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Our past weekend trip to London

London is one of the world’s greatest and vibrant cities with 2000 years of history. It has been welcoming immigrants and people seeking refuge politically and religiously, rich and poor, for at least 500 years and now is one of the culturally richest places on Earth.

Last September we explored some of its diversity and history over a long weekend (8-11 Sep)

Arriving by Eurostar from Brussels a coach took us first to Highgate cemetery.

In the early 19th century, London was expanding rapidly. Most burials had been in graveyards attached to churches, but now lack of space and a perceived disrespect to the dead as these graveyards were being constantly re-dug, lead to a decision to create 7 huge cemeteries around London. All still exist, but the most famous is Highgate, where, amongst others, is buried Karl Marx.

After a guided walk around the highlights our coach took us a few miles further down to Neasden, a nondescript suburb of North West London that houses the most wonderful Hindu temple, in carved Indian marble and hardwoods. Following a vegetarian lunch in their restaurant, we had an interesting talk about Hinduism and a guided tour around the complex.

At the end of the afternoon, we checked-in to our usual accommodation at Imperial College. Down the road is one of London’s finest museums, the Victoria and Albert, which was open all evening on the day of our arrival. We got vouchers for supper from their self-service restaurant, so that we could spend time around the galleries of the museum and a meal eaten when wanted.

After breakfast on Saturday we headed off by public transport to Hampton Court for the day. The palace, originally built for Cardinal Wolsey, England’s last and most famous Prince Bishop, became an out-of-town home for Henry VIII and subsequent monarchs. The palace provides individual audio guides allowing time at our leisure around the palace(s) and superb park and gardens.

Mid-afternoon we took a river bus down as far as Richmond then back for supper in South Kensington.

On Sunday, a coach took us firstly to two adjacent museums in Kew, one in the original pumping station for fresh water for the rapidly growing London, which is now a museum of steam and water;  the other houses a collection of working mechanical musical instruments. A discovery, and very amusing as well, thanks to an outstanding guide who showed an brilliant sense of humour when commenting and demonstrating the most amazing music producing machines. He also demonstrated that age is a matter of spirit rather than of time.

After lunch in the museum café, we headed off to Syon House and Park, owned by the Dukes of Northumberland, whose coal mines were one of the sources of the fuel for the pumping engines we saw in the museum.

The day ended with our traditional dinner in the Polish Club in Exhibition Road.

On Monday, we had a morning tour around the “Inns of Court”, with its squares and halls and churches. Around the main Court of Justice grew up over the centuries the chambers (cabinets) of the principal lawyers who pleaded at the Court.

This finished, there was some time for any personal activities before we met up for the return to St Pancras station and home.