Saturday, 27 August 2011

London Revisited

With a good sleep behind us we got a lift to the train to Cambridge (thanks Michael) to do a spot of punting on the river Cam. Boy those poles are long! Around 5 metres long, and quite heavy if made of wood as ours was. All very well until you hit mud on the bottom and come to a grinding halt as you try to pull it out. We got on as well as you can on the narrow river, in the rain, with a 30 second lesson and dozens of other punters of widely varying skill. We did cover a good bit of river through the backwaters of the university.

By the time we were finished, Kings College had closed for visits, and we went looking for the market. Were met with a brilliant trio playing spanish music, and “Fernando’s Kitchen” CD is now gracing our music collection. They plan to be busking round Australia in our summer, though they had never heard of Adelaide till we put in a plug.

Back to London by train and we found a hostel in Paddington, close to the Tube. Pity the station was closed for three of the four lines, but we managed a roundabout route. A beautiful walk to St James Park with a view to Kensington Palace and our first Lebanese meal of the trip.

We spent the next day enjoying the sunshine and seeing the Tower of London. A bit more there than I expected. The Yeoman's tour was every bit as entertaining as the Youtube video. The amazing thing for me was that wild animals were kept at the castle for 600 years until London Zoo was established in the 19th century.

Lions, tigers, elephants, even kangaroos. By the time we had finished with the crown jewels and the white tower full of arms and armour, and a walk around the top of the wall, the rest of London was closed for the day.

We took a tube to Trafalgar Square to enjoy the ambience of the fountains and the countdown clock to the Olympics, (the few remaining pigeons looked very discouraged by the do not feed the birds signs) then worked our way down Whitehall, past the 10 Downing Street "fortress". The whole street is closed off at both ends with permanent high iron fences and carbomb proof barricades and armed security forces -very different to 30 years ago when there were a couple of bobbies standing at the front door. At the end of the block we went through St James Park to Buckingham Palace which looked lovely in the sunset. Walked back to the tube through Green park and found The Ritz.... but went to nice Pub off Oxford Street for dinner. 

London gave us a good send-off with a thoroughly rainy day on Tuesday to visit the British Museum. Anna’s dream of buying more copies of the Royal Game of Ur, a board game which she bought on her previous visit to the museum 30 years ago, was dashed when we were eventually told the game stopped being made 6 months ago. The game was found in a tomb in Mesopotamia from 2500BC, with the rules invented by the museum staff, and is a much loved game in the Pulsford-Mycko household. It is not quite the same playing the online version with shockwave.

The highlight of the visit was seeing the other half of the Parthenon which the British are steadfastly refusing to return to Greece. The panel explaining their reasons is looking a bit self-serving, and the excuses are wearing thin given that Athens has already built the museum to house the statues and reliefs in anticipation of their return.

After losing each other for an hour or so, we got out of there in time to get to Westminster Abbey. What a clutter of dead bodies and memorials that place is! It will not be long before you won’t be able to move, it is getting so crowded. I did love Poet’s corner though, including Chaucer, Keats, Browning, Dickens and Shakespeare – even Norman Lindsay gets a gurnsey. Apparently not all are actually buried there, but it is a bit of fun having their stones there.

Another corner has the inventor of the jet engine placed somewhere near Oliver Cromwell. Winston Churchill and FD Roosevelt are memorialised there. The kings and queens take up the bulk of the room as they have to have their sarcophagi above the floor, rather than below it. The cathederal is so big they have split it in two, with a wall halfway down. Makes it damn inconvenient to see the service if you have a big do there like a royal wedding. There are so many chapels and naves and cloisters around it, you can get lost. Luckily we didn’t as we had a plane to catch. We ended our European adventure where it began as Big Ben struck 5pm - perfect symetry as the first thing that happened when we got to London was Big Ben striking 12noon 93 days ago.

That’s all folks! See you in Oz.
And now the details of our coming home party. We are shifting it to Saturday 3rd September at 4pm and hoping that does not inconvenience anyone - sorry. Lots of food, music, trinkets and pics from around Europe. Love to see you!!
please RSVP for catering purposes - seriously nice food being prepared.

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