Thursday, May 22, 2008

London!

London is everything I had expected and more.  I was lucky enough to sleep straight through our flight from Detroit to London Gatwick (thank you, Dramamine!), so when we got here I was not even tired.  We took a couple of trains to get to our hotel, which is in Paddington, so not near the center of the city at all, but right on a very useful Underground line.  Julia and I have also been putting our public transportation experience to use, getting accustomed to London’s bus and tube routes remarkably quickly.  We can already look at the street where we are and say, “Oh, we just need to grab the 14 bus from here to take us where we want to go.”  So that’s been an easy transition.

We’ve been enjoying the city the past few days.  Immediately upon arrival we put our things in our hotel room and headed to Regent’s Park to see the queen’s rose garden.  Of course, we did our best to take a double-decker bus to the park, so here we are on our very first double-decker. 

The roses aren’t all in bloom yet, but we chuckled over their names, including my personal favorite, “The Invincible.”  We also saw the fattest pigeon there…its belly was literally dragging on the ground, and I doubt it could have flown to save its life.  We also went to King’s Cross that first evening.  For those of you who have not seen the Harry Potter movies, King’s Cross is where Platform 9 3/4 is located.  We were disappointed (but not surprised) to find that it is now on a wall outside the station itself.  We naturally took some cheesy pictures, although we had to wait our turn…the large Japanese tour group was there first.

After our touristy moment, we grabbed traditional Cornish pasties for supper, took the subway back to Paddington, and went to bed early in preparation for Wednesday.
First thing Wednesday we got on the Original London Tour Bus, and rode around seeing such sights as Picadilly Circus, St. Paul’s Church, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Fleet Street, Trafalger Square, the Tower of London, the London Eye, and others.  Julia and I got off the bus at the Tower of London and took a boat (included in our tour) down the Thames. 

Our tour guide was funny and charming, calling us “darling” and “sweetheart” when we got off at Parliament.  He told us interesting little anecdotes about how the original London Bridge began sinking, so London sold it to an American businessman who thought he was getting the more picturesque Tower Bridge, so now London Bridge is actually in Arizona.  We both got our first dialect samples on the boat.  Two Londoners were out for the day with their two-year-old daughter and were happy enough to give us language samples.  After leaving the boat, we walked around by Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, and Buckingham Palace (I’m sure you know what they look like, so I won’t take the space to put pictures of all of them). 

We ended up near Trafalger Square, where we lounged in the sun for a bit, burning our faces in the process.  (We got sunburned in London, of all places!) 

Since we were tired, we decided to just hop on another bus and ride around for awhile.  We got on the first bus that passed, and the front seats on the upper deck were open, so we sat there enjoying a first class view of the city for almost an hour.  When we got off we wandered around Covent Gardens for awhile, found a little place to have supper, and relaxed a bit more before heading down to the riverfront.  We walked over the Millennium Bridge, known to Londoners as the “Wobbly Bridge” because when it was first opened to commemorate the new millennium they had to close it right away because it swayed violently.  Now it’s quite stable, and even in the tremendous winds that were blowing, the bridge was steady. 
Crossing the river brought us to the Globe Theater, just in time to get in line for the evening performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  It’s not my favorite Shakespeare play, so I wasn’t too excited, especially since our tickets were to stand in the pit for the entire play, but I was blown away by the performance.  It was definitely the high light of my time in London.  The players were incredible.  Each one was completely in character and seemed to enjoy performing immensely.  The play was done beautifully and simply, but the comic timing was perfect, and I hardly even noticed that I was standing for three hours after walking for ten.  We were so close to the stage that we got spit on when the actors enunciated!  I loved the play, and that is one experience that I would definitely do again, even though my feet were very tired afterward.
Since our professor knew we’d be tired after Wednesday, we started Thursday with class instead of walking, and then went to the British Museum in the afternoon.  We only stayed about an hour and a half and then we were off on our own for more time in the city.  My group decided to go to the riverfront again and walk along it and take some better pictures of Parliament and Big Ben from the opposite side of the river.  We definitely moseyed, so we didn’t do much before it was 5:00 and Evensong was starting at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  We attended the service, which was beautiful.  Since it was also Corpus Christi, there was communion, which was such a rich experience.  Taking communion in that church where so many Christians have taken communion throughout the years, and doing so with many Christians I did not know and will never know, but with whom I share a faith and a future was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had.  It was humbling to think that I am just one of thousands of people who make up a part of Christ’s Kingdom the world over. 

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 05/22 at 04:25 PM
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