Just the two of us, in London

Trip Start Dec 29, 2009
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Trip End Mar 02, 2010


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Where I stayed
Jenny's Place

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jenny was teaching her english class today, so it was just Rachel and I venturing out on our own. We slept in a little bit then when we did wake up, Rachel had to finish writing postcards so we could send them off (we meant to do it sooner but it takes a while, sorry). Eventually they were all written, we had eaten, showered and were finally ready to leave at around midday.

We walked down to the local post office but the lines were huge, so decided we would leave it for now and hopefully find somewhere in the city to post them. We then headed over to the train station and set off. Our first destination was the Imperial War Museum, one that we'd been looking forward to for a while. After a few train rides, we made it to the station and walked around the corner to the museum. There was a small cafe out the front, and it was lunchtime afterall, so we stopped for sausage rolls and picked up some lollies as well.

Having eaten we headed inside. The museum itself is free, but we bought a souvenir guidebook. After dropping our bags and coats off we entered into the main hall, full of various tanks and artillery pieces with planes strung from the ceiling above. At this point, it didn't look like a particularly big museum and so we didn't imagine being here for all that long. We walked around and looked at all the tanks as well as some midget submarines towards the back. There was a small interactive exhibit about submarines that we walked through as well.

Next we made our way to an exhibit about children and the effect the wars had on them. It was mainly focussed on the mass evacuations in world war 2 and how children were sent out into the country to get away from the danger zones in the major cities. There were a lot of personal stories and items, as well as posters and documents from the government at the time. Following from the childrens war, there was another exhibit about life during war time. This talked about things like rationing, civil service, precautins used at home, education and so on.

Having completed this floor we followed the signs and headed downstairs to the World War galleries. This is where we discovered the museum was not so small. The downstairs area seemed to be so much larger and had hundreds of cabinets full of everything you could think of to do with the military; uniforms, documents, maps, weapons, signs, models, badges, medals and so on. The size of the collection was just insane, and each item had information about what it was and where it came from etc. The bulk of the collection was from British and Commonwealth armies and soldiers, but there were also some items from other countries. They were laid out chronologically, starting with napoleonic era items through the world wars and cold war period up to recent conflicts in the middle east and elsewhere.

There were also two special exhibits down here. The first was a walkthrough allied trench from WWI. It showed the main features of a standard front line trench and had mannequins and voice recordings to give the impression of being there in the thick of it all. The second exhibit was an air raid during the blitz on London. Here we started in a public air raid shelter during an air raid, then were escorted out and through the streets to survey the damage. Both were pretty cool and gave some idea of what it was like to be in both of these places, though obviously without all the emotion and fear of death.

From here we headed back upstairs to a gallery about the holocaust. A lot of this was similar to what we had seen at the concentration camps. It was mainly talking about Jews; why they were targeted and what happened to them during the war but it also included information about gypsies and communists who were treated similarly by the Nazis.

Lastly, as Rachel was getting a bit tired and needed a drink, we quickly walked through the final exhibit which was on secret agents. This was talking about MI5 and MI6, the real life James Bond's and their roles both during and after the wars. We didn't stay for long, but it was interesting to see some of the equipment they used; miniature concealed weapons and radio devices among other things. We then went and picked up our bags, got Rachel some water and headed back to the tube station.

Our next stop was another Imperial War Museum run site, the cabinet war rooms. We caught the tube to Charing Cross and emerged at Trafalgar Square. We walked down Whitehall, the road lined with government department buildings. We took a number of photos as we strolled down the street, including one of the gate barring access to Downing St. Eventually we found a sign pointing us towards the museum and we were soon there.

The museum was fairly expensive, but we had a 2-for-1 pass which was handy and again decided to buy a guidebook. The entry price included an audio guide which gave a lot of information throughout the tour, as well as actual pieces of conversation and speeches from the war days. The war rooms were built here, underneath the treasury building as a command centre for churchill and the war cabinet. At its height, the facility housed over 500 employees. The tour took us through the major rooms of the facility, all of which were set up exactly as they were left at the end of the war. Some of the more exciting rooms were Churchills study and the map room. There was also section called the Churchill museum, which was devoted to Churchills life before, during and after the war. It had stories from throughout his life, his various speeches and writings, personal items and so on.

After completing the tour and looking through the gift shop, we headed for home. When we arrived home we chatted with Jenny while she finished cooking tea. After eating, we all played a few board games together and went off to bed.
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Comments

Ruth on

This sounds like a really fascinating day. I haven't been to the Imperial war museum but Dad has, but it is one I'd like to visit. The cabinet war rooms would have been great to see too. Glad you got to play some board games - as you were probably suffering from withdrawal symptoms from not having played any for a while. Where are you heading to after you leave London. Have you been in contact with Allison and bernard at all? Please give them our love when you do speak tpo them. Love you - and Rachel too.

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