Monday, November 12, 2012

Europe Trip - Episode III

Saturday, September 1
I remember driving by the Tower of London when I was first in England in 1973. I had recently seen A Man for All Seasons, a movie worth watching, and I was spellbound to see the actual Tower. It’s still interesting to visit there.
The Tower of London
Alex arranged to meet one of his missionary companions from Finland, who was in London, to join us for the day. We joined a group of tourists for one of the always-interesting-and-humourous Beefeater tours. 
He gave us a blow-by-blow description of Cromwell’s botched execution, an account of Anne Boleyn’s private execution and subsequent burial in the Tower church, and several other stories. 
Chapel where the body of Anne Boleyn is buried. Her head is also there. 
We then went to see the Crown Jewels, which are amazing, and then we were free to wander through the central White Tower and a few of the side towers.
Tower Bridge
We debated what to do in the afternoon but settled on going to Baker Street to the relatively new Sherlock Holmes Museum near 221B Baker Street. 
Sherlock's Violin
Having seen most of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock episodes and having read many of the Sherlock stories, it was fun to tour his “residence.” 
The Game's Afoot
There was a small plaster bust of Napoleon on a mantle, a stuffed hound’s head, a book about bee keeping, and hundreds of other knickknacks that Sherlock fans would recognize.
The Head of the Hound of the Baskervilles
After the tour we asked the Bobby outside where we could get some GOOD fish and chips. He recommended Holmes Fish & Chips, just down the street, and it was wonderful, like fish and chips are meant to taste: thick cod, golden batter, chips (French fries), malt vinegar, pickled onions -- the works. I want to go back.
(It's my passport pouch that makes me look fat.)
We strolled down Park Lane in the evening to look at expensive cars.


Sunday, September 2
It was Sunday morning, so we took a bus to South Kensington for church. Walking along Exhibition Road we noticed a section of the wall of the Victoria and Albert Museum that was very badly pockmarked. It is a section of bomb-damaged wall that has been left unrepaired as a reminder of the damage caused by German bombs.
We went into Hyde Park Chapel for sacrament meeting. The chapel has a large pipe organ. It’s a great instrument, and while I was there in the ‘70’s, a young church organist, James Drake, had been sent there by the church to play regular organ concerts and improve his music skills. He was a very talented organist. He and I had enjoyed some fun adventures together when I was on my mission. I glanced at my program, and noticed the name of today’s organist: James Drake. “What?” I thought, “He’s been here for the past forty years?” It turned out that Dr. Drake had finished in London, taught at Utah State for thirty years, and just happened to be in London for the weekend before going on to Eastern Europe to play a few organ concerts. He had played in a concert on the Hyde Park organ the evening before, which I wish we had known about.
I went up and talked to him a while after sacrament meeting. Sunday school was taught by a young female barrister who was very sharp. It’s always fun to attend Hyde Park Ward. Last time we were there I ran into my cousin Paul Thomas who happened to be in London teaching English for BYU Semester Abroad.
After church we went to the science museum across the street and saw some interesting displays.
Enigma Machines in Science Museum
Then we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum around the corner where we ate lunch in the courtyard. 
Sunday Lunch
After-Lunch Exercise
We hoped to go to Speaker’s Corner to listen to the kooks and scholars talking to the masses. But we also wanted to go to St. Paul’s for their evensong and listen to the choir and organ in that magnificent cathedral. We opted for St. Paul’s.
St. Paul's

I also recommend taking a train to Canterbury to go to evensong there in the evenings. You get to sit in the choir seats next to the boys' choir, and it is incredible. We had done that with Erik. We didn’t have time to do everything on this trip though.  
After evensong at St. Paul’s, we ate pizza at a place across the street. European pizza is okay, but it’s sort of flimsy by Pizza Hut standards.
Sunday is the Day of Rest
Monday, September 3rd
We wanted to spend a day in the English countryside. We had originally wanted to rent a car and drive to Churchill’s house, GiIwell, Waltham Abbey, Stonehenge, Warwick Castle, Bath, Wales, and lots of other places. But, we also wanted to leave time to visit other countries in Europe. So, for our one day in the country, we elected to see Churchill’s house at Chartwell. It would be perfect: gardens, history, Churchill’s paintings, and the Kent countryside. Our plans were set. I looked at the website for travel information, and we took a train from London to Sevenoaks, the station nearest Chartwell. At the station we called Chartwell to get bus information (We were becoming savvy public transport travelers.), and . . . Chartwell is only open Wednesdays through Sundays. One small glitch in our web research. So, what else could we do near Sevenoaks? Alex and I wanted to go back to London to see a bit more of the British Museum or something. But Lisa persuaded us to find other things to out in the country since we’d come all that way, which was a good idea. A train station brochure noted that Charles Darwin’s home is also near Sevenoaks. Well, both Alex and I have recently read Origin of the Species, and it might be fun to go see Darwin’s collection of stuffed pigeons and things.  Darwin’s house was also closed. What’s with this Wednesday through Sunday stuff? In America, Monticello is open every day of the year, including Sundays, except Christmas. But England is not America. Sometime we forget.
So, what do you do when Darwin’s house is closed? You adapt. Looking at the map of Sevenoaks, we noticed that there was a wildlife reserve a short walk away, so away we walked to explore nature, eating blackberries from the hedges as we went.
Alex and the Bees
Kent is the Garden of England, and it was very peaceful and beautiful in the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. We crept into bird watching blinds and gazed at the flora and fauna. It really was a good break from the city and a good recovery from botched plans.
Tree Snake
Snail on Nettles

Returning to London’s Charing Cross Station, we found ourselves at Trafalgar Square, which ordinarily is a public square where you can buy bird seed to persuade a dozen pigeons to sit on you while you pose for pictures. But during the Olympics it had been transformed into a place to sit and watch Olympic events on a giant screen. 
Lord Nelson Watching over Olympics
The main Olympics were over, but the Paralympics were in full swing. We had looked online to see if we could get tickets to a Paralympics event, but they were just as popular and hard to find tickets for as the other Olympic events. We could have gone to a Paralympics lawn bowling competition, but it didn’t sound as exciting as some of the other events.
The National Gallery is situated just up from Trafalgar Square, so we enjoyed a whirlwind tour before it closed. We hustled around to see paintings by many of the masters: Monet, Manet, Mayonnet, Rembrandt, Picasso, Vermeer, Rubens, van Gogh, and others. Alex had not seen any paintings by the great masters, and it’s always enjoyable to see the originals. 

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