Tag: Italy

Day 2 in London – Birthplace of So Many Nursery Rhymes

Day 2 in London – Birthplace of So Many Nursery Rhymes

Considering Europe’s long history and America’s short one, I suppose it’s no surprise that so many children’s nursery rhymes have a basis in places in Europe. London in particular. For example, “Trot, trot to London; Trot, trot to Lynn; When you go across the bridge, don’t fall in.” We saw some of London’s bridges, even walked across them, and didn’t fall in. Thankfully neither did our remaining phone or my iPad. Having presumably dropped my cell phone in the canal circuiting Regent’s Park the day we arrived, we held on tight to our belongings in spite of still wanting to stop and photograph everything.
    

The Tower drawbridge down
The Tower Drawbridge up for ships to pass under

Still tired from the long flight and our first day of exploring, we chose not to rush around filling the day with an overload of sightseeing. Sleeping late, we ate breakfast in our room, then took the bus to St. Paul’s Cathedral and spent several lovely hours there. It’s very beautiful and ornate. The ceiling of the dome is adorned with murals depicting stories from the life of the Apostle Paul. Sadly, I can’t show any pictures of the inside, because they don’t allow photography inside, but it’s worth spending some time sitting in the chairs beneath the dome and perusing them carefully.  The detail and colors are stunning and the atmosphere is calm and peaceful. There are audio guides available with the purchase of admission which give more detail to the many paintings, statues, and history of the Cathedral.

The original cathedral was destroyed during the great London fire that took a huge portion of the city so long ago. But it has been rebuilt with probably more splendor than before.  They still hold services which one can attend for free, though tourists must pay to see it, and can only come in the off-service hours. It is huge, with a museum and crypt in the basement, a huge main floor complete with long hallways full of art work, plus the dome that can be climbed for a spectacular view. It’s big enough to get lost in. Neither of us got lost, but we did lose each other, all the while being in the same building. My daughter climbed the 520 steps to the top of the dome for the view, while I opted to stay below. I wandered through the main floor, sat and admired the murals and the music, and eventually descended to the basement to see the museum and crypt. I looked for her, wondering if she was still in the dome, when I finally came upon her describing me to one of the guards in hopes of gaining his help in finding me.   Its good to set a meeting time and place to meet up again if you plan to separate. Here’s a couple of views from the top of the Cathedral, plus a view of the catwalk up by the dome.

          

            

We ate lunch sitting on the steps leading up to a porch with tall columns, facing a set of enormous wooden doors on one side of the Cathedral facing a small courtyard. The entire lawn at the front was scattered with people out enjoying the sun, but there were few benches, so these steps were a popular resting and picnicking spot. The doors were a favorite photo op location as well.

 

                                      

 

Having spent several hours mostly on our feet, we decided to see some of the city by bus. In order to travel in London you must purchase a Travel Card. Its expensive but gives you unlimited rides on city buses and the Underground Tube, as their metro is called. The Tube is fast and saves your feet! But since it’s buried way underground, (like 3 – 5 stories deep at least!) with two or more sets of loooong escalators descending into the bowels of the earth, it’s pretty boring. No sights to see, though people watching can be interesting. The bus on the other hand, is slow with a ton of stops, but you get to see the city and take in the people and the culture. My daughter did an awesome job of navigating our travels and figuring out what transportation to use, where to catch it, and how many stops to go. She’s my hero. I felt utterly lost in this enormous city, but she just got on her phone, looked it up, and away we would go! And the few times even she got a little confused, we just asked people standing around us, and most of them were friendly and tried to be helpful.

      

One of my favorite things about the Tube was the music produced by the buskers who would carry their instruments there (even a harp) and commence to entertaining folks coming and going. These are talented folks and deserve whatever bit of money you can give to show appreciation for their time and talent!

