This journal is for historic places in London.
by Sonia3 on June 28, 2011
Feeling a little bit home sick for a place that is no longer my home (London) I decided to take a day trip. I planned the trip well in advance so there is really no excuse for the fact that I arrived there with nothing planned to do for the day. I met my best friend at London Bridge Station armed with a booklet of 2 for 1 offers. Over lunch we ruled out just about every possibility. The problem is that we're very different and although we have a few interests in common it is usually very difficult to find something that we both want to do (with the exception of eating, we both enjoy that!). We decided to visit the Clink Prison Museum because it was close by and it was cheap. After half an hour of searching for it we gave up. My time in London was too short to be looking for a museum that neither of us were particularly interested in. A couple of hours later, after a lot of walking and a boring (in my opinion, not hers) visit to Tate Modern we were looking for a pub to have a drink in before I got the train home when right in front of us was the Clink Museum. Fate clearly wanted us to visit it and I am not one to argue with Fate.-Getting There-I really couldn't tell you how to get there. We found it purely by chance and I really wouldn't know how to get back there. It was easy enough to find the train station afterwards but finding a small prison museum on a backstreet (or what seemed like backstreet anyway) is a lot more difficult than finding a well signposted station.London Bridge is the nearest tube and train station and if you plan your visit in advance you can print off a map so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it. It is within easy walking disance.-The Museum-The Clink Prison Museum is a museum on the site of an old prison. It was a functional prison from the 12th century until 1780 when it was burnt down by rioters. Throughout its history the Clink was used for many different kinds of criminals, prostitutes, pimps, catholic's and debtors. The museum is now a couple of rooms with wax models of prisoners, torture devices and information about law and punishment throughout London's history.-My Experience-I enjoyed visiting the Clink Prison Museum, it took us less than an hour to get around it but it was a very interesting hour. I think if I had paid the full £5 admission fee I would have felt a bit cheated but for £2.50 it is really worth visiting this museum.I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn't actually a prison. There are a few attempts at reconstructing the prison setting but for the most part it's just a couple of rooms with wax works and torture devices in them. The first room you walk into contains wax works of prisoners and it is really really creepy. It was so creepy that my friend and I had to stay together as we walked around it (this was after she jumped out at me, made me scream and nearly gave me a heart attack, it seemed best to keep her where I could see her). The atmosphere in this museum is great and is probably one of its strengths,it seems so effortless. It's not like the London Dungeon where there are actors trying to scare you. I guess it's perhaps because there was actually a prison on that site and people really did suffer there, maybe some of the energy has been left over. Or maybe it is just that the wax works are really creepy and even though there are other people around you feel really isolated because you can't see them.There is so much information in this museum and that's something that I really appreciate. I am a bit disappointed that you don't really get to know a history of the prison from walking around it. I bought a Short History of the Clink Prison for £2 and would recommend that anyone visiting buys it because it is only in here that you will get a proper, full history of the Clink. The information provided in the museum gives you some background on the prison and some background on law and punishment. All of the information was really interesting and I learnt a lot of things that I didn't know before. The quality of this information is questionable though. Throughout there are grammatical mistakes that people have corrected with pencil which looked really unprofessional and there was even a date that had to be corrected. This doesn't inspire confidence that the information that you've read is accurate! I also found that it was repetitive, this wasn't such a big deal because even when you take out the information that had been repeated there was still a lot there.-Conclusion-For £2.50 this museum is worth visiting. It's an interesting way to fill some time, perhaps between seeing other attractions or when you have an hour to spare. I really wouldn't pay any more for it because there is so little to see. What is there is intersting and they fit a lot of information into a small museum. If I had paid the full price I would be rating this 3/5 but as I didn't pay much to get in I'm giving this 4/5 stars.
