Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
32Trip End Apr 29, 2012
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The flight to London was also uneventful, and we arrived close to on time at Heathrow. I was supposed to have about six hours before my wife would arrive from Portugal where she had been for the wedding of a niece. I took the Piccadilly line underground (subway) in to Earl’s Court where I changed to the District line south a few stops to the hotel. It took a few minutes for me to remember the ins and outs of the London underground as compared to the Paris metro. I then pulled my suitcase several blocks to the hotel I had booked at an excellent price, through Priceline. The hotel was located right next to the Chelsea football club stadium at Stamford Bridge. I wondered if there would be any matches while we would be there and what that might mean.
It was early, but they had a room free so I was able to check in right away shower and change and then head back out to the airport to meet Marjolaine. I was back at Heathrow Terminal 2 right on time; unfortunately he flight was not. It was delayed several times, finally arriving three hours late at 4:00 pm. I called to cancel a diner engagement we had for later in the evening, and then picked up Bill Bryson’s book At Home in a bookstore to pass the time. He’s an excellent writer and can make any subject fascinating. After finally landing, it took Marjolaine another 45 minutes to make it from the gate to baggage claim to her husband waiting impatiently to see her after a month’s separation. She had a bad head cold, and was tired but not feeling as badly as she could have.
We took the underground back into London, pulled her luggage to the hotel where we collapsed and had an early dinner and evening.
Saturday morning in London we slept in a little, though perhaps not as much as we would have liked, after our tiring travels of the previous day or two. Peter Hawkins had kindly given us direction on how to reach them so we could travel to the Tonbridge congregation in Kent, south east of London. Peter was concerned about a number of sporting events ocurring in the city which would further snarl traffic so he suggested we take the train south to a station where they could easily meet us.
I called a taxi at a little before 11:00 am to take us to Charing Cross train station, just off Trafalgar Square, where we would catch our train south. It’s a unique experience to ride in a London black cab, with their unusual layout, and highly professional drivers. One really feels one’s in London in the back of such a vehicle, although I did ride in one in Nairobi one time!
London doesn’t have many broad boulevards, so traffic is often quite slow. It was probably only three miles as the crow flies from our hotel to Charing Cross but it took 45 minutes. We passed Buckingham Palace and saw the huge crowd waiting for the imminent changing of the guard which was apparently going to start at 11:30. We drove up the Mall toward Admiralty Arch and saw that the Mall was being closed to traffic; I supposed the changing of the Queen’s Life Guard would be happening at the Horse Guards Parade at the same time.
The taxi driver said he could drive us around the road blocks, quite a detour, or we could walk under the arch which would likely be quicker. We decided to walk since we were getting close to noon and our train’s departure. We walked briskly under the arch and next to Trafalgar Square under a light London drizzle.
As we walked by Trafalgar Square I remembered my first trip to London. I was nine years old when our parents took us to England for the Feast of Tabernacles. We have some old Super 8 films of my sisters and I feeding the pigeons on Trafalgar Square – it was great fun and quite memorable. Pigeons are now prohibited on the Square, and have been chased off (the droppings of tens of thousands of pigeons made quite a mess and they posed a health hazard – still it doesn’t seem the same without them…). We walked into Charing Cross overground station bought our tickets to Orpington and made our way onto the train with about 6 minutes to spare.
It took half an hour to reach Orpington where we detrained and met Peter and Sonja Hawkins, with whom we’ve been friends for many years both in South Africa and in the UK. Sonja had some lovely sandwiches for us to eat for lunch as we drove on south to Tonbridge.
After we took our leave, Peter and Sonja drove us back to London stopping along the way to treat us to an Indian dinner. They mentioned that Indian curry is now the most-eaten dish in England, the curries have been adopted by the ethnic English with great gusto and it’s not hard to understand why. We had a delightful dinner: spicy and tasty curries and interesting conversation about life in Africa, in the UK in the US, developments in the Church, our hopes for the future and future plans for activities on the continent. We returned to the hotel tired but very encouraged after a full and positive day.