A Day of Contrasts

London Travel Blog

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The Tube (without a crowd!)
I know that in all of my travels I have never had a day quite like this. Today I loved London and I hated it. Here's an example:

Early in the day we had successfully made our way to the city center via the Tube. When we had arrived at our destination in the crush of people that comprise the Tube and the city center, I was exhilarated. I wanted to say to the kids, "Don't you love this!" And I meant it. There's something satisfying about rural South Dakotans successfully getting around in a Megapolis.

Later in the day, when TJ and I were trying to make it back to our hotel, the line on which we were to ride several stops made everyone get off long before our destination. The train was crowded and the platform we exited to was even more crowded.
The Scream by Evard Munch
At that point I thought that if Dante had ridden the London Tube, he would have made it one of the inner circles of Hell. Also at that point I understood more clearly than ever what Edvard Munch had in mind when he painted "The Scream" - anger and frustration in servings larger than I thought I deserved.

Here's another example: Sometime after noon we entered Westminster Abbey and began the counter-clockwise circle that visitors take when they visit. I had never been to this sacred place before and I was overwhelmed. At 1:00 a young, priestly voice came on the public address system and asked for silence. And while we tourists stood silently, he prayed for the monarchy. I happened to be a few feet away from the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I and something about this moment brought tears to my eyes.
Tomb of Queen Elizabeth I
A half millennium spans the lives of Queen Elizabeth I and II and somehow I felt connected.

I also felt connected in another way when the three graduates in my group took me to a piano bar they had discovered in their wanderings the night before. It was smoky, numbingly loud and as far away in mood from a solemn prayer at Westminster Abbey as one could get. But, as I walked home an hour later, feeling bone tired, I also felt very satisfied about my day. Both Westminster Abbey and a pub, I thought, were very English. And I was there to experience it.

Tomorrow we get up early to board the train for France. I am excited about riding the fast train through the Chunnel. I am also excited about going to Paris, which is one of my favorite cities. I will no doubt find contrasts there as well.

Incidentally, this may be my last entry for a while because I lose my free internet connection. But I promise to splurge sometime in the next few days so you will have some sense of what we are up to.
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The Tube (without a crowd!)
The Tube (without a crowd!)
The Scream by Evard Munch
The Scream by Evard Munch
Tomb of Queen Elizabeth I
Tomb of Queen Elizabeth I
London
photo by: ulysses