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Published: February 27th 2008
I remember from an art history class many years ago, a discussion of flying buttresses. Here is a prime example.
I arrived in London by bus from Cardiff, Wales, with my friend, Dai. We took the tube (also known as the underground or subway) to our hotel in Bayswater, the Royal Court Apartments. Linell was flying in from Shanghai and was to meet us there on January 15. As often happens, her plane was delayed by bad weather so she was several hours late. Linell sent Dai and me her report on our trip. I have her permission to use it for the next 3 blogs--one on each city, London, Paris and Florence. Here it is sent to us from China where she lives.
I am back from the Europe trip. Everything is very quiet here in Nanjing, except for the nightly firecrackers and the persistent drip, drip, drip of melting snow. Students are still at home; many shops are still closed; no one calls.
The trip was excellent. On the bus to Pudong airport I met a guy who is studying for a PhD in economics at a university in Denmark. We had a lot to talk about and discovered we were booked into the same hotel at the airport. He deposited his luggage and then we
The London Eye
I always wondered what the London Eye was. Well, it's a ferris wheel by the Thames. Here are Linell and Dai on the bridge by the Eye, across from Parliament, our first day in London.
got a taxi to the hotel. It turns out that the hotel chain has TWO hotels at Pudong. We were booked into the cheaper one but the taxi driver took us to the newer, more expensive one. The clerk explained this to us and asked if we wanted to stay there or go to the other hotel. I said (proud of my Chinese bargaining skill), “I will stay here if the price is the same as at the other hotel.” She agreed, also for the other guy, so we stayed and then had dinner together. So much of the fun of traveling is in this sort of unplanned thing, meeting nice people, having small adventures.
When I got to our hotel in London, Dai Lijuan and Susan Goodman (my college roommate) were already there. Susie flew to London a few days ahead of me and went to Wales to visit Dai at her place there. She is doing a year of independent study in linguistics as part of her PhD program in applied linguistics at Nanjing University. We started planning this trip as soon as we learned that she would be studying in Cardiff this year. At that time
Parliament on the Thames River
Parliament is a huge, beautiful building right on the river. This building isn't just a government building, but a graceful, beautiful piece of art.
Susie was teaching at Nanjing Normal University, a kind of transition year into retirement. Susie met Dai’s housemates, three Brits, two men and a woman. When Dai first arrived she was living with four other Chinese graduate students, but she decided after a few weeks that she did not want to spend her year abroad living in a Chinese enclave, so she got herself a new room. She has lots of stories to tell about their exotic way of living, their beliefs about health and hygiene, their way of cooking and eating, their attitudes toward family and friends. It is all interesting to her, and Susie confirms that the housemates all like her, think she should stay in Britain. She won’t do that though. She has a life in China, a family, husband, son, parents, in-laws, friends, and a mission - to figure out how to teach English to young children.
Our hotel in London was the Royal Court Apartments, near the Paddington rail station and Hyde Park. A good location and a pleasant neighborhood, very residential but with a small shopping district a block away. We picked up milk, eggs, bread, etc. and made breakfast in our room
Big Ben clock tower
We came out of the tube (subway) and looked up and saw this tower. It is BIG! It's on Parliament, the building that houses the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
every day. Dai got us London tube passes, so we were carefree in our traveling around the city. We did most of the conventional things - Westminster Abbey, Parliament, but concentrated on museums - National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern (really great), British Museum. The British Museum has a nice program of volunteer docents who introduce small parts of their vast collection. Dai liked that, so we ran from one talk to the next. The best one was about the Enlightenment, a rather challenging, non-visual topic. I couldn’t help wishing that my nephew and niece, Ben and Hannah, could have heard it. It might have given them some perspective on their Christian fundamentalist worldview.
One day we went to the TKTS booth in Leicester (sp?) Square and got tickets to the musical show “Rent.” Dai was dubious because she has no idea about theatre. I think the ticket prices astounded her, but she was convinced once she saw the show. Nothing like that in China. She kept talking about how exciting the show was. She was surprised to learn that I had already seen it on DVD and had a collection of DVD’s of musicals. On Sunday we went
This view of the city and the river shows the construction, the progress, the growth of the city, as well as the sleek lines of the ship.
to Speakers Corner in Hyde Park and then went shopping at Harrods’s. Because it was January and the season for sales, the crowds were horrendous. We did buy a few things at the famous Harrods’s food stalls, some cheddar cheese, coffee and tea in tins. We thought the tins would make nice gifts for people at home, but mine all got dented on the journey - a disadvantage of soft-sided luggage.
London is expensive, partly because the dollar was hovering at 2 to 1 British pound, but we also heard lots of complaints from London residents about the high cost of living. I tried not to think about it, figuring that a trip like ours is more likely to become more rather than less expensive with time. After 6 days in London, we took the Eurostar train to Paris. (To be continued.)
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