by Sonia3 on June 23, 2009
In 1666 London burnt down. When London was rebuilt it was decided that, although people were starving and homeless after losing their houses and most of their belongings, a monument would be built in memorial of the fire. Centuries later that monument is still standing, although if you are planning to visit The Monument you will be pleased to know that there has been a lot of maintenance work done on it. I had no interest in Monument at all. I was aware that it existed, I knew why it had been built but it just didn't interest me at all. However, when I found myself in the City with a couple of friends and one of them suggested that we go to the Monument I couldn't think of any reason why we shouldn't. To get into monument you can't be too big. I'm a size 16 and had to squeeze through a tiny little gate to get in. I can imagine than anyone who is much bigger will find it impossible. I'm not saying this as a complaint, the Monument was built centuries ago when people were smaller, I'm just warning you. The staff were really friendly. There was one man working in the little booth taking money and a woman stood at the bottom of the stairs giving out certificates to people as they left. A friend of mine was very nervous and the woman really put her at ease by making a joke and promising her a certificate when she gets back down. We then began to climb the 311 steps to the top. This is quite possibly one of the most unpleasant things that I've done in a long time. There's basically a spiral staircase that goes all the way up to the top of the 61 metre tall Monument. There are people coming down and people going up at the same time and as with all spiral staircases the outside of each step is quite narrow. Although I have not fallen down the stairs since I was a child I got really nervous. There's only a handrail on one side so when you pass someone on the stairs you have to choose between standing on the narrow side of the step and having something to hold onto or standing on the wider side of the step but not holding onto anything. Obviously 311 steps is quite a lot so you do have to think about your fitness level. Every now and then there are openings in the wall that are big enough for people to sit in so you can rest as you go up but I would not recommend this for anyone who is really unfit. I had to sit in them a couple of times because as I got higher I was beginning to feel more and more unsteady. I hadn't considered my fear of heights before going into Monument! I didn't make it to the top. I am ashamed to say that I was about 20 steps from the top and I turned around and walked back down. As I have said, I have a fear of heights and although I managed to stay calm for most of the way up as we got closer to the top the stair case got narrower and there were more people coming down, which was making it very difficult to move upwards. I held onto the handrail determined to get to the top, even if I would be too terrified to actually enjoy the view, but the handrail was feeling less stable and that was the final straw. I turned around and walked back down, leaving my friends to continue their journey without me. Going down is of course a lot worse than going up. Fortunately you can't really see how high up you are, unless you lean over the edge of the rail but I was not inclined to do so! I still received my certificate which also contains some interesting but brief information about the Monument. Overall I did not enjoy my experience. My friends said that the view was amazing but that's much good if you can't make it to the top! There's not really anything that can be done to improve this, it's an old building and no amount of renovation is really going to make it any better for people like me unless they completely changed the building which would defeat the purpose of visiting the Monument. This attraction simply wasn't for me. I can deal with heights, even though I'm scared of them, but not when they're coupled with a staircase that doesn't feel secure. Obviously this building is not accessible to wheelchair users and I would not recommend it for anyone with young children either. Admission is £3 for adults, with discounts available. For more information please visit: http://www.themonument.info/
I have been planning to visit the Tower of London for years and until this weekend never got around to it, so for me there was a lot of expectation and I was not disappointed. -Ticket Prices- Adults- £16.50 Children-£9.50 Family tickets and concessions are available and you can get discount if you book online. -The Tour- The tour is included in the ticket price and is definitely worth joining. The tours start every half hour and last around an hour. For me this was the highlight of an excellent day. The tour is given by a Yeoman Warder, who is actually a member of the military and before getting the job they have to have completed a certain amount of military service. It was very clear throughout the tour that the Yeoman Warder had a great deal of pride in the history of the tower and he was very knowledgable. Possibly more importantly for some people he was very funny. The history of the tower is obviously not always the most pleasant, there were a lot of executions (although not as many as you would think) and other unpleasant bits of history but the Yeoman Warder presented the information in a way that made you laugh but at the same time didn't take away from the horror of it. The tour goes around the grounds, pointing out the sites that are usually of the most interest. Obviously it's not possible to go into all of the history of the tower in one hour so it really is just the more famous points that are picked up on, for example Lady Jane Gray's execution, Anne