Churchill Cabinet War Rooms

So as it turns out, we were a little tired after yesterday.

I woke up and went back to bed several times, waiting for my Mom to issue the wakeup call. I found it really odd that they were sleeping as late with their limited time in London, but who am I to question their methods? Finally, at 11:00, I decided I would take advantage of the time they were still asleep to get up and take a shower.

This woke my Mom up, and she and my Dad were both shocked and appalled when they realized how late we had slept. Apparently, they have not learned the cardinal rule of sleeping in on vacation: set an alarm for the very latest you would stay in bed, even if you don’t think it’s possible to sleep that long.

Then again, as a young person, I think it’s easier for me to sleep late. They never dreamed (ha!) they would sleep that late. That’s jetlag for you, baby.

We hit the Starbucks by the hotel for breakfast and headed to the Churchill War Rooms. Our original plan was to hit St Alban’s today, but we moved that to tomorrow since we slept so late.

Getting to the War Rooms made us finally feel like we’re really in London. There were double decker busses, red telephone booths, the state buildings. It was lovely. Dad held out for breakfast at McDonald’s, and while there we noticed a rather disturbing sign. They’re apparently doing a series of limited-edition burgers called Tastes of America. Week One: Louisiana barbeque.

Louisiana? Disgraceful. There is no barbeque in Louisiana. There’s excellent gumbo, sure, but no barbeque. If it had been Memphis, we would have been disappointed… but we would have at least understood it. Louisiana? The English view of America is so backwards.

The War Cabinet Rooms were pretty excellent. The audiotour provided was entertaining and interesting. The second half of the tour was better than the first. Work seemed pretty intense there. Many people slept in the tunnels. Some switchboard operators had to be on call the entire night and slept on a cot behind their desks. Churchill and higher officials had their own rooms, and other people had the option of sleeping in bunkbeds in tunnels.

The crazy thing about the whole situation is that the structure was completely vulnerable. It wasn’t reinforced at all, and one hit with a bomb would have destroyed it. I has always assumed that whole reason it was in tunnels was for safety during air raids. Not so. I find it extraordinary how little that area of London was bombed at all. It’s where all the government buildings are, where all of the officials work, where Churchill’s house and aboveground offices were… it seems to me that, if there were anywhere in London for the Germans to bomb, that would have been it.

We had a few minutes to walk around afterwards, so we had a look at Westminster Abbey. It had already closed for the day, but it was near enough to the beginning of the evening service that we considered pretending that we were going in for worship. In the end we decided that this may be disrespectful or in bad taste, and we really didn’t have time. We admired the beautiful architecture and headed back to the hotel.

After a brief pit stop, we were off to dinner. My parents were finally to meet the legendary Jolie and Ray. We met in Covent Garden and went to a restaurant Jolie knew of called Sophie’s. I had delicious seabass and I think we all had a marvelous time. I know how excited Mom and Dad were to meet my fantastic friends, and all got along famously.

After dinner, we went to a pub for some local flavor. I was getting a little sleepy so I switched over to soda. It was nice to get to spend time with all four of my favorite people. This evening was truly special.

Dad’s Guest Blog

Who thought I would ever get to be a guest blogger?

To put this in the proper reference, I have to go back about a week. As all of our trips start, Jennifer and I have to decide what time to leave for the airport. Jennifer being a punctual Prouty always wants to leave way too early. I being a Blanck, having the reputation of being late, like to use every possible minute before leaving. Jennifer is savvy to this situation and starts out with an opening offer of 4:00 am. This for a flight that leaves at 6:50am. She reminds me that they say to arrive 2 hours early for international flights. I am wise to her ways (and have been tricked before) ask what time do the ticket counters open. She immediately confesses that they do not open until 5:00 and quickly changes her offer to 4:30, which she ways is generous. I counter with 6:00, knowing that it is ridiculous. She meets me in the middle at 5:30. Excellent, negotiation won. The night before we leave she reminds me that we are leaving at 5:10 and that I need to be ready on time. 5:10? OK. The next morning she wakes me early with the idea of leaving by 5:00. Ultimately she won, as with every such negotiation in our lives. But that is OK. I am happy, she is happy, and that is how you get to your 25th anniversary!

So why did I bother to tell you all of that? Because it is pertinent to the next part of the story. We get to the airport. Go to the counter to check in. There is a problem with Jennifer’s boarding ticket. The lady asks what flight we are on, but dismisses the question before we can answer and says that it doesn’t really matter, unless we are on the 6:50 flight to Chicago. Ulp, that is our flight. My marriage flashed before my eyes. I am the one who argued for a later departure time, and here we are, scheduled on a 6:50 flight and having trouble. The attendant said she would do what she could. We waited, helplessly looking at her eyes for any sign of good news as her fingers flew across the keyboard. Moments (that seemed like an eternity) later she informed us that we were good to go.

Whew, regardless of what time we left, it would have been my fault had we missed our flight.

As for the rest of our trip, it has been relatively uneventful. Our flight from KC was turned back mid-air due to mechanical problems, we missed our connection to London, we had no access to prescriptions while stuck in Chicago for 8 hours, Anna had no idea that we were not on the first flight to London and we had no easy way of contacting her, we could not find Anna when we arrived in London 8 hours late and we overslept our first night in London by 3 hours.

Been a great trip so far, can’t wait for tomorrow!!!

–Paul

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