Day 22: London Part 1 (London Science Museum + Sightseeing)

After all the scary terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, we were unsure if we would be able to visit London during this study abroad trip. Things calmed down enough that we felt safe taking the students in for a day. So we got up early and headed to the train station.

We waited at the train station for our train to London. We had to take the 9:01 train because we had super-saver group tickets that cannot be used during peak hours (and peak hours in the morning end at 9:00).

On the train we sat near each other and this kept the kids reasonably entertained.

Holly looks happy. I think I caught Gideon off-guard.

Zeke and Micah enjoyed looking out the window.

And the occasional snuggles.

Micah also enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with John.


The kids got hungry, but luckily, Aunt Shelley bought some muffins at the train station.

Micah devoured hers.

We arrived at Paddington Station and transferred to the Underground.

We got onto the Underground and took the yellow Circle Line to South Kensington.

Along the way, some street performers got onto the tube with us.

London Science Museum

Our destination was the London Science Museum. When we got there, we immediately went to the floor with mathematics and computing. The first thing we saw was perhaps the best: Babbage’s Difference Engine. It was the world’s first computer. It could perform basic calculations and was not a general purpose computer (like what we all use today). However, Babbage ran out of money and never completed it, but this is a recreation to prove that it worked (and it did). Notice the printer to output the results of the calculations.

We went ahead and got a group shot in front of it.

My colleague, Dr. Homer, teaching class:

They also had an Enigma Machine, the machine that encoded Nazi messages, which the Allies were able to break thanks to Alan Turing and many others.

Here’s the description from the plaque:

We saw many other famous early computers. Below is the Pilot ACE, a computer designed by Alan Turing and built later.

Below is a panel about early pioneers, like Turing.

They also had some of the first personal computers, like this Apple Macintosh. My family had one of these and it was amazing in its time.

Lunch and Transit to Churchill War Rooms

After we finished our time at the London Science Museum, we broke up into smaller groups and headed out to see what we wanted to see. Everyone had their train tickets, so as long as you were in a group, you could go anywhere you wanted in London and meet back in Oxford later that night. We had 11 students come with us to see Churchill’s War Room.

So we headed back to the Underground.

Micah was already very tired.

We got in the tube and headed out.

Walking along the streets of London, we found a cafe and got lunch. We ate as we walked.

We passed by Westminster Abbey, but didn’t have time to go inside.

The line to go into the Churchill War Rooms was very long and it rained steadily while we waited outside, but we were prepared.

Erin and Micah chilling out in line. (Erin has the Ergobaby baby carrier on underneath that jacket)

Getting closer…

Almost there…

Churchill War Rooms

The war rooms were cramped and spartan. Below is a recreation of the meeting room as it would have looked during some of the final meetings of the war. Churchill’s wooden chair is in back in the middle.

We walked around a looked at the rooms and heard the stories of the people who worked there (through audio guides).

Here, Brighton contemplates the man himself (left) and a recreation of Churchill in his secret telephone room talking to President Roosevelt (right).

Below you can see the kinds of living quarters the officers had.

And here’s the map room:

We waited in one of the hallways while Erin changed Micah’s diaper and Shelley took Zeke to the potty.

Below is a panoramic of the room used by officers who collected the day’s intelligence reports and combined them into one report on that day’s happenings for Churchill, due every day by 9:00 AM. This room is almost completely untouched and exactly as it was when the war ended. When it was over they got up, turned off the lights, and walked out, leaving everything.

The threat of invasion was immanent for quite some time, so there were rifles in the hallways, ready to be used in case the complex was stormed.

Churchill’s own private bedroom was considerably nicer than all the others, though still rather spartan considering his aristocratic background.

After the war room, we decided to walk to get a group photo in front of Big Ben.

Big Ben

Just down the street from Her Majesty’s Treasury (where the War Rooms are located) is the Horse Guards Parade and the Royal Cavalry Museum. I took a panorama of it.

We went through the gate to the street on the other side and continued on our way.

We saw some cool buildings along the way.

We stood in front of Big Ben for a group photo. This is James with 11 of his students that decided to come along.

Shelley also kindly took a photo of Erin and I in front of it.

And then we got the kids in their strollers (sorry, “push chairs” as the Brits call them).

Four students in our group decided to go see Buckingham Palace, so we bid them farewell and we continued onward to our next stop.

Platform 9 3/4

We then jumped back into the tube and headed to King’s Cross Station to find the Harry Potter store and the place where you can take your picture like you’re headed to Platform 9 3/4, just like in the movie.

In one of our legs on the journey, the wind was quite crazy on the tube car. Here’s Jessica being silly as the wind blows her hair every which direction.

Once we arrived, we waited in a rather long line.

And we got our pictures taken as well.

Erin looks particularly beautiful in this photo:

Finally, it was time to head home. So we got some dinner.

Dinner and Heading Back to Oxford

We walked out of King’s Cross Station and saw this:

We looked for a place to eat and hard a hard time. We walked around in the rain until we found this little cafe. It was okay, but we were starving. The kids were hungry and cranky.

Since it was already 7:00, we decided to head back to Oxford, rather than trying to see more things. We were exhausted. So we took the Underground back to Paddington Station and then took the National Railway back to Oxford.

Here’s our group of students at the end of the day:

Micah fell asleep again, but it didn’t last too long. She woke up rather cranky.

We made it back to Oxford and collapsed in our beds. All in all, we walked almost 7.5 miles.

It was a long, exhausting, but very good day.