All posts in England

National Gallery, Front

This gorgeous picture is of the famous National Gallery art museum in London, situated at the historic Trafalgar Square. It is one of the best museums to go to for several reasons.

First, it is a great art museum, containing thousands of famous paintings. It does not have modern trash art, so all of the paintings look realistic and you do not have to figure out what was painted. All paint strokes were carefully applied in these paintings, nothing dripped, splattered, splashed or otherwise randomly applied.

Second, admission is free. There are special exhibits that do cost something, but the bulk of the paintings are free all of the time. This means that it is a quality tourist spot that you can do all day and not pay anything. Those kinds of tourist spots are rare.

Third, it has free WiFi though during opening hours (it shuts off 15 minutes before closing). So if you need to get some internet access, you can step into the cafe, sit down and connect. The upload speed is tremendously fast, so you can even upload video!

Fourth, the bathrooms are free. What is surprising about Europe is the scarcity of free bathrooms. With its central location in London, the National Gallery is a great place for a pit stop, even if you are not visiting the museum. It is located near Buckingham Palace, China Town and other famous places, so a quick detour here will keep you pressure free.

Fifth, you can take photographs! Yes, unlike most other art museums, this one actually lets you take your camera out and shoot as much as you want. This policy came about after the museum introduced WiFi and employees found it impossible to distinguish people using their phones to take pictures versus people using phones to look at the museum’s website. So in a stunning move, they permitted photography. Finally.

The colder months are a great time to go the museum because it is warm inside. London weather gets quite dreary and cold, so if there is sun outside, do your outdoor activities and save this one for a rainy day. On the other hand, you can use Cheap Caribbean promo codes to escape the miserable weather altogether by relaxing at a luxury resort with beach, surf and palm trees.

This picture is unusual in that there are so few people in front of it. Normally, the adjoining Trafalgar Square is crowded with people, tourists, locals and entertainers. So even if you do not like art, you can entertain yourself by people-watching outside. On the far left is the modern addition to the building, known as the Sainsbury Wing, which ironically contains the oldest art.

But the art inside is fantastic and something to appreciate for a long time. Fine art is like wine, to be sipped, not guzzled. Since there is no admission cost, you can visit this place repeatedly and wander the galleries a few hours at a time. Then come back and do it again.

A great feature of the museum are the free art tours that go on several times per day. You get a different lecture with each person. Some are on staff, while others are volunteers. Each brings a different perspective. They can be artists, art historians, educators or some other art-related specialty. Some of them are very entertaining. Tours are a great way to deepen and broaden your appreciation of art, and you should go on one of these tours when visiting this place.

National Gallery, as seen from Trafalgar Square


London’s Double-Decker Buses

Nothing stands out more about London’s daily life than its iconic double-decker buses, typically, the largest vehicles on London streets. Unlike the United States, where semi-trailers dominate the roads, these bright red and better-looking giants swarm all over London, night and day, moving like bees from bus stop to bus stop.

This picture depicts the recently-replaced generation of buses, the Alexander ALX400, distinguished by its modern symmetrical front, and the lack of a rear-entry. The subsequent generation featured a rear entrance and a sloping windshield (windscreen in Brit-speak) to give the driver maximum visibility towards the left, enabling the driver to see the curb (kerb in Brit-speak).

While tourists get a kick out of riding these for a few days, this can get quite tedious when doing it year in and year out. Getting Cheap Caribbean promo codes to get away from this boredom can be quite a treat. Buses can get crowded, and sometimes, the bus is too full to take on more passengers, and will not even stop to pick you up. It is things like these that encourage people to take a vacation (holiday in Brit-speak) and relax on the beach, not having to worry about the aggravation of commuting.

The jagged lines are not the result of a drunk road worker but rather they indicate a safety zone in which vehicles are not allowed to park nor are they allowed to pass other vehicles.

The buses are a marvel to watch as they move quickly, efficiently and unerringly amidst the hustling, bustling traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Tourists feel like the bus will hit somebody or something, a sign post or vehicle ahead, but these drivers seem to fit hand in glove, stopping, swerving and maneuvering deftly.

The photographer who took this picture stood in the middle of a two-way street, with the bus on the immediate left moving away – the British drive on the wrong left-hand side of the street. On the right, a bus is heading towards the camera, so this photographer had to shoot and run.

The upper level of the bus affords a nice elevated view of the London streets, though the repeated stops and starts can lead to motion sickness. Running up the stairs and getting the front seat is always a treat.

