England Diaries - Part III

Day 4, Wed. May 17th - Sights Seen: Parliment, Big Ben, London Eye, Churchill Museum, Tower of London, London Bridge, Harrods.

This is the day it dawned on me that decaf was not going to be available to me on this trip. I even stopped in a McDonalds in London and they didn't offer decaf. I was screwed.

We got an early start and headed to the Underground. I love the Underground and the ever present message to "Mind the Gap." I love the English way of saying things. Instead of "Caution" or "Danger!" it's "Mind the step." Just as if we're having a lovely conversation.

I also like that the UK, unlike lawsuit happy America, assumes people have a brain. In all the towers we climbed, all the crumbly, ledge-filled hilltops we summited, all the hotel windows that opened wide on the 4th floor with no screens, there were none of the "Danger! Death Possible! We're not liable," signs that are standard in American life. You're on the 4th floor with a window with no screen--do we really have to tell you leaning out is dangerous? In America, yes. Britain, no. I found it refreshing.

While we're at it, a few more things I like about England: No billboards, spotless streets (I mean NO litter in either city or country) and how they say "Lovely" or "Brilliant" instead of "Great" and "Okay."  

Back to our day. We exit the Underground to a stunning gold-filled view of Parliment and Big Ben. Just blew us away and made it hit home that, "Hey, we're in England!" Unfortunately, Parliment was in session and Westminster Abbey was closed, so our tour day was not off to a good start.

We found our way to the Churchill Museum which is vast and overwhelming. We were there over 2 hours and still didn't see everything. I found most interesting an original document signed by Hitler and Chamberlain that their two countries would not go to war. Seeing Hitler's signature and knowing that he touched that piece of paper right in front of me behind the glass was a bit eerie.

eye.jpgWe rode the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel with enclosed cabins. It takes about 30 minutes to make a full rotation and during that time you can see all of London. It took longer standing in line to get the tickets than it did to actually get on the Eye. I cracked up when, at the end, you were to line up inside the Eye and a photo snapped your picture--exactly like those pictures available after you exit a roller coaster ride at Disney. (No, we did not buy the picture).

We ate at a cute little upstairs pub where Blair and Mom indulged in their first meal of fish and chips.

We moved on to the Tower of London, home of the Crown Jewels and the oldest palace, fortress, and prison in Europe. We stood in front of the scaffold spot where Anne Boelyn--wife of Henry VIII (one of many) and mother of Elizabeth I--was beheaded 400 years ago almost to the day that we stood there. We walked in the chambers that she walked in. It was amazing.

I'm not a big fan of looking at spears and items of warfare, but the collection of spears from Henry III's time blew me away in their size and how heavy and ferocious they looked even just perched along a wall for display. There was also on display a chopping block and beheading ax that saw quite a bit of action in its day.

The rain was picking up so we went back to the hotel for a nap before we headed off to Harrods. Mom is a shopper and she came alive here while Blair and I sagged behind. To me, a department store is a department store. We saw the Diana and Dodi memorial with the ring Dodi gave Diana on display. Wow.  Big does not begin to describe such a rock. Mondo-huge diamond here, people.

We ate that night at one of my favorite restaurants on the trip - an organic vegetarian restaurant called Leon's which had opened just that day. I had a Moorish Vegetable Tangine with a shredded carrot salad with whole almonds that was to die for. Blair ate rice.  

We left the restaurant, which was near Harrods, about 9:30 PM and headed to the Underground entrance we'd come up through. It was pouring rain and I think our jaws literally dropped when we saw the entrance had been gated shut. 

"Does the Underground close?" I asked.  We were quite a way from our hotel.

A kind passerby, seeing our dismay, told us the Underground was still open, it was just this particular entrance was closed. So we walked a couple blocks and got on. We still got a drenching though. Blair just had his hooded raincoat with him and no umbrella so he got the worst of it.  Straight to bed when we got home, which is how we had come to think of the flat in the day and a half we'd been there.  Tomorrow was Mom's last day of touring with us, as she left on Friday. We all needed a good nights sleep.