Monday, January 28, 2008

London Diary

Having a few minutes before I head for bed, I thought I'd post a bit more about the trip. We flew out of DFW on Tuesday, the 15th. I am now an expert on all the little Ziploc baggies and all the rules regarding liquids, gels, aerosols & baby paraphernalia. Pain in the butt--especially after 4 flights, but I digress. We arrived in London on Wednesday morning and after a tube and cab ride made it to my friend, Leonie's house. She & her husband are architects. He's working on the design for the stadium for the 2012 Olympics in London. Cool, huh? After settling in and having a brief nap, we headed to town and bought a prepaid SIM card and hit the grocery store for a few supplies. Then, it was back home.

The next morning we headed straight to the British Library, my abs. favorite place in London. I've lost count of the times I've visited, and I'm still awestruck each time I go. It contains some of the most amazing documents ever produced, including the Magna Carta, Shakespeare's First Folio, Handel's Messiah, Codex Sianiatica (sp?)--one of the oldest texts on which the Bible is based, pages from Leonardo da Vinci's notebook, and the list goes on and on. It's a tranquil, almost reverent-feeling place, and it's never crowded. At the risk of repeating myself, you can't go to London and NOT visit.

After our pilgrimage to the cusp of civilizations's literary output, we made our way to the Tower of London--expensive, but worth every penny. And I must say, January is an excellent time to go. There are no crowds or lines anywhere. And the weather is tolerable. Sure it rains some, but be honest. Wouldn't you be disappointed if you went to London, and it didn't rain? We attached to a Beefeater tour and after that, became Crown Jewel groupies. You pass by the jewels on little moving sidewalks, but the beauty of it all, is that in January, you can go by as many times as you like. I think they were beginning to think that Lynne & I were potential jewel thieves (maybe we could've hidden the loot in Quinn's diaper?) after we went by the 4th--or was it the 5th time? LOL. Those are some seriously beautiful jewels. Then, as it was 4pm and getting dark (yes, it gets dark early in January) and Quinn had slept a grand total of 1 hour all day, we headed home.

Day 2 found us hitting the Changing of the Guard, the Old Bailey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Millenium Bridge. We wanted to go to the Evensong at St. Paul's, but it had moved to Westminster Cathedral (not Abbey) that evening. Bummer.

Day 3 we only had time for the British Museum, as we were attending the wedding that night. At the British Museum ,we saw the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles. And then we saw (extensively) the loo since we changed and dolled ourselves up there. Quite nice, they were. We took a cab to the wedding, as Lynne's foot was hurting and I was wearing strappy, kill me now heels. The wedding began at 2 and was held in St. Etheldreda's Church, the oldest Catholic church in London. It was compact and had gorgeous stained glass windows. Blessedly, Quinn slept through most of the service. According to the people at our table at the reception, it's lucky the priest didn't as well since they said he'd had a wee bit too much to drink. No wonder he was so entertaining.

The reception was gorgeous. It was held in a hall that was a setting in a Dickens' novel--nothing like a little atmosphere, aye? It began with a champagne reception, was followed by a wonderful 3 course meal, and then more champagne for the toasts. After the toasts, the cake was cut and we headed back downstairs for cake/coffee/tea, as they set up the dance floor. At that point, Lynne, Quinn, & I decided to call it a night, as it was 11pm. Yes, you read that right--11pm. Quinn had been awake since ~4, but he was the happiest person there. In fact, he wasn't with me for 3-4 hours during the reception. He sat and was cossetted and catered to at a nearby table. Several time waitresses carried him off to the kitchen for more spoiling. And he didn't so much as whimper the entire time. It was amazing. In fact, I have no idea whose child that was b/c he certainly wasn't mine. I think he finally decided he wanted me around 10pm. When we left at 11, I think he was disappointed that he wasn't staying for the dancing. Again, let me confirm that yes, the dancing was just starting around 11 and I'm sure went on for many hours after we bailed.

Our table at the reception was populated by a primarily Swedish contingent who spoke flawless English. It's embarassing how much of the world can do that, but they were abs. lovely. I find that the case pretty much everywhere I've ever visited. Whilst many, many nations abhor American policies, govt. figures, and chains (ie. McDonald's), they've always treated individuals very well (with the caveat, of course, that the Americans in question aren't rude. overbearing, know-it-alls who steamroll in regardless of those around them). I have NEVER had a bad moment in England, Scotland (okay, they were somewhat miffed that I lived in England, but that's Braveheart kind of thing), Wales, Ireland, Egypt, Spain, Germany, France (yes, including Paris!), Russia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Greece, Canada, or Mexico. I know there are exceptions to the rule, but I've found that people respond in kind. If you go in respectful of customs/traditions and are sincere, that's usually what you get back. But now, enough of my soapbox and that word from our sponsors--also I'm worried my battery's going give out soon!

Where was I? Sunday, I think, the day after the wedding. On Sunday, we caught the beginning of the Changing of the Guards (we missed the beginning the previous time), then headed to Parliament Square where we of course saw Parliament and Big Ben, timing our arrival so that we heard Big Ben chime 12 noon. Very nice. We then walked up to Trafalgar Square where we ate our lunch in the mostly pigeon-less square. Finishing there, we hit the highlights of the National Gallery. Lots of Van Goghs, Monets, Rembrandts, Vermeers, etc. It's a beautiful museum and even more beautiful--it's free. Like most of the museums in London. How amazing is that? After a spot of tea and some chocolate cake, we strolled back down to Parliament Square and attended Evensong at Westminster Abbey. I spent much time reading all the markers in the Poets' Corner, as I walked Quinn to sleep. Thankfully, he dropped off one song before the sermon. The service was awesome--the singing ethereal. I'd visited both Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's before, but never attended a service there. It was surreal to see them in their true state, being used as intended, without tourists milling around. And the side benefit, the services are free. It's a win-win situation. After Evensong, we considered stopping by Harrod's, but it's closed on Sunday so back home it was.

Despite the fact that our English hosts thought us somewhat mad, we caught a train to Bath on Monday. The trip from London Paddington to Bath takes about 1 1/2 hours. Now, I know you're dying to hear about Bath--because let's face it. Bath is fabulous, but this post is already monstrously long and it's after 11pm and my 2 yr. old just got up. So, I'll end for now. But don't worry. I know you're desperate to hear about Bath and our 36 hour trek home! More later!!