Sunday, September 30, 2001

Not a Day of Rest

Not a Day of Rest
I used to think that working was stressful. Already we need a vacation from our time away. The London Pass does not seem to be as beneficial as we thought it would be, although the transportation component has been a blessing. One of the problems has been that many of the attractions here in London have very limited hours. Most open at 10:00 am and close at 5:30 pm. That may seem like a sufficient amount of time, but when there are so many things to see and do, it is difficult to fit it all in. Then you have to figure out what is open on what day and sometimes it takes an hour or more to get to the area of the attraction. This all adds to the mix of frustrations. Sounds rough doesn’t it? We hope we have all of your sympathies.
Our day today started out with a tube ride to Westminster Abbey for the tour promised in our London Pass book, but it was not available due to religious services. We were able to view the three museums within the old monastery, which was quite interesting and full of royal history. English history is so complicated, but more fascinating than we had ever realized. We have been totally taken in by it. Ron decided to attend a portion of the Episcopal service at the Abbey and I took off in search of a Loo. See I am learning the language here. Big Ben is right next to Westminster and is looking very spiffy. When I was here the last time, he was covered with scaffolding for refurbishing. Of course, that was 1983, so he has had plenty of time to get himself together for a visit. Many people believe that Big Ben is the clock that is on the sides of the tower, but that is not correct. If that is what you thought, YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK and are out of the game. Well, okay, you can stay. Big Ben is the bell within the tower. Learn something new today?
The Jewel Tower is close to the Abbey and on our Pass, so that was the next stop. One would think this was a place filled with jewels as I did. All right, I am the weakest link this time. The tower was actually built for Edward III in 1363 to house his personal treasures. He had a moat dug around it to offer more protection. It was once one of the original buildings of the medieval castle of Westminster. Inside now are large displays that give an account of the British monarchy in regard to their level of power. Edgar the Great in the 800s had total control to the Queen now who is more of a figure head with Parliament having most of the political control. We spent a couple of hours reading the history. When we were on the second floor, we kept hearing this chanting. At first we thought it was the video on the third floor, but after viewing the movie, it was not. When we left there and was standing at the bus stop, we heard the chanting again. It was really more like yelling, shouting, and discontent. We saw a large number of people with masks and signs. Not wanting to miss a good demonstration, we went to investigate. It turns out it is the filming of the new movie “ Bridgette Jones’ Diary: Part 2”, so we were asked to leave.
Well we can take a hint when we are not wanted, so we took a bus in search of Wagamama. Really sounds British, eh? It is a chain of Japanese noodle restaurants that all of our friends here recommended. With the rain falling and feet aching, a hot bowl of soup with ramen noodles sounded comforting and nourishing. We found it after a long bus ride and entered our first Wagamama. It is starkly decorated with many blonde picnic tables each with six paper placemats and chopsticks. A person comes for your order. They have about 30 different soup/noodle/rice combinations. The noodles come in four varieties. I ordered a spicy chicken soup with wide noodles and Ron had a miso based soup with wide noodles. It saddened me to say that my soup was totally tasteless. Most of the filling was bean sprouts with other veggies, but the bean sprouts really dominated the bowl. It was slim chance on finding many noodles and the broth was neither tasty nor comforting. Ron’s was barely better, but not to any great extent. We may give this place another try, but not for a while.
With passes in hand, we rushed off to the Tower of London. When we reached there, we only had one hour left before it closed. The guard suggested we come back tomorrow as the full tour takes a minimum of three hours. With that information, we put it on our plan for tomorrow and walked the area lovely along the waterway getting post card views of the Tower Bridge. At the end of the walkway were a cluster of shops and restaurants. Shopping has no appeal when you are homeless. Why buy something only to cart it around with you? It is a money saver to have my shopping addiction wasting away. We did find a coffee house next to a historic ship called the Grand Turk, a clipper ship that was used in some historic battle, but the touring was done for the day and it was not of enough interest to us to investigate further. We planned our day for tomorrow.
The Tower Bridge looming over our heads was too enticing and we climbed the steps to walk the length of the bridge. It is a lovely view of London from the middle of the bridge and one is able, for a fee, to climb to the top of the bridge for an even better view. We have learned to pick and choose our energy battles. The bridge itself is painted a light blue with large emblems representing England and Scotland on the side. As Ron described it, he said it looks like frosting on a birthday cake and wondered how many arguments ensued in choosing the colors.
Since we have wanted to see some theater while we are here, we took a bus to the Leicester area where the theater discounters happen to be. They were closed, of course, but we thought we could to find what plays were available. Naturally, Lion King and Mama Mia are sold out, but we can possible get tickets if we go directly to the theaters. We both had to use the bathroom by that time and there was no public facility in sight. I asked a street cleaner where we could find a bathroom. He said there we none in the area, but did I just want to wash up? I told him our need and he suggested that we just enter any pub or fast food restaurant. As fate has it, all of the McDonalds, Burger Kings, even Starbucks evaporated from the area at that very moment. When we found a Pizza Hut, we thought we were in luck and rushed in. A hostess who wanted to seat us immediately greeted us. We looked over the menu and left totally unsatisfied. We did a quick walk down the street looking for a pub that would not ask questions and just leave us to do our thing. I grabbed Ron when spotting one and we sprinted through the door. About twenty feet in the door, I sensed something different about this bar. My mind found the memory of the Gary Larson cartoon of the chickens that walk into a bar full of cows. The caption states something like, “Suddenly, Ethel and Lucy looked around and realized that they were in a hay bar.” It was a gay bar we had found as our oasis in the bathroomless desert. We used the facility and left.
After taking the tube home, we stopped in our neighborhood pub to chug one with the locals and off to bed for another day of work, I mean touring tomorrow.
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