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Hello. Since putting out DOTTY'S DIMENSIONS: THE PREFACE in 2000 and the regular issues of DOTTY'S DIMENSIONS, I have received letters and e-mail asking me for more information about my past overseas trips. Thus, I've divided this zine into two main sections: London and Other Places (because I spent more time in London than anywhere else overseas). Again, as I have said in DOTTY'S DIMENSIONS, this zine is meant to be a supplement (not a substitute) to standard guidebooks. As you begin to read about these 64 places I’ve visited overseas, you will notice that I wasn’t an impulse shopper, a nightlife party animal, or a sports nut. I loved visiting museums, historic places, and walking around different neighborhoods.
London has been my second favorite city in the world (after New York City). In 1976, I visited London for my first overseas trip. At that time, I was naïve and 20; nowadays, I'm faded and jaded in my mid-40s. Anyhow, I divided those 32 London attractions by neighborhood. I’ve always preferred guidebooks that grouped attractions by neighborhood. That way, I avoided zigzagging across town (unlike guidebooks that listed attractions in a strict alphabetical order). I have also visited London in 1982, '84, and '98 as well as '99, 2000, and 2001
From the 11th century to after WWII, the British Government had ruled her Empire from here. Nowadays, Britain keeps in touch with her Commonwealth of Nations from Westminster.
1. HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, SW1. The only way I could really see this place from inside was to sit in on a debate at either the House of Lords or Commons. Because I wasn't interested in listening to those debates, and I’ve seen pictures of the interiors of this building, I photographed the outside of that lovely Neo-Gothic building (completed in 1870). Then, I took a boat tour of London on the River Thames from nearby Westminster Pier to Tower Pier (020-7515-1415). After all, the Thames played an important role in London's history.
2. WESTMINSTER ABBEY, Broad Sanctuary, SW1 (020-7222-5152). Here, I saw the setting for the coronations of Britain's monarchs and the final resting place of several past members of royalty. Throughout the Abbey, I noticed many monuments commemorating famous people from the past: politicians and military men as well as writers, poets, and people from other occupations. This place contained plenty of tombs, monuments, and chapels. The earliest parts of the Abbey dated back to pre-1400, and it would be more correct to say that this building served as both a house of worship and a national museum.
3. TATE GALLERY, Milbank, SW1 (020-7887-8000). I saw British art in paintings and sculptures from about the mid-1500s into the 20th century. This museum held the world’s largest collection of British art.
Piccadilly and nearby Mayfair have been very high-class areas where it seemed as though all five of my senses detected the money flowing. Above Mayfair, Oxford Street has been London’s main shopping street where several department stores and smaller shops sell their merchandise.
4. BUCKINGHAM PALACE, SW1. During the summer months, the public can tour the State Apartments for an expensive admission charge (subject to change). I chose to see the outside of the palace via a bus tour that also gave me a quick look at London. The tour company was Frames Rickards (020-7837-3111).
5. FARADAY MUSEUM at the Royal Institution, 21 Albermarle St., W1 (020-7409-2992). When Physicist Leon Lederman said, "Michael Faraday did more to change the lives of people on this planet than all the kings of England rolled up into one," I had to find out for myself more of what Michael Faraday (1791-1867) did to change peoples’ lives so much. In this small museum, I saw the reconstructed 1850s lab that Faraday worked in, and in another room, I noticed his scientific apparatuses and personal items. Faraday's greatest work showed how to move machinery by using electricity in strong enough currents. (His picture is also on the back of the 20-pound note.)
C. TRAFALGAR SQUARE
For the tourists, the square has been a very popular section of London showing fountains, a column commemorating Admiral Lord Nelson (who died in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon's navy), and countless pigeons. Two of my favorite places are on the square’s north side.
6. NATIONAL GALLERY, Trafalgar Square, WC2 (020-7747-2885). At this museum, I saw European paintings from some very famous artists to artwork by painters that are more obscure. Arranged chronologically, these paintings dated from the mid-1200s through the late-19th century.
7. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, 2 St. Martin's Place, WC2 (020-7306-0055). Most travel guides seldom list this place with London's main attractions, and others said that this museum had been as interesting as looking at someone's high-school yearbook. Nevertheless, I strongly disagree. In many ways, I found my visit here very interesting; I could place the faces in these portraits with people I have read about in British history, arts, and sciences.
D. COVENT GARDEN
Until 1974, the center Piazza housed a wholesale-flower market. Nowadays, there are upscale shops and a few museums.
8. LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM, The Piazza, WC2 (020-7379-6344). This museum revealed the history of the city’s transport via pictures, model-sized exhibits of busses and trams, and the front of a full-sized bus as well as a full-sized Underground train and other full-sized vehicles. Meanwhile, videos and pictures showed the different ways Londoners got around throughout most of the 20th century.
9. THEATRE MUSEUM, 7 Russell St., WC2 (020-7836-7891). A large collection of theatrical memorabilia included props and costumes as well as the interior decor of past theaters and pictures showing actors and scenes from plays. This museum covered the history of the British theater from about the time of Shakespeare into the 20th century.
10. THEATRE ROYAL: DRURY LANE, Catherine St., WC2 (020-7494-5040). Back in 1982, I saw The Pirates of Penzance at this theater. As much as I enjoyed the show, I equally enjoyed seeing the theater’s interior during intermission. There has been a theater here since 1663, but the existing building dated from 1812. (The public can take guided tours of this theater.)
This neighborhood was the closest I had to a home neighborhood because during my last few visits to London, I have stayed in hotels here. Because this area has been home to both the British Museum and the University of London, I could sense the intellectual air.
11. BRITISH MUSEUM, Great Russell St. WC1 (020-7636-1555). With an average of 5 million visitors a year, this has been the most popular attraction in London. The museum with its objects, items, and exhibits presented a very comprehensive Story of Civilization. Forget about trying to see everything in a day here; just pick your favorite sections to see first. Some of those theme areas included Early Britain, Medieval & Renaissance, and Western Asia as well as Ancient Egypt (with the second largest collection of Egyptian objects after the National Museum in Cairo, Egypt), Ancient Greece & Rome, Oriental Art, and so on. Whew!
12. BRITISH LIBRARY, 96 Euston Rd. WC1 (020-7412-7332). A few years ago (late-1990s), this library moved from the British Museum into the present, more spacious, building. Although there was a charge to see the temporary exhibits, no charges applied to see the main exhibit room, Treasures of the British Library. In this room, I saw many works of literature displayed from the Magna Carta to music compositions written by the Beatles. In another room, I could use a computer screen to read and turn the pages of those same works of literature.
The location of the nearby Royal Courts of Justice and the Inns of Court has made this area a neighborhood for the legal profession. I visited this neighborhood, however, for a totally different reason.
13. SIR JOHN SOANE'S MUSEUM, 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields WC2 (020-7430-0175). Making this one of the smallest national museums in the UK, Sir John Soane bought these three adjoining townhouses and lived in a section of the one house. He made the rest of his property into a museum in the hope of inspiring future artists, sculptors, and architects. On all three floors, from floor to ceiling, I viewed pictures and paintings as well as sculptures and other objects. Some of those pictures and paintings hung on hinged panels, and the security guards removed them to reveal more pictures and paintings. The museum staff maintained most of this museum the way Soane wanted it to remain around the time of his death in 1837. Meanwhile, the words "pack rat" kept running in my mind.
G. THE CITY
Because it was here in 43 CE where the Romans founded the city of Londinium, this has been the oldest section of London. Currently, it is also the financial section of the city.
14. ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL, Ludgate Hill EC4 (020-7236-4128). After a much older St. Paul's Cathedral burnt down in the Great London Fire of 1666, Christopher Wren drew up plans to rebuild the current cathedral. Although completed in 1708, other people changed certain sections of this cathedral’s interior in later years. The cathedral held some historical events, especially Winston Churchill's funeral in 1965 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. This place, too, contained many tombs and memorials. Thus, it also functioned as both a house of worship and a national museum.
15. TOWER OF LONDON, Tower Hill EC3 (020-7709-0765). The Tower has to be one of the most historic places in London. Within the compound, the White Tower, completed in 1097, became the tallest building in London at that time. I saw the crown jewels nearby, and in other parts of this compound, I learned the story of what the prisoners endured. That place did live up to the guidebook hype.
Located right outside of the old Roman- Londinium wall, this was another very historical area. I saw parts of that wall near the Museum of London.
16. MUSEUM OF LONDON, London Wall EC2 (020-7600-3699). I had a good look at London's past here because each area of the museum covered a different time in her history: Prehistoric, Roman, and Saxon as well as Medieval, Tudor, Stuart, Georgian, Victorian, and the 20th Century. Displaying objects, pictures, and period rooms as well as shop fronts, costumes, street scenes, and so on, this lively place became the next best thing to a time machine.
