aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?

The conclusion of Venture Crew 699's adventures in the UK:

I dutifully reported the fender bender when I handed in our rental cars. The guy behind the desk was rapidly calculating how much extra to charge me -- something in the neighborhood of 75 GBP, I think. But he couldn't just adjust the damage deposit left on my credit card, because I hadn't given one. I paid cash up front for the rental. So he said, "Let's just call it even." And he sent us on our way. (Yay!)

We weren't out of the woods yet, though. We had a whole slew of disorganized luggage, and to prevent trying to handle it on the tube (particularly since we weren't really sure how to get where we were going), we got hornswoggled into hiring two cabbies to get us to Dulwich (in South London). I was grumped about the price and all, but after seeing the London traffic, I was glad that I hadn't attempted to find Dulwich by ourselves.

We arrived mid-afternoon at the South London Scout Centre, dumped our stuff, and headed into town on the train to see if we could find the Globe Theatre. Well, we wandered about a good deal and hassled with changing trains. It turned out to be merely a reconnaisance in force. We returned to camp to fix supper, frustrated but in possession of the basic knowledge of how the transport system worked.

The next day, we were up bright and early and headed for Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard. We also wandered about the Mall and peeked in at Trafalgar Square. This was followed by a trip to Westminster Abbey. Big Ben was just chiming noon as we walked down the street. The Abbey was overwhelming. anher described it as their Arlington National Cemetery. I was happy to see Queen Elizabeth's tomb, as well as Poets' Corner, where Chaucer is buried.

Exiting the Abbey (and gift shop), we saw a huge, domed building with the inscription Methodist Central Hall. It had a cafe where we bought soft drinks and ate our trail lunch. It was also a historic and much used building: the first plenary session of the United Nations was held there in 1946.

After this, we crossed the Thames and did the London Eye. The Eye is a huge "observation" (NOT Ferris) wheel, some 140 meters in diameter. You enter a glass egg with a bench and do a complete circuit in about half an hour. The view is tremendous. We then went shopping at Harrod's, where the prices were beyond outrageous. But our perspective was restored at a pub in the Victoria Station neighborhood where we ate supper.

The next day, were up early for the Tower of London, which took the whole morning. The White Tower is a big building, but it is surrounded by a mini-city within the bailey walls -- all of which is "The Tower." We saw the Crown Jewels, as well as the historic Armoury (muskets, suits of armor, halberds, old cannon -- way cool stuff). We overheard a tour guide telling a group that only six people were legally executed within the Tower's grounds.

After the Tower, we hit the ever-present gift shop. I had lost my sunglasses some days before, and I found a nice pair in the tint I prefer, so I asked what the price was. I was told 23 pounds [= c. 40 bucks]. I couldn't help myself: I laughed in the salesperson's face. Then put them back. (I bought a new pair at Wal-Mart after we got back for $12.74.) Then we bought fish and chips and ate our fill there before the Tower's walls.

From the Tower, we headed for Finsbury Fields, an area of London in the NE. There on City Road was Wesley's Chapel and his gravesite. Once again, a place of peace in the midst of hustle and bustle. We got the full tour of Wesley's home, including seeing the bed he died in and Charles Wesley's single-console pipe organ, upon which he composed his famous hymns.

We had hoped to squeeze in the British Museum, but time was getting away from us, so we went in search of Shakespeare's Globe, which we had missed earlier. There was a performance of The Winter's Tale on, so we had to buy tickets in order to see the inside. It was gorgeous. We ended our second full day in London by heading back to camp, the better to pack and organize for the morning.

In the morning, we were up WAY early: 5:00 a.m. This is because the Camp Warden was willing to help us get all our stuff to the train station, but he was only available at 6:00 or 8:00 to do it. We opted for early. We had carefully packed so that everything could be picked up in one swell foop and moved onto and off of busy trains. Our route took us out into the suburbs, though, so we missed the crush of in-bound traffic. We switched to light rail (tram) and back to train. We were first in line to get our boarding passes when the counter opened at Gatwick at 8:00 a.m. Thereafter, though the day was loooong, we moved smoothly through two flights and layover, arriving home just before 10:00 p.m. local time (3:00 a.m. back in Great Britain).

It was time to come home. We were getting a bit snarly with each other. We were all exhausted. But I'm glad I got to do it. Chalk up another victory for the Venturers of Crew 699!

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