Yikes, tourists!

Trip Start Jul 06, 2011
Trip End Aug 04, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It is hot in London.  Mid to upper eighty’s and very muggy – very uncomfortable, especially riding on trains and tubes.  And the tourists - they are Everywhere!  I find it embarrassing to carry the camera around my neck, but sometimes need it handy!

On Sunday I interviewed Stephen Farr, the organist from the Prom concert.  He has not only played a lot of Judith Bingham’s organ music, he has conducted a much of her church music.  The interview was held in a pub near his church, with the Hungarian Grand Prix in the background.  I hope that the recording came out well, as what Stephen had to say was fantastic.  After we were finished I headed to the British Library for the third time.  The library website said that the library was open on Sunday, with no special indications.  Well, the building is open, but the Reading Rooms are not.  What is the point of having the building open without being able to get to any of the books???  This was my second less that happy visit to the library.

On Monday I headed to the library first thing, as I thought my requested material was on its last day of being held for me.  When I checked my requests online, all but one of my requested items had been sent back.  Apparently their idea of three days is different than my idea of three days.  So it will be impossible to see that material.  The one item that was there turned out to be something that I did not need.  To say the least, I am not pleased.  Stephen Farr did recommend that I join the Royal College of Organists as they have all of the journals that I need in their library.  Of course, their library is in Birmingham, in the middle of England, and too far for me to go in my last days here.  I have sent an email to the library requesting help.  No word yet  We’ll see what happens…

After the fourth and final British Library visit of this trip, I headed to the Palace of Westminster, otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament.  They sit along the Thames in all of their splendor.  They were reconstructed to emulate the Perpendicular Gothic style after a fire in 1834.  The tower that we call Big Ben is really the Clock Tower.  Big Ben is actually the huge bell that chimes the hours that is housed at the top of the tower.  Across the river is one of London’s newer sights, the London Eye.  It is a huge ferris wheel built to celebrate the Millenium.  A ride in the Eye came so highly recommended that I trooped across Westminster Bridge with hundreds of tourists, past the buskers and the living statues, and along the south side of the Embankment to the Eye.  Amazingly, the queue for the ride was only half an hour long, so I paid my fare and took a ride.  It moves very slowly, allowing for stunning views of the city.  The most exciting and well-known buildings to see are the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey (sadly partially enclosed in scaffolding, as always) Buckingham Palace with St. James' Park leading up to it, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Gherkin (a 40 floor skyscraper in London's financial district shaped somewhat like a rocket and affectionately nicknamed the Gherkin).

Following my ride on the Eye I took the tube to Piccadilly Circus (sorry, so much construction, probably in advance of the Olympics next summer, that a photo would have been useless) and walked down Piccadilly to the famous posh grocery, Fortnum and Mason.  There I just had to purchase some biscuits (cookies) in fancy tins, and decided to head up to the fourth floor to the St. James Restaurant for tea.  The floors of buildings in Britain are numbered differently than in the US.  The street level floor is the Ground Floor, and above that is the first floor, and so on, so that the fourth floor is the fifth floor by our reckoning.  As you may or may not know, tea in Britain is a meal, and Fortnum and Mason does tea in grand style.  It began with a demitasse cup of cold tomato soup with two canapés.  Then I received the two grand tiers of the meal.  On the bottom level were three finger sandwiches, roast beef with horseradish, lightly curried chicken, and the traditional cucumber.  There were also a latke with smoked salmon and a roll with egg salad.  On the middle tier were two scones, one plain and one with sultanas (raisins), and a sponge cake.  For the scones the other tier held clotted cream, strawberry preserves and apricot preserves.  On the top tier were the sweets, a ginger and apricot cake, a raspberry jam biscuit and a madeleine.  As if that wasn't enough, they came by with a tray of gorgeous sweets from which you were expected to choose one or two selections.  I chose an fruit cake (extremely moist as British fruit cakes are) with apricot topping and a mango meringue.  All of this was served with your choice of teas (no herbal teas included).  I chose Earl Grey, drunk the proper (as their note recommended) with no milk or lemon.  I did not make it through all of this lovely food, and took the sweets with me, which were elegantly boxed and tied with a ribbon.  Needless to say, this was an expensive meal!

My original idea was to go to Hatfield House today.  There Princess Elizabeth learned that she had become Queen Elizabeth I.  However, the weather is suggesting rain, and I want to have enough energy to go to St. Albans tomorrow (my last day here in Britain) to interview another of Judith Bingham's colleagues, and see the cathedral and town that I so much enjoyed when I lived here in the 1970's.
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Richard Childress on

Marjorie, you've been so busy, I am impressed!

Marcia on

I had lunch at Fortnum;s with Joel Grey once and saw Sen Connery there the next day. Gee, your time In London sounds like so much fun...hot, tiring, but fun except for the library. Glad to hear your impressions of London Eye. I thought a giant Ferris wheel was an awful idea, so maybe it;s not so bad.
Looking forward to having you home Travel safely.

Judy Johnson on

It has been amazing to be "along with you" on your wonderful adventure. We were in London over 30 years ago and in Northern England just last year, so your pictures have brought back many great memories. Thank you for including me. See you soon!

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