Rooms galore!

Posted: Sunday, November 01, 2009

After eight days in Scotland, my husband, Don, and I returned to my friend Alison's flat in London. The next morning Alison returned to her school from spring break.

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Courtesy Of Don Harris
Courtesy Of Don Harris

At about 10:30 a.m., Don and I took the Underground from Maida Vale to Westminster. We only had to walk a short distance to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, a museum in London that is one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. We were given tape recorders to use.

We saw the Cabinet Room where Churchill said, "This is the room from which I will direct the war." Churchill did not like his underground shelter and only used the rooms during bombing raids.

The Cabinet war rooms were the underground headquarters of the British government's fight against the Nazis. There were 27 rooms total.

We saw the Transatlantic Telephone Room from which Churchill could call President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. Other important rooms were the Map Room and Churchill's Room. Other rooms included Mrs. Churchill's Room, Rooms 59-63 for the office staff, and the bedrooms for the staff as well as desks in the officers' bedrooms.

The Churchill Museum is a maze. There were no signs or arrows to follow. We basically started at the middle of Churchill's life. The disorganization was tiring. We even had a difficult time finding an exit. When we were trying to leave the museum, we stumbled on more of the Cabinet War Rooms including the very important Map Room where the staff plotted the war.

Possibly, the disorganization was our fault because Americans walk and drive on the right while the Britons walk and drive on the left.

What is most amazing is that the rooms were shut up at the end of the war and no changes were made. At the end of WWII, the Cabinet War Rooms were left as they were from 1939 to August 1945. In 1984, " ... the Imperial War Museum finished the restoration" of the rooms and began the guided tours. In 2001 work began to restore the Cabinet War Rooms. In 2003, the Learning & Conference Centre opened and in 2005 the Churchill Museum opened.

From the Churchill Museum, we walked the short distance to the National Gallery. We ate our lunch in the National Gallery's charming, pub-like dining room. We enjoyed our lamb meatballs and pocket bread with Greek mayonnaise. I enjoyed a glass of champagne.

After lunch, we walked up the wide stairs to the six Impressionists galleries. The galleries include the Academicians & Landscape Painters; Painting Out-of Doors; Manet, Monet, and the Impressionists; Seurat and Pissarro, Cezanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh; and Degas and art around 1900. Don and I have learned that trying to see everything in an art gallery or a museum is exhausting. We picked up a map and decided which galleries we want really to see.

Trafalgar Square still has masses of people hanging out at the square. However, there are fewer pigeons begging for food at the square because "London's mayor, Ken Livingstone ... decided that London's 'flying rats' were a public nuisance and evicted the venerable seed salesman" according to Rick Steves.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.

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