I know. A few numbers are missing. But if I don't jump up to "England-part 5," I can't tell you about our fantastic, brilliant, fabulous day. So I think I'll jump ahead and fill in the gaps when we get settled in Germany. It will be lovely to land in one spot for three whole weeks. I might even unpack my suitcase.
This morning after a leisurely breakfast of English muffins with slices of Brie and hard-boiled egg and scones with clotted cream ... oh, but I could have eaten that entire tub myself ... Dave and Rob Dingman (pastor of Calvary Chapel Twickenham) left in one car, and Joanie and I left in another, and we drove to Heathrow airport to drop off our rental car. We were a day late returning the car because one of us (the one of us who is not Dave) thought it was due back on the 4th, and not the 3rd. I already miss that car, I must say. I LOVE driving on the left side of the road. I have no explanation for it.
The Dingmans then dropped us off at the Heathrow train station, where we purchased an "All Zone" ticket which was good on all buses and trains throughout the day. We hopped on the Picadilly train, which is actually an underground subway, and in 40 minutes emerged back into daylight and stared straight up at Big Ben. This picture does no justice to the old clock. It's just fantastically enormous (do you see how effortlessly and fantastically I'm acclimating to my new British words?).
Across the street, we found Westminster Abbey. THE Westminster Abbey. As we walked toward it, I kept laughing and saying, "Do you believe we're here? Dave, we're in London. Dave, can you believe it??" Dave could not believe it. He could not believe I kept saying that, over and over and over.
You're not allowed to take pictures within the Abbey, so I can't show you anything. If you're really curious, you can probably google it. I will tell you that it's very much like walking through an indoor cemetery. The entire Abbey is full of tombs and memorials. Oliver Cromwell is buried there, and Mary, Queen of Scots. Several King Henrys, although we didn't find the Eighth anywhere. My favorite spot was the poet's corner. Among those who are either buried or memorialized there are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Robert Browning, Geoffrey Chaucer, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Lloyd Tennyson.
After about an hour and a half touring the Abbey, we walked across the road to the Methodist Central Hall and into their below-level cafe, where we ordered bowls of vegetable soup with French rolls. The soup was delicious, but goopy. I think they pureed the vegetables and added a generous dollop of cornstarch to the mix. No visible vegetables remained. Fresh from the grave of Charles Dickens, I couldn't help but think of Oliver Twist, who had the nerve to bring his bowl up and ask for "More soup, please." I'm pretty sure he was asking for another glob of vegetable puree.
To top off our day, we decided to tour Buckingham Palace. Again, no pictures allowed, but I do have these two--just to prove we've had the Queen's coffee.
I have no words to describe the opulence of the palace itself. Just "opulent." But I did leave with two questions: one, what can I do to get invited to a State Dinner? (I really, really want to sit at that lavishly set table just once in my life) and two, when she's alone in the house ... or in, say, the art room or the marble collection room ... does the queen ever backflip herself from one end to the other? Maybe not anymore, but in years past--don't you think she's done it once or twice? I know I would.
After the palace, we took bus 24 around Trafalgar Square, hopped off for some nachos, hopped back onto the 176 and headed to Waterloo Station, where we took the Shepperton subway all the way back to Hampton. From the station to the Dingman's house is just a ten minute walk. About three minutes into it, I tripped on some invisible something on the sidewalk and lurched forward about six steps trying to keep from falling. It worked, but after restraining himself for 30 seconds, Dave couldn't help but laugh. That made me laugh too. He then said, "Do you want to see what you looked like?" and handed me our shopping bags. And then Dave proceeded to do an elaborate re-enactment of my near fall, with flailing, about-to-take-flight arms and giant steps and wide, frightened eyes. It was so funny I stopped right where I was and doubled over. From behind us, we heard a man's voice. " 'avin' a flashback, are ye, mate?" The stranger passed us and kept walking. We laughed harder. And then I got the giggles. I couldn't stop. In a few minutes, we could hear the stranger up ahead of us laughing too.
And that's how we ended our brilliant, fantastic, fabulous first day in London.