From Kensington Palace we traveled on the tube to the City of Westminster, London.
It was our intent to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey, but due to my error we missed it by a half hour. Not to worry, we still had one more Sunday in London, so we added Evensong to our May 10th itinerary instead. In the meantime, we noticed the abbey had an organ recital scheduled for 5:45 p.m., so we decided to attend that. With a little over two hours to kill, we walked around the area to see some of the sights.
Westminster Abbey is the traditional place for coronations, funerals, and burial place for several monarchs. It is also the site for other royal occasions, including 16 royal weddings - the latest being Prince William and Kate Middleton's.
Construction of the present church began in 1245 and was completed in 1517. The two western towers were built between 1722-1745 in a Gothic Revival design. Further rebuilding and restoration projects have occurred since.
Westminster Abbey is the Church of England - Anglican [Episcopalian] - Royal Peculiar, meaning it is under the direct control of the sovereign. A full schedule of services and activities take place at the abbey daily.
I toured the abbey in 2007, but we didn't do it this visit. It's a ceremonial cemetery not only for kings and queens, but aristocrats and great figures of British culture, including poets and authors. A total of 3,300 people are buried or commemorated at the abbey, and their crypts and sculpted effigies can be seen in the undercroft. It is one of the most visited tourist sites in London.
Just over the Westminster Bridge on the south side of the River Thames is the London Eye [or Millennium Wheel]. When it was erected in 1999 it was the world's tallest ferris wheel. It contains 32 sealed and air-conditioned passenger capsules, which can hold up to 25 people. One rotation takes 30 minutes. Opened to the public in 2000, it's the most popular paid tourist attraction in the U.K. 'The Eye' is to London what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. I rode it in 2007, but Lori said she'd pass. ;-)
~ Red double-decker buses are everywhere ~
Elizabeth Tower, more commonly known as Big Ben, stands at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, the seat of government. The Gothic Revival clock tower, which stands 315 feet tall, opened in 1859. Tours are available to U.K. residents only, and are sponsored by a Member of Parliament or Member of the House of Lords. There is no elevator, so getting to the belfry requires climbing 334 steps - a definite workout! ;-) Clock Tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
The new Houses of Parliament were built between 1840 - 1870 in a Neo-Gothic style designed by Sir Charles Barry.
~ St. Margaret's Church ~
As we were walking around we found a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square. We weren't the only ones a long way from home! ;-)
We returned to Westminster Abbey to stand in line [queue] for the organ recital.
~ An inscription at the front of the abbey ~
The abbey organ was built in 1937. We couldn't see it from where we sat, but we enjoyed its beautiful sound. The organist walked to the edge of the balcony and bowed when the recital was finished. No photography is allowed inside the abbey.
After the recital we got back on the tube and headed to Knightsbridge. We ate a quick dinner at Burger King, and then walked to our hotel.
~ End of day #3 ~