October 22nd, 2011 London
Awake about 7 am the girls were up by 8 and we made it down to breakfast by 9 am….good thing as the doors to the breakfast room close at 9 am!! The place was packed but we enjoyed our breakfast before heading out to shop at the famous Portobello Road Market.
We took the bus to Notting Hill Gate and followed the crowds towards Portobello Road. I couldn’t believe the crowds. The streets were jammed full of shoppers and vendors. Shops were open and the sidewalks were lined with additional vendors. Both Nancy and Barbara were looking for silver ice tea spoons and Barbara was looking for blue glass liners for some very old salt bowls that she has at home. Not one could be found even though we searched the length of the street. Barbara did find some good buys in the jewelry market but other than that it was slim pickings for we three shoppers.
One find was the Notting Hill Bookstore made famous by the movie some years back with Hugh Grant and Julie Roberts. Everyone was taking photos of the shop. We had a hard time finding a place to eat lunch…stopped by Barbara’s favorite pub in the area called the Duke of Wellington…but it was standing room only. We explored some more and ended back at the Duke’s and found a small table to enjoy our fish n chips lunch. Oh so much better than the on fish n chips that we had on Friday. They say that some fry the fish with the skin on and I think that was the difference. This one was soft and flaky and you could cut it with your fork.
After lunch we found a double decker bus heading towards Liverpool Street; found seats upstairs and enjoyed the view as we crawled along the streets of London. Hopped off the bus at Marble Arch, took some photos of that famous landmark and then took a Tube to St. Paul’s Cathedral; one of Nancy’s must see spots. Oops…they were having a sit or should I say “live in” demonstration there that has grown so large they’ve shut down the Cathedral for visitors! Very disappointing; these demonstrators even have tents set up to live in.
We decided to go to Westminster Abbey to see that before it closed as it was after 3 pm by this time. We headed towards the Tube but Barbara wanted to take the bus so that we could see more of the city. Asking several police officers who all recommended the Tube as the fastest way…she then walked over to a Hop On/Hop Off Tour Bus to ask them how much they would charge to take us to Westminster Abbey? The bus was nearly empty and the Ticket Seller looked at us like we were crazy and kept saying it would be twenty-seven pounds each! The cost of using their bus for a whole day! Finally the driver looked out the door and said “I’ll take them to Westminster Abbey for nothing!” Yes, we were allowed to climb aboard the bus…and ride all the way to Westminster Abbey without a fee…must be the gray hair! Or maybe Barbara’s persuasive voice! Nancy gave the driver five pounds when we arrived. It took us four times as long as the Tube would have because it cross back and forth across the Thames River at least three times as we passed the various sites in the area along the river between St. Paul’s and the Westminster Abbey. But we did enjoy the views and the girls found a headset in their seat that gave them a running narrative of the sites we were passing.
It was after 4 pm by the time we arrived and we decided to split up so that hopefully Nancy could walk faster and get into the Abbey before the closing which we thought was at 4:30 pm. I pointed her in the direction of the Parliament buildings and told her to go around Big Ben to get there. She missed the street crossing to the Abbey and got a bit lost around the Parliament Buildings. I’d given her Barbara’s new cell phone before we split up. If she got in and we didn’t the plan was for us to head for the hotel and she’d get home by herself.
We arrived at the Cathedral and found that it had closed before 4 pm; no Nancy in site so I started calling her from my cell phone. After about four calls she finally answered and we were able to reconnect as she’d already realized her mistake and was on her way to Westminster Abbey. So good to see her as she walked towards us; cell phones can really be handy.
We then headed for the Tube at St. James. We spotted the Scotland Yard’s building on the way. We were all hungry and cold so we popped into a delightful Pub called Ale and Pie on the way to the Tube. There we enjoyed hot chocolate and split two desserts. Then to the Tube and a trip…not to hotel, but to Marble Arch where we caught the bus for a few blocks and then started to walk towards the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate conception for a Saturday Vigil Mass that started at 6 pm. It was nearly six o’clock, cold and getting dark. We’d about given up as I was working from memory…I’d dropped my paper with the information…when I stopped a young girl who was hurrying along the street. She knew where the church was and was headed there for Mass herself. She used to live in the area and knew where it was but the door we were headed for was locked she said and we had to go in from the other entrance.
So along the street we tumbled as fast as we could and walked into the church just as the priest was finishing the sermon. A beautiful church and a lovely Mass; we were one of the last to leave and asked the priest for the nearest connection to the Tube. I’d heard one rumbling underneath the church so I knew we had to be close to one.
He took us through the church office building and out the fastest way; we were in the Mayfair District…one of the most expensive…and saw several very expensive hotels on our way to the Bond Street Tube. As we entered the building we saw a McDonald’s and decided to have our final meal of the day there before going to the hotel. It was a nice touch of home and just enough to tide us through the evening. We arrived back at the hotel about 9 pm. A long day of being on our feet! But what a serendipity journey we had! By midnight I still hadn’t finished my journal and the photos were not loading so I’m typing this on Sunday morning as the girls sleep. Time to wake them for breakfast and hopefully send this before we start our day!