Even for all our sleeping in that we did yesterday, and plenty of sleep last night, we were a little low on energy today. We had trouble getting out of the hotel on schedule, but really didn’t suffer too much in the beginning. We got pastries for breakfast from the local Tesco. Loading up on carbs and literally nothing else sounded like a great idea.
We had changed our plans after getting some recommendations from Jolie and Ray. Our first stop was the transit museum. Mom was not too keen on the idea, but we dragged her along knowing she’d come around to it. Honestly, I was shocked that she wasn’t immediately enthusiastic. She talks constantly about how much she loves the tube, constantly wonders aloud about the origin of station names, and the fact the the tube has been around for 150 years has been a topic of conversation and curiosity the entire trip.
The museum was awesome. We’re a family of nerds, and I think that the history of transit is no more or less dorky than, say, the birthplace of Elizabeth I. It was off to a rocky start in the beginning, because the first area didn’t seemed well organized. It improved very quickly as we discovered little gems: an old double-decker horsedrawn carriage, how the first lines were built and why, and very old photos of London. Before moving on to the rest of the museum, we went through a gallery of Tube posters. This was completely awesome. Graphic arts at its finest through 150 years in one of the largest world centers of culture. We saw some amazing things, and don’t worry… we took lots of pictures. It was as good as any art show I’ve seen lately, I’m sorry but I’m a sucker for a good art-history combo.
There were lots of the decommissioned tube cars from older trains and even the steam trains. We also finally got some information about exactly what “improvements” are being made to the tube. We’ve been hearing announcements about scheduled closures for this work all week. Apparently, they’re adding a whole new line. It will be really interesting to see what the tube is like the next time I’m in London. I wonder if it will change things much, and what the new tube map will look like. I can’t find anything about it online.
From here, we were fading fast. We needed to get some lunch and plan our next move. We had some delicious hamburgers near the restaurant we’d had dinner last night. Our waitress had dichromatic eyes that matched mine exactly. It was strange to talk to her. I’ve known maybe one other person that had the same phenomenon, but it wasn’t identical to me.
We decided to hit Selfridges, then make our way out to Greenwich. My parents have been watching a TV show about Selfridges and thought it would be easiest to knock it off the list now. We weren’t interested in shopping, of course, they just wanted to poke a head in for a minute or two.
That was pretty much all we spent there. That part of London was so crowded, we just wanted to get out. Plus, we had Greenwich waiting to be explored. It hadn’t been on our radar before, but Ray had recommended it the night before. He made a good case for it, and the transit museum reinforced his credibility. We found our way there without any problems. Out of the Greenwich train stop, we see some ship masts and soon discover that they’re attached to the Cutty Sark. For those who don’t know, this is a ship. It’s also the name of a scotch. Just past this was the tourist information center, and we decided it would be best to make this our first stop.
We were very surprised to find out that everything in the town closed at either 4:30 or 5:00. This gave us just over an hour. We would have liked to see several things, but a decision had to be made. The most important thing in Greenwich, to us, was the Greenwich mean time situation. We weren’t really sure what this meant. It’s not the dateline, but it’s definitely something important that you hear about all the time. We had too many questions not to go to the museum.
Greenwhich is where the prime meridian passes through. Mystery solved. We also learned a little bit about sea navigation and clocks, the reasons that such an invention was necessary. Pretty remarkable. Also funny, at one point the meridian was moved 19 feet. I guess they just didn’t think this was a big deal. It’s the equivalent of 1/50 of a second, which no one could then calculate. So. The prime meridian is totally arbitrary, and they moved it once. Bizarre. But we stood on the current location of it, and took the obligatory photos.
We were not doing good by the end of this. Dad and I were both hungry, but since Mom wasn’t feeling it (I’m sure she was just in denial) food wasn’t a priority. She wanted to walk through the town of Greenwich and I thought this was a great idea anyway. It looked very cute, and it would have been a shame to just leave. It’s really too bad we weren’t able to go to the Cutty Sark Museum or the Maritime Museum. Elizabeth I was born in Greenwich, but the house was destroyed long ago and in its place now stands the Royal Naval Academy.
When we were walking around the town, we came across a weekend market. The craft stalls were cute, but the smell of food convinced my mother it was finally time to eat. Thank goodness, because I don’t think I was going to make it much longer otherwise! We all needed it. We had been seriously dragging at that point, and there was even talk of just going back to the hotel and resting. Mom and I had ethiopian food that weren’t big fans of, but food is food and it did the trick.
On the road again and feeling a little bit better, we started to look for the DLR station to get back. But we somehow mysteriously found ourselves at the entrance to the pedestrian Thames tunnel, and Dad and I wanted a peek inside. There was an elevator to the bottom, and once we were there Mom said we might as well walk it. It was a strange, dingy tunnel but it was pretty lively with foottraffic. It didn’t seem like these were tourists. There were a lot of people running, some walking dogs, all looking more like they were exercising or commuting than sight-seeing. The tunnel was much, much shorter than any of us expected. Even as tired as we were, it wasn’t bad. It had elevators, and on the other side of the tunnel you were practically at a train station.
From there, we had enough of a second wind (or third, or fourth) to fit in one last activity. My mother, in 2003, fell in love with a Harrod’s tote bag that my Dad talked her out of getting. She jokes that it’s the whole reason they had to return to London. Dad is as against it as ever. But Harrod’s had to be done one way or another, and we thought we had it in us.
Harrod’s is a magical place. It’s not my favorite London department store, but it is a fabulous place full of beautiful things. It’s as much like a gallery or a museum or a theme park as it is like a store. We got a little lost, but that worked out well for me. My parents wanted to get in and out as fast as possible, I was the only one who wanted to linger. When we finally accomplished our mission, Dad wanted to head straight for the nearest exit. He would rather walk around the building in the freezing drizzle than back to through the store to the door by our tube station. It wasn’t a bad thing, in the end. Harrod’s has incredible window displays right now. They’re Gatsby themed, and they’re to die for.
Our final burst of energy wore off on our way back to the hotel. We hit a Tesco for supplies (food, fruit, booze) and planned to spend the rest of the night in the hotel. I’ve begun to finalize the details of my Europe trip and contacted all of my friends that I want to stay with. It’s hard to believe that this trip to London ends tomorrow. It seems like yesterday that my parents got here. I don’t think goodbye’s will be too painful, though. We’re all excited for our adventures, and I’ll see them in a month! in Kansas City!
Dad’s Guest Blog
Yesterday was a good day. We slept until 11:15 then did some site seeing which included a trip to the Cabinet War Rooms. The highlight of the day was finally meeting Anna’s English guardian angels, Ray and Jolie. Jolie was as gracious and friendly as Anna has told us. Ray and I had lots of opportunities to talk and we found that we have much in common. Probably foremost is we have a common love of Football. Of course his love of football meant soccer and my love of football referred to American football. The other thing that we have in common is the futility of our favorite teams. His team has not won the cup since 1966, which hits pretty close to home, as the Chiefs won the Superbowl in the 1969 season. His team last played a major role in 1975; likewise it has been 20 years since the Chiefs last won a play-off game.
All in all a great time was had. Ray helped us out with ideas for the rest of our trip and introduced us to a fun pub. Jennifer and Anna monopolized most of Jolie’s time and everybody had a good time.