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Knopf Guide: London

"Encyclopedic in their historic, artistic and touristic detail."

~ Conde Nast Traveler

London Morning Tour

Legend has it that as long as the ravens remain safe in the Tower of London, the stately city and the kingdom of England will not fall. Indeed, the country has survived much: the Norman Conquest, the Great Fire of 1666 and two World Wars. Still under the watchful eye of the Beefeaters, the ravens are safe and the stalwart city remains one of the most popular places in the world. Find the traces of London's past in the chilling dungeons of the Tower -- which held many famous prisoners including Sir Walter Raleigh and two of Henry VIII's wives -- or at the Poet's Corner in Westminster Alley, a shrine to England's illustrious writers from Auden to Shakespeare. Explore the city's modern-day attractions on a journey through the markets on Portobello Road and enjoy a piping steak and kidney pie at the local pub. Learn how Georgian townhouses were built and how Christmas pudding is made, as well as how to ride the Tube and take in the "Trooping of the Colour," when the Queen inspects the royal guards. It will guide you through the city's great museums including the Tate and National Gallery and take you on leisurely strolls through London's famous Hyde Park and Queen Mary's Garden.

Always Avoid the Middle of the Road!
Avoid the Middle
Wandering Around London.
Wandering London
Ongoing Construction.
Ongoing Construction
The London Eye on the Banks of the Thames.
The London Eye
Big Ben Along the River Thames.
The Thames And Big Ben
The Most Famous Harrods.
Heading for Harrods
Quaint Storefronts.
Quaint Storefronts

England

Stay in the heart of London close to Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall and the fashionable shopping centres of Kensington and Knightsbridge for Harrods. The Victoria and Albert, Natural History and Science Museums are all a short walk away. Exhibitions held at Earls Court and Olympia are close by.

When we're short on time on any trip, we take day trips or hire guides or hop tours.

Through the English countryside, our guided tour travelled from London to Stonehenge, Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon and the Cotswolds. The tours combine history, lush rolling fields, and sightseeing at some of Britain's most popular attractions. Tours include an exclusive visit to Shakespeare's birthplace, with champagne and strawberry scones served in his picturesque garden. Our next day-trip out of London will be for a private tour of Stonehenge . . . one that takes us inside the surrounding barricade.

At age 23. I worked as a secretary at Air West (now long defunct). There was a $39 round trip to London for airline personnel. I scrambled to get a passport, hopped a jet, and realized I had next to no money and no credit cards. I stayed in what used to be a broom closet -- literally -- at a small hotel near Harrod's. Fortunately it was a clean and quite large broom closet with a wall of glass so I could watch the snow falling while reading "The Hobbit." Have never figured out why that broom closet had a wall of glass.

Bath

The City of Bath is well-known for the remaining sites of the Roman baths, which, along with Hadrian's Wall, are the most well-preserved Roman remains in England. The origins are lost in history, but two of the spas have statues of Bladud, son of Hudibras (the 8th king of the Britons) and father of King Lear. The story is that Bladud caught leprosy, was banned from the court and was forced to care for pigs. The pigs also had a skin disease, but after they wallowed in hot mud, they were cured. Prince Bladud followed their example and was also cured. Later, Bladud became king and founded the City of Bath around 860 B.C.E. Many notable people have visited the baths, including Queen Anne in the late 1600s and, in the 1700s, Jane Austin (who actually lived there and Bath has a Jane Austen Centre at 40 Gay Street). Some of the medieval bathing niches are still visible. Spa water for drinking was pumped up to it from the spring below. The present larger building was erected in the 1790's and partially covers the north side of the King’s Bath. The bath was used regularly for bathing until 1939. In 1979 its floor was removed for structural reasons and the water lowered to its present level; the orange stain indicates the former water level. Architecture from several different periods can be seen including the wall on the right below the balustrade, which is Roman, and the bathing niches on the far side which once lined all four walls, are Medieval. Bath has become England's second largest tourist attraction.

London

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, 145 Fleet Street. Your basic 200-year-old fish-and-chip-pub. Lots and lots of theatre; even the not-so-good theatre in London is great theatre compared to most of the rest of the world.

Oxford

Home to some of the world's finest universities and literary greats such as Lewis Carroll (who was actually a teacher of mathematics at Christchurch. Alice's garden exists behind a wall in Christchurch's garden. She had a cat that used to sit on top of the wall, and that cat became the Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland. Salisbury Visit Salisbury Cathedral . . . if you can, attend a service at sunrise. The stained glass window was built so that during summer, the sun rises up the window, illuminating various portions of the glass as it goes. Stunning! South End Train announcement enroute to South End beach resort: "The next station is Barking." With that, it's obvious how the English authors have such marvelous imaginations.

Stonehenge

Unfortunately, now very difficult to see as it is fenced off from those who would write their names on the stones, but still worth a visit to first-hand sense the mystery of the ages.

Up and Down the Thames

Many riverboats leave from London to visit ports down river, such as the Maritime Museum at Greenwich, which is the center of time for the world. Anyone with an interest in maritime history will enjoy this museum and anyone who loves cruising in boats will enjoy the trip up and down the river immensely. It is an enjoyable day.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: England and Northern Ireland
    • Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (1986)
    • Durham Castle and Cathedral (1986, 2008)
    • Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast (1986)
    • Ironbridge Gorge, Wales (1986)
    • Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (1986, 2008)
    • Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey (1986)
    • Blenheim Palace (1987)
    • City of Bath (1987)
    • Frontiers of the Roman Empire (1987, 2005,2008)
    • 26 Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church (1987, 2008)
    • Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, St. Martin's Church (1988)
    • Tower of London (1988)
    • 27 Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (1995)
    • Maritime Greenwich (1997)
    • Heart of Neolithic Orkney (1999)
    • Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda (2000)
    • Derwent Valley Mills (2001) Dorset and East Devon Coast (2001)
    • New Lanark (2001) Saltaire (2001)
    • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003)
    • Liverpool ~ Maritime Mercantile City (2004)