Monday, March 28, 2011

Seeing the London sights people say I ought to see...

Oh hey how are ya?

I'm good. Relaxing in a little village called Sutton.  It's about an hour and a half from London near Ely and Cambridge.  Cool place. Old. You know. Like everything else around here. 

But I'll chat with you about it some other time.  I still have one more day of adventures in London to share with you. 

So it's Sunday morning.  I've gotten up all early(like 8:30) to be a good little catholic on my vacation and go to church.  So I walk down the street to go to St. Pauls...and no ones there. They say that theres a service at 10.  Well that won't work I have far too much to do today I thought.  Jess was going to take me to see all the big sites, you know, the big clock, a couple of parks, some palaces, no big deal.

So they say there's a proper catholic church like ten mins down the road past the Old Bailey.  So I grab some caffeine and go.  So far this is my favorite time to be in London. At 9 in the morning on a Sunday.  There is no one on the street. There's no noise.  Just the coo of pigeons and the occasional screech of sirens.  It's fantastic.

Past the roundabout, through the gate marked "Ely Place," sat the church in question.  It's this hole in the wall, scrunched between two other buildings and no-one's parked there.  It looks interesting enough, so I walk up the stairs, looking around like a cautious tourist should before entering strange buildings in a foreign country.

The church is St Etheldreda's Church, and just happens to be the oldest catholic church in london.  Too tough to be killed by the reformation or the great fire.  I walked in and was greeted by an angelic latin chorus...singing to an empty chapel.  

Did you know there was a time change on Sunday in Britian? 

Yeah Me neither.

So I helped the priest organize his songbooks and sat and listened to the choir for a half-hour. Damn good way to start a morning even if you do miss mass.  I highly recommend coming to check out this church and it's nifty crypt if you have the chance.  Their 11:00 mass is in Latin. I'm hitting that up later...

Upon checking out at the hotel, I had my first legit English breakfast. Aside from the runny eggs it was quite good. 

Then we began our odyssey across the city. First we hit the Tower of London but found the tour to be waaaaay too expensive. Sad day. I'll have to come back.

Then we back tracked and ended up at Hyde park.  Twas huge, green and lovely if not a lot crowded.  I did enjoy walking down the area they shot "The King's Speech" in.  

After that we moved on toward Buckingham palace.  St. James park was very nice. I tell ya I really did over-prepare for the weather here.  Either that or I am the luckiest tourist this side of the Thames.

There was an awful lot of building going on.  Some was the common restoration stuff that always is happening but I have a feeling that a lot of it had to do with that big wedding thing happening in about a month over here.  Bet that buffet is gonna be choice.  Really glad I'm not gonna be here for it...

The palace was just as I thought it would be, if a little underwhelming.  The guards were cool and the fountain and other architecture was really interesting, but I guess I'd seen it in so many movies I wasn't too surprised.  Glad I saw it though. There were a lot of tourists sticking their head between the fences just staring at it for long periods of time. Like they were waiting for a jig.   Seeing that statue of the queen was really cool because I was familiar with it but i didn't really know where it was beforehand. So it was like, "Oh. That's where it is. Huh."  But yeah, the fountain was really impressive.  Many large statues that people felt inclined to climb and take pictures of themselves climbing...Jess and I didn't trust our balance to attempt that.  Plus we have like respect and stuff...

Did some more walking...through St. James toward that huge edifice pointing in the distance like the tallest kid in the classroom, Big Ben. From a ways a way I was like "Thats a big clock." 
As I got closer it was revealed that the sheer complexity and scale of Big Ben and Parliament were something me and my nearly dead battery were just not prepared for.
 Sooo many details to photograph...sooo few digits left on my battery...I was impressed by how many photos you can squeeze out of a 2% reading.  Props to Jessica for letting me use hers in a pinch.  
Westminster abby was particularly impressive. I will have to come back to check that one out.  There were tours of parliment but only on saturdays...bollocks.  
For a sunday there were an insane amount of people around.  As the hours waned and the toes wailed in pain, we decided to head for one more stop; Westminster cathedral.
  It was a worthwhile trip. This cathedral was significantly different than the others in its construction; the brick and mortar on the ceiling was still black from the centuries of smoke.  Even then the air was thick thick THICK with incense lit quite cinematic-ally through the small stained glass windows.  It had a much older feel than the other churches I'd been in; a bit more mystical too.  So...I'll call it homey.  Incense always reminds me of home for some reason.

So yeah...long day.  At least six miles on foot.  Even with my "travel" shoes, the cobblestone was starting to break me soles.  Strangely enough this was the most time I'd spent exploring London above ground, so it gave me a bit of bearings on the central part of the city. 

From there began our long, crowded journey to King's Cross station to leave the city.  We stopped for a quick bite(I had my first uk fish and chips!) and were soon off from victoria station, to hoborn, to bank to the whatever the hell I lost track station.

Three lines were down, so naturally it was standing room only in the station. The tubes to Kings Cross were so crowded that people were literally stuffed into the trams. Like "put your leg here and I can put my head here and if you rotate your abdomen just slightly we can get this five year old girl home to her mum." Its funnier because it's not an exaggeration.

After I spent 20 mins getting someone to stamp my railcard we finally got out of London and I slept through my first legit train ride.  It was getting dark though so I wasn't missing out on much.  From Cambridge we had to take a bus to Ely, and from Ely Jessica's sister in law picked us up and drove us the 15 min journey to Sutton, where I now type from.  

So yeah...gettin down with the public transit system mostly that day.  Now I have a little more confidence with it though so when I travel on my own later this week, I should be set.  Hopefully. 

As always...check out my pictures...\

And thanks for reading!


JoAnn said...

Hope its a great trip. Have you read anything by Connie Willis? Shedoes Sci-fi and mysteries. Your discriptions reminded me of her books " Blackout" and All Clear" time traveling in London.

JoAnn said...

This reminds me of Connie Willis's books "All Clear" and "Blackout"Have an awesome time!

milburnak said...

I think Whoopi Goldberg makes an appearance in you widescope picture of Parliament....

Sherwood said...

That second picture you posted on here... the little Catholic church? I'm just trying to figure out why those little windows along the bottom exist. They're like ancient, fancy version of those teeny little windows for basements!

Did you get to go down into the crypt? I would love to go down into crypts! It would be an awesome adventure. Going into the catacombs beneath Paris would be amazing... though I haven't heard anything good about Paris itself.

Are you staying in England the whole time? I saw some pictures of Ireland books in your first post. I'd love to go to Ireland someday. I have a friend in Dublin I've kept in contact with, off and on, for ages.

Was that regular sausage in your breakfast or was it blood sausage? And those tomatoes look nasty... Tomatoes are evil. After all, they're screaming "don't eat me!!" with that purdy red. I imagine they were found to be edible by some suicidal guy who ended up very disappointed... but rich.

I'd be able to handle international travel if I was with someone who knew what they were doing, but going it alone? I think I'd end up dead within hours just because of stress.

I eagerly await your next post!