Thursday, December 15, 2011

UK Christmas, Day 1 (Dec. 15, 2011)

Fabulous Day 1! Now for the details: First - our choice of transportation. We decided we would go to Trafalgar Square, walk all around, see what was happening at St. Martin's In The Fields, etc....and we would go by bus so we could be above ground and see all the sites between here and there. First thing, I put us at the wrong bustop, but didn't realize it UNTIL we waited and waited and finally, about 30 minutes later, a bus came...and it took us around the corner to the next block (which I now know is where we should have been in the first place!) and said "End of Line - everyone off". OOPS. So we got off, crossed the street, and here comes our bus--same bus, same bus driver, and so we board again. And we successfully complete that bit. Now we are really on our way...but NO - police lights, traffic stopped etc...she stops our bus, turns it off and goes to investigate. She returns to report a wreck and we wait some more. Finally we get to go - and from what we could see, it appears a vehicle ran full speed into a bus stop waiting station--the metal frame is smashed all to pieces, and glass from the sides of the bus stop are all over the street! And one very smashed up car. Not sure how that could have happened but it did. But NO - she pulls in to a bus stop along the route, steps out and announces that "This is the end of the line for this bus. You must get off and catch the next one." No explanation, no nothing..so lots of us exited the bus and waited for another one to come, and off we go again. Now we are a bus heading for Oxford Circus, but we plan to get off at Tottenham before that. The bus driver announces that the destination has been changed, and we are now on a bus for someplace else--can't recall the name right now. Well, that seems to be OK because its making all the right stops. We keep seeing signs for "St. Paul's ahead"...and Jerry says "want to get off at St. Paul's and look around?" SURE...so bye-bye to the bus! That may conclude our bus adventures for this trip!!! NOW St. Paul's...we are in a very upscale part of the city, the banking district, and very high-end stores. We wandered through a mall - all glass, several stories...very posh. It was about noon and every single business person (dressed in black clothes, suits and ties) was standing in a line at every one of the many restaurants/cafes/whatnot. After finding their very exquisite bathroom facilities, we left, and stopped at a little coffee shop--where Jerry had a mammoth-sized coffee cup and I had hot cocoa. Oh, I failed to mention the sun was shining this morning! Glory! We loved every minute of it and it lasted all day -well, till it turned dark in mid-afternoon! We checked St. Paul's calendar on the fence and found there was a Xmas concert at 6:30 so decided we would just hang around and attend. Inside we found that it costs LOTS to wander - like nearly 15 pounds per person..but no charge if you want to worship...so we walked over to a very nice employee, and asked if we could go in to worship. He asked if we wanted to light a candle in one of the chapels...Jerry said that would be fine, but we'd really just like to go in and sit quietly, and mentioned he was clergy. Oh, the person says, clergy are always welcome and get complementary passes...so he got us two..and we set off. We hiked the 257 steps up to the Whispering Gallery - an amazing place that encircles St. Paul's below the dome (Whispering because you can whisper on one side of the gallery and be heard on the other side.) But best of all - the orchestra and choir were rehearsing for tonight..so we just sat and listened and soaked it all in. Absolutely heavenly! Our same friendly employee also told us that he was in charge of the que for the concert, and he went on duty at 3:15 - for a 6:30 concert. We sure did want to get a good seat, so we told him we would be out there with him very early! We went down to the Crypt to see the gift shop and ate at the cafe - scone, tea, clotted cream & jam - wonderful! By 3:45, we were out in the que - we were numbers 31 & 32 in line...and by 5, it was huge. Our new friends job is to count the people in the que..and when it reaches about 400, he tells them that they may not be able to get in, but they are welcome to wait if they choose. He also told us where to head for choice seats, which we did. Doors opened at 5:30, and we were in chairs near the front that were under the dome area, which is the best acoustics. It had to have been a little bit of heaven....carols, readings, Scripture..and the opening solo of my favorite Christmas hymn "Once in Royal David's City" was sung by a precious little blonde boy in the boys' choir, who was standing on a pedestal right at the end of our row. The readers were all actors/actresses in the British industry...only one of whom was real familiar to us...but they were great! And of course we did quite a bit of congregational singing as well. So the day was an enormous success. Its exciting to be in the London area for the next two weeks...and we are grateful to be staying at the Irwin's home in Wanstead. This will be our first experience at living in a suburb of London and seeing what a neighborhood of families is like. Irwin's, friends of Carla's for years (in fact, as Drury classmates, Carla and Shaunda Irwin studied here in London together), are in Kansas City for the holidays.
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