The Set Meravelles of London.

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I’ve visited London three times now, and every time it has impressed me. There are way more than seven wonders in this amazing city so I know I’ve probably left off your favourite. However, these are seven places that have left their mark on me (well one I am dying to go to). I would write the Set Meravelles of England, but all my photos of the other places are from a film camera in 2000 and somewhere in the United States. Maybe in the future if I can find and scan them. He visitado Londres tres veces ahora, y cada viaje me ha dejado impresionado. Hay más que siete maravillas en esta ciudad increíble, y ya lo sé, no he dicho tu sitio preferido de la ciudad. Bueno, estos son siete sitios que han dejado su marco (y uno que tengo muchas ganas de visitar). Escribiría una entrada de los Set Meravelles de Inglaterra, pero todos mis fotos del resto del país son de una camera de película de 2000 y están en algún sitio de EEUU cuyo no nombre me quiero acordar….Quizás en el futuro si las encuentro y las puedo escanear. 

I just realised that somehow Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament didn’t make the list. This is hard. Acabo de darme cuenta que se me había olvidado incluir Hyde Park, Palacio Buckingham y las Houses of Parliament (Casas de Parlamento) en la lista. Es duro. 

Tower of London/Tower Bridge

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The Tower of London is actually a castle, and is officially named “Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London.” It was orginally built on the River Thames by William the Conquerer in 1070 and expanded over the years. It was used as a prison until 1952 and is a former royal residence. The Crown Jewels are located here. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There have been reports of ghosts, including the beheaded Anne Boleyn and Henry VI. The nearby Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 and it is more recognisable than the London Bridge. El Torre de Londres es un castillo y su nombre oficial es “El Palacio y Fortaleza Real del Torre de Londres de Su Majestad .” Fue construido en el Río Támesis por William el Conquistador en 1070 y durante los años creció bastante. Fue una prisión hasta 1952 y también es una residencia real antigua. Las Joyas de Corona están allí y es un UNESCO Patrimonio de la Humanidad. Se dice que hay fantasmas allí, incluso el fantasma de Anne Bolyen (sin su cabeza) y Enrique VI. El Puente Torre, que está alado, fue construido entre 1886 y 1894 y se reconoce más que el Puente de Londres.

London Eye

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The London Eye is 443 feet/135 metres high and is Europe’s tallest Ferris Wheel. It was inaugurated on Dec. 31, 1999, just in time for the Y2K chaos that never happened.  Each capsule represents a different London Borough and can hold up to 25 people. After three trips to London, I still haven’t had the opportunity to board it. La núria el “Ojo de Londres” tiene 135 metros de altura y es la núria más alta de Europa. Su inaugración fue el 31 de diciembre de 1999, justo antes del caos que Y2K que al final nunca pasó. Cada capsulo representa un barrio distino de Londres y caben 25 personas. Después de tres viajes a Londres, todavía no he subido. Muy mal. 

West End

I’ll admit it. I’m a huge fan of musical theatre and theatre in general. I’ve had the opportunity to see An Inspector Calls, Blood Brothers, Whistle Down the Wind, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abriged) and Chicago in the West End, more than I’ve seen on Broadway (Cabaret, Les Miserables). There are around 40 theatres in the area. He de decir que soy gran fan del teatro musical y teatro en general. He tenido la oportunidad de ver An Inspector Calls, Blood Brothers, Whistle Down the Wind, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) Chicago en el West End, más que he visto en Broadway (Cabaret, Les Miserables). Hay sobre 40 teatros en la zona. 

Covent Garden

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Located between Drury Lane and Charing Cross Road, Covent Garden is an old fruit-and-vegetable market turned shopping centre. The market dates all the way back to Roman times. I remember loving it my first trip as an 18-year-old, and I enjoyed returning to it a few weeks ago when I wasn’t sure why I enjoyed it so much. It’s a happening place to be, albeit a bit touristy. Situado entre Drury Lane y Charing Cross Road, Covent Garden es un mercado de fruta y verdura antiguo que se convirtieron a un centro comercial. El mercado tiene sus raíces de la época romana. Recuerdo que me encantó el mercado la primera vez que fui cuando solo tenía 18 años, y disfruté de volver hace unas semanas cuando no recordaba porque me encantó tanto. Es un sitio que llama la atención, aunque algo turístico. 

