London was like meeting my childhood celebrity crush and getting "middle school girl" star struck.
Day 1We became acquainted with London from atop a bumbling double decker bus, top level, front seat. A picture in a telephone booth that wreaked of urine (notice how I'm not committing to getting in). It was a proper welcome.
Trafalgar Square, first stop. A few local pubs late at night with men in business suits still. The bartender called it a case of the "Monday Blues." A play, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and dinner in the oldest wine bar in London, sitting under candlelight and stone.
DAY 2The next morning we ventured to Westminster Abbey first. I sometimes like to imagine if everyone in the world was born with the same brain as me, what the world would be like? We might still be cave men, satisfied with our fire stacks and shanty shelters. Lord, please tell me we would have at least discovered fire? I can only hope. For one thing, I'm pretty sure Westminster Abbey would not exist. And so I am all the more enraptured by it.
Seeing places like that changes you, I'm not sure why. Maybe it's their beauty. Or testament to human ingenuity. Or human strength. Or maybe it has nothing at all to do with humanity and it's the act of God that it ever stands at all, and that's what's so glorious about it. I don't know, but I am changed for having stood on it.Next, we smiled for a picture with Big Ben,who was chiming out the hour over his Parliament Square, and then took to the Thames River Walk.We walked to the oldest pub in England and sat ourselves down in the musty underground lair. A classic lunch of meat pie and fish n' chips.Not far from there, we pause at St. Paul's Cathedral to admire Christopher Wren's masterpiece,and then on to the London Tower.A tour from a beefeater starting in 5 minutes? Sure!With well-timed wit from our guide, we took in that daunting structure of gore and strength, even stepping where Anne Boleyn took her final breaths, her lips said to still be moving seconds after her fateful ending. "Proof," our guide said, "that women never stop talking, even in the after life."All Hallows, the oldest church in London next door to London Tower, feels holy and smells musty. I love it.Then, a walk over the London Bridge. Who knew a bridge could move you deep down in the soul? 40,000 people walk across it a day, 1/2 are in awe of it and wondering why the other 1/2 are on their cell phones as they walk across it. The awe apparently wears off. That's what happens with routines.Ever walking, we venture to Borough Street and up the other side of the Thames River Walk to Shakespeare's Globe, pausing only to peek through a crack into the replica interior. We eat a bland dinner then walk again.
By now it's night. Hands clasped, feet tired, we walk across the Millennium Bridge with Tate Modern to our backs and St. Paul to our front. The city is a thousand lights and a busker far off plays. It's romantic, but we are slightly more concerned about where the next station is.
We find a train, a pub, a pillow.Day 3
The third day we wake up earlier and walk to Buckingham Palace. We see the Queen's Mew and inhale with our eyes the gilded carriages. Somehow our democratic hearts catch royal fever.
Changing of the Guards surprises us most by being a big pompous productionthat seems like way too much effort to have to put on every other day. I love it.
We walk through St. James. It's perfectly delicious and lush. We can see the London Eye from here.
Churchill War Room signage is subtle and we almost miss it. Down into an understated steel bunker we go. The history and the circumstance of the British bombing and wartime efforts come alive. We learn Churchill required two baths and a siesta every day and he didn't like staples or paper clips, he preferred hole punches. He was a pain in the ass but an admirable, respectable one. I hope I can be 1/2 as respectable as him while maintaining 1/2 the amount of pain in the assness. It's a fair trade.I learn of at least a dozen of the men and women he relied on during the war and I take their names down. Maybe I'll read a biography later on one or two of them. We leave the gloomy underworld to emerge into the cold English weather. Fortunately, it hasn't rained on us much.Up to Parliament. Should we stop in? Ah, why not. The inside is another breathtaking backdrop to London life.
We are allowed to sit quietly in the peanut gallery of a Parliament debate. It's about the UK leaving the EU and the Secretary of State speaks. I can't believe we've had the good fortune to end up here during this pivotal time of change. Later, in a pub, we see the part of the debate we witnessed live on BBC. I feel more connected to this city, like I'm part of it now.
We wait 45 minutes for a hop on/off bus that never comes. The bridge is closed off someone finally tells us.
We take a train to Kensington to the Victoria and Albert Museum but find it's not our style... on the inside at least.
Another bus attempt and this time successful.
We walk through Hyde Park with coffee. Also gorgeous. The Princess Diana Memorial is a small fountain and a statue, neither of them half as grand as the Albert Memorial. I guess we know whose spouse loved them best. :/ #ripdiana #consipiracytheoriesliveon.
Kensington Palace. Oh, she's a beauty. We make it with two minutes to spare before the ticket counter closes. Diana water color wallpaper on the bottom floor. The 1/3 of the front of open to tourists. We see the Victoria and Albert shrines & enjoy a talk with a quirky employee with bottle nosed glasses. He is an expert in all things Victoria. I love him. We banter for a good twenty minutes, leaving with a thicker pot of knowledge.
Just a Few Fun Victoria Facts For Those Of You Who Don't Care AT ALL: Victoria had a controlling childhood and took the throne at 18, removing her mother to the far side of the palace as her first order of business. She loved making babies but not raising them, and had nine children with Albert. She worshipped him. The children were only really loved if they were pretty. Poor plain ones.
We see the elegant attire of princesses and queens past and present. A long black dress with a plunging v beck catches my eye. Of course, it was Diana's.One more bus, one more pub. Dinner next to a chatty couple from Kansas. More fish n' chips and beer.Off to bed. Wake up and catch a bus to Cambridge. See the Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Thames, and Tower of London, London Bridge one last time as we drive by. The perfect way to say farewell to a city I have fallen for.
You'll always be my Jonathan Taylor Thomas, London.