Another one of the coolest things about living overseas versus just traveling is all of the little details that you discover about a place. I haven’t jumped into my research on London yet because I feel like I already know a decent amount about the U.K., and I’ve actually been to London a few times. So I’d been waiting for more specifics like what neighborhood we’ll be living in to start looking up local information.

Obviously I don’t know EVERYTHING about the place because it’s huge, and it’s been around for centuries. Today I got a glimpse of the hidden gems that await us.

I was looking for a cute piece of art focused on London, and I went through the usual suspects for imagery…Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge…Old London Bridge…when I suddenly came across a print titled “Frost Fair on the Thames, 1683.” The first thing that caught my attention was the people walking around on the Thames…then the tents and the horses and carriages…all with the old London bridge in the background.

I did a little digging and found out that the last time the Thames froze over was in 1814. But back in the Middle Ages, there was a four hundred year period called the Little Ice Age characterized by extremely cold winters. The Thames froze over for the first time in recorded history in the winter of AD 250, but the worst one was in 1683.

The surface of the river was solid for two months, and the ice was almost a foot thick, which obviously crushed the shipping industry. Londoners finally started using the ice as a road and eventually for entertainment. Even Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth came out to participate in the festivities that included tiny makeshift shops selling pottery, handmade cards, mulled wine, roasted meat and nuts and all kinds of fun things.

Apparently the Brits tried to revive the Frost Fair in 2004 on the banks of the Thames in the form of the Bankside Winter Festival. But it only lasted for four winters and then disappeared.

But you can still check out these great prints from several different medieval Frost Fairs on AllPosters.com. Or you can swing by the British Museum and view some of the originals.

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