London Bridge

London Bridge is not falling down. The historic structure stands majestically in the center of London overlooking the Thames River between the city of London and the borough of Southwark. Actually, London Bridge is equated to several bridges included in this span.

Opened to traffic in 1973, the bridge has seen several transformations throughout the centuries. The original London Bridge was erected by Roman military in 53 A.D. as a road-building program to aid their conquest consolidation. Ferries were in use to offer trade between the Roman Empire and Britain and the bridge also provided traffic across the River Thames by foot, carriage and horseback. This structure was then destroyed by the rebel army in 60 A.D.London Bridge, River Thames, London, England

Starting with timber bridges replaced by a medieval structure and then replaced with a nineteenth century stone bridge, today’s bridge has been transformed to the modern era. London Bridge is now owned by Bridge House Estates which is overseen by the City of London Corporation. The structure also marks the territory along the south bank of the Thames River to the Tower Bridge, an area proposed as a district designated to business improvement.

It’s also important to note that archaeologists discovered evidence of the Bronze and Iron Ages’ existence at this site before a bridge was built. Historically, the city of London did not exist at this time.

Visiting the London Bridge is a historical experience not to be missed. Along with guided tours of the London Bridge is a haunting visit down to the tunnels under the bridge where you will enter the London Tombs. On this 3D tour you will encounter dark narrow passageways with scary sights and sounds accompanied with strobe and flash lighting. Added to the London Bridge visit, a trek through the gothic London Tombs is touted as one of London’s scariest adventures. A trip to the gift shop is also recommended.

The London Dungeon is also located near the London Bridge. This attraction offers a spine-tingling journey complete with scary characters in costume appearing from nowhere and a boat ride to Traitors Gate where you encounter a horrifying firing squad.
A visit to this area of London is a thrilling experience.


Leicester Square, London

Leicester Square has long been a gathering place at London’s West End but never more so than since it’s been closed to vehicular traffic. The pedestrian only Square is at the center of London’s entertainment district. Here you will find most premiers of British films and sometimes get a glimpse of the rich and famous. Nightclubs, bars and cinemas surround Leicester Square and evenings and weekends are busy with tourists and locals looking for a good time and a good movie.

In the center of Leicester Square is a small park, perfect for people watching or catching a performance by the many buskers, a wonderful word for street performers, who flock to the area to entertain with song, dance and sometimes a political speech. Leicester Square is dotted with statues of famous people such as William Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin and others who lived in the area in past centuries.
Bars and Restaurants Leicester Square, London
Nearby to Leicester Square is Trafalgar Square with it’s very recognizable tall column topped by
the figure of Lord Horatio Nelson. Larger than Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square is home to concerts, demonstrations, and festive New Year’s Eve celebrations. Here is where the Christmas tree from the city of Oslo, Norway, has been displayed since 1947 in appreciation of Britain's aid during World War II.

The National Gallery is home to more than 2,300 works of art from the 13th to early 20th centuries, including some of the world’s most famous paintings. The Gallery is located just beyond Leicester Square at Trafalgar Square and entrance is free.

Nearby is the National Portrait Gallery where you can view over 175,000 portraits of the movers and shakers of Britain from the 16th century to the present. An entertaining way to learn about Britain's history and admission is free.

The current St Martin-in-the-Fields church was completed in 1726. The church has long been involved in the needs of the community and here the doors are always open. There
are ongoing musical events in the church’s restaurant, Cafe in the Crypt, where the menu of freshly prepared foods changes daily.

Book lovers will be delighted to find bookstores carrying rare, first edition and antique books on and around nearby Charing Cross Road.

Chinatown is London’s thriving center of Asian cultures and is chock full of restaurants to satisfy any appetite. Look for the Chinese arches on Gerrard and Macclesfield Streets.

Leicester Square is a great starting point to fan out and explore other nearby sights in the West End.


The Lake , Kew Gardens, London


In the Northwest corner of Kew Gardens lays The Lake, 5 acres of water with 4 heavily wooded islands dotting the center of The Lake that provides a secluded sanctuary and conservation area for the Kew’s wildlife.

Over the years there has been two lakes located in the gardens, today’s present day lake and the first built or dug during the 1740’s till the 1760’s. Originally started by Fredrick, Prince of Whales who desired a lake in his plans for Kew Gardens, had started dredging this first lake in the 1740’s, upon Fredrick’s death in 1751, Thomas Greening, Kew Gardens new gardener took over the job of digging of The Lake in 1753. By the completion of the lake in 1763 the first lake had grown to 9 acres with one island occupying the center. This first lake was filled with underground water that was pumped from a deep well.The Lake, Kew Gardens, London

In 1755, Prince of Wales, George III was presented with a huge Swan Boat for his 17th birthday. Built to hold 10 people, the Swan Boat was designed by Covent Garden’s manager John Rich. Though by 1790, a majority of The Lake was filled in per orders of George III who now wanted the gardens to have more land. Over the years the Lake continued to be filled, come 1837, The Lake was only a fraction of its original size was now just considered a pond.

