The Tower Bridge, as seen from near the Tower of London. This bridge is often mistakenly called London Bridge. The REAL London Bridge was dismantled and reassembled in Arizona some years ago.
|Our first target was Waterloo Station. We figured we could store our bags there while getting oriented to central London. But storage lockers were a thing of the past for much longer there than they were in Chicago ... anyplace the IRA could hide a bomb was gone. This included storage lockers and trash cans. To store our packs, we had to pay 4 pounds per pack to have them stored in a facility called Left Luggage. Most of that money was to pay for the now-familiar x-ray machine that our bags had to pass through once again.
Before we got on the "tube," we bought day passes. For 4.90 pounds it entitles you to ride any tube line or bus that you wish. The only catch is that you can't use it before 9:30 am on weekdays ... no big deal for us. If you plan to be in town for, say, three days, you can buy all three passes at once. And they take credit cards.
For Americans planning a trip to London, spend some time in New York first, if you haven't already. Previous exposure to New York proved to be extremely valuable in adjusting to London. The crowds, the tube system, and many other facets of big-city life there were eerily remeniscent of our own First City.
On Saturday we took an orientation walk from Waterloo Station, over the Thames to The Strand, to the Parliament Building and Big Ben, and then across the Westminster Bridge to our starting point. Along the way we stumbled onto a pro-cannabis rally in Trafalgar Square where we were kindly entertained by some new local friends.
On Sunday, we tried to catch the Hyde Park Speakers Corner. After we got caught in the horrendous crowds of mutant shopper zombies on Oxford Street, and then got lost in the maze of tunnels near that corner of the park, we finally found the Speakers Corner. It was more like a collection of clusters of people observing others involved in ... er ... spirited debates. We wandered about the park to relieve the stress built up from too many consecutive days in big-city crowds.
Monday was our big "see the sights" day. We started it out with our pilgramage to the Beatles' zebra crossing - the crosswalk on which they were photographed for the cover of "Abbey Road." We took the obligatory pictures of each other walking the same course, and enjoyed talking to a few other pilgrims doing the same thing. One woman who passed by said that she'd lived in the neighborhood for ten years, and had never known why there was so much attention paid to that spot until we explained it to her. She knew of the Beatles, but had not known that this was the place that they made so much of their music.
Monday's other highlight was the London Eye. This is a huge ferris wheel built much like a bicycle wheel. It takes 45 minutes to make one circuit, and it carries you hundreds of feet over the city. Each car is a big clear bubble that can hold about a dozen people. On our car was a ninety-something English lady who said that this was her 45th ride on the Eye (she has a lifetime pass). She knew where everything was, and what everything was, and was more than happy to point things out and explain them to anyone who would listen. She was a complete delight to have along on our car ... it was like having our own personal tour guide. We hope that we are that spirited when we reach that age.
Issac Newton and many other important historical figures are buried in Westminster Abbey. We got to the Abbey at 4:30. They closed at 3:45. We took the tube to the Tower of London, arriving there at 5:00. Normally, they're open until 6, but on this day they closed at 3:45 for "ceremonial purposes." Views of these sites from the outside had to do. As we rested our hands on the 2000-year-old Roman wall, suits carrying brief cases rushed by, oblivious to the significance of the wall they were passing. The afternoon rush hour had begun.
We were engulfed in these crowds as we returned to the home of our hosts in the northwestern suburb of Harrow Weald. The commuters were much easier to handle than the shoppers, because the commuters moved about with a purpose and a destination, while the shoppers simply seemed to wander about aimlessly. It's hard to move with the flow when no flow exists.
While in London we stayed at the home of Michael and Gloria, who are in-laws of RoZ's brother. Not only did they provide us with shelter and some food while we were there, but they also helped with the cultural and emotional adjustment to our first exposure to a foreign land. We cannot thank them enough.
The street sign for Abbey Road, with the messages left by the countless pilgrims who visited before us.