Sunday, March 27, 2011

The grown-ups go to London

Jack's parents offered to host Cooper for a day so Alan and I could go somewhere by ourselves.  We took advantage of their generosity by heading to London to see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.  It was spectacular!!

We knew we would have some extra time in London, so we picked one thing we wanted to do that we thought Cooper wouldn't care about.  Frankly, there are about 750 things that fit in that category, but we chose Winston Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms.
The War Rooms served as the British government's secret underground shelter during World War II. The government transformed basement storage rooms under the Board of Trade and the Office of Works to serve as the central emergency working place for the War Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff.

Churchill disliked the underground shelter and worked here only when bombing raids made working on the surface too dangerous.  He famously commented about the Cabinet War Room (pictured below): "This is the room from which I will lead the war."
Churchill's seat is along the back wall, directly in front of the map.

(The photos are all taken through glass barriers, so the quality isn't terrific.)

Several of the rooms are just as they were in 1945.  It's almost as if the war ended, Churchill and his people ran upstairs to celebrate, and the building was sealed.  There are original maps decorating the walls, boxes of push-pins that the officers used to track the progress of ships during the war, a line of 10 different colored telephones, a chalkboard keeping tally of aircraft losses, and rows and rows of keys for all of the doors down in the bunker.

Although developed as a temporary work space, the War Rooms eventually became home to a host of civil servants (typists, telephone operators, clerks, kitchen workers) and military personnel.  In addition, Churchill and his wife Clementine both had bedrooms down in the bunker, along with a dining suite.  This is Churchill's room, restored to its 1945 state, including the maps on his walls and a cigar and ashtray on the bedside table.
The War Rooms museum was fantastic---quite a treasure trove of artifacts from WWII, including interviews with people who lived and worked there with Churchill and his cabinet.  Fascinating.

As we were walking around town (at a grown-up walking speed without constantly exhorting a sweet but distractable four-year-old to "come on, hon... keep walking"), we passed a few notable landmarks.

This is the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament.  The clock tower is commonly called Big Ben, although that name technically refers to the great bell inside the clock.

This is Westminster Abbey, a church that is the traditional place of coronation and burial for British monarchs, as well as a popular place for royal weddings (including the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton).

We also just happened to notice the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, so we ducked inside to look around.
I was surprised by a couple of things.  First, the UK Supreme Court is quite new, having sat for the first time in October 2009.  It hears cases from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.  The building itself is the former Middlesex Guildhall, which served as the home for justices of the county in the 1800s.  It was restored and renovated beginning in 2007.  It's lovely.

For our special grown-up London meal?  McDonald's.  The first we've had since we've been here!  Delicious!
(And just so you don't think we're totally lame, we did enjoy a quiet meal at a great Indian restaurant when we got back to Grantham.)

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Looks like it was a great time. I've always wanted to visit London...maybe someday...

The War Room is something I would be totally into. Colleen wouldn't care too much for it, but she'd do it because she loves me! Awesome stuff.

Now that your trip is winding down, are things going at light speed as if you just realized that there were things you wanted to do, but couldn't get to...and feel as if you should find a way to get them done? I would totally feel like that as I usually feel like that when I go places for visits. There just never seems to be enough time in the day.