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

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The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s Lord Chamberlain’s Men. It burnt down to the ground in 1613 and was rebuilt in 1614 only to be closed in 1642. In 1997, it was rebuilt again only 230 metres (750 feet) from the original location. Only 1400 people are allowed in it, however, due to modern-day fire codes. The original held 3000. Other than that, it’s a pretty accurate representation of the original. Plays do include women actresses today, unlike in Shakespeare’s time. El primer Teatro Globo fue construido en 1599 por los Lord Chamberlain’s Men de Shakespeare. Sufrió un incendio en 1613 y fue construido de nuevo en 1614, pero el gobierno lo cerró en 1652. En 1997, lo construyeron de nuevo y está ubicado solo a 230 metros del original. Solo se permiten 1400 personas entrar a la vez hoy en día dado a los códigos y leyes actuales. El original podrían permitir 3000 personas. Fuera de eso, es una representación correcta del original. Las obras de teatro sí, incluyen actrices hoy en día, al contrario de lo que pasó durante la época de Shakespeare. 

British Museum

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First established in 1753, the British Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums of the world. While I honestly feel that a vast majority of the collection that was acquired during British colonization and such should be returned to the respective countries, I have to admit it is an impressive collection. It has mummies, the art of the Parthenon and one of the 18 casts of Rodin’s famous The ThinkerEl Museo Británico fue fundido en 1753 y es uno de los museos más grandes y antiguos del mundo. Aunque creo que deberían devolver la mayoría de su colección que fue adquirida durante la época de la colonización inglesa, he de decir que es una colección impresionante. Tiene momias, el arte del Parthenon de Atenas y uno de los 18 estatuas del famoso El Pensador de Rodin. 

Greenwich (yet to discover)

I have never actually been able to plan my own itinerary for London, which explains how I’ve never been to this part of southeast London. It gives its name to that Meridan and Mean Time. It’s home to the Old Royal Naval College and Maritime Greenwich is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The River Thames flows through the town, and it’s only 5.5 miles/8.9 km from Charing Cross. Nunca he podido hacer mi propio itinerario de Londres, que explica como no he estado en este parte de Londres. Da su name a ese Meridiano y la hora Greenwich. Allí se encuentra el Colegio Naval Real Viejo. Maritime Greenwich es UNESCO Patrimonio de la Humanidad. También está en el Río Támesis 

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Four days in London.

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I had been to London twice before, in 2000 and 2003. In fact, I chose my study abroad program in Toledo, Spain because I wanted to return to the U.K. capital of 8,787,000 people. During my autumn holiday trip to London, I was so homesick for Spain that I didn’t enjoy my time there and I haven’t been back since. Había estado en Londres dos veces antes, en 2000 y 2003. De hecho, elegí el programa de estudiar en extranjero de Toledo, España porque quería volver a la capital del Reino Unido, población 8.787.000 millones de personas. Durante mis vacaciones del otoño a Londres, echaba de menos España tanto que no lo disfruté mucho y no he vuelto desde entonces.

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When a chance to travel to chaperone the school trip to London fell into my lap, I jumped on it immediately. I won’t write about any of my students here, of course, but I will write about what we did and saw. Cuando el instituto de secundaria donde trabajo me ofreció la oportunidad de viajar con los alumnos a Londres, lo acepté sin pensar. Desde luego, no voy a escribir sobre los alumnos aquí, pero sí, escribo sobre que hemos visto y que hemos hecho. 

