I’m now three months into my internship, and enjoying my stay here in Cambridge very much so far. I didn’t quite get to finish my rant on all the touristy things you can visit in Greenwich in my last post, so here’s the rest of it: After my visit to the Old Royal Naval College, I visited the National Maritime Museum: an excellent museum on all things to do with ships, explorers, and the British navy. The museum has a big central courtyard with plenty of space for big artifacts. One of them is the Royal Barge, an 18th century Rococo-style boat built for Prince Frederick, King George II‘s eldest son. Many interesting symbols can be found in the decoration of this barge, among which the ostrich-feather badge, the emblem of the Prince of Wales with the German motto ‘Ich dien’, as well as the Order of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry with the French motto ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense‘.
Another interesting part of the museum was its extensive collection of figureheads, which used to be carved onto the front of ships to impress enemies.
Furthermore, the back of the HMS Implacable is sticking out of one of the museum walls, which makes for a pretty impressive sight. The Implacable was originally a French warship. It took part in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and was captured by the British two weeks later and taken into the Royal Navy.
The museum’s highlight, however, is the uniform in which Admiral Lord Nelson died. Nelson is famous for his many naval victories. He died at the Battle of Trafalgar, which he also won, and the uniform displayed at the museum is the one in which he died. You can even see the bullet hole at the shoulder.
Next to the museum is the Queen’s House, a 17th century residence commissioned by Anne of Denmark, King James I‘s wife. It’s quite striking in its modesty, but apparently this was common in the early Neoclassical architecture of that era. In fact, this is the first Neoclassical building in the country! The villa was only finished after Anne’s death, so it passed on to her successor: Henrietta Maria, Charles I‘s queen. An interesting room inside the house is the Great Hall, a perfect cube in the center of the house with a gorgeous black and white marble floor. Also notable are the Tulip Stairs: the first centrally unsupported helical stairs built in the country! Currently, the house functions as an art gallery. Being Dutch, it was nice to find a familiar face among the portraits of British royalty. Can you guess who it is? 🙂
By the time I got out of the Queen’s House, all the museums were closing, so unfortunately I couldn’t visit the Royal Observatory anymore. However, I did take a stroll through Greenwich Park, a lovely yet again incredibly touristy park from which you can get amazing views of London. From there you can also see the Millennium Dome, or the O2, the biggest events arena of its kind in the world.
So those were the last few things I had to say about my visit to Greenwich, which by now is already ages ago. In the meantime I’ve taken a break to visit Holland again for a few days, which was loads of fun (fyi: heading back again May 20-25!). However, I’ve grown to like life in the UK, so it’s good to be back. Last weekend I visited the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery in London. It’d been quite while since I visited those museums, so I fancied going back to refresh my memory on some of the amazing pieces of the Royal Collection. Before I did so, I visited the Horse Guards building at Whitehall. Whitehall Palace used to be the permanent residence of the English royalty. When a fire wrecked the palace in 1698, they moved to St James’s and Whitehall became the main seat of the British government. I visited the Horse Guards building there, because I wanted to see the Changing of the Guard there. Most people know about the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, but the one at Whitehall is actually more impressive. At 10 or 11am every day, a squad of guards on horses arrive here to relieve the guards.
Whitehall is of course also well known for 10 Downing Street, the permanent residence of the British Prime Minister since 1732, when Sir Robert Walpole became the first PM. Unfortunately, not much can be seen here as the place is hidden behind a massive black gate crowded with security.
Then I headed of to Trafalgar Square, where Nelson’s Column is located, which nicely ties in with the first half of this post. This monument celebrating the admiral I talked about before, is a staggering 52 meters high and on top of it stands a statue of Nelson. It is surrounded by massive bronze lions.
I’m leaving it at this for now, since this post is getting ridiculously long. Next time I hope to highlight some of the paintings from the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery I was particularly interested in. And finally, I would like to leave you with THIS, a raging protest against the way (British) higher education is run. Strong stuff!