Following a great lunch with Uncle Jim, Aunt Brenda, and Hugh, Scotty and I caught a train to London. I think this was my tenth visit to London and each time I am here I fall more in love with this place. It’s such a vibrant, exciting, beautiful, strange, exotic, and diverse city. There is so much there: streets lined with Middle Eastern kebab stands and hookah restaurants – the sweet smoke wafting through the air and the sounds of foreign tongues filling your ears, Oxford Street with its high street shops (the ones that line every shopping street in the UK: Zara, Boots, H&M, River Island, Monsoon) and sidewalks choked with shoppers, Fleet Street and it’s beautiful historic buildings rich with history and legal precedent, quiet Georgian neighborhoods centered around small but immaculate gardens, Chinatown with its tempting dim sum restaurants, strange butcher shops, and littered alleyways, Hyde, Regent, and Richmond parks – carved out spaces of peace and beauty, the chaos of Leister Square and Piccadilly Circus, the ubiquitous black cabs (so much better than the yellow NYC cabs), Harrods and Selfridges – the world’s most famous stores, Covent Garden and its festival atmosphere and talented street entertainers, the busy and dirty Thames, Tower Bridge, the National Gallery, British Museum (where you can see one of the first copies of the Magna Carta), V&A, the Tates and other museums beyond counting, and of course the West End and it’s history of great drama. And I could go on and on. Scotty and I weren’t faced with any lack of things to do, but a bit of an overwhelming sense that there was so much to do. We resigned ourselves to both having to give in on something we really wanted to see (Scotty had to skip the British Museum, I had to skip seeing herds of red deer in Richmond Park) and just fit in as much as we possibly could. And we’ve promised ourselves a return trip in the near future.
Once we’d made our way to the hotel, we ditched the suitcases and hopped on the Metro making our way over to Westminster Abbey (not to be confused with Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Chapel) where we planned to attend their evening Easter service. Due to delays on the Metro we were a few minutes late but were able to slip in before they closed the doors. I must say that I felt very sorry for the poor minister who was left guarding the gates and given the task of sorting curious tourist from sincere worshipper – he looked haggard and thoroughly annoyed by the time we got through the crown and expressed our desire to attend the service. The service was beautiful and an elderly nun gave the sermon and it was perfect. She had such a sweet, calm, kind, and assured presence and her message was beautifully celebratory.
Although it did seem weird to leave the service and then take pictures of the church, we went ahead and snapped some – so here is Westminster on Easter:
Across the street from Westminster, in the Parliament Square a huge protest was taking place. It took us a little while to figure out what was going on but it was Tamil supporters from Sri Lanka protesting the violence and calling for the British government to step in. The protest is still going on and, at times, has caused disruptions and arrests. I do not know enough to even begin to understand exactly what is going on and thus am going to refrain from commenting, but you can read an article about it here and here. There are even a couple of students who have been on a hunger strike and promise to continue until the government steps in. It was very interesting in that in Britain the right to assemble freely has been limited in recent years. Permits are required, police escorts, etc. and the effect is that you cannot approach the protesters to talk to them very easily. We were constantly turned away by police and I saw that happen to many other people. And the amount of police there gives the protest a sinister quality – which I don’t really think is very fair. I know that people are afraid of terrorist activity everywhere and sometimes demonstrations can get out of control, but I found the huge police presence disconcerting. Maybe it brought back memories of my OR days as a child…I don’t exactly know why I found it discomforting but it seemed to me that it was yet another example of our willingness to exchange freedom for security – and that makes me sad. Anyway, enough musing, here are some pictures I took of the protests:
After watching the protests for a little while we headed across Hyde Park toward Leister Square where I was going to introduce Scotty to the wonders of Wagamama. In the park we passed these flower beds:
After a lovely walk through Hyde, we found ourselves at the National Gallery. At this point it was closed but we had been told by Aunt Brenda about a great little Thai place nearby. So we made our way to Thai Square.
It was fantastic! Great atmosphere, friendly service, and delicious food. We started with Yum Nua and continued on to our spicy main dishes. I had scallops and Scotty chose green curry. Both dishes were so deliciously hot you just had to keep eating them because you knew that the moment you stopped your mouth was going to be on fire! Scotty and I didn’t talk a lot during dinner because we were too busy stuffing our faces to ward off the inevitable pain! But we found sweet relief in a cold mango chocolate concoction that was fantastic.
After that culinary extravaganza we decided to walk back to our hotel down Regent Street, Oxford Street (not my favorite), and Bayswater Road – it was a long walk and took us through diverse neighborhoods. On Bayswater Road there were hookah bars lining the sidewalks and it surprised us to see so many children out at 11 PM. The city was definitely alive and busy. And I guess I should say that we didn’t see children smoking hookah – it was just that there were lots of families walking around this section of town 🙂
Anyway, after a day of exploring Lewes, Sussex County, Feryl Village and then London we were exhausted! And tomorrow was going to be another busy day. And we were loving every second of it!