Row on row the poppies grow around the Tower of London, people. If you’re there, or will be there before the Armistice Day, take the time to go see this extraordinary art installation. You can buy a poppy for 25 pounds and support veteran charities. Find out more on (http://poppies.hrp.org.uk/). I went with my friend, author Jackie Keswick, who was kind enough to travel from the countryside to meet me for the day and show me the sights.
I can’t tell you all I’ve seen, but I can assure you that London is a fun city worth exploring, and the public transportation can’t be beat. Now I’m all packed and waiting for a cute little black taxicab to take me to the airport. The cabs here are different. They have a bench seat in the back and two folding jump seats that face the bench. This leaves ample luggage space.
Souvenir shopping will have to wait for the airport whiskey shop and such, but I’m bringing my British-obsessed daughters a packet of brown sauce each. This is a condiment offered along with ketchup and mustard. I had it with my Yorkshire pudding yesterday. I’m also bringing two little blister-packs of orange and lemon jelly each. It goes on toast. I’ve had orange before, but not lemon, which is quite lovely. (And no, I’m not dragging a whole jar of it!)
We were also joined for breakfast by Aleksandr Voinov, a writer whose work I’ve been enjoying for years. We sat in the modest hotel breakfast room, talking shop over coffee until they had to close. Then we walked Aleks to the Victoria Station, and then Jackie took me around and showed me the sights. (Note to self: next time, wear sneakers, not leather boots.)
There are so many things to see! I loved the Norman dig by the Thames, parts of which are now enclosed in glass. The London Bridge was truly stunning. I didn’t expect to think much of it because I’ve seen it in so many images, but seeing it live can’t be beat. Then there’s an elevated railroad, and there are houses and shops in the arches underneath. If you can’t build up, you build under.
Speaking of building up, a slew of modern glass-and-steel buildings undulate like waves, forming a backdrop to the more traditional and ornate structures. This melange of time periods extends to smaller things, too: The Baker Street Underground station has a staircase refurbished with a nonslip surface and reflective strips, true, but the railing is still old cast iron and the bannister is a piece of old, worn wood. Old and new, intermixed and fitting.
Too bad I don’t have a ton of pictures! I’d lost my phone at the beginning of this trip, however, but being untethered isn’t as bad as it sounds. The inconvenience was made up for by planning meetings the old-school way, and I talked to real people instead of checking everyone else’s Facebook status. I had interesting conversations with true strangers. That’s hard to do when you stare at a little screen while your life flashes by.
It’s time to wrap this up, have my last sip of tea, and get ready. Home and family beckons from afar, and it’s time to resume my ordinary life.