First let me tell you about my morning! As Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral cost a pretty penny to get in to, what some tourists like to do is attend services there, which get you in for free. I don't particularly like this tactic, because these are serious houses of worship, and I don't like to feel like I'm "cheating." BUT because I also happen to be an historian, I do enjoy seeing things in situ, as they were meant to be used. And in the case of churches, without the blatant sacrileges that go on while the hoards meander, the majority of whom who don't truly understand what it is they are seeing. But enough ranting.
I got to Westminster Abbey for the 11:15 service and stood on line outside for about 30 minutes beforehand, where I chatted with some very concerned people about hurricane Irene, and the Blitz. I love Westminster Abbey. It's so fantastically old and important. In America the only thing we have that old is the dirt. The cool, smooth stone walls have seen some of the most important moments in history, including the coronation of every English monarch, dating back to King (later Saint) Edward the Confessor, who lays entombed in the Abbey. "If walls could talk" is rarely uttered more profoundly than in Westminster Abbey. My merry band of church goers were then led inside, where I trod upon the grave of Darwin and Newton before being ushered INTO THE CHOIR (the wooden part at the very front where the... ahem...choir sits) where I got to sit next to the chorale singers and in possibly the best seat in the house. In the Abbey, the choir (the wooden part, not the singers) acts as a screen from the rest of the church, making for a very intimate experience. In the past, only the most important people would have been able to sit in the choir. If I wanted, I could literally look at photos of past events in the Abbey, and see who sat in the same well worn, meticulously carved and painted wooden stall as yours truly. What famous bums might have graced my bit of the Abbey? What great posteriors will my seat cradle in the future? I shall keep an eye on choir stall number 19 at all future ceremonies, and fondly remember the time that I, as-of-yet relatively unfamous Alison Stauver, enthusiastically perched upon that piece of wizened wood. And perhaps, one day, people will take their seat in number 19, and think to themselves with quiet, refined excitement, "Alison Stauver once sat here!"
The service was wonderful. Everything was very carefully read and practiced, the choir was impeccable and sang pieces by Mozart, and the lessons good and true. Anyway, I was beside myself. And then, sitting across the way, I saw....could it be? Is it he? Really? Was that....
I suppose I can't be 100% sure, and the likelihood is slim, but people were approaching him. And if I recognize him, with my limited knowledge, there must be some possibility, surely? :) I rudely took a picture as he exited the Abbey, so you can judge for yourself. No matter what you (or I) think, I'll always remember this as the day I sat in the choir of Westminster Abbey with George Lucas.
Here's a nice shot of the London Eye, put up for the new millennium as a temporary attraction, but so popular it has remained. I think it takes a 1/2 hour go round? And you're in these glass pods, not like a regular ferris wheel.
The famous statue of Churchill. I wonder if it really has an electrical current running through it, so pigeons won't toddle on his head.
A view of the Abbey. The space in from with the tents has a name, which I can't recall. It has statues of famous world leaders and figures, like the Churchill, and the most recent is Nelson Mandela. There is also one of Abraham Lincoln. Since this is where people congregate to protest and utilize their right of free speech, that's why you see all the tents. They gated off the field because, as one guide put it, "They are of course welcome to voice their opinions, they are just not allowed to destroy the park in doing so."
And some nice, white fluffy cloud photos of Big Ben and the New Palace of Westminster.
After service I went around window shopping, and unfortunately discovered an amazing store called Dorothy Perkins. Everyone raves about Topshop, but I just hated everything in there. Dorothy Perkins was much more my style. Being much poorer than when I first arrived, I couldn't get much, but did get a new pair of shoes, since I now have a suitcase to bring over all my treasures and have some space. My shoe size in the UK is a 7, and for some reason that made the experience all the better. I guess British women have big feet? Because almost every style went up to 9's, the equivalent of an American 12, I guess.
After meandering around I went to Saint Paul's Cathedral for an evening organ recital. It was very awesome, and I really enjoyed it. It would have been nice to visit during tourist hours, however because I'm pretty sure I would have loved to climb the 500 odd stairs of the dome. Another trip, another time, perhaps.
After the concert I returned to Leicester Square, which was humming with lively activity. Tomorrow is a bank holiday here, so there were lots of people out taking advantage of the 3 day weekend. After walking around for a couple of hours I saw two movies. I only saw a second because the first, Conan the Barbarian was sooooo bad, and needed to wash my eyeballs with something better, that being Super 8. Once that let out I barely caught the last train to the hostel before they closed down for the night. The closing of the underground makes me so nervous. In New York, it might take 30 or 40 minutes, but at least you know a train will eventually come and take you home. Here, I guess you're only recourse is a taxi.
But I made it! And now I'm pondering my early morning, and if I'll have enough time to make one last journey into the thick of it before I have to leave for the airport, around 1pm.
This is my last post from London! I hope you have enjoyed my tales as much as I've enjoyed reliving them. I am so happy to have a thorough record of my time in London, and my only hope is that in readings these adventures, you are encouraged to go out into the world in search of your own wild tales.