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Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11 at 11

Wednesday was shipping day, as we used to say in the horse biz.  Amy and I found our way to the train station in Edinburgh and settled into our seats for the ride south to London.  We had reserved seats and found that we were seated across from each other in a four seat configuration with a table between us.  The train made a few stops along the way, picking up and depositing passengers.  From the train, it looked as though there are more sheep in this part of the world than there are people.  Somewhere along this route a crusty looking fellow took the seat next to Amy and he spent much of the trip grading papers from students.  I think he may have been a cousin to Andy Rooney.  He had the same slightly rumpled look about him with extraordinary eyebrows that grew straight out before curling up toward the top of his head.  He had excellent hearing.  As Amy and I began to examine our map, looking for a route to our hotel, he chimed in with tips and advice on ways to navigate the tube.   We must have looked a bit dazed because he finally smiled and said not to worry because he would deliver us to the proper line.  Well, he did way more than that.  We all collected our bags and disembarked the train.  From there, he let us through the station, stopping to instruct us on reading the color coded map that laid out the twelve different subway lines that criss crossed the city.  Now, I am fairly adept at the Toronto subway, but that is only and east/west line and a north/south line, with a few spurs.  The London system is stacked, one line below the next in some stations.  But, our unnamed gentleman put it into the simplest form and then told us to "Walk this way".  Off he marched, with us trailing behind.  He took us to the cashier's kiosk where he told the clerk that we each wished to purchase an oyster card.  This is very clever.  It is something like a ticket in a plastic sleeve that you simply tap onto a big button as you enter and exit any station.  The gate reads your card in a nano-second and debits the prepaid card. Brilliant!  Then, he told us to fall in line behind him again and he lead us to the proper gate for our line, having already instructed us on which station was nearest our hotel.  Then, in a blink, he disappeared into the crowd without giving us a moment to properly thank him.  So, good Samaritan, we love you!

When we arrived at our hotel, we were pleased to find it in a converted Edwardian town house, with restored paneling and period furniture.  It was beautiful.  The young French woman at the desk informed welcomed us and then told us that the hotel had suffered a water leak the day before and they had to move us to their sister hotel.  We were a bit frightened by the possibility that the sister hotel would not be of the same calibre, but were pleasantly surprised to find that they had actually upgraded us and our room was wonderful.  All's well that ends well.

Thursday we went on a nice walk and visited two more prospective drama schools.  We were treated to a guided tour of one with another former class mates of my grandson's.  After a light lunch, Amy and I proceeded to Harrods and did a bit of gift shopping.  Now that we had a pretty good feel for the underground, we took the tube up a few stops and walked about and window shopped on Bond Street in the early evening hours.  Then, back to Harrods to purchase theater tickets for a Saturday performance, before heading back to our hotel and a nice dinner.

Friday is see the city day.  We bought tickets for the Hop-On bus and did the entire loop of the major sights.  This turned into one of the most moving rides imaginable.  Traffic was particularly heavy, even by London standards.  The date is 11-11-11.  The streets became more and more clogged as we neared Trafalgar Square.  Some event was taking place.  The square was clogged with people and there was a stage in one corner and a huge TV monitor.  We could see that there were speeches being delivered and it was a somber event.  Then, all traffic stopped dead.  All traffic in the entire city came to a stand still.  All engines were shut down.  As we looked out the bus window, there were people with posters passing along the sides of the buses.  The signs simply said, "National Two Minutes of Silence, 11-11-11 at 11:00."  At the end of the two minutes, a bugle played.

The bus moved on.  The second moving event was being right in front of Big Ben at the stroke of noon and hearing all twelve bongs.  Spectacular.

Our plan was to finish our tour at the Tower Of London.  We left the bus and spent the next hour and a half in the tower.  Amy had watched a PBS history of this palace and knew almost as much as the Yeoman Warder.  I had watched The Tudor's and was ready to see where the queen's heads had fallen.  Of course we viewed the jewels.  As we were exiting the White Tower,  we paused on an exterior landing to chat with one of the ravens.  He just sat and looked at us, not more than three feet away.   Very cool!

Again, it was a quick ride on the tube, back to our hotel and dinner in a local establishment.  After a shower and putting on our fluffy hotel robes, a good movie and an early night are looking like the perfect way to end a wonderful day.

1 comment:

Memphismickey said...

Andy Rooney passes away and two weeks later a look-alike magically appears next to Amy on the train and guides you through the complexities of the London tube system? Coincidence? I think not.
Thank you Andy- I was a big fan for many years.