Commuters, mothers with strollers, the elderly, people with heavy packages and disabled people typically sit on the lower level. To get off, you must press the button that rings a chime, signaling to the driver to stop at the next stop. What stop is your stop? You had better know. Electronic signboards tell you, but if you are too slow, the driver will keep on going without stopping and you may wind up walking a lot farther than you expected.

London's double-decker buses


First Folio

In the museum’s exhibition, Life, Love and Legacy, which is the first one you see when touring the place, there is a centerpiece object in the front of the room. It is an old book that, as you can see in this picture, is securely displayed in a locked glass case. Formally known as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, it is now called by its nickname, First Folio. It is a collection of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays (he wrote a total of 38) and was compiled in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare died.

It is the only reliable text for 20 of Shakespeare’s plays, since only 18 of them had been published before 1623, but it is even regarded as authoritative for many of the previously published ones. It includes all of the plays that are considered to be written by Shakespeare except for Pericles, Prince of Tyre and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the two “lost plays”, Cardenio and Love’s Labour’s Won.

The book is of uneven quality due to the varying competence of the compositors, the people who put the words together with the type, the letters that would print the words. Modern research shows that five compositors shared the workload, each having different spelling habits, peculiarities, and skill levels. The worst was an apprentice who had a lot of trouble with the manuscript copy.

First Folio


Globe Theatre Model

This picture is a miniature model of the Globe Theatre, the short-lived theatre in London where Shakespeare’s plays were performed. It was built by the Lord’s Chamberlain Men, a company of actors that produced Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare himself was a minority shareholder.

The theatre was born out of adversity as it were, when the landlord of the land on which its predecessor, The Theatre, was built, asserted ownership of the building when the 21-year lease had expired in late 1597. That expiration was upon them and all attempts to renew the lease failed. The building, in fact, was owned outright by the actors.

In what may be called a Shakespearean comedy in real life, in 1598, the company dismantled the building beam by beam while the landlord was at his country home celebrating the Christmas holidays and stored it in a warehouse. This was technically not a theft as the actors found a clause in the old lease that allowed them to disassemble the building.

Proving that “All the world’s a stage”, the timber was used the following spring to build what would become the Globe Theatre on the other side of the Thames, the south bank. Regrettably, it would burn down in 1613 during a performance of King Henry VIII when a cannon misfired. It was rebuilt a year later.

Globe Theatre Model


Model of London During Shakespeare’s Time

William Shakespeare grew up during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England 1558 – 1603 when she died at the age of 69. She had succeeded the notorious King Henry VIII, her father. The time period of her rule is known as the Elizabethan era, and was famous for being a golden age where poetry, music and literature flourished. Most notably, William Shakespeare.

This model of London during Shakespeare’s time is very realistic with respect to the skyline.  The “Thamesis Fluvius” or River Thames, winds it way through London. It has changed course drastically over the centuries. The Globe Theatre, at which Shakepeare’s plays were performed, was built along the Thames.

What is very interesting about this model is the London Bridge. It looks like a combination of arches and buildings. In fact, it was.

London Bridge was the only bridge to connect the north and south sides of London. It became a residential and shopping district as well as a bridge. More notoriously, the south end became known for a heads-up display of executed criminals. That is, those who were beheaded had their heads displayed at this end of the bridge. Shakespeare would include grisly scenes like this in his play, Measure for Measure, ironically classified as a comedy.

Model of London during Shakespeare's Time


Introduction to Shakespeare’s Life

The Shakespeare’s Birthplace museum presents a short multimedia introduction to Shakespeare’s life and times. Part of that include items from his time period or even his life.

In this picture, the Globe Theatre, where his plays were performed, is shown prominently alongside a model of London as it looked during Shakespeare’s day. The River Thames flows flows past the theatre and in the background the London skyline as it looked back then.

In this darkened room, a video discusses Shakespeare’s highlights, the important people in his life such as his parents, wife and children, and the important places, such as his birthplace, schooling and the Globe Theatre.

The presentation has a certain amount of sophistication to it because during certain parts of it, room lights turn on and off, brighten and dim to illustrate objects in the room. The lights for this model were off at the time this photograph was taken but came on when the narrator discussed London.

Introduction to Shakespeare


William Shakespeare Depictions

Upon entering the Shakespeare’s Birthplace museum, the first thing you see are three depictions of Shakespeare.

The cartoon on the left is by a famous British cartoonist, Ralph Steadman. He has drawn many cartoons of a political and social commentary nature, as well as for books written by himself and others. He has won many awards from around the world.

