London Calling: England in Photos

Below are some select photos from the London leg of my “Europe 2012” trip that was long overdue.

Hopefully they showcase what the experience truly felt like for me June 1-4. The pictures are either artsy by themselves, provide context on when I visited Londontown or have a backstory I felt the need to share.

Tube station in London // Photo by Christina De Nicola

Public transportation. Of all the cities I’ve had a chance to visit – from New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles – nothing can top London’s underground.

After I went through UK border patrol, which took ages, there was a tube station waiting for me at Heathrow Airport that could take me to the rest of London.

This is a photo I took highlighting West End plays over the years. I just so happened to capture “Les Miserables,” one of the most iconic shows.

 

Union Jack fever // Photo by Christina De Nicola

I had been warned ahead of time by my aunt, but I had no idea what I accidentally stumbled upon when I finally made it to London after trying to go for so many years.

It was Diamond Jubilee weekend, celebrating 60 years of Queen Elizabeth. In three years’ time, she will be the longest reigning monarch for England. Ever.

What did that mean? Well, a boat flotilla on Sunday that closed down all the bridges and made thousands of people camp out in the rain for a sight of her, Prince William, Kate Middleton and co.

On Monday when I was leaving, there was to be a HUGE concert with the likes of Jessie J, Tom Jones, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Paul McCartney in front of Buckingham Palace. Because of the construction at the Queen Victoria monument, I couldn’t get close.

To the right is a photo of what would be thousands of people listening to that concert waving Union Jack flags. I love the symmetry and patriotism.

 

Big Ben, London Eye & color // Photo by Christina De Nicola

That first day in London meant a fun (and free!) walking tour around the Westminster area. We also got to see Trafalgar Square, which was home to the final Harry Potter premiere, and Parliament Square.

Here I was, finally getting to see these sites that I had always seen on TV or in movies.

It was all so surreal. That turned out to be the word of the trip for me. I kept wondering if I’d wake up from a dream.

 

Guard in action // Photo by Christina De Nicola

You’ve all seen it joked about whether in YouTube videos or Fergie’s “London Bridge” music video: People trying to get the soldiers standing guard to smile or break focus.

Not me.

The photo on the left is one taken at Windsor Castle, which happened to host the Queen on the same day I was there!

How did I know she was there? The Union Jack flag waved in the wind to indicate she was relaxing (working? practicing her wave?) this Diamond Jubilee Weekend.

Windsor is said to be her “weekend home” when she’s not at Buckingham Palace. It’s outside of London and was the first stop on my day-long tour that took me and other tourists to three top destinations.

 

Overlooking Roman baths // Photo by Christina De Nicola

On this same trip, I visited the lovely area of Bath, where the Romans once lived and created many — get this — baths.

I experienced my first Top Shop and found out how short crop tops can really get.

I also discovered a Jane Austen Centre in Bath because two of her novels — Persuasion (which I’ve read) and Northanger Abbey (which I brought with me) — take place there.

 

Stonehenge being creepy // Photo by Christina De Nicola

I have an affinity for bizarre rock formations (see: Devil’s Tower in Wyoming). Stonehenge is no exception.

When I knew I was going to visit London, I immediately booked a day tour that included seeing the still-not-completely explainable rocks that stand up in the middle of nowhere English countryside.

Is it a calendar for the solstice? Aliens? Are they really just fake?

 

Royal horses // Photo by Christina De Nicola

On my final full day in London, Darci and I visited the Tower of London, where we learned not as many people were tortured and killed there as reputation has it.

There is so much to see there — you probably need countless hours — but what we did see ranged from remarkable jewels to armours.

Some things dated back to the 1000s, which puts into perspective how young America is, not to mention Miami as a city!

Ministry of Magic monument // Photo by Christina De Nicola

It should come as no surprise that one of the main reasons I always wanted to visit London was because of Harry Potter.

The highlight — surreal as it was — of my trip had to be the Studio Tour at Leavesden, where all eight films were shot. I got to walk in the Great Hall! Ride a broomstick!

Much is said about the attention to detail, and I figured this close-up of the Ministry of Magic’s “Magic is Might” monument demonstrated that sentiment perfectly.

2012 Olympics // Photo by Christina De Nicola

My last stop was East London, where the 2012 Summer Olympics will be held in a month’s time.

What struck me the most was how futuristic looking — and Marlins Park-esque — the facilities seemed.

Turns out Populous (formerly HOK Sport), the same architect behind Marlins Park, designed Olympic Stadium. Both have the sleek white and futuristic take.

This photo shows the stadium for the Opening Ceremonies, the Aquatics Center and the infamous observation tower getting called all sorts of names.

The area is blocked off now, but it’s hard to deny the impact the Summer Games have already had on a previously bad neighborhood.

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