One big, grandfatherly Russian dude was particularly helpful, but comical. We approached him, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” Evidently he thought we asked him if he was Russian, which he responded in the affirmative, but then proceeded to be amazed at our ability to speak such good English, and wondered why we were needing someone who spoke Russian if we didn’t need to ask him our questions in Russian. (I look Russian, especially since I wear a head covering, which may have added to his confusion.) But he helped us greatly, making sure we got on the right train, then getting off when we did, he also made sure we knew where to go for the next connection. And a friendly couple sitting across from us on another ride helped us figure out our route and stop again. Folks here are well trained to give up the end seat on either bus or underground train for folks with disabilities and those with babies, so nearly every trip we took through the city, folks were moving to make room for me when they saw my walking sticks, and my trouble getting up the step. Americans could learn a thing or two from them in the matter of courtesy.

Our trip through the city by bus allowed us to see the sights and get to know a bit of the non-touristy London. I love getting to know different cultures and seeing how the residents live, work and play. Its not much different than the United States in most ways, but there are subtle differences that made the reality of being several thousand miles from home sink in.  Language of course is a big contributor to that. British English is so different than my own accent of the same language that I had to listen closely at times to understand what was said and more than once needed to ask folks to repeat themselves.

                  

                      

When we researched things to do in London long before we left home, we heard of a place called The Cereal Killer Cafe. This unique diner is adorable. It’s an experience, not just a place to eat. The decor was mostly made up of a vast variety of cereal boxes from retro to modern choices, along with a bit of hip hop in lighting and wallpaper. The whole menu seemed to have some kind of cereal in every dish. Most choices were cold items, like cereal, ice cream and sweet toppings, or bowls of cereal with chocolate milk drizzled with chocolate. I had baked mozzarella sticks coated in some kind of crushed cereal. My daughter had a sort of milk shake/sundae with cereal, whipped cream, and other sweet toppings on it. I think such an eclectic type of cafe would go over huge in Seattle! It is rather off the beaten path, away from the hubbub of traffic, and tucked away behind an almost unnoticeable storefront. Well worth hunting down and perusing their menu!
                          
                          
After that rather unusual meal, we took the bus back through the city, to see The Shard. We got there early for our timed entry, so we went to a little grocery tucked inside the nearby London Bridge train station to get sports drinks and try to restore our electrolytes. It was hot and humid, and though we drank lots of water, we were getting dehydrated. I felt like I was evaporating into the muggy air, and was constantly thirsty. There seems to be a grand total of ONE drinking fountain in London, and not many more benches than that though they have warning signs in the subway hall warning people to drink some water to avoid becoming dehydrated since it was so hot. These people could learn a thing or two from Italy, where public drinking fountains are abundant on many street corners and in public squares!
Lots of red phone booths in London, but nary a drinking fountain in sight.
Fresh water coming from a street fountain in Italy
The Shard, aptly named as it looks like a very tall, narrow Shard of glass cutting into the sky, has over seventy two floors. We were shuttled up by a very fast elevator and reached the viewing floor in seconds. The view is tremendous, and goes all the way around. We entered at eight p.m. and stayed til sunset. It was beautiful, though it was basically the smog over the city that lit up so fiery red. (Sorry, my camera did not do the colors justice at all and the sunset isn’t very visible.) It was fun to see the places we had already visited, but from way above them. Even the London Eye looked tiny from up there. London is a very diverse city, with a population that comes from all sorts of ethnic languages, and they all blend together. The lady working up in the Shard got me a chair and a glass of water, because I must have been looking like how I was feeling by that time. She told me there are about three hundred languages spoken in London. When I asked about earthquakes which were on my mind given the depth of the tube stations, she said England doesn’t have earthquakes, or none that she could ever remember. I wonder if that may be why they have underground subways and we don’t. Perhaps an underground railway in the Seattle area wouldn’t be able to withstand an earthquake!
                           
                      
Thanks for tagging along. I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into some of London’s sights. I hope to share Day 3 of our London visit soon. what is on your bucket list of places to visit?  I would love to hear of your experiences in other countries or cultures, or places you want to visit. Feel free to leave your comments below.
Blessings,
JorgieKae