Europe 2000 (Part 1)

December 15

I would like to visit the country which adopts the groundhog as its mascot, somewhere peaceful, some place that curls against the secrets of the earth, a little Belgium of the imagination, tables piled high with cakes, the Sunday bells ringing (not too loudly), the light falling on rolling hillocks studded with salad greens.  ~ David Brendan Hopes

So indeed this was our second visit to Belgium (I previously reported on our first trip in 1997) to stay with friends Walt and Michelle Steiner in Kraainem on the outskirts of Brussels. Walt was there on a 4-year mission to NATO where he was obviously successful as we’re still all here.  The Super and I took a different route this time – a 3 or 4 day stopover in London first (my first visit there) before taking the Chunnel (because it’s there) train to Brussels . . .

London 

[We arrived at Heathrow at 7:00 am on February 19. So, what’s the first thing you do in London? Hop on a hop on-hop off double-decker bus for an overview of this giant city. The woman seated behind us didn’t appear to be having as much fun as the Super . . . ]

[Marble Arch is a 19th-century white marble-faced  triumphal arch. The structure was designed in 1827 to be the state entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham Palace; it stood near the site of what is today the three-bayed, central projection of the palace containing the well-known balcony. In 1851, it was relocated to its current site. Following the widening of Park Lane in the early 1960s, the site became a large traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane and Edgware Road, isolating the arch.  Only members of the Royal Family and the King’s Troop. Royal Horse Artillery are said to be permitted to pass through the arch; this happens in ceremonial processions (Wikipedia).]

[A language tour bus was ahead of us. Fortunately, the England English on our bus came with subtitles . . . ]

[The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, popularly but incorrectly known as “Eros”, is a fountain surmounted by a winged statue of Anteros, located at the southeastern side of Piccadilly Circus in London, England. Moved after World War II from its original position in the centre of the circus, it was erected in 1892–93 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, who was a famous Victorian politician and philanthropist, and his achievement in replacing child labour with school education (Wikipedia).]

[Rooftop sculpture by Rudy Weller three gold nude woman diving off roof of Criterion building into Coventry Street & Haymarket . . . ]

[Nelson’s Column is a monument in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, Central London, built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The monument was constructed between 1840 and 1843 at a cost of £47,000 (equivalent to £4,648,142 in 2019). It is a column of the Corinthian order. The statue of Nelson was carved from Graigleigh sandstone. The four bronze lions around its base were added in 1867. The pedestal is decorated with four bronze relief panels, each 18 feet (5.5 m) square, cast from captured French guns. It was refurbished in 2006 at a cost of £420,000 (equivalent to £612,163 in 2019), at which time it was surveyed and found to be 14 feet 6 inches (4.42 m) shorter than previously supposed.  The whole monument is 169 feet 3 inches (51.59 m) tall from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of Nelson’s hat (Wikipedia).]

[Trafalgar Square . . . ]

[Admiralty Arch is a landmark building providing road and pedestrian access between The Mall, which extends to the southwest, and Trafalgar Square to the northeast. Admiralty Arch, commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria, is now a Grade I listed building. In the past, it served as residence of the First Sea Lord and was used by the Admiralty. Until 2011, the building housed government offices. In 2012, the government sold the building on a 125-year lease for £60m for a proposed redevelopment into a Waldorf Astoria luxury hotel and four apartments (Wikipedia).]

[10 Downing Street, also known colloquially in the United Kingdom as Number 10, is (along with the adjoining Cabinet Office at 70 Whitehall) the headquarters of the Government of the United Kingdom and the official residence and office since 1905 by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The term “10 Downing Street”, or just “Downing Street”, is also used as a metonym for the Prime Minister’s office (Wikipedia).]

Westminster Abbey . . .

The Tower Big Ben . . .

The rosy-red cheeks of the little children . . .

[Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom’s most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England “Royal Peculiar”—a church responsible directly to the sovereign (Wikipedia).]

[The London Eye, or the Millennium Wheel, is a cantilevered observation wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames. It is Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel, and is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over 3 million visitors annually. The structure is 135 metres (443 ft) tall and the wheel has a diameter of 120 metres (394 ft). When it opened to the public in 2000 it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. Its height was subsequently surpassed by three others. Supported by an A-frame on one side only the Eye is described by its operators as “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.” The London Eye used to offer the highest public viewing point in London until it was superseded by the 245-metre-high (804 ft) observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard, which opened to the public on 1 February 2013 (Wikipedia).]

