Sunday at 9:30 PM was when our flight left the terminal, but for all of Sunday morning and afternoon, every minute seemed like an hour. When our flight finally took off, it was 10:00 PM (Vancouver time), and we landed at 7:00 AM, on Monday the 26 of May. On Tuesday, we met up with a family that we met in London. We went to Kew gardens with them where we visited all the main attractions that my family and I had come to so often to when we were in London before. On the way back to our house we had rented for the week, we walked past our old house, to see that it had not changed one bit!
The next day, we slept in (because of jet lag) and then took the tube from Kew Gardens where we were staying, to the Victoria and Albert Museum. We walked from there to the Rosebury afternoon tea house at the Manderine Oriental, needless to say it was delicious! After the tea, we went to a introductory walking tour of the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we were able to see artifacts from ancient Asia. Some of the articles included kimonos worn by high status men and women of society. Another piece was a table from the Forbidden City in China, to make it one had to apply over 300 coats of lacquer, each coat taking 3 – 4 days to dry. Only then could the carvers carve into the lacquer to make all sorts of ornate designs and patterns, without even touching the wood. In an adjoining room, we learned about the different possible methods for “staining” glass. One method is to colour the glass by laying the newly formed glass on a table and painting on different chemicals, once dried the chemicals are washed off leaving a red tint in the glass. Another way is to literally paint the glass, this lets less light through, but it is much easier and less expensive. The last and most popular version is made by adding powdered rock and metal into the molten silica to give artists access to all the colours of the rainbow! We then had a delicious dinner with another family (Bethan and family) we met whilst in London.
On Thursday (day 3), We got an early start and went to the Churchill War Rooms or the CWR. The CWR was where Churchill directed all the operations to try and stop a Nazi invasion by Hitler! As we walked through, we got to see the rooms as they were when they were occupied. When the war was over, Churchill and his officers got up and left the bunker, never to return, so when you walk through the main planning room you can still see Churchill’s iconic cigar resting on the ashtray. Another rather surprising aspect of the “bunker” is that it was never a purpose built bunker, but a large basement that later received a 6 foot thick slab of steel and concrete bomb barrier. However, the CWR’s most powerful weapon was secrecy, the Germans never knew about the exact position of the shelter, and there are still rumours that there are secret passageways leading to a whole different level of the bunker, but these claims are denied by the British Parliament Authorities.
After the CWR, we went to a London walking tour of the Blitz during WWII. The Blitz is the name given to the bombing raid campaigns headed by the Germans from 1940 – 1941. On the tour we saw many areas that had been completely levelled thanks to the consistent bombing, most of what we saw were churches that had either been restored, or had not been built over yet. The Germans used two types of bombs on the raids, one was a fire bomb that would burst into flames upon impact with the target, while the other was a high-explosive bomb that could blast a crater 100 feet in diameter! The first wave of bombers would usually drop fire bombs, so that the following raids careering the high-explosive bombs would get a clear beacon towards the target. The Thames river that runs through London, both was a friend and a foe during the Blitz, it provided a guide for german bombers to orientate themselves with a map, plus german bombers could find London in the dark by looking for the light that would be reflecting off the river Thames. The good side is that it provided plenty of water to put out fires.
It was amazing how resilient the British were through the heavy bombing and the threat of invasion. Just imagine what our world would be like if Nazi Germany had succeeded in ruling all of Europe!