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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 51.5002, -0.126236
We have three days to play in London, one of which was totally eaten up by taking a tour of Windsor Castle, the ancient Roman baths, and visiting Stonehenge. That was a fine day, although a little long on the bus. My old refrain: I would have loved to have had more time in each of those places! Plus I thought we would be able to enter the inner circle of the stones at Stonehenge, but learned that that hasn't been allowed for many years. We did find out that on the two solstices people are allowed into the center. On the summer solstice they can stay and camp overnight, watching the sunset late in the evening, and greeting Old Sol as it rises over the horizon. How magnificent that must be! But the winter solstice has fewer people even wanting to come to Stonehenge, and they can't camp out overnight, but of course they can stay for sunset, partying afterwards, wrapped up warmly in winter clothing.
On our third day we took a different free walking tour of London; this time we met at Temple station and set out through the banking district, we saw seven of Christopher Wren's magnificent churches scattered throughout the city, the place where Sam Johnson lived, plus a statue of his favorite cat, Hodge; and we ended at the Tower of London, learning about the Beefeaters and the Raven Master. This was very interesting as I had just been reading a book by Christopher Fowler, the theme centering on someone's stealing the ravens from the Tower, which, according to legend, means that England will fall. What with Brexit's recent passing, I kept looking for the ravens to be hopping around the grassy lawn, but did not see even one. What can be read into that?
Bill and I walk all over the city and ride the Tube everywhere. On our first day we bought Oyster cards for use on the Tube and buses, offering the same benefits as the Octopus card in Hong Kong, allowing us to ride at a less expensive fare, and being totally refundable when we leave. It makes it so easy to explore the city and not have to think about whether we have change for the fares. In Hong Kong I did turn in my Octopus card and retrieved the money I had put on it, but here in London we both kept our Oyster cards, thinking that we'll most likely come back to London since there is so much here we haven't yet seen.
At 5PM, instead of going to one of the free museums, we chose to go to Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral, unarguably Christopher Wren's greatest work. I wanted to be in that church, surrounded by organ music and listening to the choir singing, feeling the energy inside that beautiful structure. It is a large cathedral, much smaller than St. Peter's in Rome, but has the second largest dome in the world, the largest, of course, being St. Peter's. How I would love to go to Midnight Mass at St. Peter's! But Bill says maybe we could come here for Christmas Eve, dovetailing this with visiting Stonehenge on the winter solstice. We shall see, but I think this is a pipedream.
The restaurants we have visited here in London have all been exceptionally good. Three days of incredibly wonderful vegan meals make us want to come back just for the food alone. And John would love this: I had the largest, most delicious chocolate brownie sundae I've ever had, with tigernut nicecream, various organic fruits, organic vegan chocolate sauce, all in a mini-vase, amazingly delicious and healthful. And yes, it was a chore, but I finished it all!
On our last evening in London we continued doing the touristy thing and took a Circle river cruise on the Thames. Why not? We ended back at the Westminster bridge and Big Ben, and took the Tube back to Bayswater, slowly walking back to our hotel, reluctant to end our time here.
But here is what I hate about London: the people are so pushy! They just walk right into you. I have been trampled more on London sidewalks than anywhere else in the world. No one seems to respect that sidewalks should be shared. Once I was almost knocked down by a woman who thrust her elbows out as she walked by, never even looking back to see if she had, indeed, scored a strike. But I had black and blue spots for a few days afterwards, and from that time on I didn't trust anyone walking towards me.
So loving our experience in London outweighs the part about being trampled, although that can be very unpleasant. Maybe next time I should just wear a football player's shoulder pads and punch my way through. But that would be unpleasant too, and I would feel horrible about knocking someone else down. Too bad most Londoners don't feel the same way.
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