Thursday, October 27, 2011

Those places Thursday: London, England and The Palace of Westminster

While I was overseas, one of my destinations for research was the National Archives UK.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Archives holds material germane to my work as a historian, and so London is one of those places which I was very happy to visit.

I knew the National Archives is closed on Mondays, and so I planned to give myself a day to play tourist.  London has an extensive train system — affectionately dubbed 'The Tube'— with Underground (subway) and Overground trains.  The system map can be a little daunting when you first look at it, but the train station staff are generally very friendly and helped me figure out my route, so I took trains to and from the airport, and around town as well.

The Upminster Underground train, which oddly enough travels above ground a good deal of the time, took me to the 'City' of Westminster.  Upon emerging from the subway station at Westminster Bridge, I first saw the Palace of Westminster, otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament.  It is an extraordinary structure with a history of development and governance which spans over 900 years.  When you gaze upon it you get a sense of 'Empire', and can easily imagine that Britain once ruled the world.

As usual, click on the photographs if you wish to view a larger version.

As I emerged from the subway this extraordinarily carved edifice offered a taste of what was to come. 
Look up, way up: Big Ben from the subway stairs.
The Clock Tower at Westminster,  better known as Big Ben
The clock is very beautiful, but so too are the tiny figures (gargoyles) which you can spot across the entire building.
Not only is the makeup of the structure itself stunning, but the sheer size of it as well, and the fact that it stands directly on the shores of the river Thames.
The grounds, and a sign of the times, a heavily armed police officer.
I've turned the corner, but this is still the same complex.  Jutting into the left side of the photograph is
a bit of Westminster Abbey.  In the light of the midday sun the buildings glow like liquid gold.
The Sovereign's Entrance, Palace of Westminster
Even the metal gates are replete with symbols.
On either side of the Sovereign's Entrance you will find this Leontine creature.
Above the Sovereign's Entrance, a small sampling of the statuary, symbols,  and gargoyles which are carved into the stone at various points all over the great structure.
On the side grounds: William the Conqueror.
For more information visit the official government site, The Palace of Westminster.

All photographs Copyright©J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, not quite: The Spirit of Ireland

When I returned from Ireland in September my plan had been to get straight back into blogging and share some of the discoveries I made on my trip.  Of course, the universe has a funny way of reacting to the best laid plans.  Sometimes the less desirable side of life jumps in and you find yourself dealing with something that doesn't fit into those plans.

Anyway...the train is now almost entirely back on the rails, and with today's post I am ready to begin anew.

The Spirit of Ireland

The Spirit of Ireland is the spirit of her people. No matter how beautiful the landscape, in my opinion, it is the spirit of the Irish people which enhances that beauty. Irish spirit comes in all shapes and sizes, and that spirit is imbued with the power of positive energy. I truly believe this is what draws me back to Ireland again and again. Here are some of the ways in which the spirit of Ireland have manifested for me.  I hope they bring a smile to your face.

For the first nine days I was away, I was very fortunate to have my husband with me. On one particular day we happily spent hours traipsing through Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin and St. Colmcille's Churchyard in Swords, County Dublin.  Near the end of the day, (it was getting dark so I could no longer photograph gravestones), we stopped for supper at the Star Pub at the end of Chapel Lane at Main Street in Swords.  By chance, we happened to choose the very pub in which the Swords Historical Society were celebrating the launch of the latest edition of their periodical 'Swords Voices'.  I was happy to be able to introduce my husband to Bernadette Martin. In 2010, Bernadette helped to confirm for me some connections in the maternal branch of my family tree.  Music often forms a part of celebrations in Ireland, and the Historical Society celebration was no exception. The Historical Society has their own Mummers group. Here is a small sampling of their performance (by the way, the man on the left is playing castanets):

When I headed out to Westport, County Mayo in the west of Ireland, on the train trip back from there, at Athlone station this group of men boarded the train. They were headed into Dublin for the European Championship Football Qualifier, Ireland vs. Slovakia, at Lansdowne (Aviva) Stadium, and they kindly agreed to pose for me.  I think it's safe to say they're football super fans.

On Grafton Street in Dublin you will see buskers of all kinds, such as musicians, singers, magicians, and a few fellows such as this one posing as a statue. He was so convincing even a pigeon was fooled.

In St. Stephen's Green I met a new little friend, and her dad allowed me to photograph her engaging in her favourite pastime of feeding the birds. Contrary to popular belief, the streets of Dublin are not filled with red-haired beauties, so I just had to photograph this little one.

Click on photographs to view larger version.
All materials Copyright©J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.
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