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david and carol

Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 1
Europe 1999
London, Paris, Venice, Florence


David and Carol




Day 11


Slept quite well in our soft, short, cozy bed. Got up, showered in the tiny shower, dressed and went downstairs to the Hotel Bloomsbury's dining room where we had a perfectly typical "English breakfast" of rolls, coffee, fruit, fried eggs with darker than usual yolks, bacon (similar to Canadian,) sausage, beans, fried bread and hash browns. A true Weight Watcher's special. Not.
We then walked (waddled) to nearby Russell Square where we bought 24-hour tickets for the "Hop On / Hop Off" bus tour of London. These are the familiar, red double-decker open-air buses. We took the number 8 "Grand Tour" bus, and it was fabulous - we saw the main sights and attractions of London as a guide offered information over a loudspeaker along the way. We saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the National Gallery, Number 10 Downing Street, the Globe Theatre, the Tower of London, Cleopatra's Needle, Fleet Street, Trafalgar Square, Harrods, Piccadilly Circus, MI5, the Defense Building (most of it underground, like an iceberg,) the Royal Stables, St. James Park, and many other landmarks of London.

Carol on the "Hop on / Hop Off" bus
Finishing our tour at Trafalgar Square, we walked to vast Harrods where we drooled all over the place as we shopped for about an hour. This is the ultimate department store. Its massive scale staggers the imagination. The tea department alone could fill Tucson's Macy's. The perfumes, teas, coffees, cigars, wines and foodstuffs filled the air with an aromatic blend that ought to be bottled and sold. We were awestruck. There were Bobbies everywhere who insisted that one not carry one's backpack over one's shoulder, for two reasons: 1) you can knock something over and 2) you are an easier target for pickpockets. In the cigar department, specializing in the various Havana brands, clerk John Sedeno kindly gave me an empty Cohiba box and an empty Partagas box, both highly acclaimed (rightly so) Cuban labels. Very nice young English gentleman. Quite helpful. We bought some tea on the way out.

Duke of Wellington Place
Next we strolled through the beautiful green St. James Park, along its pastoral duck ponds and flower gardens, to Her Majesty's Buckingham Palace. Took pictures, but since the Queen was out of town, we moved on to an "Aroma" café, where we sat outside for a bit of lunch and a cigar.

Buckingham Palace
Then we walked (hiked) to Westminster Abbey, which, once again, was highly emotional. For me it was second only to Notre-Dame in its aura of spirituality. Amongst these ancient stones and pillars are the graves and monuments of Shakespeare, John Donne, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, Mary Queen of Scots, Edward I, T.S. Eliot, William Blake, the Unknown Warrior, Lawrence Olivier, Oliver Cromwell, Emily Bronte, Handel, Winston Churchill, many knights, kings and queens, many religious personages and too many others to mention. The original throne of England is here. We had to sit down for a while and absorb its powerful, overwhelming vibe. The physical structure of this magnificent cathedral staggers the imagination. It is so very old, and one can feel the palpable presence of the ghosts and spirits of all these great men and women who walked upon these cobblestones before us. Some of the wooden floor thresholds are visibly worn down into grooves from many years of use and multitudes of feet upon them. Outside the front and near the frieze are a group of relatively modern martyrs, and Martin Luther King is recognizable among them. It was very difficult to leave this place, and we did so reluctantly.

Frieze at Westminster abbey (Martin Luther King Jr is in the center)
We found a bus stop and tried to help a Spanish-speaking couple with directions, then went back to the pigeon-covered Trafalgar Square (the only place in London where pigeons are "officially" allowed to roam and be fed.) We agreed that tonight was the night we would do a little "pub-hopping," which officially began at the Salisbury (between Covent Garden and Leicester Square,) where we had hearty ale and fish and chips with vinegar ($17 U.S.) Then we caught the Tube to Notting Hill, since the desk clerks at our hotel recommended this quaint area full of antique shops and pubs. When we got off the Tube at Notting Hill there was a chemical spill or leak nearby, and one of the Tube stations on the way was actually closed. Since bombings are not rare occurrences in London, we were a bit apprehensive. We saw many signs, bulletins and fliers during our few days in London warning us to be wary of "strange looking packages." At the chemical spill there were Bobbies everywhere and we could not get near to investigate, so we walked around the police barricade and found our way to the Leincester Inn pub, a pub recommended to us by an American fellow we met as we got off the Tube. We sampled pints of delicious Boddingtons ale, which I buy in cans at Trader Joe's. It is surprising how similar the canned ale is to the fresh draught! Had a cigar, flirted with two women and watched cricket on the TV (there was a world cup cricket tournament in progress.) It was a typical smoky English pub and we loved it.
We walked down Bayswater Road to the Swan, another pub recommended to us by the American, and not at all related to the Swan near our hotel. Here we savored pints of thick dark Guinness, which was excellent. More cigars as we listened to a rowdy group of people singing tunes up the stairs. We were becoming tired, so we walked arm-in-arm for a little while longer and then caught the Tube back to Russell Square. Outside the Tube stop was a shop where we bought a cinnamon roll and water, then staggered back to the hotel and fell into bed and a deep sleep.

Previous Day

Next Day

Day 1 London/Paris | Day 2 Paris | Day 3 Paris

Days 4 and 5 Paris/Venice | Day 6 Venice/Florence

Day 7 Florence | Day 8 Florence | Day 9 Florence

Day 10 London | Day 11 London | Day 12 London

Day 13 Home | Reflections

 copyright 1998 / david and carol lehrman / all rights reserved

 email david@davidandcarol.com