This has been the second oldest section of London, and it’s located across the Thames River, directly south of the City. From Roman times until 1750, only London Bridge crossed the Thames within this city.
17. DESIGN MUSEUM, Butler's Wharf, Shad Thames SE1 (020-7378-6055). I visited this unique place because this was the only museum I knew about that devoted itself to the history of mass-designed objects. Thus, I learned how these objects started their design from the drawing board (or computer screen, nowadays) to the final product.
J. SOUTH BANK
This area held docks until it was badly bombed in World War II. Then, in 1951, this neighborhood held the Festival of Britain and became a center for the arts ever since.
18. MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE, South Bank Centre SE1 (020-7401-2636). I found this museum more impressive than the American Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, Queens, New York. By way of pictures, films, and videos as well as equipment, hands-on areas, and other objects used in the making of a film or TV show, the history of moving images covered time periods from the earliest shadow images to a modern film and TV show. Employees who dressed up as film and TV actors added to the amusement of that place.
Back in Tudor times, this was a fashionable neighborhood, and Sir Thomas Moore once had his home here. In the 19th century, this became a popular area for artists and writers. Then, in the Swinging 1960s (and into the 70s & 80s), fashionable young shoppers (the under-25 group) bought their "threads" at several shops along King's Road. Currently, some clothing shops are still here along with art galleries and antique stores.
19. PETER JONES DEPARTMENT STORE on King's Road (near Sloane Square) SW1 (020-7730-3434). Even a non-impulse shopper such as I bought a few things here because the prices, compared to fancier department stores, were low cost to moderate. Their lunch counter provided a nutritional break as well as some relief for my feet before I attempted to walk up and down King's Road (from about Sloane Square to Beaufort Street).
L. SOUTH KENSINGTON
With three major museums and some famous department stores in nearby Knightsbridge, this area competes with Mayfair as the most expensive neighborhood in London.
20. NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, Cromwell Rd. SW7 (020-7942-5000). Built in a Victorian-Gothic style, this place reminded me of a cathedral devoted to natural science. On the building’s exterior, statues of both extinct and non-extinct animals replaced the usual cathedral gargoyles. Inside, Life Galleries and Earth Galleries are the two main sections of this museum. After riding an escalator through a globe, I viewed several exhibit areas in the Earth Galleries. By pictures, text, and models as well as samples, computers, audio presentations, and videos, I learned more about the history and formation of the Earth. Life Galleries displayed the usual exhibit areas: animals (both extinct and non-extinct), plants, and rocks and minerals.
21. SCIENCE MUSEUM, Exhibition Rd. SW7 (020-7938-8000). There are seven floors of exhibits here. Again, I had to pick my favorite section to see first: The Exploration of Space. Meanwhile, this area alone took up to three or more hours to see. The rest of the museum covered many diverse subjects: air travel, water travel, and land travel as well as the history of domestic appliances, computers, medical science, food science, and so on.
22. VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, Cromwell Rd. SW7 (020-7938-8500). This museum, containing seven miles of galleries, had one of the largest collections of applied art in the world. The largest collection of Indian art outside of India was here along with several other areas: clothing, furniture, and Chinese art as well as medieval objects, sculptures, ceramics & glass, metalwork, paintings, and so forth. I wore my most comfortable shoes at that place.
23. HARRODS, Knightsbridge SW1 (020-7730-1234). I don't usually recommend too many retail establishments, but Harrods isn't just a retail establishment. It has been as much a sightseeing attraction as a department store. In fact, this is the largest department store in the United Kingdom. While it is not in the same elite league as some Bond St. boutiques, it’s not cheap either. Anyhow, even I fell to temptation and bought some things here. (Don't try to browse in the Food Hall on an empty stomach! Have something to eat first, or you will be doing more than browsing.)
M. HOLLAND PARK
Holland Park and nearby Kensington were somewhat familiar to me because I stayed in a hotel in Kensington during my first trip to London. Kensington High Street has been a busy shopping street, but the side streets have been much quieter.
24. LEIGHTON HOUSE, 12 Holland Park Rd. W14 (020-7602-3316). Running parallel to noisy Kensington High Street, this house was on a quieter street. Built for the artist, Lord Leighton, in 1866, the Victorian interior stayed nearly intact. Although I looked at paintings by Victorian artists, the highlight of my visit became the Arab Hall, installed in 1879. Here, I saw a lovely room of tiles in a predominantly blue & gold theme with a fountain located in the center of that room.