Boleyns Execution, the disappearance of the two princes. I already had a good knowledge of many of the famous prisoners in the tower but didn't know much about why the tower was built and other parts of it's history so I found it really interesting to learn so many new things. If you go to the tower be sure to go on the tour. The guide is amusing, he's knowledgeable and it gives you a chance to ask questions at the end. -Crown Jewels- If you go to the tower of London you do of course have to see the crown jewels...just so that you can say that you did. I wasn't really that bothered about seeing them, I was there more for the history of the place than looking at a bunch of tiara's but I'm pleased that I did see them. I can't exactly say that it was enjoyable...I don't think it's the most interesting thing I did with the day but at least now I can say that I did see them. I guess it was just a little bit boring. There's only so many tiara's you can look at before they all start to look the same. -The White Tower- Every building in the Tower of London is worth seeing and this one is no different. In the White Tower there were a number of models of the tower made at various points in history and I found this really interesting. I just liked to see how the tower has changed and what's been added or taken away. There were displays from the Royal Armouries and they didn't really interest me much. I'm just not interested in that kind of thing but if you are then it's probably worth seeing. I went through this display pretty quickly because it bored me but I did think it was really good for children. There were so many interactive things to do including a number of educational games. I liked that they had activity books for children to take around the exhibition with them because it really did make it more interesting for the children (but unfortunately not for me!). -The Bloody Tower- The bloody tower contains an exhibition about the little princes, who disappeared after being kept in the tower and are suspected of being murdered by their uncle or Henry VII and an exhibition about another inhabitant who was poisoned. This attraction doesn't take much time, it's pretty small but very interesting and worth seeing. -Food- We had lunch at the restaurant which was expensive and not that great. The food wasn't awful as such, it was just very average. It reminded me a lot of school dinners. There was a good variety of food, salads, sandwiches, hot food and cakes so that was good but it was very expensive for what you got. I guess you can charge what you want when you're the only restaurant within the tower! It wasn't very clean or tidy either. There was litter on the floor and the tables weren't clean. The staff were mostly friendly, as were all of the staff working in all parts of the tower. -Final Comments- I wish that I'd had longer in the tower. We were there for four hours and it was nowhere near long enough. I didn't get to see half of the things that I wanted to see but what I did see I liked. If you are visiting London then you should definitely go to the Tower and if you live in London then you have no excuse, get yourself down there! It was a great day out and if you're like me and love history you will find it very interesting.
by Sonia3 on August 11, 2009
This is a review of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace. -Arrival and Admission- When we arrived at the palace we soon discovered that commoners such as ourselves were not admitted through the front of the palace so we followed the signs to the side of the palace. The signposting was quite good and we found the entrance without any problem. In order to get access to the palace you have to queue up to buy tickets, then go back out of that tent and into another to wait to be admitted. This seemed like a lot of hassle but I'm sure they had their reasons (even if they weren't evident to us). Buying the ticket was easy enough but I was not impressed by the woman who sold it to us. I found her to be really rude. When I refused to gift aid my ticket price (I thought you could only gift aid donations anyway), she demanded to know why I wouldn't, stating the reason that her manager would want to know. I explained that there were things I would rather my tax money went on and she replied that it doesn't go to the queen which I was of course quite aware of. I wouldn't have minded this so much if it had been accompanied by a smile or if she had been less aggressive but overall I thought she was extremely rude. We were then pointed in the direction of another tent and asked to sit down and wait for our turn to go into the Palace. After this we had to queue up for airport style security checks and then finally we were in! This is by far the most trouble I've had to go to just to get into an attraction and by this point I wasn't feeling overly enthusiastic. There's something about queuing, waiting around and then queuing again that dampens enthusiasm. -The Audio Guide- The price of admission includes an audio guide. I thought that this was excellent because so often you have to pay extra for the audio guide. It also means that you can wander around the palace at your own pace and control if and when you hear information and how much information you hear. The audio guide is very easy to use and the guide talks you through all of the settings and gives you instructions as you go around the palace. Throughout the tour you have the option of selecting additional information or skipping it if you're not interested. There were a few things that I wasn't interested in and was finding quite boring so I was quite pleased to be able to skip them. The information provided by the audio guide is excellent. I was very interested in the history