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London Days 9-11: Revisiting, Researching, Returning Home

I am back in the Sunshine State as my incredible trip to London, England has come to a close. My trip was a blessing in so many ways and as much as I wish I had made my way to London sooner, I think having this as my first trip at this point in my life was exceptional timing. I do not think I would have had the experience I had- appreciate everything as much as I did- had I gone sooner. I am very grateful and cannot wait to go back. But there is still more to tell on my last few days in London.

On my 9th day in London I wandered back over to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Unlike that previous Sunday, I was finally able to go inside Westminster Abbey. Understandably, I do not have photographs from inside as it is a church, a place of worship, and photographs are not allowed; however, take my word for it, the inside is magnificent from the stain glass windows to the intricate memorials and tombs. You can see history moving through time with the architecture and the tombs, and overall, it is just a beautiful place. Yet, it is a very overwhelming place. It is hard to focus on one thing at a time because no matter where you look or step, you are faced with the resting place of multiple people. Because of this, I decided to venture back to Westminster Abbey the following day as well. I think going back to allowed me the ability to see things I missed the day before. And I also declined the audio tour the second day; instead, I sat several times and just took in everything I was seeing, everyone I was seeing.

After Westminster Abbey, I ventured back to the Tower of London. After going the first time earlier that week, I knew I had to go back. Much like my second trip to Westminster Abbey, I had missed so many things my first time visiting. I took a lot of time to go through each tower and really just look at the architecture and the very interesting graffiti that is carved into the walls of the towers. I was struck by how tight and narrow the hallways and staircases are. It made me wonder what it would have been like to be in such a claustrophobic place with the very real possibility of losing your head. Speaking of which, I was also able to go inside the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula where many who did lose their heads ended up. It was such a beautiful little chapel. It was also somewhat funny, the small group that I entered the Chapel with, four of the group members asked, “Where is Anne Boleyn buried?” Put my want to see where she is buried aside, I thought to myself, “I wonder how many people ask for Anne’s cousin Katherine/Catherine Howard or Lady Jane Grey?”

The following day, day ten of my trip, I took the day a little easy and just wander around the city aimlessly. I got on the tube that morning and randomly got off at a stop not far from Buckingham Palace, so I decided it was time I see the Queen… the current living Queen that is- in my entire trip I saw a number of queens (Elizabeth I, Mary I, Mary Stuart…). Anyway, I strolled through the park and made my way to one of the gates of Buckingham Palace.

As it turns out, I was somewhat on time for the Changing of the Guards. Personally, I think people were waiting to see if the Queen and/or her family would emerge. It certainly seemed like many thought she was coming out because once the band and change of guard happened, everyone walked away looking very disappointed; however, I was excited to have had the experience. I think my favorite part was the band playing “Summer Lovin'” from Grease. I have to say, not what I was expecting at all.

By the time the Change of Guard took place and I wandered around outside Buckingham Palace and walked The Mall, I found myself at Trafalgar Square. I ended up going back into both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, looking closely at things I had missed and revisiting a number of paintings and portraits.

Day 11 was bittersweet. I spent this last day at the Imperial War Museum in their Research Room, taking 800+ photos of some really incredible treasures that I cannot wait to use in my research. In my time researching, I was finding new things and thought of something I could add to my thesis that would enrich it. It is a component that I had never considered because I did not know there was much to go on; however, thanks to my time at the Imperial War Museum, I have that component.

After researching, I went through the exhibits again, the World War I exhibit two more times, before I bid the IWM a farewell. As I said it was bittersweet, but I reminded myself I will be going back… very, very soon.

I stayed at the IWM right before it closed and decided to make my way back to my hotel. By that time it was 7pm and I had to be ready for a very early morning to head back home. When I got back to the hotel, as I was packing, I went through all of the books and pamphlets I received from each place I visited and did not find myself sad to be leaving, but excited to have had the trip and to make my way back. I know all of the places I visited- Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, all the museums including the IWM, everything!- will be waiting for me.


London Day 8: Hampton Court Palace

Posted in Blog, London 2017, Travel by

Yesterday I had the privilege of wandering Hampton Court Palace. It was like everything else on this trip a surreal moment, especially when I walked up and had this moment of “I’m really here.” To speak a bit on my research, I focus on the First World War, but for a time I thought I was going to center my research on Tudor England (I know, a big leap in years). I still loving reading about Tudor England and to be at Hampton Court was again, a surreal moment.

According to my camera I snapped well over 300 photos, so to narrow down the ones I want show was difficult. Most of the photos below show architecture, which I will quote from school children touring the palace- divine. The palace has a combination of different time periods as updates and work have been done well beyond Henry VIII’s time. It is kind of interesting to see where those renovations were done- you can literally see history moving through time.

There were two things I was most excited to see, Anne Boleyn’s Gatehouse and the Great Hall. Anne Boleyn’s Gatehouse is interesting because it is one of the few traces left that Anne Boleyn had been in that palace. After Anne fell out of favor and lost her head, almost everything with Anne’s crest, initials- were taken down, though a few items were overlooked, including the initials in the Gatehouse. The initials read “HA” for Henry and Anne (Or, this photo may have somehow found itself flipped… it might appear “AH” on the ceiling). It is incredible to think that this was passed over and nearly 500 years later it still exists.

The Great Hall. I am horribly disappointed in my camera and myself. A lot of the photos from the Great Hall were terribly blurry, but I definitely will not forget what I saw. Some of the photos above show a few aspects of the Hall, including one of the huge stained glass windows of Henry VIII and like many rooms in the palace, the remarkable ceiling. The tapestries were also beautiful.

