Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 6: London

I figured the next morning was one to sleep in...we were all sore and tired from the previous day's marathon and all we had to do today was get ourselves on a train to London. Sleeping in is one of my all-time favorite things to do, so that was easy.

We packed our bags up and headed down to the breakfast buffet, and again it was magnificent and the angels themselves sang us through the waffles, brioche and cheesey goodness. Plus, and I forgot to mention this in the previous post, they showed "Tom and Jerry" cartoons on a huge screen during breakfast, for the kids, you know. You should have seen the four of us, entranced by the cartoons and chewing our chocolate croissants open-mouthed and unblinking. We looked like we needed a babysitter.

We negotiated the Paris metro system one more time, with our luggage. ("God, have these people even heard of escalators??") We got ourselves to the Gare du Nord, which looks like something out of Harry Potter; it's really crowded with possibly the most interesting-looking people wandering around there. And it had crepes, so I was happy.

It used to take days to get from Paris to London, and now it's only a few hours...that? is a miracle. I was pretty excited about taking the high-speed train from Paris to London; I thought it would be really impressive and momentous. Turns out I was wrong; it was pretty much like any other two hour train ride, except it had about 20 minutes when it was dark outside,right in the middle. I was happy enough to have a non-eventful ride, especially considering a few years ago 4 trains got stuck inside the tunnels for hours, with thousands of people on board. I'll admit I don't like tunnels that go underwater (One leak, just ONE LEAK and we're all dead!!), but I decided not to think too much about it while I was on the Eurostar.

We got into St. Pancras station (which is also the King's Cross underground station, if you are a Harry Potter fan....there really is a Platform 9 3/4, too! They've embedded a little cart into a brick wall where you can take your photo; very cool.) Then we had to negotiate another subway system and then another train ride to get to my cousin's house in Croyden, just south of London.
This time, we spoke the language, though, and the Mister and I had dealt with the Tube before, so we knew what we had to do. Still a lack of escalators, though; they really should look into that.

The train and tube system in London is pretty terrific, I think. I know the residents think it's expensive and inefficient and not so great, but I was impressed with how easy it was to figure out, and get where you wanted to go with a minimum of fuss. And beleive me, taking one look at the traffic on the roads, I was really, really happy to not be driving in that city; that would make my head explode. (I have NO idea how they are going to manage during the Olympics next year...London is already chock-a-block crowded with the most insane traffic I have ever seen. I don't know who's idea it was to drop another million or so people into that.)

My cousin, Eilish, had very generously and graciously offered to put the four of us up for the week, despite not having laid eyes on me for almost 20 years. She has a lovely, comfortable little house that is so is one of those narrow, semi-detached, early 20th century houses that you can imagine men with handle-bar mustaches and corseted women in, or having and Anderson shelter in the backyard during the war. I loved it. She was very accomodating and welcoming to the four large, loud, messy Canadians invading her space.

The next morning we got up to explore London. I love London, it's a fabulous city, full of stuff you already know about. There's the museums and the galleries, but it's also got all sorts of stuff you've seen on tv and the movies for ever, and you didn't even realize. When we went to St. Paul's cathedral, the girls were impressed that not only was this where Princess Diana got married, it's also the place where the lady feeds the birds in "Mary Poppins"! And there's Harrods' and Big Ben and Trafalgar Square and Tower Bridge. It's like seeing a book come to life.

We took a boat tour along the Thames with the best, most-deadpan tour guide I ever heard. "That is Millenium Bridge, a footbridge built in the year 2000, to commorate the millenium. A few years ago, I saw a 10 year old boy unload a strawberry McDonald's milkshake onto a tour boat much like this one. Funniest thing I ever saw." "Next year London will host the Olympics, which will cost the UK taxpayer over £9 billion, but you cannot put a price on two bronze medals" We loved him.

Dinner was at an English pub (in a basement, for some real atmosphere!) where Thing 2 had her third order of fish and chips in as many days, and the Mister had bangers and mash. You can't say the Loudshoes do not embrace the culture.

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