Today’s present lake moved The Lake closer to the Thames River, This newer version of The Lake design was done by Sir William Hooker in the 1840’s , dredging of this new lake was accomplished because of the need for gravel in the terracing of the new Temperate House. The year 1861 saw the completion and the filling of The Lake this time with water from the Thames. The wooded areas of the four islands were finished towards the later part of the 19th century. For just over a hundred years, 1864 to 1973, The Lake was used for a water supply for the plants and vegetation of Kew Gardens.

Sackler Crossing, Kew Gardens, London In 2006 The Lakes newest addition was added, Sackler Crossing, a black granite bridge that makes a serpentine like crossing across The Lake. Designed by famed architect John Pawson and named after philanthropists Mortimer and Teresa Sackler, Sackler Crossing provides visitors an easy access from Temperate House and the Rhizortron and Extrata Treetop Walkway to the Bamboo Garden and Minka House.


Museum Number 1, Kew Gardens, London

On the eastern side of Palm House Pond lies the Museum Number 1, home to over 83,000 specimens, Kew Gardens botany collection is displayed in this museum under the name “Plants and People”.

Originally inspired by King George IV in 1820 that Kew Gardens should have a museum on the interaction of plants and people, it was not till Gardens director Sir William Jackson Hooker in 1846 took his own personal collection of textiles, dyes timbers and gum and placed them in rooms given to the servants of Kew Gardens by the Royal Family. Over the years as the collection of specimens grew, a new museum was needed, 1857 saw the construction of Museum Number 1 by Decimus Burton.Museum Number 1, Kew Gardens, London

Contrasting The Palm House located on the western edge of the pond, Museum Number 1 was designed in a more classical style. Inside the building one will find mahogany display cases showing off the numerous specimens that Kew Gardens has collected over the years. The rear of the building has a wing that was added in 1881 that still to this day displays a collection of Indian paintings that are on permanent loan from India. Today will find Museum Number 1 not only visited by the many visitors to Kew Gardens but also the numerous students of local schools that use the museum for learning and study.


Nash Conservatory, Kew Gardens, London

Kew Gardens oldest glasshouse is The Nash Conservatory, originally located at Buckingham Palace and known as the Architectural Conservatory, this Greek Temple design was one of 2 stone buildings designed by John Nash for the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

Built in 1825, The Nash Conservatory was designed in classical stone, it is said that the 12 columns that make up the west and east walls came from the Carlton House, an London Mansion built back in 1783. The 6 columns making up the north and south entrances were made up of Bath stone Pilasters, 5 classical glazed pediments can be found being supported by the columns and finished off with cornice molding. On the inside, one will find that the open interior is supported by trusses and cast iron posts giving the conservatory a airy and openness feel.Nash Conservatory, Kew Gardens, London

In 1836, The Nash Conservatory was relocated from Buckingham Palace to Kew Gardens by William IV and adapted by Sir Jeffry Wyatville, the designer of Kew Gardens King Williams Temple. With connections to William IV, Buckingham Palace, John Nash and Sir Wyatville, The Nash Conservatory has considerable historical and architectural value to Kew Gardens.

The Nash Conservatory today is used as a learning center, a major change from its original use of growing Eucalyptus and Araucaria plants and trees. Over the years the conservatory has gone through several use changes, in 1854 the building was home to Australian flora. Another change came in 1854 when again the building was used for displaying and growing South Eastern Asian Araceae and a name change to the Aroid House. During the restoration of the Palm House in 1980’s, large palms and plants were stored in The Nash Conservatory.


Davies Alpine House, Kew Gardens, London

Just to the north of the rock garden lies a unusually looking glass building, Davies Alpine House, modern an futuristic in construction, the Alpine House is home to species that are found in the upper reaches of the Alpine Bimess, usually 10,000 feet or higher.

Davies Alpine House is fourth generation of Alpine Houses at Kew Gardens, the first being constucted in 1887, then replaced in 1939 with the second generation, a third generation of Alpine House was built in 1981. Today's Alpine house was built in 2006, modern looking, this newest glass structure is 50 feet long and 33 feet high. Built with the most modern technology at the time, computer controlled systems monitor temperature, moisture and ventilation. The house features automatic curtains that close to control overheating, a constant movement of cool air also flows across the plants to keep the environment cool like a alpine region, warm air escapes through vents in the upper reaches of the glass structure to release heat.
Davies, Alpine House, Kew Gardens, London
In a region of cool dry air, the Alpine Biomess is usually a area of dormant plants during cold winter months, with a fast growing season from spring to late summer.