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We arrived Saturday afternoon to London Luton and had a coach waiting for us to take us to our hotel, the Royal National. We dropped off our luggage and hit the road to explore. After buying Oyster passes for the Underground, which would enable us to pay as we went, we stopped at London Bridge. We crossed the bridge, which fortunately was not falling down, admired the Tower Bridge and walked quickly toward Tate Modern to see the views from the 10th floor at sunset. We didn’t have much time as Globe Theatre was waiting for us. Llegamos el sábado por la tarde al aeropuerto de London-Luton y había un autóbus (guagua) esperándonos para llevarnos al hotel, el Royal National. Hicimos check-in y dejamos el equipaje. Después de comprar la tarjeta de Oyster para el Underground (el metro de Londres), que nos deja pagar como viajamos, paramos en el Puente de Londres (London Bridge). Cruzamos el puente, que afortunadamente no estaba cayéndose, admiramos el Tower Bridge (Puente Torre) y caminos con prisa hacía el Tate Modern para disfrutar las vistas desde el 10º piso al atardecer. No había mucho tiempo porque el Globe Theatre (Teatro Globo) de Shakespeare estaba esperándonos. 

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It was an awesome experience to see Much Ado About Nothing in the new Globe Theatre, although I don’t know if Shakespeare himself would have liked the singing and the dancing. I think he would have appreciated it though, as it was a great modern version of his work. We then went back to the hotel for dinner. Era una experiencia increíble ver Mucho Ado About Nothing en el nuevo Globe Theatre, aunque no sé si a Shakespeare le habría gustado sus canciones y bailes. Pero bueno, creo que lo habría apreciado como era una adaptación genial de su obra. Después, volvimos al hotel para cenar. 

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I’m not a fan of British food, nor am I a big foodie, so we’ll leave it at that. No me gusta la comida británica, no soy un foodie, entonces…sin más.

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On Sunday we had breakfast at 7:30 before catching the Tube to Camden Town. We waited for the shops and market to open and enjoyed our time. At 11:30 we caught the Tube again to Trafalgar Square, where we later toured the National Gallery before lunch. Domingo, desayunamos a las 7:30 antes de coger el Tube (otra palabra por el Metro de Londres) hasta Camden Town. Teníamos que esperar hasta que las tiendas y el mercado abrieron y disfrutamos de ver Camden. A las 11:30 cogemos el metro otra vez hasta Trafalgar Square, donde visitamos el National Gallery (Galeria Nacional) antes de comer.

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After lunch was a walking tour that included Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. Unfortunately, Big Ben was covered by scaffolding as the famous clock was undergoing restoration. The works are scheduled to be completed in 2021. Después de comer era un guia caminando por los sitios más conocidos de Londres que incluye ChinaTown, Picadilly Circus, 10 Downing Street, las Casas de Parlamento, Westminster Abbey y la noria de London Eye. Lamentablemente, el reloj famoso de Big Ben estaba escondido por los andamios de las obras. Dicen que acaban las obras en 2021. 

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We caught the Tube once more to head to Tower of London and Tower Bridge. After crossing the most famous bridge of London, we headed toward St. Paul’s Cathedral and arrived just after sunset. It was then time for the hotel and dinner. Cogemos el metro una vez más para ir al Torre de Londres y el Puente Torre (Tower of London y Tower Bridge). Después de cruzar el puente más conocido de Londres, fuimos a la catedral de San Pablo y llegamos justo después de atardecer. Después tocaba ir al hotel y la cena.

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Monday morning we woke up to SNOW! I was so excited to see the falling flakes. We headed to King’s Cross Station to catch the Hogwart’s Express. Unfortunately, the snow must have cancelled it, or since I am regrettably a Muggle, Platform 9 3/4 just did not transport me to the train. Bugger. El lunes por la mañana, nos despertamos para ver ¡NIEVE! Me emocionó ver las copas de nieve cayendo. Después fuimos a la estación de Kings Cross para coger el Hogwart Exprés. Lamentablemente, la nieve causó una cancelación, o, porque soy un Muggle, la Plataforma 9 3/4 no me llevó hasta el tren. Collons. 

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Next on the list was Hyde Park and the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. I’m glad I had seen it in 2000 as we arrived a bit late (only in Great Britain is arriving 45 minutes early a bit late) to be able to grab a good view point. The snow pelted us on our walk to the Underground to go to the National Science Museum. From there we went to Harrod’s where there was free time to eat and shop. La próxima parada fue Hyde Park y el Cambio de la Guardia en el Palacio Buckingham. Me alegro haber visto la ceremonia en 2000 como llegamos tarde para encontrar un sitio con buenas vistas (solo en la Gran Bretaña es llegar 45 minutos antes “tarde”). La nieve nos golpeó durante el camino hasta el metro para ir al National Science Museum (Museo de Ciencia Nacional). Desde allí fuimos a Harrod’s donde había tiempo libre para comer y ir de compras.

