BEHIND THE ABBEY

The Westminster Abbey is a magnificent piece of architecture housing more than a thousand years of British royalty history making it one of the most visited places in London. Unfortunately, photography is prohibited inside the cathedral so the closest to the interiors I could photograph was its courtyard. It would have been awesome to capture the interiors but the courtyard provided me with good enough lines, shapes and shadows. Most photographs we see online are usually the facade of this building but I decided to skip that angle and went for this. I know it does not scream Westminster Abbey but they always say not to capture the obvious so here’s one taken from behind the abbey.

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THE LONG WALK

Today the whole world watched a fairytale unfold as American girl Meghan Markle married her prince charming, Henry Charles Albert David fondly called by everyone as Prince Harry who is a member of the British Royal family. The wedding was held at the St. George’s Chapel inside the compound of the Windsor Castle and was broadcasted live for the whole world to see. Watching the festivities on tv this morning brought back memories of my visit to Windsor three years ago. I was in London for vacation and booked a day tour to the royal compound where I got to explore and photograph Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the buildings so most of my photographs were just of the facades. While walking on the grounds in front of the castle, I saw an arch with an opening to a view of a long road extending all the way to the horizon. I took multiple photos of the arch not knowing what the road was for. Today my question was finally answered…Prince Harry and Meghan was carried down this road on a horse drawn carriage to greet thousands of well wishers. The road is called The Long Walk and it connects Windsor Castle to a park called Snow Hill. According to legend, King Henry VIII sat at Snow Hill to wait for news about the execution of his wife Queen Anne Boleyn. But today a new legend about this road has been made…it will now be known as the road where someone’s fairytale became a reality.

LONDON’S EYE

img_6534When I was a young kid back in the Philippines, I always look forward to fiesta season when the carnival comes to town with various rides and shows. The centerpiece of the carnival was the ferris wheel and I never missed a ride despite the funny feeling on my stomach when the gondola comes down. So when I visited London last year, I made sure to ride their landmark ferris wheel called the London Eye. The ride was much slower taking 30 minutes for a full turn and was intentionally built as an observatory to provide visitors a bird’s eye view of the city. I took this photograph a day before I took the ride while exploring my hotel’s neighborhood. I also booked the champagne experience package to skip the lines and for a less crowded gondola and synchronized my ride with the time of the sunset. Unless one is scared of heights, every visitor to London should ride the London Eye where the view of the city is just breathtaking.

EYEing LONDON 

imageDuring my trip to London last year, I made sure a ride on the London Eye was part of the itinerary as I wanted to photograph the city from above. I booked their “Champagne Experience” assuming there would be fewer people as it costs more and probably no kids due to the alcohol thereby allowing me to move around freely and take photographs from all angles without elbowing my way to the front.  I also scheduled the ride to synchronize the time my capsule reaches the top and the sun setting in this historic and magnificent city. The best thing about the champagne experience is that you don’t have to line up outside like everybody else. Instead, they appointed a waiting room with a bar at the ticket center and a guide will walk you to the capsule who at the same time will serve as the bartender during the ride. The whole experience was fun seeing London and its famous landmarks from above and watching the lights around the city turning on one by one. The only downside was the glass casing of the capsule was a tad dusty so all my photographs turned out a little hazy. Anyway, this photo I’m posting came out as the most decent one capturing another capsule, the river Thames and the illuminated Big Ben on the right. The London Eye experience was worth every dollar spent and next time I visit London I will try it again but will no longer go crazy with the photography. I will instead spend all my time enjoying the breathtaking view and cheer the sunset with a glass of bubbly or two.

WINDSOR CASTLE

The Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world and it’s where Queen Elizabeth spends most of her private weekends.  The castle has been the family home to British kings and queens for over 1,000 years.  During my visit to Windsor the queen was not around, which is signaled by the Royal Standard flag flying from the castle’s Round Tower.  My tour of the castle included viewing of the royal apartments, state rooms, galleries, changing of the guards and the magnificent St. George’s Chapel. I joined a guided tour of the castle, which I think is the best way to experience it as you hear a good number of royal trivias and learn a generous amount of information and history about this famous home. Furthermore, being part of a tour allows you to skip the long lines to the ticket booth which can take at least an hour of your time. The castle is a reflection of the massive wealth of the British Royal family and throughout the tour I kept imagining how fascinating it would be to be a royal…even just for a day.

ROCKS OF AGES

The Stonehenge was created by a culture that did not leave any written record so every assumption about this ancient structure is debatable. During my visit to this famous site, our tour guide mentioned that this was once the site of musical concerts…made me wonder how many seasons of Stonehenge Idol ran on this site.  People also say that a visit to Stonehenge is like taking a spiritual trip…however in my case, it was more of a photo opportunity trip. The site is surrounded by a cordoned pathway to prevent visitors from touching the rocks and this photo was taken at the section closest to the ruins. Seriously though, I did feel a strong force of energy and an unexplained sense of joy while walking around this site. This has been on my bucket list for a long time and I am certainly very glad to finally write it off.

CITY OF GOLD

The Palace of Westminster and the Big Ben are iconic landmarks of the British capital and are probably the most photographed in the world. The palace is known as the heart of British politics as this is where the parliament of the United Kingdom meets. The city of London is very rich in heritage and amazingly the past and the present blend together harmoniously. It was an overcast day when I took this picture and the cloud filtered the sun turning everything the light touches into gold. I also accidentally forgot to remove the filter on my camera for this photoshoot resulting in a rich golden shade to the composition. I initially ignored this photo as I thought it was too golden, however, I realized that gold would be the best color to feature the home city of one of the world’s oldest monarchy.

COMMONERS VIEW

This bronze statue of a man standing beside a lion and holding a hammer and a scroll is part of the Victoria Monument in front of the Buckingham Palace in London. This statue represents Manufacture and is part of a quartet of statues surrounding the monument. The other three statues represent Peace, Progress and Agriculture and all are gifts from New Zealand. This is what commoners like us would usually see of the palace on an ordinary day so I was ecstatic to find out that the palace would be open to the public the week of my trip.   Apparently, the queen open the doors of the palace for a few weeks every summer allowing locals and tourists to explore her humble home. Just make sure to buy your tickets way ahead of time as they get sold fast.  London is one of the best cities I have visited and I promised myself to go back again…soon!

ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS

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While exploring London’s Piccadilly area after an afternoon tea at the Browns Hotel and a little shopping at Fortnum & Mason, I noticed this interesting art exhibition featured in the middle of this huge courtyard. Apparently, I have stepped into the Royal Academy of Arts complex. The RA is an art institution focused on the creation, enjoyment and exhibition of visual arts. Unfortunately, I had a show (Miss Saigon) to catch so I decided not to get inside the museum. This photo is my sole reminder that I was once in the Royal Academy of Arts complex.

WESTMINSTER

Westminster

A panoramic view of the Palace of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the Big Ben. I used my iPhone 6 to take this photo using the panorama mode in order to also capture the iconic London double decker red bus crossing the Westminster Bridge.

LONDON IN THE RAIN

Just arrived in London and was warmly greeted with torrents of rain. LOL! Took these photos inside the taxi on my way to the hotel. Traffic was horrible…it took almost an hour to drive from St. Pancras to Buckingham Gate.

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