[Parliament on the left, the Eye on the right. The Eye was not yet open to the public when we were there . . . ]

Oh, I love London Society! It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what society should be. ~  Oscar Wilde

How can you ever be late for anything in London? They have a huge clock right in the middle of the town. ~  Jimmy Kimmel 

[St Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral which serves as the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London and is a Grade I listed building. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604.  The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren’s lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London.  The earlier Gothic cathedral (Old St. Paul’s Cathedral), largely destroyed in the Great Fire, was a central focus for medieval and early modern London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1963. The dome remains among the highest in the world. St Paul’s is the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral (Wikipedia).]

I’m leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it’s not raining. ~  Groucho Marx

[The Monument to the Great Fire of London, more commonly known simply as the Monument, is a Doric column situated near the northern end of London Bridge. Commemorating the Great Fire of London, it stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, 202 feet (62 m) in height and 202 feet west of the spot in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started on 2 September 1666. Constructed between 1671 and 1677, it was built on the site of  St. Margaret, New Fish Street, the first church to be destroyed by the Great Fire. It is Grade I listed and is a scheduled monument (Wikipedia).]

[The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site. The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times, and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. Today, the Tower of London is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Under the ceremonial charge of the Constable of the Tower, the property is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces and is protected as a World Heritage Site (Wikipedia).]

[Ditto, with the Super . . . ]

[Of course, she had to see the Crown Jewels . . . ]

[As seen from inside the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge, built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become a world-famous symbol of London. As a result, it is sometimes confused with London Bridge, about half a mile (0.8 km) upstream. Tower Bridge is one of five London bridges owned and maintained by a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. It is the only one of the trust’s bridges not to connect the City of London directly to the Southwark bank, as its northern landfall is in Tower Hamlets. The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces imposed by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers Wikipedia).]

[What an early siege of the Tower may have looked like . . . ]

I journeyed to London, to the timekept City, Where the River flows, with foreign flotations. There I was told: we have too many churches, And too few chop-houses. ~ T. S. Eliot

Yes, London. You know, fish, chips, cup o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary-fucking-Poppins. London! ~ Dennis Farina

Aesthetically, London is just beautiful; it’s a gorgeous city. The architecture, monuments, the parks, the small streets – it’s an incredible place to be. ~  Sara Bareilles

It is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London.  It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy, or exempt from reproach.  It is only magnificent. ~ Henry James

London opens to you like a novel itself… It is divided into chapters, the chapters into scenes, the scenes into sentences; it opens to you like a series of rooms, doors and passages.  Mayfair to Piccadilly to Soho to the Strand. ~  Anna Quindlen

[Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the striking clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster; the name is frequently extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower.  The official name of the tower in which Big Ben is located was originally the Clock Tower; it was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom. When completed in 1859, its clock was the largest and most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world. The tower stands 315 feet (96 m) tall, and the climb from ground level to the belfry is 334 steps. Its base is square, measuring 39 feet (12 m) on each side. Dials of the clock are 23 feet (7.0 m) in diameter. On 31 May 2009, celebrations were held to mark the tower’s 150th anniversary. Big Ben is the largest of the tower’s five bells and weighs 13.5 long tons.  It was the largest bell in the United Kingdom for 23 years. Four quarter bells chime at 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour and just before Big Ben tolls on the hour. The clock uses its original Victorian mechanism, but an electric motor can be used as a backup. The clock tower has been part of a Grade I listed building since 1970 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 (Wikipedia).]

[Oh, and that’s the Super with Big Ben above . . . ]

[The eye was open when we were there, but not to the general public. We apparently qualified as the general public . . . ]

It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside. ~  Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

[The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parliament after its occupants, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London. Its name, which derives from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey, may refer to several historic structures but most often: the Old Palace, a medieval building-complex largely destroyed by fire in 1834, or its replacement, the New Palace that stands today. The palace is owned by the monarch in right of the Crown and, for ceremonial purposes, retains its original status as a royal residence. Committees appointed by both houses manage the building and report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and to the Lord Speaker (Wikipedia).]

[With the Eye as backdrop, Boadicea and Her Daughters is a bronze sculptural group in London representing Boudica, queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe, who led an uprising in Roman Britain. It is located to the north side of the western end of Westminster Bridge. It was not erected in its current position until 1902 (Wikipedia).]