of the palace and the audio guide gave a good amount of information regarding this without overloading you with facts. At times it was necessary for me to pause the audio guide because it was going too fast for me to be able to take in my surroundings while listening but I guess that's the point of having a pause button. There was one part of the audio guide that I found unintentionally amusing. During the part of the tour that's about the commonwealth the audio guide plays the Queens Commonwealth day message. During this message our unelected head of state discusses the common beliefs that all commonwealth countries have of "freedom, democracy and human rights; development and prosperity." (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/default.asp?act ion=article&ID=30) I had promised myself that I would put aside any political views that I have so that I could enjoy a day out at the palace and I really did try but when the Queen starts describing the commonwealth as having common beliefs in freedom, democracy and human rights it is difficult to ignore. The commonwealth that includes countries with awful human rights records, all of them headed by the Queen who is of course not elected and most certainly not a symbol of democracy. And her comments about prosperity make me wonder if she really has visited the commonwealth countries. -The Palace- The palace was absolutely beautiful. When we first entered I wasn't overly impressed, it was nice but nothing more than any other historic house I have ever visited but then you go to the actual state rooms and they're just breathtaking. Each room you enter is more lavish and extravagant than the last. The audio guide informed me that some of the rooms were set up so that when the visitor enters the first room they are given a taste of what is to come and then the next room is larger and grander. The point was to impress visitors and it certainly impressed me. I don't think I could pick out a favourite out of all of the state rooms, they were all really interesting and I was far more interested in the history of the palace than the way that the rooms looked. The throne room was probably the most beautiful but I found the history of the drawing room to be much more interesting (the information provided on the throne room was more about the current monarchs and of little interest to me). Throughout the palace there are bits of information provided on boards. I think it would have been better if instead of having the information on the boards they had it on the audio guide because it was difficult to read the information with so many tourists and I found it much more pleasant to be able to look at things while someone was telling me about them rather than reading something and then looking. The only room that I really wasn't interested in was the Picture Gallery. I'm not particularly interested in art and there weren't any pictures in it that I was attracted to so it held no interest for me. For those who are interested in art you have the option on the audio guide to hear more about specific paintings, the numbers for each painting were underneath the painting and you could just tap the number into the guide. -The Exhibition- The exhibition for 2009 was about the Commonwealth and focused specifically on the Queen's visits to commonwealth countries and the gifts that they gave her. I found this exhibition to be mostly boring. A lot of the display seems to be dedicated to dresses that the Queen wore on visits to commonwealth countries. It was interesting to find out that some of the dresses were specifically designed with the country in mind and the symbolism of certain aspects of the dress but there were a lot of dresses on display that weren't mentioned and really you only need a few examples. It seemed more like they were trying to fill the space than anything else. Some of the gifts that the Queen was given were quite interesting too but again only a few of them were mentioned in the guide. It's possible that there was something written about them but it was so crowded that it was impossible to see. For the most part this was pretty dull. I would have been happy just to spend a minute or two looking at her dresses and the gifts but I stayed, listening to the audio guide, in the hope that I would learn something about the commonwealth countries. I didn't. I do know what colours the Queen wore on a visit to India, I do know that she has spent more time visiting other countries than any other monarch and I do know that the commonwealth was originally founded by her father, but I still know very little about the actual commonwealth countries which is unfortunate, but I guess really the display was about the Queen, not the commonwealth so I shouldn't complain, it just wasn't to my taste. -The Garden- Unfortunately you can't leave the palace by the same exit, which resulted in me and my friend getting a little bit lost but eventually finding our way to a tube station. To leave the palace you take quite a long walk through the garden. As you would expect the gardens are lovely and very well maintained. If it wasn't for the sound of sirens in the background it would be entirely possible to believe yourself in the country. It had a very tranquil feel to it and my friend and I enjoyed sitting for a couple of minutes in the garden, enjoying the peace. -Price- I paid £16 for my ticket which was incredibly overpriced for an attraction that only takes around an hour and a half to go around. They do tell you that you can get free entry for a year included in the ticket price but then you realise that Buckingham Palace is only open for 2 months and you would just be seeing the same thing again.
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