Loitering in London
Trip Start Jul 20, 2007
4Trip End Aug 23, 2007
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Where I stayed
After being delayed in Washington, we arrived late into London. The breakfast that the flight attendant had left lying on the evacuation slide container for me was really lunch. Customs wasn't bad, but by the time I got out of the airport it was late afternoon. I took the Tube to my hotel, checked in, walked around a bit, and then went back to the room.
In my wandering I discovered that the hotel was close to Wesley's Chapel, where Charles Wesley (one of the founders of Methodism) used to preach. 2007 is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley, so on Sunday morning I walked to the Chapel for services. The sermon was on asking, seeking and knocking and the Lord's Prayer. As part of the prayer time the leader took a phrase from the Lord's Prayer and enlarged on the phrase before moving on to the next. For example, after praying "Give us this day our daily bread", she prayed for those who don't have enough to eat and for those who have other basic needs. It was a great way to start Sunday morning.
The Hoxton Hotel where I stayed is very nice, but I ran into a couple of minor problems. First, the drain in the sink stopped up, so I had to have them fix that. Then in the evening when I came in I put the key card in the slot to activate the electricity, heard a "pop", and everything went dark. The receptionist had to come up and find the breaker panel so he could re-set the breaker for the room. Other than that, though, it was very nice.
On Monday I had to stop at a Do It Yourself Center (pardon me, Centre) and get some epoxy. Somehow on the flight from Dulles to London, British Airways managed to tear the handle on my suitcase loose from the suitcase itself. Since I'm traveling by car this year I decided to bring my rolling hard-sided suitcase. It has an extending handle for when I roll it. BA handlers managed to pull that handle loose, even though they shouldn't have been grabbing that handle at all, especially since it was fully retracted. Oh well. I got the epoxy, went back to the room and glued my suitcase back together. It seems to be holding well. In addition, I later stopped at a Boots the Chemist shop and bought a luggage strap for added support.
The rest of my time in London I spent seeing some things again, walking around, and seeing a few things I haven't gotten to before. One morning I arrived early for tickets to the Houses of Parliament, but the earliest opening they had was about 11:00. I booked a later tour and then went to Westminster Abbey. With the sales clerk's assistance I timed things well and came out of the abbey at the right time to join the queue for Parliament. While I was inside Westminster Abbey I came across a booklet about the abbey and the Da Vinci Code. Part of the booklet is showing the errors in the Dan Brown's descriptions. The author's basic premise is that the Da Vinci Code is a fun read, but don't rely on it for essential accuracy on things.
The tour of the Houses of Parliament was interesting. Our guide told us lots of things about traditions in the house, who does what, etc. The only part of the building that remains from the Middle Ages is Westminster Hall, the rest is what the English call Gothic Revival (or Victorian Gothic) from the 1800's. Even that has suffered damage, e.g. from German bombs in WWII. We got to go in the entrance the Queen uses when she opens Parliament and stood (no sitting allowed) in the House of Lords. This part of the complex is very ornate, and things become increasingly plainer as one moves towards the Commons. The color also changes from red for Lords to green for Commons. The monarch is never allowed inside the House of Commons. This stems from when the king was going to arrest the leaders of the Commons, but they had been warned and fled. Instead, the sovereign sends for the Commons, and they come to the House of Lords to hear the Queen's opening speech.
I also made it to both the British Library, which was having an exhibit called "Sacred" about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the British Museum, where I went to the European Middle Ages section rather than Middle Eastern Antiquities. Middle Eastern Antiquities is more impressive. There's just something about having portions of a palace in your museum that's impressive.
On my last day in London I went to Hampstead Heath, another place I have wanted to visit for a while. I actually went one station too far so I had a longer walk than intended, but it was enjoyable, and Parliament Hill provides a nice panorama of the city of London and its surroundings.
Upon returning to the hotel I got my bags and headed for the train station. Since I was flying on German Wings to Stuttgart, I had to get to Stansted Airport. Stansted is the discount airline airport for London. German Wings, Berlin Air, Ryanair, and several other discount airlines fly out of Stansted. After walking from the Hotel to Liverpool Street Station, I got a ticket and literally jumped onto the train as it was departing for the airport. Because I arrived early I had to wait for German Wings to open the counter. They had two flights out but only one ticket agent, so the queue was very long. Eventually some people informed us that other counters nearby could also check us in. That helped immensely. It also helped that the flight was delayed, so everyone got on board.
Since German Wings is a discount airline, they try to put as many people as possible on the plane. That means that legroom is shorter than other planes. Also, they don't assign seats but have open seating, like Southwest in the US. When our plane arrived, we got on, and I took a seat on the aisle. There was someone in the window seat, but the middle seat was empty. My knees were jammed into the back of the seat in front of me, so there was no way the seat would recline. After we had gotten airborne the person in front of me tried to put her seat back. When she couldn't, she turned around and asked me about it. I pointed out that I couldn't exactly remove my legs, at which point she asked me to move to the middle seat so she could recline her seat back, even though the middle seat next to her was empty as well. While I didn't go ahead and move, I did use the empty seat space to turn sideways and accommodate the person in front of me. The lady in my row looked at me and indicated she thought the other woman had a lot of nerve to ask me to move for her. At least the flight was only a little over an hour, so it wasn't too bad. And we actually made up the time for the delay, so we touched down about five minutes late.
I had intended to take the S-Bahn (light rail) to the station near my friends' house, but they surprised me by being at the airport. We headed for their house, and I'll have to tell you about my time in Stuttgart later.
Until then, möge Euch Gott reichlich segen.