[10 Downing Street . . . ]

(Nelson’s Column . . . ]

[The Super called to see if any tickets were still available for Elvis . . . ]

[Trafalgar Square . . . ]

[Refurbishment of Admiralty Arch . . . ]

[The Queen’s Guard and Queen’s Life Guard (called King’s Guard and King’s Life Guard when the reigning monarch is male) are the names given to contingents of infantry and cavalry soldiers charged with guarding the official royal residences in the United Kingdom. The British Army has regiments of both Horse Guards and Foot Guards predating the English Restoration (1660), and since the reign of King Charles II these regiments have been responsible for guarding the Sovereign’s palaces. The Guards are fully operational soldiers (Wikipedia).]

[On the way to . . . ]

[Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom.  Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality. Originally known as Buckingham House, the building at the core of today’s palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 on a site that had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and became known as The Queen’s House. During the 19th century it was enlarged with three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace became the London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The palace has 775 rooms, and the garden is the largest private garden in London. The state rooms, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public each year for most of August and September and on some days in winter and spring (Wikipedia).]

I don’t know what London’s coming to. The higher the buildings the lower the morals. ~ Noel Coward.

In London, love and scandal are considered the best sweeteners of tea. ~ John Osborne

[St James’s Park is a 23-hectare (57-acre) park in the City of Westminster, central London. It is at the southernmost tip of the St James’s area, which was named after a leper hospital dedicated to St James the Less. It is the most easterly of a near-continuous chain of parks that includes (moving westward) Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens. The park is bounded by Buckingham Palace to the west, the Mall to the north, Horse Guards to the east, and Birdcage Walk to the south. It meets Green Park at Queen’s Gardens with the Victoria Memorial at its centre, opposite the entrance to Buckingham Palace.  St Jame’s Palace is on the opposite side of The Mall. The park is Grade I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens (Wikipedia).]

[I remember the pelican. It tried to eat a pigeon. The pigeon wasn’t happy about it . . . ]

The climate suits me, and London has the greatest serious music that you can hear any day of the week in the world – you think it’s going to be Vienna or Paris or somewhere, but if you go to Vienna or Paris and say, ‘Let’s hear some good music’, there isn’t any. ~ David Attenborough

When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in London. ~  Bette Midler

[We came to see the queen . . . ]

[Well, not me, but maybe the Super . . . ]

[You can do this at the White House now, but behind about four layers of fences . . . ]

[Following the Battle of Waterloo and the action in which they gained their name, the Grenadier Guards were permitted to wear the bearskin. In 1831, this practice was extended to the other two Foot Guards units at the time. The standard bearskin of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs 1.5 pounnds and is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear. However, an officer’s bearskin is made from the fur of the Canadian brown bear as the female brown bear has thicker, fuller fur, and is dyed black. An entire skin is used for each hat. The British Army purchase the hats, which are known as caps, from a British hatmaker which sources its pelts from an international auction. The hatmakers purchase between 50 and 100 black bear skins each year at a cost of about £650 each. If properly maintained, the caps last for decades (Wikipedia).]

The Sun in London ran a front page declaring my bum a national treasure. I really did laugh at that. Its not like it can actually do anything, except wiggle. ~  Kylie Minogue

Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles have left the building!

I think I saw a Kardashian?

[We left our bags in a closet. When we returned, we discovered it was our room!]

Antwerp

The we took the Eurostar under the English Channel to Brussels. But it must have been a quick drop off at our hosts and on to the diamond capital of the world . . .

[The Cathedral of Our Lady is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Antwerp, Belgium. Today’s see of the Diocese of Antwerp started in 1352 and, although the first stage of construction was ended in 1521, has never been ‘completed’. In Gothic style, its architects were Jan and Pieter Appelmans and contains a number of significant works by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. The belfry of the cathedral is included in the Belfries of Belgium and France entry in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Wikipedia).]

[Het Steen is a medieval fortress in the old city centre of Antwerp, one of Europe’s biggest ports. Built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp’s oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre. Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The Dutch word “steen” means “stone”, and used to be used for “fortress” or “palace”, as in the “Gravensteen” in Ghent, Belgium. At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue of a giant and two humans. It depicts the giant Lange Wapper who used to terrorise the inhabitants of the city in medieval times (Wikipedia).]

[Antwerp is the undisputed diamond capital of the world. With 84% of the world’s rough diamonds and 50% of cut diamonds passing through, the city attracts international traders seeking the highest quality diamonds (www.sandersjewelers.net).] It was eerie walking through the diamond district – quiet, few people on the street, a feeling “eyes” were following you wherever you went . . . ]

The No. 1 place I’ve visited so far was Antwerp, Belgium. That was one of the coolest cities I’ve ever seen. Every day I woke up, I felt like I was in a movie. ~ Sam Mikulak

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