery a couple blocks away where we saw the graves of Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan, and others, and which was across the street from the church and manse of John Wesley.
After settling into the apartment we’d be in for the week (super nice, by the way!), we took the bus to the Museum of London and looked around one part of it before we were kicked out at closing. (That’s pretty much a regular occurrence at museums for us.) We headed off walking towards the River Thames and to see the sights along it and to take the river bus back up. The first place we saw as we neared the river was St. Paul’s Cathedral, and let me tell you, it looks SO amazing at nighttime. The enormity of it seemed to be amplified and the lights made the white exterior glow. I think what really sealed it though was that it reminded me that much more of what it looks like in Mary Poppins, which contributed to the eeriness and the grandeur of it. It was so, so cool. (And yes, Beth and I were humming “Feed the Birds” for probably an hour after that.) We crossed Millennium Bridge which was lit with multi-colored lights and walked on the opposite side of the river from where we could see some famous buildings towering over the shore on the other side.
The most impressive of these was the Tower of London, and we walked past it once we crossed Tower Bridge and were back on that side. (We also walked past a replica of Shakespeare’s Golden Globe Theater and heard “London Bridge is Falling Down” coming from a music box in a shop as we walked past said bridge.)
Once we were back on the other side though, we boarded the river bus near the Tower of London and sailed up the river, from which we caught our first glimpse of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.
After travelling by car, plane, train, underground, bus, and boat that day, we were amply prepared for some rest, and we headed home for the evening, Day 1 being an absolutely brilliant success.
Early on Tuesday Kara, Beth, and I got up and rushed through the many public transport stations in a sea of business professional clad men and women towards our first destination for the day: Parliament. We emerged from the underground and were met by the monolithic tower of Big Ben and the beautiful and ornate stonework of the Palace of Westminster.
Upon entering parliament, we began a guided tour of the House of Commons and a small part of the House of Lords. We all marveled at the vast, vaulted stone ceilings, the delicately carved images and statues, and the paintings of past members of Parliament and Monarchs. Our tour guide explained to us the different uses of the many rooms, the roles of different staff, and the relationship the Parliament has with the current Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Fun Fact: Due to the rash actions of King Charles I in 1642 A.D. no English Monarch is allowed to enter the House of Commons. Thus, Kara and I saw a part of London that not even the queen herself has ever seen! After completing our tour and briefly meeting the Parliamentary representative of Airdrie, we ventured over to Westminster Abbey just across the road. Kara and I wandered the Abbey together with a guided audio tour that pointed out several incredible and inconspicuous details of the building. Kara and I saw the graves of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, George Frederick Handel, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), David Livingston, and numerous Monarchs.
After leaving the Abbey and breaking for lunch we all hopped on one of those quintessential double-decker London buses and rode to the British Museum. There we saw a swath of ancient historical artifacts such as ancient Persian and Egyptian sphinxes, tablets engraved with the names of Babylonian kings, figures from the Greek Parthenon, and the Rosetta Stone. There were so many amazing pieces of history in the British Museum I am convinced it would take weeks to take note of everything.
After the British Museum Kara, Beth, and I went to our final stop of the day and my favorite place in London: The British Library. Here we were able to see writings from Michelangelo, Galileo, Winston Churchill, Henry VIII, and more. We saw sheet music from Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and even the original drafts of Handel’s Messiah and Ticket to Ride by John Lennon. We saw the original copies of the Magna Carta, Beowulf, and the Tyndale Bible as well as numerous beautiful eastern religious scrolls and books. The book that I found to be the most incredible, however, was the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus: the earliest complete Christian Bible ever found! This book, unlike all other historical artifacts I’ve ever seen, is absolutely priceless. It is truly an incredible feeling to gaze upon those animal hide pages that took centuries of perseverance through Roman persecution to write. Not amazed yet? Let me put it to you this way: every Bible that we have today — ESV, NIV, KJV, what have you — every Bible, uses this book as a starting point. Truly incredible.
Wednesday was my favorite day of the week. We took the train to Oxford and enjoyed a hop-on-hop-off bus tour throughout the city, riding on the second story in the open air with our bright red headphones plugged in to hear the tour guide and our cameras snapping away. (Tourist goals achieved.)
On the way, we saw some of the 38 colleges that make up Oxford University as well as many shops, monuments, and pretty trees that were beginning to show signs of spring. God really gave us a beautiful day for our trip. As a result of the many colleges in the town that have been built over centuries, the architecture styles are vast, and one of the streets in Oxford is actually considered one of “the most architecturally diverse” streets in the world. After riding the bus for a full circuit, we did hop off and explore some of the city, stopping first at the sweet shop that Lewis Carroll mentioned Alice visiting in his book Alice in Wonderland and then taking a tour of Christ Church College (where they filmed some of the Hogwarts scenes in the Harry Potter films).
We also took a tour of the Bodleian Library, which has over TWELVE MILLION ITEMS in it. It receives a copy of every book published in the United Kingdom and, as such, has a separate warehouse used to store most of the books. The day ended on an especially high note: eating Scottish meat pies at The Eagle and Child in the exact room where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the rest of the Inklings used to meet frequently to discuss what they were writing over drinks. And if the door in the back room marked “Narnia” hadn’t been locked, I would have had even more adventures to tell you about.
Thursday was another busy and incredible day in London. We started out by going to the amazing St. Paul’s cathedral. Kara and I wandered around the building listening to guided audio tours that explained to us the art, architecture, and history of the Cathedral. Unfortunately, we did not get to look out over the city as the outside balcony was closed for construction. We did, however, go up to the interior dome and were able to whisper to each other from 30ft away due to the whispering gallery effect. Next up on our travels was the Tower of London which, funnily enough, isn’t a tower at all. It’s a full castle that is far more beautiful and elegant than its reputation would suggest. We went on a tour guided by a tower guard or “Beefeater” named Kevin. He explained to us a great deal about the prisoners and executions that occurred in the fortress and the many Kings and Queens who dwelled there over the years. The one thing he couldn’t tell us was why he was called a “Beefeater”. Apparently, despite many speculative theories, no one knows. We walked into the White Tower, and saw the ancient armoury with a vast assortment of gilded amours and beautifully preserved medieval swords and guns. Also housed in the Tower of London were the English Crown Jewels. They were magnificent. Gleaming and glittering with gold, gems, and precious metals. Topping the King’s sceptre was the star of Africa, Cullinan I: the largest diamond in the world weighing 530.2 carats. The total worth of the Crown jewels was somewhere around 5 billion USD. Wow. Yet, none of it compares with the glory of the Lord.
Kara, Beth, and I then stopped over at Buckingham Palace to see the current home of the Queen and set off from there to Kara’s specially requested stop: the home of Charles Dickens.
The house had been turned into a Museum, and we all wandered the home seeing the way it would have looked while Dickens lived there. The most impressive thing, in my opinion, was Dickens’ personal writing desk upon which he wrote his famous works of Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and A Christmas Carol. After a final full day in London we all slouched back to our apartment, ate as much food as we could so as not to leave any behind, and rested for our flight back to Scotland on Friday morning. Thank you all for praying for our safety during our travels! Our next big trip will be to southern Germany in the beginning of April so please pray for our contentment with the Lord’s will in that and in our continued studies here in Scotland.