One of my earliest childhood memories is of gazing endlessly at a tiny golden clock in the living room. It was a souvenir my father had brought back from his maiden trip to England. Decades later, when I got the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom, Big Ben, London's most famous clock tower landmark, was on top of my list of must-see places.
As a friend had suggested, I took the tube and got down at the Westminster underground railway station. A little lost, I walked a few steps when something glistening in the sky caught my eye. It was the magnificent 315-foot-high clock tower nicknamed Big Ben. Standing majestically at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, it was everything I had imagined.
With London Eye (giant Ferris Wheel on the banks of river Thames) in the background, the ornate four-faced chiming clock looked picture perfect. Mesmerised, I started walking towards the neo-gothic Victorian skyscraper that Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin had designed.
The glossy brochure available at the counter gave me a brief history of the monument and amusing facts about it. It said Big Ben was built to replace the Old Palace of Westminster after it was destroyed by fire in October 1834. It was constructed in a way that no scaffolding was ever visible on the outside. Recently, it was renamed Elizabeth Tower to commemorate the Queen's diamond jubilee. At the base of each clock dial is the Latin inscription "Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Primam", which means "O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First".
Unable to contain my excitement, I approached an officer who was dressed smartly to enquire about the tour. To my dismay, he informed me politely that only the UK residents were allowed inside.
When I got to know that it did not have a lift, the disappointment passed away quickly.
I admired the clock tower from a distance, soaking in its beauty and grandeur. The soft chime broke the spell and I realised I had stood there for more than an hour. Guess I could never get enough of Big Ben.
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