Wednesday, August 26

Anniversary in London

Happy 7th Anniverary to us! We left the kids with a very sweet, apt sitter and joined Big Ben for the weekend. Ahhh, what joy it was to only have one backpack to pack and tote!!!

This was also the first time we’ve flown to a destination within Europe rather than driving or taking the train. One more bonus – stamps in the passport finally! Sorry there's no pictures, the camera fell out of my bag in the van as I rummaged for tissues. Love allergies!

We hopped on a double-decker bus from Paddington Station heading into the heart of London. We toured Big Ben’s Westminster Palace (where Parliament’s House of Lords and Commons meet) and then took in Evensong at Westminster Cathedral. Ryan and I were so happy to rest our tired feet and soak up the Cathedral while sung to by a small good choir.

Boy did the service take me back to the evening devotionals with Father Neuhaus. When I was an intern for a summer in NYC, my new boss had arranged a place for me to stay with FREE rent! It was 2000, and I made only a mere $500/month. Father Neuhaus was generous to let me have my own little apartment in his rowhouse within walking distance of where I first worked for NRLC – the United Nations and the Empire State Building. It didn’t take long for me to find out I was living with a very respected, leading intellectual of the Catholic church. Lucky for me, he was also one of the kindest as well. I have to chuckle at what he must have thought of this lil’ green Mormon gal fresh out of BYU!

Each evening, Father Neuhaus led evening devotional for the five of us who lived in his building – two of his young staff (one Methodist, the other Catholic), a Lutheran pastor, and another gentleman I can only vaguely recall. On Saturdays, we all had dinner together after evensong and talked for a few hours. That was my first exposure to ecumenical intellectual dialogues. They would expound on topics like pre- and post-milleniumism. What?! I did a lot of head nods, but loved soaking it up!

Back to our trip though! After Evensong, we found a Brazillian churrascarria and then saw Wicked! YAHOO! But just as we were going to give our tickets to the usher, the middle-aged couple in front of us decided to make out! HELLO! There’s a time and place for that, people! It was really gross and really weird. Ryan and I actually laughed out loud when we looked at each other. And then I felt like I was twelve. But it was just the weirdest thing! The show was real fun!

If you’re in London and find a Sainsbury grocery around 9am – GO IN AND TRY EACH HOT PASTRY!!! Ryan found love in the layers of warm, flaky, buttery yummy-ness. One was chocolate filled, another almond filled, and one that was maple and tasted like the best French toast! We topped it off with yogurt, blueberries, and Starbucks hot chocolate. Happy, happy were we!

Got on the bus again to see more sights. We got off the bus at the Tower of London and joined the Beefeater giving his lively tour. Then we saw the Crown Jewels and a great exhibit of infamous Henry VIII. It was cool to see where many infamous Brits lived or met their fate here. It was a fortress, armory, and prison for many centuries.

For lunch we followed a tip to Brick Lane to find good Indian food. It did not disappoint! And Brick Lane was the hippie version of Portabello Road we later came to find out. All sorts of random people, shops and street vendors. Not a tourist destination yet, but it was fun to see the local 20s-30s scene. We topped off our evening by going to the remade Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. We saw the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Euripides’ Helen.

On the tube ride home, we once again were faced with another middle-aged couple shamelessly making out in public. This was not for the faint of heart, folks! Again, Ryan and I descended into laughter like tweens.

After timing our visit to the Sainsbury bakery aisle again for hot-out-of-the-oven croissants, we decided we didn’t have time to take the day trip to Windsor Palace. Instead, we decided to meander through the heart of London. We caught the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and walked and walked and walked. We walked through Hyde Park along the Serpentine Lake into the Kensington Gardens on our way to Portobello Road. We had beautiful clear skies almost our entire trip, it was amazing! On Portabello Road, it was fun to see how different it was from the East end Brick Lane crowd! We ate well at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, topping off with some delicious Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes. Mine was poppyseed lime while Ryan devoured his carrot cake one in probably three bites.

Then the real adventure began: Operation Going Home. We hit unexpected delays on the Tube between construction and signal failures. We got to our Stansted Express train just in time to head to the airport, but then a freak accident delayed us for hours. A tree had caught fire and fallen on the above hanging electric lines. The fire had to be put out, the tree cut down, and the lines safely fixed and tested before hundreds could make in on their way. On a Sunday afternoon.

Our train got stopped half way to the airport and held for 20 minutes before they let us out of the hot stuffy un-A/C’d train car at a station. At least one or two previous trains had dumped their passengers at this station and a handful more came within the next hour in 10-15 minute intervals. Almost all were anxious to catch flights which made for some pandemonium. There was a scramble to find buses to come pick up all the stranded. The first bus pulled up and literally laughed because he knew of no other buses coming and saw the hundreds pressing in to get at those prized 40 seats.

Ryan and I were four layers (because crazed people don’t form organized queues) beyond those sacred bus doors, but as they opened and the masses frantically pressed forward, it was apparent that this was going to get ugly. Ryan was able to yank me out of there luckily. It shook something deep within me – memories of the Pentagon metro station on 9/11 as a coworker and I rushed to get out. Ryan and I decided it wasn’t worth the violence so we headed back to the trains to hang with the train engineers who would be the first to know we could all get out of there. They were much more amiable than the frantic hundreds outside the station! After 2 ½ hours, we were on the first train to leave the station and we still think we got there before the first bus arrived.

We had missed our flight so I stood in line to rebook flights while Ryan hunted down other airline and hotel possibilities.

At 11am Monday we finally arrived home to find all was well. Morgan was so happy with her sitter she broke my heart and didn’t even care if I took her from the sitter. I wanted to wail, “Don’t you remember me?! The woman who birthed you and wakes up multiple times per night to feed you?! . . .” The boys were happier to see us and Claralyn had helped them make a banner for us. Good to kiss on and snuggle the rest of the day!

Home Sweet Home!