My sixth (and to date, last) trip to Europe was to England in March 2003.  Unlike the previous trips, this one was set up by and for my family alone.  Nevertheless, we managed to see quite a lot of stuff in the week we were there.  We picked our flight over to arrive in London in the evening, so we didn't waste a day recovering from jet lag.  Our first stop of note the following day (Monday, March 10) was the British Museum, which among other things has a lot of Greek and Roman artifacts taken from around the Mediterranean.  From there we went over the Baker Street (via the Underground, of course; that and our feet were the only modes of transportation we used inside the city) to see the London branch of Madame Tussauds, a well-known museum of wax people.  The Underground station at Baker Street is filled with references to its most famous (albeit fictional) user: Sherlock Holmes.  Thousands of tiles inside the station have silhouettes of the Great Detective, and there's even a statue of him on the sidewalk in front of one of the entrances.  That night we went to one of the theaters to see The Phantom of the Opera, where we were surprised to discover that among the snacks available during the intermission were little cups of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

On Tuesday we went on a bus tour of London.  First we went to Westminster Abbey.  While the structure itself is nothing special (oh, look, another cathedral), it's notable for being the final resting place of several famous scientists, including Newton, Darwin, Joule, and Lord Kelvin.  of Particular interest to me was a stained-glass window showing the construction of the first railway bridge to Wales, the locomotive Rocket, and inscriptions commemorating George and Robert Stephenson.  Next we went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  I kept expecting the Spanish Inquisition or a guy with a dead parrot to appear, because the marching band played the Liberty March (which is also the theme to Monty Python's Flying Circus).  After lunch we took a short cruise down the Thames, before touring the Tower of London.  Despite the name, the Tower is actually an entire castle.  The keep in the middle of the Tower houses a museum of medieval weapons and torture devices, while the crown jewels are held in another building nearby.  Unfortunately, I couldn't convince my parents to leave my brother there, even as part of the tour.

On Wednesday we visited Stonehenge and Bath.  Little needs to be said about Stonehenge itself; I assume all my readers know about it.  Access to the site is limited to a path that's been laid through the area, which is connected to a parking lot via a tunnel under the A344 road.  The tunnel has several murals of Stonehenge.  At Bath we visited the ruins of the Roman baths and the 17th century baths built on top of them.  The channels and pools built by the Romans to collect and channel the hot spring water still work.  While wandering around the area later on I came across a bookstore that had an entire window display of train books, and one of the rooms inside had two entire walls filled with train books.  This was quite astounding for someone used to finding at most a single shelf of train books at a bookstore.

Thursday, March 13th, started with a trip to Oxford.  After looking at many of the centuries-old college buildings there, we then went to Startford-on-Avon to see the house where Shakespeare was born.  After lunch we went to Warwick Castle, which is one of the best preserved castles in England.  Most of the others were under Royalist control during the English Civil War and were heavily damaged or destroyed by cannon fire (Warwick Castle was also under Royalist control, but there was never a major attempt to take it).  As it is now owned by The Tussauds Group, there are a number of wax figures inside it illustrating various facets of medieval life. When we went there the castle was also hosting an exhibit of the ten greatest figures in Biritsh history, which had wax figures of (in no particular order) Winston Churchill, Lady Diana, Queen Elizabeth I, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John Lennon, Oliver Cromwell, Horatio Nelson, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and William Shakespeare.

I spent most of Friday and Saturday railfanning while the rest of my family did other things.  I started at Waterloo Station, photographing various EMUs departing and arriving at the station along with a few shots of Eurostar trainsets at the adjacent Waterloo International.  I then went to South Kensington to shoot the District and Circle Underground lines, before heading to Victoria Station, where I shot more EMUs and the prize of the day: the Orient Express trainset, being hauled by former London & Northeastern Class-A4 Pacific Union of South Africa on a lunchtime excursion. Then I went and photographed all of the Gloucester Road Underground station (District/Circle and Piccadilly lines) and the Jubilee Line at London Bridge.  That evening we went to see My Fair Lady.

Saturday started with a ride on the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel on the bank of the Thames.  We then had some fun trying to find some London Underground books.  The first place we tried, the London Transport Travel Information store at St. James Park, turned out to be closed on Saturdays, so we had to go to the gift shop at the London Transport Museum instead (we did not, however, go through the museum itself, as we had other things to do).  After getting some books, I went over to Baker Street Station and photographed everything there, as well as taking a side trip to the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street.  Then I went to Paddington Station, where I photographed EMUs, DMUs, and even some diesel-electric locomotive-hauled trains.  That evening we went to see the musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which is not quite as good as the movie.