The rest of the palace was, just as everything else, spectacular. There was a moment when I was leaving Hampton Court Palace that I felt a bit of sadness, knowing that my trip is quickly coming to its conclusion. But then I reflected that it has been a life changing trip and it certainly will not be my last time here. If anything, this whole trip has pushed me to make things happen and I intend to do just that.


London Day 7: Research at the Imperial War Museum

Yesterday I spent some time in the Research Room at the Imperial War Museum. They were kind enough to pull some items from their archives for me. Let me say that if you are ever going to do research at the Imperial War Museum, they make it an incredibly easy and smooth process. All I had to do was search their collections online and fill out a form online with the catalogue information of the items I wanted. I cannot remember how long they say to wait for a response as to whether or not they can accommodate your request, but I heard back in less than 24 hours. In reserving a time, they have two time slots- 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm. Once they have approved your request, you receive an email with all of the instructions on how to prepare, as well as what you can and cannot bring.

I was a little nervous yesterday morning as I was not entirely sure of what to expect, but when I arrived at my designated time of 10am everything I requested was already pulled and ready to go. The woman who was there (I wish I could remember her name!) was friendly and great in explaining what I could and could not do. Their rules are extremely straightforward. I was allowed a pencil, paper and my laptop if I so chose. I was also allowed a camera, but three things: no flash, no shutter noise and it cost £10 for a camera pass for the day. I was going to purchase the pass before I sat down with the materials, but the woman who helped me gave great advice- look at what I have first and then get the pass if necessary as they do not offer refunds on the pass. After looking at the things they pulled for me, I ran and grabbed a pass right away. I wish I could share the photos of the amazing things I looked at, but per the agreement with the Imperial War Museum, I cannot digitally share the photos online. If I ever decide I would like to use the materials in a publication, the woman also gave me information on how I could go about it; however, this is not the case, so I cannot share the photographs.

You are allowed three items at a time at the desk space. I had three war nurse personal papers pulled. The first set of papers I opened ended up being more so focused on the Second World War. I scanned through the papers to see if I could find anything of interest for my research, but it was out of my date range and there really was not reference pertaining to my research. The other two items I had pulled are gold for my research. The first one is a sort of hybrid scrapbook-diary from a nurse in World War I. I think a lot of the written portions of the book were extracts from her diaries and personal letters and then she had so many newspaper clippings, photos, ration books, medical papers, pamphlets- it was everything any historian could ever dream of, and it was right there in my hands. The book contains about a 100 pages (maybe more), so for the sake of time, I followed the advice of my professors and snapped photos of everything before sitting and reading. That process took some time, but it was well worth it. Now I have the pages to go back to and look at more in depth. After photographing for my research, I sat and just took in the book itself, slowly scanning the pages and looking at each item this nurse chose to include.

The other item I had pulled was a set of three journals from another nurse. These journals are difficult to read due to the handwriting, but I lucked out- there was a partial transcription of the journals with the physical journals. I am excited to utilize these in my research as well.

I am set to return to the Research Room at the IWM before I leave London. I was originally scheduled for one more session, but the staff at the IWM helped me get another. It really has been an absolute privilege to have not only visited the IWM’s exhibits, but to research there has been a dream come true. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I have been given.


London Day 6: Shakespeare’s Globe, Science Museum, & Victoria and Albert Museum

I have truly fallen in love with this city. Today (or yesterday as this post is going up a day later) was another day filled with history and (as I overly used in my last post) full of surreal moments.

Day six in London began on the tube, as it does every day. I think I finally have the tube system down. I was nervous when I first arrived that I would not be able to figure it out and somehow find myself lost, but it really has proven simple- and very quick. But I digress. I made my way to Blackfriars Station and after a lengthy walk, I was at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Unfortunately I do not have any photos from the inside. The Company was rehearsing a new production of The Taming of the Shrew and no photographs were allowed; however, if you have never been, take my word for it that it was incredible. I was told by the guide that everything, while constructed in the 1990s, was constructed as it would have been when the first Globe Theatre was constructed in the the late 1500s- even down to the roof, which apparently is the only one like it in the city of London since the type of roof they have has been illegal since the 1600s, at least according to the guide. Apparently it took a decade (or more) to get the city of London to grant permission to have such a roof. Maybe it is banal, but I thought it was interesting.

Following my time at the Globe, I made my way to South Kensington Station and explored two museums: the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. My interest in the Science Museum was due to an exhibit they currently have on display called Wounded: Conflict, Casualties and Car. The exhibit discusses just as it is titled and focuses on the First World War. Just as with the Imperial War Museum, my research came to life. I will post more about my research, but it deals with not only the First World War, but the wounded in the war, so this exhibit was another moment of connecting with my research. I took well over 100+ photographs of the exhibit. Though relatively small, I was in it for nearly two hours and walked through it a second time.

If I have time I want to go back to the museum and go through the exhibit again- take some more photos and notes while I am there.

After the Science Museum (which has a number of other amazing items and exhibits) I went to the Victoria & Albert Museum. I must admit I was highly overwhelmed by how much they have there. That is definitely an all day trip if you want to see everything- if that is even possible. I spent a few hours there, but did not even skim the surface.

The pieces they have in the museum are spectacular, but I think the museum itself, the building, is stunning. As with the Science Museum, if I have time I am going to go back; however, I think I am going to do a little bit more research, seeing what they have and prioritizing.

Tomorrow morning (or when this post goes up- today) I get to research at the Imperial War Museum. They have a few items waiting for me and hopefully I can get a few more pulled. After more research I have found a number of other items I really want to see and possibly use in my research. Hopefully they will be able to help or maybe they can pull the items for my second appointment that I have before I leave.

Anyway, I am off to try and figure out my last week here. I have a lot left to do and want to be sure I plan out my days to get the most out of them.