The Davies Alpine House was constructed to give the plants the dry, windy and cool environment that would be found in the spring time in a alpine biomess. Plants can be found here ranging from high altitude environments, such as outside of Santiago Chile to colorful plants from the Mediterranean region.


Orangery, Kew Gardens, London

The Orangery, at one time England's largest glasshouse was constructed at Kew Gardens in 1761 by Sir William Chambers. Originally designed in the hopes of growing oranges, The Orangery was built 92 feet long and 33 feet wide with glass doors along the north and south walls. Even though the house was designed for growing oranges and other citrus trees it was not long before it became apparent that not enough light entered the building for growing citrus.

In 1842 large glass doors were added to the ends of the Orangery and converted into growing tropical plants. With the newly opened Temperate house, the plants from Orangery were transferred in 1883. With the removal of plants to Temperate House, Orangery once again saw change, this time saw the classical style building converted into a museum on timber from the various British Colonies around the word. Timber specimens from around the world as well as over 1000 different species form India alone were displayed as well as different furniture made from wood products during the late 1800's.
Orangey House, Kew Gardens, London

Numerous changes and restoration projects over the years has seen the Orangery change to today's usage as a restaurant and meeting hall.


Pagoda, Kew Gardens, London

The Pagoda standing 10 stories reaches almost 163 feet into the Kew Gardens landscape was designed by Sir William Chambers and installed in the Gardens in 1762 as a surprise to Princess Agusta. At the time, the Pagoda was the largest and most accurate Chinese structure to be recreated in all of Europe.

The Pagoda was designed in that each of the 10 stories is 1 foot less in diameter and height as each floor below climbs to the next higher. The walls of the building are made of brick and the interior has a staircase with 253 stairs leading to the top.

Pagoda, Kew Gardens, LondonWhen originally constructed, the Pagoda was colorfully decorated with over 80 dragon head figures hanging from each corner of the roofs, the dragon heads had been made of wood and then covered with real gold. The roofs themselves were made of iron plates and then varnished to give a shiny look. Through the centuries the dragon heads disappeared and the iron plate roofs were eventually replaced with slate roofs.

Rumor has it that the dragon heads were sold off to pay for the debts of King George 1V, while others believe the dragon heads sub structure off wood just rotted away.
Decimus Burton wished to have the Pagoda restored in 1843, but was scraped when the estimate of 4350 pounds was to much for Kew Gardens to pay.

Even though the inside of the Pagoda is closed to the public, the Pagoda still offers spectacular backdrops to the landscape of Kew Gardens and is a symbol of the gardens that can be seen from outside the walls.


Minka House, Kew Gardens, London

What is a Minka House? For centuries a popular Japanese Farm House was made from study wood beams, mud filled wall panels with a thatched roof that would last for well over a hundred years. The Japanese Minka House, was designed to be movable, not only in relocating to a different location but also earthquake resistant. The house was not tied or cemented in place but was built above a bed of stones, thus making it flexible in times of earthquakes.

Kew Gardens Minka House was originally built at the begining of the 20th Century in the city of Okazaki along Japans southern coast of Central Japan.The Minka House arrived in London in 2001 when it was donated by JMRAC "Japan-Minka Re-use and Recycle Association". Reassembled by Japanese carpenters with the knowledge of Minka Houses, the house was put back together without using any nails, the mud walls were then
finished by British workers.Minka House, Kew Gardens, London

Today the Minka House rests in the Bamboo Garden, created in 1891, the Bamboo Garden was originally planted with 40 different species of bamboo found throughout Japan, over the last century, the garden has grown to over 1200 varieties from as faraway as Central America, South America, China and Nepal.

Bamboo, as a member of the grass family, is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. A exhibit located in the Temperate House at Kew Gardens shows that some species of bamboo will grow more than a foot a day with some bamboo growing to over a 100 feet in height.


Evolution House, Kew Gardens, London


Evolution House, Kew Gardens, London takes visitors through a 3.5 billion year walk showing how plants and the Earth evolved to present day.

Presented to Kew Gardens from the Australian Government in 1949, the Evolution House is located at the rear of the Temperate House. Unlike the Palm House and Temperate House, the structure was prefabricated using aluminum alloy to resist rust such as that plaques the other two Victorian structures. Heated by the same heating system as used to heat the Temperate House, the Evolution House has steep pitched roofs to take advantage of the sun.Evolution House, Kew Gardens, London

Originally named the Australian House, the building was given the name Evolution House in 1995 when the display was remolded from the Australian flora exhibit to the present exhibition of Earths evolution.


The center of the Evolution House is home to many cicadas, ferns and sago palms found from the Jurassic period to present day, a waterfall dropping into a moss and fern lined pool gives visitors a feel of the tropical and prehistoric period.


To the rear of the Evolution House, one will find a darkened room filled with displays on the evolution of plants, seeds and the uses of leaves and fruit in the environment.