Last Friday evening Sam and I drove down to a flat we’d rented near the River Thames in order to meet up early on Saturday morning with my cousin and check out some London sights. My cousin only visits the UK about twice a year, and we were eager to use our voucher for St. Paul’s Cathedral, which our son and his wife had kindly given me for my birthday.
Living in an idyllic rural setting as we do, it was a bit of a shock to arrive at Canary Wharf and gaze at the view from our balcony. People were looking at us looking at them, and we felt a little bit like we were in a goldfish bowl. However, the flat was very nice, but was probably built on my old school’s playing fields!
First stop on the agenda Saturday morning was St. Paul’s Cathedral. We scooted along on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Bank, and then one stop on the Central Line tube to St. Paul’s. As I walked up the steps for a security search before entering this magnificent building, I pictured in my mind Princess Diana walking the same route in her wedding dress back in 1981. Here’s my cousin and I in front of those famous steps:
Unfortunately the Whispering Gallery wasn’t open, and we only had until 11.30 before the cathedral closed. We listened to the short service inside, and lit candles for my mother and for my cousin’s father, who were sister and brother. It’s certainly a beautiful place – just look at the pictures below. We went down to the crypt; I’m fascinated by tombs for some strange reason and there are many down in the depths – The Duke of Wellington and Horatio Nelson to name just two.
After our visit we grabbed a taxi to Old Compton Street, Soho, for lunch at Balans Restaurant/Bar (my cousin’s favourite place to eat), then we walked down to Trafalgar Square where thousands of people had gathered to watch a free concert. We had no chance of getting anywhere near the stage, so we listened from afar then walked up the Mall and sat awhile in St. James’ Park. Afternoon tea at the Strand Palace Hotel was followed by an evening theatre show at the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Road – ‘Come From Afar’.
‘Come From Afar’ particularly appealed to Sam, as it focused on the Canadian town of Gander on 9/11 and how the townsfolk dealt with the influx of jumbo jets and hundreds of passengers who needed food and somewhere to stay. Sam had been part of this, having had his flight diverted to St. John’s on that fateful day. At one point I looked at him and tears were rolling down his face- very unusual for him. The play obviously brought back painful memories of that time. The actors received a standing ovation at the end of the play. I’m not sure how they managed to make a musical out of this tragic event, but somehow they did.
Instead of travelling back on the DLR, we waited on Embankment Pier for one of the last clippers of the day to take us back via the river to Canary Wharf. I remember the river when my uncles were dockers and before all the Yuppie flats were built along its banks. I’m not sure I like the transformation, but will have to get used to it as the flats are here to stay. As the clipper sailed under Tower Bridge, I gave silent thanks that I had been born in such a wonderful city.
I’ve had my ‘London fix’ for a while and really enjoyed the weekend – now it’s back to work for three days this week before another visit to the Isle of Wight next weekend to meet up with Sam’s relatives. My WIP is dusty and awaits colder weather. However…I can’t keep up with this pace for much longer!