London - Towers and Tubes

Trip Start May 30, 2012
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Trip End Nov 07, 2012


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, September 24, 2012

Oh, London! Where do I begin? We spent more time here then any other place on our trip, nine nights! We also had the priveledge to stay with two different couples, one for five nights, and the other for four nights. We saw so much and had a great time with our hosts. Heston and Lydia were our first hosts. They have been married for four years now, same as us. Heston is from Cape Town, South Africa, and Lydia is proper home grown English. They met us at the Lewisham overground train station, and walked us back to their home. It was a fine English evening so the four of us took a walk through Greenwich Park. Heston and Lydia live very close to Greenwich Park and the arenas where most of the equestrian events of the Olympics were held. It is a very beautiful area. We made our way to the Greenwich observatory where there was a wonderful view of the London cityscape, and the Prime Meridian! Looking through a fence on the top of the observatory hill, we saw a plaque above a thick red line running down the wall and carrying on to the ground. It was the Prime Meridian, and we were standing eight feet into the Eastern Hemisphere. Jess didn't think it was as cool as I did. Continuing our walk, we strolled down the hill into Greenwich village, and made our way to the riverside. It was dark by then, and the downtown lights were shining brightly.       

The next day was gorgeous, so we set off for a day outside. Most of the really iconic things to see in London are relatively close to each other along the River Thames. So we made use of our sunny day and saw as many of them as we could. It was a lovely walk that started at London Bridge and headed toward Tower Bridge. London Bridge was built and rebuilt several times before. The current bridge is made of concrete and steel, but before that it had been a stone-arch, a medieval structure, and a few timber bridges. The first one of the timber bridges was built by the Romans back when London was founded. Kind of anti-climactic when you see it now, because it is a regular vehicular traffic concrete bridge. Maybe decades from now, people will look back at the ancient concrete bridges and wonder at their antiqueness. Tower bridge on the other hand, is very much all it's cracked up to be. Although very stunning to see from affar, I think Tower Bridge is best appreciated by walking across it. Crazy detail and a very clever design. Just across Tower Bridge on the north side is the Tower of London. This castle used to be the royal residence and now is the home of the Crown Jewels. We could see the castle without going in and the price was a bit high to go in, so we opted out of this one. That's ok because later in the week I saw the Lego version of the Crown Jewels at Hamley's toy store. Hamley's is one of the biggest (not the biggest) toy stores in the World. It is located near Oxford Street where all the really posh shops are. We went into some of the shops, one of them being the Nike flagship store, and they were crazy! 
From London Tower we walked east and zig-zagged across the river. The different areas we passed were so diverse and unique. There was a section all business-like with modern looking buildings and art sculptures, and then there was an area with markets, any kind of restaurant you want, and a skate park with graffiti art everywhere. Also along our stroll was Shakespeare's Globe. This is a reconstructed theatre 750 feet from the original Globe Theatre where Shakespeare's plays were held. And finally, we kept going east until we hit the London Eye (a big ferris wheel), Big Ben, and the Parliament Buildings. Quite a sight these were! Again, stunning from afar, but not truely appreciated until you are close up to see the detail. Of course West Minster Abbey was a must see since it was across the street from the Parliament Buildings. We didn't think it was as impressive as Big Ben though. If that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we went home to make an Indian food feast for Heston and Lydia. Soon after we got home, the door bell rang with the sound of many childrens' voices outside the door. We soon became quite familiar with this sound as it happened a few times throughout the time we stayed at Heston and Lydia's place in Lewisham. It was the neighborhood kids wanting to come in and hang out for a bit. Heston and Lydia have been blessed with a very nice narrow, multi-leveled house with extra room for couch surfers and visits from the nieghborhood kids. The ground floor room turns into a kids' games/hang out room when the kids come a-knocking. Heston and Lydia have gotten to know some of the kids in the nieghborhood and have started sort of an outreach around their house. Jess and I couldn't help but get to know them as well. British children are so cute! Heston is now a Vicca of the church right beside their house, so some of the kids started coming to that as well. On Sunday morning we went to church with them. The church service started out having breakfast around a table in the centre of the main room of the church. Then the kids split off with Heston and us, and the adults stayed with another pastor. Jess shared about what it's like being a Christian in Canada, and I shared about why I follow God. I think the kids were just as interested in hearing our Canadian accents as they were in what we said. We had a lot of fun with them.

We really wanted to check out another Hillsong Service after the one we went to in Paris. So after our morning Lewisham church meeting, we travelled across town to Tottenham Court Road, to a small music theatre to participate in a Hillsong London service. Even though there were tons of people there, we still felt very welcome and made a couple new friends. One of the songs we sang was the same one we sang in Paris, "Lord of All." We got back on the Tube and headed home to hang with our hosts. Speaking of the Tube, it's great! You can get pretty much anywhere you want to go in London by using the underground metro (the Tube) or the overground train. You always have to stay on your toes though, as there are so many options and signs to pay attention to. On weekends, there is always "scheduled engineering work," and some of the lines are closed. It's always fun listening to the announcments (sarcasm), trying to hear if the line we had to take was closed. We got lucky for the most part. Our Oyster Cards started growing attached to our bodies, as we had to keep them on us at all times to scan through the gates of the metro stations. Very efficient for such a big city, but there were a few times that we were packed tighter than sardines. And there were no people cheating the system by walking really close behind you to get through the gates without paying, like in Paris. I guess that's the benefit of a place like London, the city with the very first underground train system. When we got home, Lydia made another of her wonderful meals for us. We were so spoiled there! We even had proper homemade scones with our tea one afternoon. We had a great time discussing things over tea and walks with Heston and Lydia, and relaxing watching Lydia's favourite show, Downton Abbey. They even took us in again for one more night four days after we left their house, when there was a mix up with our other accomodations. We meet so many wonderful people couch surfing!   

Lots more about London to come in part two.

Ryan             
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Comments

mil on

we were starting to wonder where you were! the real crown jewels beat out the lego ones! did you go on a double decker bus? we did and got royally stuck in slow moving downtown traffic and loud talking tourists from italy!

Mutti & Father on

Worth the wait, what a great blog ! So cool you were able to share your faith with the kids. Looking forward to seeing some pics.
Miss you both, Love always

Nana on

Did you's stand at the gate in front of the Palace??And see the Canadian Flags,etc.to the right? Neat stuff!! Take care,lovingly,Nana

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