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Day 4
I woke up at 4 AM with the ghosts of Anne Bolyn, Guy Fawkes and the Duke of Monmouth in my head…
Fell back to sleep for a while until the sun and the breeze said it was time for another glorious day's adventure.
Showered, dressed and enjoyed another delicious English breakfast at the hotel. Our hotelier, David, was very gracious, and the service and overall accommodations were tremendous.
Out into the day, our first destination was the famous Portobello Market in Notting Hill. We walked quite a distance down Oxford Street until we jumped on a number 12 bus which took us to Notting Hill, where we walked several more blocks until we found ourselves in Heaven as described by Carol, a flea market junkie. We spent about an hour and a half browsing stands offering fruits, vegetables, linens, gold, silver, watches, sextants, old pub paraphanalia, t-shirts and all things flea-marketable. The market is seemingly endless - we had to turn around before our feet gave out. It was a good idea (Carol's of course) to get here early in the day - as we were leaving, the masses of incoming shoppers made the narrow street almost impassable.
Portobello Market
We walked back up to Oxford street, past many quaint and historic and expensive Notting Hill flats, until we found an underground ("Mind the gap…") where we purchased a day ticket and headed west up Oxford Street, our target this time Selfridges. We had visited this massive department store in '99 and had bought olives, wine, cheese and bread and had a delightful picnic at the nearby park close to the American Embassy.
Today we purchased similar fare and took the number 10 bus to Knightsbridge, jumped off and walked a block to glorious Hyde Park where we spread ourselves under the shade of a large oak tree and enjoyed some fine food, a gorgeous day, the lush green park and hundreds of people of like mind. The weather could not possibly be any better. It is absolutely spectacular - clear blue sunny cloudless skies, 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and a slight cool breeze. Many people boating on the Serpentine, the lake that meanders through Hyde Park. We have constant déjà vu - this day is almost identical to the one we spent here in '99 relaxing at the exact same spot. For some reason, London has always felt like "home" to us…
Hyde Park
We wanted to visit Harrods, which was on nearby Knightsbridge, but we were so exhausted we thought we ought to rest back at the hotel for a bit. So we found a bus stop on Knightsbridge and waited half an hour for a number 10 that never materialized. We decided to take the next number 9 to come along (we had seen two in the past twenty minutes) and we jumped on when one came around the corner. A wonderfully friendly and helpful British chap offered that the bus lines were having major problems in that they could not keep enough drivers. The pay is 3.15 pounds per hour ($4.50) and it is no wonder there is a shortage of manpower. With such a lack of drivers, one must be aware of alternate bus routes, as this helpful fellow certainly was, if one is to navigate London by bus. The bus lines have been privatized and the owners apparently are getting rich while the worker feels the stress. Our friend also said that the same thing was about to occur with the Tube lines, and that Londoners are gravely concerned.
Travel for Carol and me is as much about people as it is about places. Shame on me for not asking this informative chap his name or getting his photo for our journal. I must have been really tired… I will not make that mistake again. Thank you, Mr. X, wherever you are…
Thanks to Mr. X, our bus dropped us off within spitting distance of the Morgan, and we somehow managed to crawl up the two flights of stairs to our room, #9, where I immediately fell into a coma. Too much sun, I think. How ironic that I have gotten more sun here in London than I do at home in sun-baked Tucson.
We rested, showered, dressed and melted back into Londontown for more. This time we are on our way to St. Martin-in-the-Fields near Trafalgar Square. We had previously purchased tickets for tonight's candlelight concert featuring Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Bach and Mozart, but first we stopped at a café in Leicester Square (a Pizza Hut, actually) for pizza, Pepsi and people watching. The cool breeze in the shadows felt wonderful and rejuvenating. Our waitress, Agniezska, from Poland, was sweet and accommodating and I embarrassed her by taking her picture.
Whoever said that the U.S. is a melting pot has never spent an hour at Leicester Square taking in the linguistic dance that never seems to stop. Our waitress was Polish and spoke in her native tongue to friends near our table. Passersby conversed in German, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Greek, English, French and many languages too foreign to us to recognize. We love the internationality of it all. Every person is a book full of stories and histories.
As we were leaving the café, Agniezska asked where we were from. Upon hearing "Arizona," she became very excited and told us that she had just toured the U.S. with friends and that her favorite place was the Grand Canyon. She told us how lucky we were to live in the desert and we laughed and told her that she was lucky to live in bustling, cosmopolitan London. Funny how the grass is always greener on the "other side…"
We then strolled up Charing Cross Road towards the Theatre District, then over past the Round House Pub with easily a hundred people standing outside with their pints of delicious Guinness, and window shopped south to the Strand. Then back up Charing Cross Road to St. Martin-in-the-Fields. A few days prior to our journey I had burned a CD with the same Vivaldi, Pachelbel and Bach pieces we were about to hear. Imagine our surprise when, the first night here, we discovered this candlelight concert featuring these same composers, even the same works. It was "beshert" - meant to be…
St. Martin-in-the-Fields seen from Trafalgar Square
I now sit writing these words from a pew in the ancient chapel. We have just heard some incredibly performed music. Paulo Besnoziuk, the conductor and first violin, led the Feinstein Ensemble of London through a spirited version of Mozart's Salzburg Symphony #3, Bach's Air on a G String, a beautifully soft Canon in D by Pachelbel [played at our wedding and the background music to our home page] followed by Bach's Double Violin Concerto. Sitting amongst these ancient bricks, stones and wood, the Canon gave us goose-bumps and brought tears to our eyes.
This marvelous church was built in 1726 by James Gibbs and set in what became the U.S. "colonial" style. We had entered through the basement crypt, which is now a quite nice café and gift shop, and we wandered down there among the ancient pillars and naves, examining several tombs and grave-markings along the way. What an incredible setting to hear this beautiful music. When the Ensemble began to play, the lights in the entire sanctuary were turned off and we listened in the glow of soft candlelight. The sun was setting through some open windows and the air was cool. A truly remarkable experience, one that we will never forget…
Interior of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
After a twenty minute intermission, the sanctuary again darkened, and we were treated to the most vivacious, rousing Four Season we have ever been witness to. Having taken up the violin myself this past year, I have a beginner's appreciation for how technically challenging these Vivaldi passages must be. Mr. Besnoziuk make it look "like buttah…" I have always thought that the violin should be played with "attitude," and he and his second violin, a surprisingly young woman, kicked ass. We did not want this evening of magic to end, but alas, all things must pass and all too soon the lights were back on. It was like a dream…
We floated out of St. Martin-in-the-Fields onto Charing Cross Road and slowly ambled north, Vivaldi's Four Seasons still buzzing in our heads. Carol felt like having Indian food, and we found The Grand Indian 1 on St. Martin's Lane, which looked inviting. The "set menu" for 7 pounds was delicious. I had chicken and Carol had lamb. The meat was tender and tasty and was served with several different sauces, spices and chutneys. Lots of different textures and tastes. A good choice.
After this enjoyable meal (total 21 pounds 30 pence) we decided to call it a night, so at 11 PM we walked up Great Russell Street, past pubs and shops and theaters, to our hotel and to bed, and drifted off with the memories of Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart lulling us to sleep…

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