Top 10 London Sights – Part 2

Aug 17

Top 10 London sights – Part 2

Rosette Stone London British MuseumBritish Museum is another fantastic sight in London to visit.  You will need a good three to four hours to make your way around this large museum and see just a fraction of the 8 million works.

Do not miss  the Rosetta Stone (196 BC). Its discovery allowed the decipher of hieroglyphics! The three scripts on the stone are Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, used for priestly degree, Demotic script used for daily purposes and Ancient Greek, language of the administration.

In addition, the Egyptian antiquities number 100,000 pieces and from the bust of Ramesses II to the statues of Amenhotep III, this is truly a brilliant collection.

Other items include the Discus-thrower, a Roman copy of the bronze original of the 5th century BC from Hadrian’s Villa in Italy; Lindow Man; Standard of Ur; and the Lewis Chessman of Scandinavia.

Lord Nelson Memorial, Trafalgar Square, London

Trafalgar Square is a great space in central London. It named after the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.  Nelson’s Column (see above) is dedicated to Admiral Horatio Nelson who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

From the beautiful fountains and lion statues, this is a great place to have a picnic or just stop to rest between museums.

The National Gallery, St. Martin in the Fields Church and Canada House surround Trafalgar Square and are all fantastic to pop in and visit. I particularly recommend the National Gallery, an art gallery with over 2300 paintings of Rubens, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Leonardo, Monet, Vermeer, and many others.

If you are Canadian, you can pop into Canada House (High Commission of Canada) for information, computer access, reference library and temporary exhibitions on art and artifacts.

Buckingham Palace, London

You cannot miss the famous Buckingham Palace.  I recommend – tea time with the Queen. If you visit during August or September, the state rooms are open to the public and are a must-see. It is best to go first thing in the morning to avoid crowds during the very busy summer months.

If you do not wish to tour the Palace or are not visiting London during August-September, it is still a spectacular sight to visit. From statues of Queen Victoria to the Gardens to the Mall, the ceremonial route to the palace, this is a great spot.  It is another excellent spot to have a picnic or rest up before hitting the pubs later that night. I may have done that! 🙂

If you can get a hotel in this area, do it. Centrally located, near the Palace and the main train/tube station.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a brilliant masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren who built this version after the Great Fire in the 17th century.

You can climb the dome or take a walk into the crypt. I vote for the crypt (if you have not realized by now, I love me a good tomb). You can pay your respects to Lord Nelson who was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Lord Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren.

Take a moment to sit in the pews and take in the magnificence of the Nave or the monuments of Nelson and Wellington, heroes of the Napoleonic Wars.

Do not forget to check out the effigies of two Bishops of London and a marble effigy of John Donne, a Dean of the cathedral and one of the finest poets, who died in 1631. His effigy is one of the few that survived the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Stonehenge, England

Last but not least and while not in London, you need to take a day trip to Stonehenge.

What is this place? It is a place of sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or perhaps a huge calendar? Maybe it has been used for all of the above. Whatever the primary use, we can all agree that this is an incredible sight to see with one’s own eyes.

I took a day trip to Bath, Windsor Castle and Stonehenge back in 2005. It was the perfect amount of time for see all three. Stonehenge is the obvious standout. You walk around it entirely, wondering when it was built (maybe around 2500 BC) and why it was built. People buried their cremated dead here around 5000 years ago. I strongly suggest you read up on Stonehenge as it went through multiple buildings and usages. It is absolutely fascinating.

That was my personal top ten for London. Click here for part one.  I have visited three times and will return again hopefully soon. London is an extremely wonderful city!  Even if you have no desire to see historical artefacts or castles, go for the beer and the accents.  :)))


Read More

Top 10 London Sights – Part 1

Aug 16

Top 10 London Sights (part one)

Westminster Abbey London Top 10

Westminster Abbey – visit the great Abbey where its Kings and Queens are buried in magnificent tombs. This is my favourite spot in the entire world. You can visit the Royal Tombs, Poets’ Corner, the Cloisters and the Nave.

I recommend skipping the guided tour and picking up an audio guide which is free with your admission entry tickets.  These hand-held devices are easy to use and you get to hear Jeremy Irons’ lovely voice.  How can you say no to that?  🙂

Don’t forget to visit the Museum where you can see the effigies of Edward III, Henry VII, Charles II, William III, Mary II and Queen Anne.  Effigies or tombs: I love both!

I have popped in here three times, every time I come to London, and cannot wait to return someday soon.

The Abbey is across from Big Ben and Parliament so you can visit all three in a morning and have plenty of time left to to see other sights on my list.


Big Ben and Parliament, London

As you walk from Westminster Abbey, you will Big Ben and Parliament across the street. This photo is taken from across the bridge, near the London Eye. The Abbey is behind Big Ben.

