Friday, November 22, 2013

Rising to my London Visit

Of course my plane out of Tallahassee was late.  So arrival to Atlanta was late. I had to switch to another late night flight to London.  But I ended up with two seats in the "extra space" section, so I could curl up in the fetal position during the night.  Not comfortably, but better for my legs than straight down all night!

Got into London late - who knew that  the Piccadilly line would be so long...  But it is like a free guided tour.  You are now passing Waterloo....

It was late when I finally arrived, not late like bed time, but late like it gets dark here at four p.m. and cold and I traveled all night and day kind of late. Hopping on the Piccadilly and the Jubilee trains thanks to my daughter sending me the Oyster Transport Card which I could "top off' or Float up".  I checked in to my lovely room on Canary Wharf and then headed out for a close stroll of the riverside and the little shops and cafes.  Aside from the cutting wind, the scenery at night was lovely.  The whole area is glass buildings with intermittent hundreds of year old chapels interspersed.  Christmas lights are going up all along the banks of the river.  After stopping in one small cafe, I had a glass a wine and met a nice chap who made fun of my ignorance on how wine is ordered here (small, medium and large, what happened to a pour?) and how to pay (didn't know how to count pounds correctly).  The barkeeps then ganged up and all had a jolly time making fun of me....  They did give me a tip on going to the Borough Market near London Bridge.  What an EXCELLENT choice that was.

Dinner beckoned so back to the hotel and ate in the dining room downstairs, the Manhattan Grill at West Indian Quay (my hotel).  The whole place was filled with single people eating alone.  I assume everyone is staying for work.  I take a seat next to lady who is talking to the waiter.  Having overheard her speak, I knew she was "yank".  Sure enough, she is from Brooklyn.  We talk and talk a bit about work and travel.  She is an attorney who works in the finance industry and travels the world.  I was green with envy.  Then she told me her parents live in Broward County and that her father used to work for the State of Florida in Corrections.  So believe what you want  BUT her father worked with me and was a Director hired by Harry Singletary!!! (For those in Corrections, click on the link to see whom I reference.)  Small world story.  Fly to London, meet someone who is almost like a home girl!  That was funny and fun.

Back to the room and rest up because the agenda for the day was long and longer.  I left early and headed for London Bridge and the Boroughs Market.  How lovely and interesting and dynamic.  Fish, vegetables, sugars and a whole shop of licorice.  The smells all mingle together as bratwurst is cooked next to curry, next to scallops, next to fish and chips. Every vendor who saw me with a camera asked me to put them on facebook.  No one asked me to tweet.  Interesting.  I wandered around looking and smelling before settling for a venizen sausage with peppersauce on a home made dense bread.  It hit the spot, glad I brought my water.

Back out to see London Bridge and the Abbey and walk across the Thames so that I can say that I have.  The wind picked up over the river and my eyes started to water.  I realized that I had enjoyed a lovely sunny day till that moment.

 Back off the bridge and around the market taking photos, then back on to the Jubilee route of the Tube.

Next stop, Westminster!  Just like on PBS.

Fabulous tour walking around with thousands of other tourists.  All languages on the corner, all looking at maps, actually we all had the same free tourist map.  Funny, we have nothing in common except none of knows anything about our geography.  Standing at the light waiting for the cross sign to give permission, I heard, "Well, what do y'all think?"  I looked up to see the camo hat and the cowboy boots and a nice young couple who could have been from north Florida.  I let the moment pass.

Walking walking through the squares, past the House of Commons up to the National Archives to see Star Trek characters, no wait, Star Wars characters.  I immediately thought of Jose and Mary.

Not exactly what I thought I would see.  But it follows that there would be a global interest in Star Wars.

Which reminds me that London reminds me of everyone.  One of the things that happens when you travel alone is that you accept bringing your friends and family in your head.  It is hard to to see something and say, "Wow Charles would have loved that or Patrick probably thought that was smaller than in the pictures."  So everywhere you look, instead of saying it to someone, you think, gee, I know Corbett would have had fun with this or Tami would be dressed like a Michelin tire man in this cold!

After my parliamentary excursion, back on the Jubilee and to the Green Park district to see Piccadilly Square and Soho.  . One alights at Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.  St. James Park is to the east. the parks are full of residents and others, mainly people photographing residents in the park.  Parks are the only green space abound so they look like special places.  And I guess if I did not live in the canopy tree capital of the world, I would have more appreciation.  Talked to several people who have never left the city ever.  Ever. County.  They never even considered it.  Reminds me of the people I talked to in Panama City Florida who have never left Bay County ever.

Piccadilly Square is an interesting juxtaposition of rich rich and artsy.  It is riveted with stores like Tiffany and Cartier and Sothesby.  And if you get past that, there is Burberry and J.Crew.  None of which I could afford.  After meandering for a time, I realized that for the first time, I wanted to ask Richard Prudhom  (which I am sure was spelled Purdhomme at one point) where the H*** I was.  I am quite sure that it is the only time I wanted to ask Richard what to do.

The curious thing about the sun setting at four is that people start heading home early.  They say they work till five, but humbug.  At four, the streets flooded with people young and old, mostly in work attire and you could hardly get down the lane for the fast pacers.  They are holding phones or looking at phones or talking about phones.  The lovely people with money coming in and out of the finer stores are dressed to the tee. Wool draped into coats with collars larger than shoulders.  Boots that look like four hundred dollars with leather finely crafted to fit off feet.   Coiffed in a way that says taste, but not showy so  But what I did notice, was most people wanted fewer finer things.  Others want lots of new things that are cheap.  At least I presume that is what Walmart is all about.  But there is reverence for old things here.  Not necessarily old people, but old things.  I talked to a woman today about her divorce.  But what she concentrated on is that the church that she married in was five hundred years old and she still goes there.  She loves that she is part of a community that is older than her family can remember.  It gives her comfort that she will be part of a remembered entity.

Wandering around London in late November in the dark brings up the question of proper footwear.  My husband, who has been to Europe, told me I needed rubber boots.  I just have to say that I saw NO ONE wearing rubber boots.  Forgive the digression, but here is my foot photo:

So I guess going to Europe means you can't tell about the Croatians by what the tourists in London are wearing... hmmmm So there you are Charles Higman.

The walk to Soho was long and cold and the walk back was equally so.  I find myself wanting to be more proper in London.  The people are polite no matter their accent.  You can ask anyone how to get somewhere.  And they may not know, but they will be polite about telling you they are bloody ignorant.  And they have no shame in being politely ignorant.  I am too.  I am bloody ignorant of many things.  Including London lines, except the Jubillee, theSt Pancras.  Tomorrow, I will be woefully ignorant of Paris transport.  And by Wednesday, I will be able to tell you how to go from here to yon.