Its official – London is still buzzing! If time and budget constraints prevented you being in London for the incredible performance of the captivating London 2012 Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee Celebration honouring the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it is still possible to visit those key sites highlighted by the media around the world.
Tower of London Jewel House
The guided tour and various aspects of exhibit display have been revamped with two goals in mind, first to honour the Diamond Jubilee, and second, to increase understanding of the significance of items currently worn and used by the Queen. A brief film presentation of the 1953 coronation highlights various crowns and related pieces including when each is used.
One very interesting item is the Ampalla, a golden flask containing holy water that is poured into the coronation spoon used to anoint and bless the reign of each new monarch. Added in 1910, a 530.2 carat diamond now graces the top of the original Sceptre with Cross, circa 1661. This is the largest colourless, cut diamond in the world. The next item is the St. Edward’s Crown that is placed upon the head as the exact moment of the new reign is announced. Originally created in 1066 for the coronation of Edward the Confessor, the crown weighs approximately 194 pounds (2.23kgms).
Most often seen is the Imperial State Crown comprised of 3,000 precious stones including diamonds, rubies, sapphires and pearls. This crown is worn for the opening of Parliament each year and on other official occasions. The current crown was remodelled in 1838 lessening its weight for the comfort of Queen Victoria.
Among several baptismal fonts on display at Jewel House is the Lily Font used for the baptism of Queen Victoria’s first born. This font continues to be used for royal baptisms.
Emma Bridgewater’s Pottery Factory
Opened in 1985, tours of this establishment are available enabling visitors to view the pottery making process from clay throwing to firing and hand-decoration and is an interesting insight into UK culture. Although items are made from glass and other materials, the main moulded items are mugs, plates, and other teatime essentials. Special mugs, tea towels and other items commemorating the Diamond Jubilee are available to purchase in the pottery gift shop.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
This cathedral is an iconic part of London’s history and as such one of the most explored attractions in the city and is the diocesan home of the Church of England. As the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II functions as the official Head of State for the Anglican Communion. The official worship service area is situated beneath its massive dome. During a visit to the cathedral, visitors are invited to explore the dome rising 365 feet (111.3 meters) in the air by climbing its 528 steps. The interior of the dome is encircled by paintings first done by James Thornhill in 1708, depicting the life of the Apostle Paul. Along the climb, visitors must stop at the Whispering Gallery where the echo effect of a whisper will carry clearly from one side of the dome to the other. A little more than halfway to the top is the Golden Gallery affording breathtaking views of the city from various angles. Climbers who ascend all 528 steps will reach, the Golden Ball, a six-foot space capable of accommodating ten people at a time.
Another not-to-be skipped area of the cathedral is the Crypt which contains tombs of distinguished Brits such as Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir. Winston Churchill, and cathedral architect, Sir. Christopher Wren.
London is accessible to all; whether you’re on a tight budget, looking for luxury or whether you want to explore the sights, history and culture totally free, just get out there!