Protocol Snow

London vacation part 1

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If you’ve been paying attention to my Twitter feed on my site sidebar, you might have noticed that I took over 6,500 photos while at London and Paris. While that figure is no exaggeration, it’s slightly misleading. My amateur photography skills necessitate that I take a high volume of photos, tweaking aperture and F-stop values and shooting the same photo many times to hopefully capture some quality shots. Frankly, at my low level of knowledge, my attempts at adjusting these manual settings amount to little more than guesswork.

With such a volume of photos, it takes a while to sort through them. I’d estimate about 20% are trashed immediately, and then I go through the repeats of the same shots and pick a favorite. I’ll be posting photos representative of my vacation on this blog, with 2 posts each for London and Paris. As this was my family’s first trip to Europe, we did little else other than sight-seeing and being typical American tourists.

I’m becoming strapped for time with school starting again so I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. In brief, London superficially feels like a hybrid of two cities: Washington D.C. with its similar architecture and monuments; and Hong Kong with its hectic pace of life and streets crowded with double decker buses. In terms of tourist attractions, London had a few key destinations but paled in comparison to Paris. We spent 3.5 leisurely days in London and generally saw everything we wanted in the city. Our 5 day stay in Paris was quite rushed and we could have used a couple more days.

It was remarkable to me how London and Washington D.C were so similar. Particularly around the government building areas, they seemed virtually identical. I can understand now why a lot of people don’t really consider England to be “Europe”.

On to the photos! My favorite out of this set below as a teaser: the London Eye, a giant ferris wheel besides the River Thames.

London Eye

Big Ben

Big Ben and Parliament are of course the defining image of London. We went into the House of Commons while they were in session and were able to watch them hold a meeting from the enclosed visitor balcony.

Big Ben and Parliament

Since many of London’s touristy spots are so close together, we passed by some of the same places multiple times (same was true for Paris as well). This gave us an opportunity to take both day and night photos of a few places. I absolutely love city night photos and that was one reason dSLR cameras are so appealing to me because I find it extremely difficult to take low-light photos with a regular digital camera.

London Eye

The London Eye doesn’t look all that great during the day…

London Eye

…but it comes alive when the sun sets.

Westminister Abbey

Westminister Abbey

Westminister Abbey. In both London and Paris, my brother as the tour guide brought us to a bunch of churches and cathedrals. They are impressive achievements of architecture, no doubt, but after awhile they all looked alike. My brother did a fantastic job as guide though, and he planned out the entire itinerary for the vacation. I am the guide when we go to Japan because I’m the most interested party and also am the only one that can speak Japanese (moderately). I know how exhausting it can be for the guide!

Shakespeare's Globe theatre

Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre alongside the River Thames. This is not the original as that one was apparently burned down during a performance accident.

Shakespeare's Globe theatre

I took a Shakespeare class in college, not because I wanted to, but because it was the least painful choice to complete my English requirements. It actually turned out to be a pretty interesting class because while the professor encouraged us to read the assigned plays in their entirety, in reality we just had to go to class and listen to his analysis of the plays since we were only tested on concepts he discussed. Shakespeare is much more interesting when there’s a professional making the subtle connections for you rather than being expected to fabricate inane arguments for essays.

British Museum - Egypt

The British Museum has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt, I believe. I used to be fascinated with Egyptian history when I was a kid but I’d forgotten many of the details about the civilization. My 11 year old self would have gotten a lot more out of this visit than I did.

Royal Game of Ur - British Museum

The Royal Game of Ur from Mesopotamia, one of the oldest board games in human civilization. In middle school, we had to create our own board and game pieces as part of a project. Hopefully I still have it stashed in my house somewhere since I remember it being a lot of fun to play.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace. There were huge crowds waiting anxiously for the Changing of the Guards. The crowds were so enormous that my brother joked half of the tourists in London are at this location every morning.

Buckingham Palace

It was a big disappointment though, and I wouldn’t recommend waiting around and jostling with all the tourists. The guards make a big spectacle when they march through the gates into the palace, but then everything takes place behind the locked gates and you can’t see anything unless you’re standing right at the gates. They do march out again, so perhaps these short marches are enough to satisfy.

Buckingham Palace

Avenue leading up to Buckingham Palace. I have a habit of taking symmetrical photos like this. Not too inspired but I like them.

British guard

Goofing off next to one of the guards. That’s the Aoyama city camo shark hoody by A Bathing Ape.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge from afar. That warship is also a tourist attraction and is parked in the river.

London - old vs. new

The juxtaposition of old and new was ubiquitous in London. This didn’t seem as common in Paris, where most of the architecture seemed to date back a couple hundred years. Paris in fact has a modern skyscraper district built just outside of its original districts, presumably to not disrupt the classic look of the city.

Hyde Park swans

Flocks of swans in Hyde Park. The swan flapping his wings came right up to the girl and was eating bread out of her hand.

London public toilet

Public toilets that you have to pay for. London is a much cleaner city than Paris. In fact it was shocking to see how littered the ground in Paris was with cigarettes, trash and subway tickets. The Paris subway system is also older and dirtier. Other than that, however, overall I liked Paris a lot more than London. While I’m glad I did experience London and can cross it off my list, I’m not exactly itching to return for a repeat vacation. London photos part 2 to follow this, then Paris!

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Written by Protocol Snow

July 6th, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Posted in Travel