The painting in the middle was painted by Gerard Soest, who is famous for his paintings of Shakespeare and William Butler as well as upper-class English people. The problem with this painting is that Soest did not paint it while Shakespeare was alive. The painter was born in 1600 and Shakespeare died in 1616. Soest’s earliest known painting is 1646, 30 years after Shakespeare died. Therefore, his subject was most likely a man who resembled the poet or an earlier portrait.

The poster on the right comes from the Sixth World Shakespeare Congress held in Los Angeles, April 1996. This organization was founded in 1974 and holds an international event every five years. Previous locations include Washington, DC (1976), Stratford-upon-Avon (1981), Berlin (1986) and Tokyo (1991). Stratford-upon-Avon will be the host in 2016.

William Shakespeare Depictions


William Shakespeare’s Birthplace

The great English poet and playwright William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in this house on Henley Street, a small side street in the humble little town of Stratford-upon-Avon. The actual date of his birth is unknown.

It was here that he spent his childhood years as the third of eight children and the oldest surviving son. His father John was an alderman, a glove maker and a wool dealer. His mother Mary Arden came from a wealthy landowning farmer’s family.

The house is built in the style of half-timber. There are two definitions for half-timber construction.

The first definition is a style of building the outside walls where each wall is a lattice of panels where each panel is filled with material used to shield the inside from the outside elements such as wind, rain and light. The material is non-loadbearing. The frame is often not hidden and can be seen from the outside. You can see the frame in this picture.

The second definition, and used less frequently, describes the composition of building materials where a full-timbered house is built entirely of wood and a half-timbered house’s ground floor is made of stone and the upper level is made of wood. The upper level could be a half-timbered floor in the first sense of the word.

This house could be half-timbered in both senses as other pictures taken of the ground floor show stone walls, but I am not certain how extensive the stonework is.

William Shakespeare's Birthplace


Stonehenge Outer Sarsen and Inner Trilithon

The modern paved walkway at Stonehenge approaches from the north-northwest and goes southwest. In the middle of the walkway is the closest you will be to the stones without walking on the grass.

This shot is of the stones closest to the walkway, giving you the best feel for how big the stones are.

The stones in the front are part of the outer circle. The original design seemed to be a complete circle, requiring 60 of these stones, called Sarsen stones, with a post-and-lintel setup. A post-and-lintel arrangement calls for two uprights (posts) holding up a horizontal stone (lintel), one at each end.

In fact, each post would hold up two lintels to form two complete circles; one composed of uprights and another composed of lintels. In the front, we see three posts but only one lintel, the other lintel having fallen and perhaps removed a long time ago for use in another location such as a building project.

This outer circle was never completed, with only about 30 Sarsen stones arriving here. Still, the monumental effort required to just move these stones is worthy of being a world-famous attraction. The people who moved this were highly-motivated, at a time when they spent most of the time trying to survive. Why would they spend such time and energy to do this with no leisure time? They would not have been able to take advantage of promo codes for CheapCaribbean for sure, with no time to relax in the sun on a sandy beach, bathed in the warm waters and balmy breezes.

The inner arrangement was composed of five trilithons to form a horseshoe shape. A trilithon is similar to the post-and-lintel but there are a maximum of three stones: two posts and a lintel.

There were a total of five trilithons but only three remain intact. There were three sizes: small, medium and large. The two in this picture are both medium size. The trilithon uprights are much larger than the outer circle uprights.

Stonehenge Outer Sarsen, Inner Trilithon


Stonehenge Inner Horseshoe Trilithon – Southeast Side

There are many amazing details about Stonehenge, but perhaps one of the most visible aspects is the trilithon. Not only is their weight staggeringly heavy, but the engineering is also amazing.

The trilithon is a simple structure of three stones of which two are upright and the third lying horizontally across the two uprights. There are five of these trilithons arranged in a horseshoe shape and the horseshoe is inside the outer circle. The open end faces north east and is 45 feet across.

These stones, like the smaller ones that make up the outer circle are sarsen stones. The uprights weigh up to 50 tons each. Only ten of these were brought here, but the effort to move one of these 50-ton stones had to have been utterly amazing. Nothing like this exists in most other parts of the world, making this structure truly astounding.

For example, if you were to get a coupon for Cheap Caribbean, you would see natural structures crafted by wind, water and volcanoes. Certainly, some primitive structures before the modern era. But nothing as massive as this.

The trilithons are arranged in height order, with two trilithons rising 20 feet high, the next two slightly higher and the tallest trilithon, third in the horseshoe, standing 24 feet high. This last trilithon collapsed and only one upright remains. This upright is 22 feet tall and extends 8 feet into the ground.

The one in this picture is one of the two smallest trilithons.

Stonehenge Inner Horshoe Trilithon - Southeast Side