Saturday, April 04, 2009

Reliving Windsor Castle and London

The Queen's gorgeous garden at Windsor Castle.

My beautiful wife as we wait for the changing of the guard to disperse so we can get our rental car back. It is a curious irony that while the guard is changing it is this lady in uniform who protects the lot of them from us.

Not a great photo, but I'll never forget this moment. Take the underground to the city center and emerge from the shadows and this is the first thing you see. Big Ben was bigger, and more impressive, than I expected. It was one of those moments when expectation is exceeded, anticipation arrives and doesn't let you down. The air felt different; more alive.

A better photo from the other side. The Millennium Eye behind and across the Thames. Incidentally, if we move to London and I go to King's College in the fall, my campus will be just below that wheel.

I had no preconceived notions of Westminster Abbey, but the thing that struck me most was how solid it looked, with its immense modelled bricks and relatively nondescript (from the outside) windows.

Statues of saints on the front of the Abbey. I loved that they had Mother Teresa, MLK, and Romero in there. Like saints I could call my own, you know what I mean?

I had just been reading about (and thus admiring) Mandela at seminary, so this was kind of cool for me.

What a great statue this one is.

As a tourist, most of your interactions with people are veiled by a vague and intentional disconnect. They aren't opening huge space in their world to you, and you aren't really there to make friends. Chesterton thought this reality was the bane of tourism. To really visit another land one needed to linger long enough in the normal places and among the local folk to begin to feel what it is like to call it home. I can't say we had a lot of these experiences of "the Other" on our short trip, but this pause with the squirrel-man at Hyde park was an oasis.

Back to the touristy stuff pretty quick though! Hey, we'd never been to a major world city before, and when we joined the Friday night crowds on our way to Les Miserables it was bright-lights-big-city and a welcome respite from a long small-town-prairie-winter.


Colin Toffelmire said...

I completely understand your description of your experience of Big Ben. That's exactly how the Eiffel Tower was for me when we went to Paris. This is a great series by the way, loving the pics.

Anonymous said...

Jon, I really enjoy the photos you take.

Thanks. it looks like you guys are effective travellers

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Perhaps moving to London? Jeez.

I'm enjoying these photos a lot.

jon said...

cool. yeah, colin, eiffel tower didn't disappoint either.

forrest: thanks. i guess when you take 1000 pics you end up with a few that look okay. as far as effectiveness goes, yeah, we had it all planned out: not so rigidly that it wasn't fun, but not so willy-nilly (is that a bad expression?) that we missed stuff we really wanted to do.

matthew: yeah maybe. wouldn't that be something?