I have one observation about Iceland after reflecting on my few hours there. Besides there being no water fountains, there are also no trees. I don’t know how people breathe.
I was past excitement after arriving in London, partly because I was so glad to be able to sleep in a bed and partly because I was in London. I don’t think I slept in too late; others may differ. Just for the record, I am a girl who needs sleep more than any other commodity. The sleepless Kaitlyn is far removed from the sleeping Kaitlyn.
Paige and I left Sharon’s around 8:30 in the morning and started the two-mile walk toward Greenwich Village. News flash. It was raining. By the time we got to the park, we were kicking ourselves for not having taken advantage of the free breakfast in Sharon’s apartment. But there was light at the end of our tunnel brought to us by the men who kept walking past us with coffee in their hands. We knew a cafe must be nearby. At the far end of the park was a white brick cafe where we stopped and ordered hot coffee. We asked the friendly worker if she had any suggestions of where to go in Greenwich. We listened to her suggestion politely and then walked the opposite direction. (Don’t worry. We did follow her advice later in the day.) But we wanted to walk into the depths of the park first. At the end of the park was a ginormous hill where, if you made it to the top in one piece, you could see out over the village. We made it and by then I had finally finished my coffee. In search of a bathroom, we walked in the direction the worker had suggested and discovered the two antique markets in Greenwich. The different booths sold tea cups, sunglasses, clothing, records, oil cans, tins, luggage, mirrors, handbags, and other collectibles. We did not buy anything that day, but we did return once more before returning to the states.
Then we turned our feet in the direction of Blackheath, another quaint village near Greenwich. On the way I spied a mint-colored bookshop on the corner that I begged Paige to let us stop in. She agreed and we entered, unknowingly inviting a mysterious black cat into the shop as well. Paige, the shop keeper, and I spent five minutes trying to capture the cat and let it back outside. The cat sat on the steps out front as if it wanted to tell me a secret. I think I know what it was now.
We walked the two miles back to Charlton Station in order to catch the train to London Bridge. We walked across the London Bridge, very quickly realizing that Tower Bridge was way more awesome, so we walked across Tower Bridge as well. We inspected the advantages of paying money to visit inside the Tower and decided that at the time, the advantages were slim to none. I had an insatiable desire to participate in a Sunday service at Westminster Abbey so we began our journey there.
Along the way we got sidetracked several times, mostly by our wide knowledge of Jane Austen books. We stopped by Cheapside, romanticizing over Pride and Prejudice. Cheapside is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. This street is an up-and-coming street in London filled with Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, and Michael Kohr shops. My mind blew up. We discovered that St. Paul’s Cathedral was within walking distance of Cheapside and decided that we might as well see it while we were in the area. After taking pictures there, we realized that Shakespeare’s Globe Theater was within five minutes of the cathedral. Despite our incredible urge to go see it, we decided the best use of our time would be to catch a bus to Westminster.
We rode the double-decker bus for the first time but decided to stop at Somerset House. Neither of us knew what Somerset House was, but the name drew us in. Having only been in London for a few hours, the towers on every corner had not yet become dull. I doubt they ever would. From there we somehow got lost and made our way to the park outside of Buckingham Palace. We were able to get close-up pictures that day, thankfully. The next day’s adventures in Buckingham would render pictures almost impossible. We rested our aching feet and knees by a tree in the park and decided that since it was now 4:00 in the afternoon, we needed to find food and get to Westminster.
We began walking toward Westminster (what we had been trying to get to all afternoon) and stopped in for BLTs at a little cafe called Diva. We made it to Westminster in plenty of time. The next scheduled event was an organ recital. Paige and I decided to wait for the evening prayer service at 6:30 and spent the interim exploring Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I saw my hero, Abraham Lincoln. Why there is a statue of him in London I do not know. Great Britain was going to side with the South during the Civil War, but I felt much more at home after seeing his face. Somewhere in there we also visited Trafalgar Square. Paige was thirsty for more coffee. We asked two British policemen if they could point out the nearest place to buy water. Call me crazy, but they looked and sounded just like the policemen in 101 Dalmations with Glenn Close. I wanted to hug both of them for being so marvelous. I did not.
Paige and I walked to the cafe they had mentioned where we surveyed but did not buy. Westminster Abbey cannot be described, and unfortunately no photography was allowed inside the building because it is still used as a place of worship. (Paige took a video anyway. She was caught after five seconds.) The service strangely reminded me of the services at my church in Greenville. The schedule is typed into the bulletin. The Scripture passage is typed into the bulletin. The congregation sang, the preacher (if that’s what you call him in the Anglican church) read the Scripture and then expounded it to us, we prayed, we listened to one of John Rutter’s songs, and we sang again. The overall service did have a Roman Catholic feel to it, but I was overjoyed to be worshiping my God who is the same God in London, in Westminster Abbey, as He is when I am simply praying to Him in my bedroom, in Greenville, in Pennsylvania.
After the service, Paige felt that the night was still young so we made our way to Piccadilly Circus. At the time we couldn’t figure out why either of us wanted to go there. It was just the London version of Times Square. I have since been told by my mother that Piccadilly Circus is where Peter Wimsey lived in the novels of Dorothy L. Sayers. Now I’m glad I went. Paige and I both wanted to eat dessert somewhere a little bit sketchy. We found a pub called St. James’s Place. The English are not known for their fast customer service, and this place was packed. I guess that means the beer was good. Paige and I ordered brownies with ice cream and a caramel dessert of some kind and split the two. We took the only seat left in the joint and left around 8:30. Paige would have liked to stay out later, but (as I already mentioned) I need sleep. I’m glad we left when we did.
We took the tube back to London Bridge, knowing that we needed to switch lines at Peckham Rye and Lewisham and from there catch the train to Charlton. But we arrived at Peckham Rye and were informed that the underground wasn’t running to Lewisham and that we’d need to take the bus. Peckham Rye is not the worst place to be in London at night, but it’s also not the greatest. The English leave their trash outside on the curb at night time, and all the weed smokers come out for their fun. We felt much safer after we got on the bus to Lewisham. But after we hopped off, our good luck ran out. Not knowing our way around London very well, by the time we finally figured out which bus we needed to catch to get close to Charlton, all the buses were returning from Charlton and not going toward it. We had no choice but to walk the five-plus miles back to Wellington Gardens. At one point we did see a bus going toward Waterloo, which was not a perfect solution, but it would get us closer to home. We were ten seconds too late, and Paige ran after the bus like a crazy person. The driver looked her straight in the eyeballs and kept going. Apparently that bus driver had dealt with too many crazy women that night. After that failed attempt, we resigned ourselves to the long walk back home in the dark.
We were almost home when a man stopped his car in the middle of the road, rolled down his window, put his fingers outside the window, wiggled them, and said creepily, “Hello.” I didn’t hear him the first time. All I could think about was the blister on my heel. He said hello again, and Paige told me to keep walking and look straight ahead. I don’t think I changed posture the rest of the way home.
We got to Sharon’s at 12:30 in the morning and decided that we should eat our leftover Chinese take away for supper. We heated up the oven, and ate bad Chinese on the floor of her kitchen. We finally made it to bed by 2:30 in the morning. Needless to say, I slept in until 8:00 the next morning.