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National Portrait Gallery

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 Days 1-5: Imperial War Museum, Conference, & More!

To see each photo in a larger scale, simply click on the photo!

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe my trip to London is almost half over. It has been a crazy whirlwind of surreal experiences. This city is one large historical sight. Every new place I see I am in awe over. After years of reading about these places, seeing only photos, I am finally here, living the experiences for myself. So much history has come to life for me.

I won’t make this a terribly long post, but I thought I would go over the last five days as best I can with some photos below. From here on out I will be posting each day, so I will have lengthy posts on each day and more photos dedicated to each place I go. But for now, here is a (somewhat) brief overview.

I landed early Thursday morning and succumbed to jet lag, but Friday I was determined to not let it get the best of me. I decided to go to the place I was most anxious to visit- the Imperial War Museum. It was incredible seeing my research literally come to life in the First World War exhibit. I go back tomorrow (Wednesday, 2/22) to research in their archives, but plan to go through the First World War exhibit for the fifth (…maybe sixth and seventh) time to take some photos and notes. And yes, I went though the exhibit four times on Friday and am not ashamed to say so!

Saturday (2/18) was the day of the conference I was accepted to, the HOTCUS Winter Symposium. It was the first time I presented on my current research, which I will do a post about soon. The conference was an absolute pleasure- wonderful papers and panels, but more importantly wonderful people. I could not have asked for a better conference experience. Thank you to Dr. Jane Potter and HOTCUS for taking the photos below! I am happy to have them.

Sunday (2/19) I wandered around London. First, I went to Trafalgar Square and saw the Lord Nelson column. Then I went to the National Gallery and saw so many of the famous works I have only seen in books and digitally. I think my favorite piece from the National Gallery is Monet’s The Thames below Westminster. Afterwards, I caught my first sight of Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. It slipped my mind that it was Sunday, so Westminster Abbey was not open for tourism, but I plan to go back sometime before I leave. I also caught sight of the London Eye. I have been struggling with whether or not to actually ride the London Eye, but I think my fear of heights wins out; however, it still does not take away from seeing it.

Yesterday (Monday, 2/20) I started off my day in Trafalgar Square as I did Sunday. This time I went on the other side of the National Gallery and saw the Edith Cavell memorial. I then went into the National Portrait Gallery. As with the National Gallery, I saw so many pieces that I have only ever seen in books and digitally. It was surreal (which is definitely the word for this trip). After a brief stint in the gift shop, I wandered to the Tower of London and that too was, again, a surreal moment. I walked around for hours and I know I barely saw everything. I decided last night to dish out the extra pounds to visit again before I leave.

Today was another amazing day at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, but I will do a separate post that will go up tomorrow- and I will have plenty of pictures to share.