I’m not sure how, but there I was standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs-Élysées in Paris when like magic, I was standing in front of a different arch! This one’s clearly smaller, and really it’s three arches in one… and I can see big red buses on the other side. Xanthe tells me we’re at the Marble Arch and we are now in London. I’ve been teleported!
I asked Xanthe why people keep building these arch things everywhere and she said they usually celebrate a victory of some sort. I asked what sort of victory happened here but apparently, this arch was first built outside a palace nearby and then moved here, which is the edge of Hyde Park.
Did someone mention a park??? I soon lost interest in arches.
After a bit of a romp in Hyde Park, we set off to do some serious touristy stuff. My companions were very excited to see someone called Ben who is apparently very big. I asked who he was but they just laughed and said ‘You’ll see’…
Well I hope so, I expect my eyes will be open.
On our way to see Ben, we stopped to check out this memorial to the Women of World War Two. It’s big – 22 feet high, which is over 6.5 metres! It’s made of bronze and has women dressed in all sorts of clothes that they wore during that time. My companions pointed out uniforms, working clothes and ordinary daily clothes. The thing is, all clothes seem extraordinary to me, (I think sometimes they forget I’m a possum).
We eventually arrived at Big Ben – it wasn’t what I expected.
‘A tower? Big Ben is a clock tower?’ I asked.
‘No’ they all chimed, ‘Big Ben is a bell!’
Well, as hard as I looked, there were no bells that I could see. I had heard some bells as we were getting closer but I was assured they were not Big Ben, they were quarter bells. (I didn’t think bells would work unless they were whole).
No bells in sight but I could see the clock faces and they were huge. Each face is 7.5 metres wide, bigger than the Women’s War Memorial we just saw. Then, as we got closer to Saint Stephen’s Tower (that’s what the tower is called by-the-way), I heard it; Big Ben, the hour bell. Its very loud – really loud. I decided getting much closer was not going to do my hearing any good (possums really don’t like it too loud). Now I know why they call it Big Ben, it makes a big noise and once you’ve heard the bell, you can easily forget the name of the tower – what was it again?
Next we went for a very royal walk along the south side of the Thames River. The ‘Queen’s Walk’ goes from Lambeth Bridge to Tower Bridge and was made to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 25 years of being queen.
There are many things to see along the walk. Here I am looking at the Tower of London, although I am pretty sure I can see more than one tower. Xanthe said it’s really a fortress and holds the Crown Jewels. I decided to see if I could walk all the way along the bank wall (because I couldn’t really see much on the ground). At first everyone was worried I might fall in but I insisted – I have excellent possum balance after all. The ‘Queen’s Walk’ was very busy with many other tourists and many cyclists too – so in the end, walking on top of the barrier was the safest place for me to be. We soon came to the end of our walk and reached Tower Bridge. After a bit of a wait, we saw the bridge open to let a ship through – pretty impressive.
We stayed in London while we organised the next part of our trip, so we had time to visit a few more places. When Xanthe’s mum mentioned libraries, both Xanthe and I were very excited to get some books to read.
It wasn’t that sort of Library.
Here we are making a quick visit to the British Library. This Library is simply amazing. It has over 150 million items in most any language you can think of (except possum of course) and gets about 3 million new items each year. It holds the world’s oldest printed book and many, many treasures.
This is the King’s Library which belonged to a King called George. Actually he had ‘III’ after his name which I’m told means there were three other George kings before him. The collection was given to the nation by King George’s son after he died. You’ll never guess what his son’s name was!
I really wanted to stay and explore this library longer (there was plenty of room to sit and read – at least room for 1,200 people). The ‘quick visit’ was way too quick but the good news is that you can see some of the collection online from Australia. I wonder if I can use my library card for that?
Even after our visit, Xanthe’s mum, Xanthe and I still felt we needed a library book fix, so we headed off to the closest local library.
Here I am about to enter a local library that opened its doors to the public in 1891. After this we are leaving London and heading off an a ‘road-trip’ (although I am pretty sure we have already been using the roads). Not to worry, no doubt it will all be clear enough soon. Now, I’m just happy to check out the library. I wonder what sort of books they have for ring-tailed possums? I hope they have some good joke books – I always love a good giggle.