Big Ben, officially called the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, was completed in 1858.

The Palace of Westminster, or better known as The Houses of Parliament, is where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet.

Big Ben and Parliament are one of the most well-known landmarks in London and the world.  All visitors can visit Parliament but only UK residents can book a tour of Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben.

I have been here three times and I simply love walking around this area of London. It can be quite touristy so go early in the morning.


Grave of Karl Marx, Highgate Cemetery, LondonHighgate Cemetery is in the north of London.  I have a particular fondness for cemeteries, tombs and graves so this was one of the highlights of my London travels.  Basically, I’ve never met a tomb I did not love. 🙂

The best grave is that of Karl Marx who spent the last thirty years of his life living in London. Originally just a simply grave, this spectacular tombstone was added in 1954 (many years after his 1883 death) by the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Whatever your beliefs, Karl Marx was a revolutionary writer who played a key role in the upcoming century. As a Russian historian, Marx’s impact cannot be understated.   His Communist Manifesto was written in 1848 and along with Das Kapital in 1867, these two books left a huge impact on most subjects than I can list.

I do think a visit to Highgate Cemetery is worth it as you can as there are 170,000 buried in around 53,000 graves.  Karl is buried in the East Cemetery, and vistors can roam freely after paying the entrance charge, while you can see the West Cemetery by guided tour only.

Don’t forget to bring your copy of the Communist Manifesto! 🙂

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge is another one of those iconic images of London. It is located near the Tower of London and crosses the River Thames.

It was completed in 1894. It is often mistaken for London Bridge, the next bridge upstream.

This is a lovely area to go for a stroll along the river banks.

Tower of London

Tower of London is just across from the Tower Bridge. You’ll need a good afternoon to see everything here. Join a Yeoman Warder tour (it is included in your ticket admission).

Originally founded by William the Conqueror in 1066 as a Castle, known as the White Tower. It’s primary purpose was not as a prison but as a royal residence.  It was also the starting point for the procession to Westminster Abbey for the coronation of the monarch from the 14th century until the 17th century.

It is most well-known as a prison. From the murder of the Princes in the Tower to the executions of many people under King Henry VIII including two of his wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Other notables executed include Lady Jane Grey, Sir Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Come back tomorrow for part two of my London top ten!  Click here for Part Two!


Read More

Welcome to The Travelling Historian

Aug 15

London, Gatwick Airport

London countryside near Gatwick Airport

Welcome to The Travelling Historian.  I have been obsessed with Europe for as long as I can remember. I used to run to the encyclopedias on a fairly regular basis to read up on England, Germany, Russia, Italy, and practically every single country in Europe. This was in the olden days, before the dawn of the internet age where all this information is available with a click of a button. Back then (let’s say late 1980s), you had the encyclopedia, the library and the occasion book.

My parents bought me one of my favorite books when I was around 12. It was the Kings and Queens of England and I read that book cover to cover at least ten times in the first year. I still have that book. I also still have that obsession about the King and Queens of England. It is a fascinating history. That probably helped me decide to get a couple degrees in history (although I switched to Russian/Soviet by the time university came around).

It was fitting that London was my first overseas trip in 2005.  I wanted to travel so badly that I had even started the passport process several times in the years before I went. I never sent it in because I did not know anyone else who wanted to travel. That changed by the time I moved to Edmonton. A friend was going to London and asked if I wanted to go. I never said yes so damn fast, providing I could get a passport in a few weeks. Luckily for me, the passport process was incredibly fast and I had it within two weeks, just in time for our flight to London in June 2005. I was very excited to visit Great Britain.

We flew into Gatwick Airport via Air Transat. The photo above is near Gatwick; my first picture in England. One quick note about Air Transat: it was convenient, cheap and a non-stop direct flight. It was perfect for my first trip to Europe. Would I ever fly it again? No damn way. It was VERY cramped; little leg room and exceptionally uncomfortable.

I have returned to Europe four more times since (London and Ireland in 2007; Germany in 2008; Italy and Greece in 2011; France and London Olympics in 2012) and am planning another trip next year to Moscow, Sochi Olympics in Russia and Prague, Czech Republic in February 2014. It will be my longest trip at a month and probably the most ambitious in terms of going to Russia in the winter, for the Olympics and popping into Prague on my way home. It is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Finally knowing Russian will come in handy! 🙂

My first two trips were partly booked with the help of a travel agent but I have completely planned and booked the last three. It is a great deal of work but over the past five years, more and more information has been made available online so it makes it easier. It is very time-consuming but I really enjoy it.

I have set up this website to document my travels and provide tips for researching, planning and booking a trip. While I will focus on Europe, this can be transferred to any country in the world.

Join me on my travels to Europe and maybe one day, I will be brave enough to venture out of my comfort zone and go to Africa or a spontaneous last-minute trip.



Read More