Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday April 24 in London

At 9:30 a.m., Adriana and I slipped out of the house.  The boys were busy with Rocio and it is best not to say a formal "goodbye" which tends to exacerbate Samuel's separation issues.  We walked to the train station, picked up a day pass apiece and boarded the train about three minutes later when it pulled in.  This sure does beat having to be at the aiport an hour before takeoff, by the way.

Anyway, we did a lot of walking to start with, saw Big Ben the House of Parliament and Number 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Castle and took a fascinating side trip (fascinating for me) to the Methodist Center which was built in 1912 as a central worship place/meeting hall for Britain's many Methodists.  A sweet guide gave us the royal tour and told us that this was the building where the United Nations began, among other things.  It's large meeting hall serves both as a worship center and as a multi-purpose room and is used for concerts and many other things.  As a matter of fact, Andrew Lloyd Weber, creator of many fabulous musicals, got his start there.  His father had been organist there for many years and Andrew wrote "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" when he was 18 and it was first performed at the center.  She also took us on the roof balcony and we looked down on Westminster Abbey.  It is from that balcony that TV broadcasters set up their equipment when they are shooting things happening at the Abbey.  So now I'll know . . . 

We decided we wanted to go to Harrod's, the famous department store.  After several starts in the wrong direction (our maps weren't particularly good and I was totally turned around--the cars driving on the left completely switched my brain and I couldn't figure out north from south or east from west all of a sudden), a nice passerby sent us in the correct direction across St. James Park and Green Park where we picked up a bus and rode to Harrods.

Now that department store is an experience!  It's just huge, full of high end luxury products (and guarded by hundreds of security guards), and has anything the discriminating shopper would ever want--at prices that are clearly for the rich.  We saw some of the most lovely little girl clothes--I picked up a dress that would be adorable on Kate, David and Shawna's daughter.  It was a measly 200 pounds--approximately $300 in current American dollars.  A steal!!!!!

After a bit of shopping there, Adriana needed to come back home to get the kids.  I was pretty tired--I've not been walking that much in a long time and we had probably trekked close to five miles by then, but I really wanted to see St. Paul's Cathedral, designed by Christopher Wren after the original one burned in the great fire in London.  An extremely kind doorman at Harrods directed me to the bus stop ("Of course, darling, I'm glad to help" he said), and told me to take the number 14 to Piccadilly Circus and then transfer to the bus for St. Paul.  I went where he told me, the #14 showed up a couple of minutes later, and I boarded and sat down by an elderly man.  I pulled out my bus map trying to figure out how to transfer busses.  My seatmate saw what I was doing, kindly inquired about my destination, graciously explained how to make the transfer ("get off the bus, go back 20 yards to the currency exchange, turn right and go up the street to Regency street, cross the street and catch the #15 or #23") and then explained that the Piccadilly Circus stop would be three stops after he got off.  Then we started talking about what I was doing here, and had heard of the very fine school where Jonathan did his MBA last year in France, and gave a couple of suggestions of places to take tea on Sunday.  I think perhaps I was sitting next to an angel!

Anyway, I did exactly as he said, the #15 bus showed up in about 30 seconds, and dropped me off at the fabulous St. Paul's Cathedral about 30 totally traffic clogged minutes later.  London really does have huge traffic issues, even with such good public transportation.  I was late getting to the Cathedral and they were not giving any more tours for the day and were telling people to come back tomorrow.  I explained that I didn't want the tour, but was a United Methodist Clergy and just wanted to come in and pray a bit and look around quietly.  She said, "You are clergy?  Then come on in--there is no charge. You just can't take a tour."  

So I got to spend a lovely time just sitting in the nave listening to a boys choir and the organist rehearse for a performance later that day and enjoying the spectacular beauty of the place.  I walked around a bit, and went down to the crypt, looking at the memorials of some of the people buried there.  I could have gone up to the top and seen the "whispering galley" where sounds from there travel all over the cathedral, but it is nearly 300 stair steps up, no such thing as turning back, and just decided I'd best not try it.  Normally, I think I could do that since I do climb a lot of stairs each day, but I was pretty tired and my feet were hurting.  Time to figure out how to get back home.

I knew there was a tube station near St. Paul's and figured the best way to get to Victoria Station to get the train home would be to take the underground.  One very kind policeman sent me in the proper direction, but I still couldn't quite find it and two more extraordinarily kind police not only guided me to the tube station, but also told me exactly which trains to catch ("Catch the red line to Oxford Circus, and then pick up the light blue line to Victoria.")

Once I got to Victoria, I came out of the Underground and headed for the train station, where 15 minutes later, I boarded my train south for Carshalton Beeches, the train stop approximately 1/2 mile from Jonathan's house, managed to walk home without getting lost (more complex than you'd think:  streets are a maze here, no simple blocks, nothing meets up with the street in the way you think it will, multiple dead ends, and no way to take a simple drive around the block. You just can't do it.).  

Joshua opened the door for me when I rang the doorbell, and I kind of stumbled into the house, very tired, but having had a great day getting a small sense of London.

So much kindness shown to me and to Adriana today.  And we still have simply gorgeous weather here.  Supposed to rain on Sunday and I still haven't managed to plant their garden. Perhaps tomorrow--am running out of time.  Just four more days here and I'm heading home.

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