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After the department store Harrod’s came Oxford Street shopping, the Marble Arch, Abbey Road and Baker Street. Después de el gran almacén Harrods, fuimos de compras en Oxford Street, el Marble Arch, Abbey Road y Baker Street. 

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Tuesday morning, our last morning, we checked out and walked to Covent Garden where we waited for the shops to open. After that was a stop at the British Museum. I had coincidentally just completed Anne Rice’s The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned, which talks about the British Museum at length due to the Egyptian collection. El martes por la mañana, nuestra última mañana del viaje, hicimos check-out y caminamos a Covent Garden donde esperamos hasta las tiendes abrieron. Después, fuimos al British Museum (Museo Británico). Por casualidad estaba leyendo The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned de Anne Rice, que habla mucho del museo dado a su colección de Egipto. 

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We flew back to València from London-Gatwick. Volvímos a València por London-Gatwick.

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It was a whirlwind trip and we saw a lot. I think the students had fun, and all of us arrived back to València exhausted. I feel that with London, most of the tourist sites are known by all. Nevertheless, I will write a SetMeravelles of London to talk about seven places that are special to me in the English capital. Era un viaje de prisa y vimos mucho. Creo que los alumnos lo han pasado bien, y todos llegamos a València agotados. Creo que con Londres, todo el mundo ya conoce algo de los sitios turísticos. Sin embargo, voy a escribir un SetMeravelles de Londres para hablar de sitios sitios que son especiales para mi en la capital de los guiris. 

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You’ve been warned! ¡Ya os he avisado!

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Hyde Park

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Covent Garden

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Trafalgar Square

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Picadilly Circus

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Guard near Downing Street

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Westminster Abbey

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London Eye

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Tower of London

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Tower Bridge

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National Science Museum

Gibraltar. Let’s rock and roll.

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My apologies for the pun. Even in Spain, I continue to read Pearls Before Swine. Blame Stephen Pastis.

Gibraltar is a huge, giant rock at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula (The Greatest Peninsula in the World) that is a sore subject for most Spaniards and Spaniard wannabes like me. It technically belongs to the United Kingdom. Technically. During the War of Spanish Succession, an Anglo-Dutch force captured it from the Spanish, and the Treaty of Utrecht ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713. Three hundred years later, the Spanish are still not happy about it. In the summer, at the border crossing, there can be long lines. I was a bit miffed that I didn’t get a stamp in my passport when I went in 2009.

Gibraltar is 6 square kilometres (2.3 square miles) and has nearly 30,000 inhabitants.

My visit was another day trip from my trip to Málaga over the May Day long weekend in 2009. I was debating whether to take the too damn early bus or the early bus, and I took the early bus. I fell in love with the beautiful scenery in Málaga. On one side was the sea, and the other side were mountains. The bus stopped in La Línea de la Concepción, a border town in Cádiz, and I walked across the border (no long lines that Friday in early May) and the airport to Gibraltar.

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I loved the rock! My Spanish teacher had told us stories. I loved the apes. I loved being able to see Africa. I loved buying “forbidden” sweets like Reese Pieces and smuggling them back across the Spanish border. (For the record, it wasn’t really smuggling as Reese Pieces are completely legal in Spain but aren’t marketed here or sold outside shops catering to American and British tourists. But it’s such a better tale when you say you smuggled Reese Pieces across the Gibraltar border into Spain.)

I don’t remember much about what I ate, but I do remember things being a bit more expensive. I also remember a cute waiter once I recrossed the border to catch the early evening bus back to Málaga and trying to understand “andaluz”. I vowed to go back to Gibraltar one day, but I’ve never made it back.

