Soon after my little excursion to Germany, I made the small hop from the Netherlands back over to England for the Christmas holidays. As Schiphol is such a well-connected airport, I was able to fly in to London City Airport. I thought it would be great to see a bit of London on the final approach as you follow the Thames right to the airport. However, I was foiled by the poor visibility which meant that I could only see the runway just before touchdown. Ah well, next time perhaps! It was convenient to hop on the Tube at the airport and travel to London Bridge station (£4.90), where I did a little walk around a little to see the Tower Bridge, the Shard, HMS Belfast moored in the Thames, and the Tower of London. I even found a bus going to Edmonton Green! Kind of neat for me at least… Although none of the photos turned out as nicely as I would’ve liked because of the darkness.
The wonderful thing about London is that admission to museums tends to be free of charge. So the following day, I decided that I would go and visit the Imperial War Museum (near Elephant & Castle), and the RAF Museum (near Colindale). I know there were lots of other museums that I could’ve visited, but I like learning about war history and seeing aeroplanes. The War Museum was very well done, there are exhibitions on both World War I & II, the Cold War, Afghanistan, and even an exhibit about the British intelligence, namely, MI5 and MI6 (James Bond stuff!!). Overall, I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone visiting London with a vague interest in the subject. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos inside the museum, even though I intended to, so here is the facade so you know what to look for!
After the War Museum, I hopped back on the Tube and headed to Charing Cross station. One of the exits leads to Trafalgar Square, so named in memory of the Battle of Trafalgar against the French and Spanish Navies in 1805. Nelson’s Column, a 52-metre tall pillar erected in 1843, commemorates Admiral Nelson who was killed during the battle. There are other points of interest in the surrounding area too, like the National Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields church, the Canadian High Commission, and South African High Commission among many other embassies. It is just a few minutes walk through the Admiralty Arch and along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Park, Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, the House of Commons, Big Ben… the list goes on.
Following Trafalgar, I got back on the Tube and headed to Hendon Central. Because Colindale is located in Zone 4, it would have cost much more to take the Tube all the way there, and so instead I walked from Hendon Central. It is a bit of a walk… 2.7km, but it is doable, and the RAF Museum is fantastic! Though I did neglect to take many photos. I could’ve spent all day in there… Definitely recommended as well!! They have a few that are quite special for me, like the Gloster Meteor, deHavilland Chipmunk, Harvard, Vampire and so on… You’ll also see German aircraft painted in the original colours from the war (something you won’t see in Germany).
That concludes the London portion of my trip. I went up to the Midlands to spend Christmas with my family. On Christmas Eve, we went off to Midnight Mass at St Mary’s in Warwick. I can’t even remember the last time I attended a service at a church, so it was quite a novel experience for me. Lots of singing, and standing up, and sitting down, and a lovely choir. We had Christmas dinner on Christmas Day and the meal was absolutely succulent. Afterwards there was Christmas pudding (with rum that was lit on fire), Christmas cake, and a trifle… so much good food!
A few days after Christmas, we went up to Loughborough in Leicestershire to have a ride on a train. Our train was pulled by locomotive №45305, which is a 4-6-0 engine built in 1937. The train ride takes you from the train station in Loughborough to Leicester North and back, calling at Quorn and Woodhouse, and Rothley. At Leicester North, they unhook the engine and drive it around behind the train, re-attach it, and then drive backwards all the way back. There isn’t a turntable… When it gets back to Loughborough, they take it to a water tower, where they fill it up with water, and then hook it up to the train, ready for the next departure to Leicester North. It was very exciting! You can even purchase breakfast which is brought to your seat! Behind the station in Loughborough, there is a shed where they rebuild old engines, and that was really neat to look at. They had a few boilers sitting outside, so you can really appreciate just how big they are. We also saw spanners that were about as big as a man’s leg!!