January 12, 2013

On To the Continent

Wow. London seems like such a long while ago. I have done so much it feels like a whole other trip ago....and it was less than a week ago that I left!

After New Years I had an early morning. I figured that since a lot of people would be sleeping off their nights, if I got off early I would have the city to myself. Since it was an amazing beautiful sunny day I decided to head out to Greenwich to see one of the places I was looking forward to most.

That place was....the Royal Observatory Greenwich! That is the place where the Prime Meridian lies, and for me, as a geographer, that is pretty interesting. It is also the place where they solved the problem of longitude, and where they produced accurate maps of the stars. Plus it is an observatory and those are awesome.

Getting there was kinda fun as well. I took two different tube lines and the DLR to get there. But that only gets you to Greenwich. From there it is a 20 minute walk through lovely old streets and then a beautiful huge, and in my case sunlit park. There were not a ton of people about, and most who were were with children.

I got to the observatory around ten, and since the museum did not open until 12, I sat on a bench with an absolutely amazing view of London, and people watched. Plus had a bacon and sausage butty for breakfast (very yummy Lucy, thanks for the tip).

I also enjoyed a nice cup of tea. People watching is so fascinating, especially when you have a place to sit with a really nice view. There were runners and dog walkers and many people with kids. I found it amazing how many of the kids had little scooter things. The ones with two wheels in the front. Very interesting.

And the view. Seeing the Canary Wharf in the distance, The O2 arena, and even the grotesque red tower at the olympic park. The airplanes flying into Heathrow and out of City made me a very happy camper as well.

The most exciting thing I think though before entering the observatory grounds however was the Prime Meridian. Now bear with me because this is a bit of a Graham being pedantic thing, but I think it is cool. The observatory has a big brass line on the ground, and at night a laser shooting into the sky which marks the Prime Meridian. There is the photo op with the line between your feet and the statue behind, overlooking the city. That however is no longer the exact location of the Prime Meridian used in navigation. If you were to take a GPS, you would have to walk 102 meteres due east to reach the place where the longitude read 0 degrees.

Me being me, I had to take a picture standing on the real line. So I set up my tripod, lay my scarf down on the ground within about a meter of the actual location and was standing on the real prime meridian drawing more than a few funny glances.

Anyhow, after a good spot of people watching in the sun, with an absolutely incredible view, the museum opened.

I could write a whole book about that museum, but basically there is the prime meridian, several observatories of different ages and capabilities, and the clocks. The clocks were my favorite part. Especially the four clocks made by John Harrison. Those were the clocks which ushered in a new era of clock making, and made it possible to keep accurate time. They also solved the problem of longitude. If you want to know about them, read the book Longitude. It is an epic and incredible true story.

The second picture is possibly the most important clock ever constructed. The H4. Read about it. Seriously.

My last few days in London I met some very fun people from Australia and Canada. We had a lot of fun roaming around the big city, seeing the sights. The last day I was there, we saw two musicals. These were the first musicals I had ever seen. They were amazing. The first one we saw in the afternoon was Spamalot. It is written by Eric Idle, and is a loose approximation of the story of the Holy Grail. It was amazing.

Yes I know it is sideways, but it would take me way to long to get it back right side up.

The second musical we went to was after a spot of shopping on Oxford Street, and some very yummy fish and chips in a pub. Bouyed by a very rapidly consumed pint of cider, we made our way to the Dominion theater, purchased tickets and walked straight into the most amazing live show I have ever seen. We Will Rock You. A rock opera with the music of Queen. Absolutely amazing. It was worth the 33 pounds 60 by the time the curtain had gone up. The atmosphere, the building the acting, and the music. Wow the music. Absolutely amazing!

The next day I said adios to my new amigos and hopped on the tube to Heathrow. A short wait later in the beautiful terminal five, and I was on my way to Switzerland.

And that is where I find myself now. And that is all I am going to write now. I am going to go geocaching in the old city of Luzern!

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