After waking from a good night’s sleep following our memorable walk near the London Eye, we grabbed some breakfast at Thyme Restaurant and scrambled our way into the London rain in hopes of landing The Original Tour London Sightseeing bus for their so-called red line; this would take us by such hot spots as the Tower of London, Lambeth Palace, Trafalgar Square (a major tourist stop!), the Royal Courts of Justice, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral, just to name a few! And it was a hop-on/hop-off tour bus, so we could get out and visit any of the sights we happened to pass by.
Our bus was really cool, having two levels and with half of the top level being entirely exposed — no windows, no roof! The kids were so excited to ride up top… well, for about a solid five-minutes, anyway! Even if it hadn’t started raining (again), we’d have been forced down below by the frigid London winds!
Underneath was spacious, featuring rows of seats, some facing each other with a table in the middle allowing riders to talk, read, or even to eat. There were also earphone jacks in case anyone wished to listen to the pre-recorded tour guide tell tales about sights the bus was passing by.
Roads are afterthoughts for 2,000-year-old cities — they don’t have the grid system Americans have grown accustomed to — so traffic was winding to and fro through narrow lanes dividing one ancient building from another, with cars & cabs continually veering in and out of traffic, each huddled within a foot of one another at stop lights; and, of course, they were all driving on the left side of the road! It was the starts & stops, however, that had our guts turning inside out. Downtown traffic on the tour never went over 30 mph but every driver seemed as quick to the gas as they were to the breaks! This was especially frightening for us when we were nice & warm (with windows and a roof) in the front row of the bus’s upper level! Every stop looked as though the bus was going to climb atop the back of the automobile ahead of it, and we couldn’t help but to be worried whenever the bus was approaching someone on a bicycle or motor scooter!
At some point, Ambrose, Teresa, and Athanasius fell asleep. We still hadn’t gotten over jet lag and Athanasius was still sick, so we let them close their eyes. Sami stayed awake, though, gazing beyond the raindrops on the window to see the beautiful buildings, the stunning imperial statues, and even students exercising in the courtyard of the City of London School for Girls. She was in awe, spellbound, entirely taken by all of it!
“London is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, Mama! These building are so ancient! I wish we could live here so that I could see them every day!”
I agreed, and I’ve seen many major American cities. Whether to live, to go to school, or just to visit, I’ve traveled a lot over the years, at least within the contiguous United States. Sticking only to a handful of prominent cities, I’ve seen the streets of Chicago, Illinois; Time Square (viva Fleet Week!) in New York, New York; the historical buildings and monuments in Washington, D.C.; even the skylines of Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Add to these cities like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Salt Lake City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Los Angeles, California, including Beverly Hills and Hollywood. These are all beautiful metropolitan areas, each with their own uniqueness and charm; but none of these cities are 2,000 years old; most of their structures are made from glass & steel, not brick, stone and marble. And the statues we saw in London were predominantly realistic, most having to do with royalty, the military and religion, and all symbolizing triumphs & defeats in the games of God and war. There’s something to America’s design — especially for a culture hell-bent on all things mechanical, moving, and modern — but there was something mystifying about the old palaces, the walls, bridges, and castles. While I don’t wish to ruin the topic of a future post, allow me to say this much: I envy the Brits’ connection to the past, the way that even their architecture lands them within their own history, within the democracy of their dead. Good or bad — and there’s plenty of terrifying and tragic stories being told by the tour guides! — it’s part of the air they breathe, like fish in the familiar habitats of ancient rivers! Profundity all around, even to the fault of feeling entirely accustomed to the fact.
After casting our stares at the Marble Arch, Sherlock’s Baker Street, the HMS Belfast, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the world-famous Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain “Eros” statue near (my favorite statue in) Trafalgar Square, our tour bus returned to the stop from whence we got on-board. The kids were starving… and still so tired! Plus, it was already sunset, the gelid weather was penetrating our coats and shoes, and both Sami & Ambrose complained that their feet were wet and numb. (Not good, especially when we’re already taking serious precautions to keep any of them from getting sick.) So food it was, again at Thyme — and don’t worry yourselves, I promise to write about our fun adventures with British food in a future post!
With sniffly noses and tummies full of food, we resigned to yet another early night dozing off to political talk on the BBC about what the U.K.’s military involvement ought to be against ISIS in light of the terror attacks in Paris, France. Fading into dreamland, I thought to myself: there’s nothing quite like the late-night realization that while our day may have been cut short by exhaustion and weather, there were others not far away whose entire lives were cut short in acts of terror committed by fanatical members of a religious death cult… we were grateful to be alive, the family all tucked-in and sound asleep in preparation for tomorrow’s Paddington Station, where we’ll be hitching a train ride to Cardiff, Wales… home to The Doctor Who Experience museum!
From the aftermath of a wish-come-true!
Jeremiah “The Paleocrat” Bannister