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Friday, September 30, 2011

Salisbury Cathedral

A visit to England was right up my alley because of my obsession with all things gothic. When I was in secondary (middle) school, I could name all the six wives of Henry VIII in a flash but struggled with remembering just one name of our eight was it seven Sultans who ruled Malacca! I was a big fan of British author Jean Plaidy (1 September 1906 – 18 January 1993) and read almost every single novel from her Tudor Saga series.

This gothic cathedral is one of the finest medieval cathedrals in Britain. How can one not marvel at the beauty and scale of the building?

Apparently, parts of the building are watered by an underground stream where the water level is checked 7 times a day! If it ever dried up, the building would collapse!

The Spire
Erected 800 years ago, the spire stands at a whopping 404 ft, the tallest church spire in England.

The cathedral is also home to the best-preserved of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta

How can a building of such splendor be built in those medieval times without the use of today's machinery? WOW!

The Nave

The infinity pool at the entrance of the nave

The tomb of a knight

The mechanism of the turret clock displayed at the nave of the cathedral

In those days, turret clocks were highly regarded for timekeeping and this ancient clock of the cathedral since 1386 is still ticking away, making it the oldest working clock in the world.

The Cloisters

Despite the crowds, I was struck by the tranquility of the place.

At the time of our visit, Sean Henry's exhibition was on

Ancient meets modern

Sean Henry's sculpture of a modern man placed on the west front of the cathedral

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I don't think I'll ever forget my first glimpse of the stones in the distance as our coach was approaching this mysterious landmark that has stumped the world for 5,000 years. Visiting Stonehenge was on my bucket list.

Watching the spectacular monolithic stones rise against the horizon was beyond description.

The stones in all their glory

Stonehenge is one of the seven wonders of the medieval world. There are theories abound surrounding the inexplicable rock formation. How did these ginormous stones get here out in an empty field in the middle of nowhere, remote from any settlements? Who assembled them?

Was it a religious temple? A sacrificial temple for the gory rituals of the Druids? An astronomical clock? A Bronze Age burial ground? Was it built by aliens?
You could almost feel the energy from them. I've read somewhere that cellphones start to play up when you're near the stones - something to do with the powerful magnetic force from the stones - the kind of force needed for a landing ground for alien spaceships! What do you think? I'll go with the alien theory.

A million visitors from across the globe flock to Stonehenge every year.

Those mounds you see in the distance are round barrows, a form of burial monument associated with the earlier half of the Bronze Age. They contain the cremated remains of the people/beings who built Stonehenge.

The boys and Hubby, however, did not share my fascination for the great ancient circle. And Mr. Krabs here didn't fancy coughing up £20 (that's almost 100 ringgit) to get past the fence to a slightly closer fence for a half-hour audio tour around a pile of stones you can't touch or go near!
It was just as awesome peering through the chain-linked fence.

*The photos above were taken through the fence

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Buckingham Palace

Here we are at Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837.

Did you know that Buckingham is pronounced as Buck-ing-um? The h is silent as in all English place names like Clapham, Birmingham, Cheltenham, Debenhams, etc.

It was surreal, standing here at the palace where the Royal Wedding took place only a few months ago.

In June 2003, three German tourists climbed over the walls and camped overnight on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, believing it to be Hyde Park. Sarah Ferguson found them barbecuing sausages on the lawn. When her royal highness interrogated, "Do you know where you are?" The campers nonchalantly replied "Hyde Park!", unaware that she was the Duchess Of York herself!

Then there's this tale of Michael Fagan, the prowler who broke into the palace and entered the Queen's bedchamber in the early hours of 9 July 1982. The Queen woke up when the Irish intruder disturbed a curtain, after which he sat on the edge of her bed talking to her for about ten minutes.The Queen was only able to raise the alarm when Fagan asked for a cigarette and she called for a footman who held him until the police arrived.

Disclaimer: The facts shared here are as told to us by our tour guide who was quite a funny guy. Half the time, we couldn't tell if he was serious or merely pulling our leg. We were all foreigners in the tour group he was leading.

Rodney with Phil Bennett, our tour guide of Evan Tours. Phil was fun and quite the entertainer! Loved his humour! It seems that he has been told many times that he looks like Matt Damon. He does, actually, minus the bowler hat and pipe!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Reluctant Travelers

Note to self - Never EVER drag two reluctant boys (one teenager who didn't think that traipsing down the streets of London was fun and a tween who had serious withdrawal symptoms away from his computer) along to a family vacation that lasts about a week. I would've gladly left them at home except that nobody wanted to babysit them! I mean, who wants to be stuck with a hormonal fourteen year-old who's determined to make you a recipient of The-Worst-Mother-Of-The-Year award or a precocious twelve year-old who drives you crazy with his incessant questions? And I was beginning to think that an overseas family vacation would be easier now that they are older! Wrong!
Give me those babies/toddlers anytime!!

One - You can't shove a pacifier into a teenager's mouth when he whines about entering yet another cathedral or church or abbey.
Two- You can't strap them into a stroller and shop till you drop.
Three- You can't smack their behinds when they bicker over who gets the window seat on the plane, in the coach, train or tram.

What was I thinking? Coercing one and a half teenagers into holing up in the same room for more than 5 days? It was against all the laws of nature. In their defence, London isn't exactly the perfect place for a family vacation. Checking out cathedrals, museums, historic places and shopping isn't a teenager's idea of fun.

Anyway, I was about to plot my revenge by writing the boys off my will for snafuing the vacation when Josh gave me a big hug and said, "Thanks Mom. London was awesome!"

So, did we have a wonderful time in London? Absolutely! London was surreal and everything I had imagined it to be. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. And yes, with the boys in tow. Nah, they're not that bad. At least it didn't turn out to be a National Lampoon vacation!

Here are a few random pics to share. I will upload the rest in my upcoming posts.

Salisbury Cathedral

The iconic red double decker buses and phone booths

Big Ben

The Tower Bridge

Admiralty Arch

One of the statues at the Queen Victoria Memorial