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Here’s my private journal entry on Gibraltar, as it’s been six(!) years since my visit. Friday I woke up early to go to Gibraltar. I didn’t take the 7.00 bus as I needed sleep. I didn’t realise that there were two bus stations and was worried about missing the bus to La Línea de Concepción, the Spanish city across the border from Gibraltar. I didn’t. I even had time for tostada! The bus went along the most beautiful stretch of highway I have ever seen. The mountains and the coast of the Mediterranean. I got to La Línea and walked across the border without any problem. It was one of the biggest culture shocks of my life, being greeted in and speaking English. The rock is something amazing. I took the cable car up…saw so many monkeys, p…it might be the coolest thing I’ve seen. I saw Africa too! Legend has it that as long as the monkeys live on the rock, Gibraltar will be British, but once the last monkey leaves, it will revert to Spanish rule. I tried to tell the monkeys to go back to Africa, but they refused to listen. I found Reese Peanut Butter Cups and Reese Pieces and smuggled them across the border to Spain. Unfortunately they melted on me before I got to eat them. (I still ate the Peanut Butter Cups…the Reese Pieces are reserved for tonight.)

Set Meravelles

The Rock

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The Rock of Gibraltar is famous. Duh. It was one of the Pillars of Hercules and was formed during the Jurassic period. (Possible Jurassic World 2 plot: The Spanish use dinosaurs to win back Gibraltar?) Being 426 metres high (1398 feet), the rock dominates the landscape. There is a Moorish castle there today, plus a maze of tunnels I wouldn’t want to risk getting lost in. It is also the reason why we say something/someone is “like the Rock of Gibraltar”.

The Strait

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The Strait of Gibraltar separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea and peninsular Spain from Morocco (Ceuta is a Spanish city located on the African continent I have yet to visit. Yes, it is on my to-do list.) The strait’s narrowest point is 7.7 nautical miles, or 14.3 kilometres, or 8.9 miles and the depth ranges between 300 and 900 metres (980 and 2950 feet). The ferry across the strait takes 35 minutes.

The Apes

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Gibraltar is home to 300 or so Barbary macaques. Or rock apes (although they are technically monkeys.) If you look closely, you can see two in the photo. I didn’t want to get too close to them, but they were such fun to watch. As the monkeys were becoming more and more reliable on humans, they began to sneak into town, wrecking havoc and causing damage. Now feeding the monkeys comes with a fine of  £4000. Legend says that as long as the monkeys stay on the rock, Gibraltar will remain British. In 1942, when the population had dwindled down to just 7, Winston Churchille ordered that the numbers be replenished. The legend also says that the monkeys arrived from Morocco in a subterranean tunnel that has yet to be found by humans. The plot thickens…

The Airport

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The airport, opened in 1939, is unique because the runway literally runs through a road and pedestrian crossing. It closes to cars and people whenever a plane takes off or lands, of course, but imagine having to walk across an airport runway every time you wanted to run across the border for Reese Pieces or a relaxing café con leche. A new road is currently under construction. Although the airport doesn’t receive much air traffic compared to Málaga’s airport, 415,000 passengers used it in 2014 alone. In 2012, it was voted one of the “‘World’s Scariest Airport Landings and Take-offs”, by readers of the Daily Telegraph.

Europa Point (Yet to be discovered)

I unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the lighthouse, mosque, shrine to Our Lady of Europe, Nun’s Well and views of Africa from the Europa Point. The tunnel from the Eastern side of the Rock of Gibraltar was apparently closed when I was there in 2009. It’s the southern most point of Gibraltar, but not the Iberian Peninsula, which lies 25 km away at Tarifa.

St. Michael’s Cave (Yet to be discovered)

I also missed out on St. Michael’s Cave. The upper part has been used for 2000 years, but the lower part was only discovered in 1942. The lower cavern may have been sealed for 20,000 years and resembles a cathedral. It also has a lake that holds an estimated 45,000 gallons. Tours generally last around three hours, so plan accordingly.

Llanito

Llanito is the unofficial dialect which mixes Andalusian Spanish (el andaluz) and British English. It is based on a lot of code switching and loan words from various Mediterranean languages. A lot of words come from English but are pronounced in the andaluz manner. My Spanish not being the level I have now or the level that I thought I had when I was there (:P), I didn’t really catch any of it, but it has to a delight to listen to for language geeks like me. I wonder what “Gibraltar español” sounds like in Llanito. (Sorry to readers from the UK. I couldn’t resist.)