Day One: London Bridge falls down (in the privacy of our own minds)
Our first morning in London, we woke up in a lovely apartment in Holland Park in west London. After a late breakfast on the terrace, we walked above ground to under the ground. Londoners called their rapid transit system the Tube. In a better world it would have gotten the name from travelers who were pushed out the door of a crowded train during rush hour and felt the way toothpaste feels when it is squeezed out of the tube. Alas and alack, the hole story is that the Tube merely refers to the tunnels the trains travel throughout the town.
We arrived at the Tower of London and went on one of the guided tours led by a man wearing a Beefeater uniform. Most of the time I understood what the tour guide was saying, but my daughter said she needed to focus on his face and see his gestures to follow. At one point, after she attended to the grandchild and turned back, she lost her concentration and told me all she could hear was “blaah, blaah, blaah” (British English for “blah, blah, blah”).
We spent hours exploring the buildings, walking through the exhibitions, and viewing the crown jewels. The ancient castle, built not long after the Norman conquest in 1066, so near the financial center of the city contrasts with the modern London skyscrapers, the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe), a tubular building that looks like a spiffy rocket ship taking offices where no office has ever gone before; and the Shard, a glass pyramid 72 stories high that will soon allow people from all over the world to look down on London.
From the Tower we tally hoed over to what we all told the grandchild was London Bridge, except it wasn’t. Go ahead and laugh: we all thought that Tower Bridge was London Bridge. We based it on the fact that it is a bridge and it is in London. Later, on our river tour, we saw the real London Bridge, a modern concrete and steel bridge in industrial strength gray that replaced the original falling-down one. I didn’t even take a picture.
Day Two: Gawk and Stalk
After relaxing away the morning, we spent the afternoon in the British Museum admiring their gawk-worthy exhibitions. Although the grandchild did well in our museum visits, we tried to include opportunities to run and play, so in the early evening we went to the Kensington Gardens to the Diana Memorial Playground. When we got to the entrance, however, the child didn’t want to go in. Oh sure, there’s a pirate ship inside, swings, slides, climbing equipment, and sand; but, at the gate, near the concession stand, one can stalk PIGEONS! Since by that time in our journey we were well-trained and prepared, we carried dry bread and rolls to feed them.
For about an hour, the child followed after the pigeons and coaxed them into coming within arm’s reach. Over and over the small hand would reach forward; the pigeons would draw near, and then…fly just out of arm’s reach until more crumbs were offered. Whoever said that small children have a short attention span has never been around small children and pigeons.
Eventually we coaxed the child into the gates of the playground with small bribes and promises of treats, much as the child had done with the pigeons. We got no further than the pirate ship sailing in its sea of sand.
After an hour of pirating, our bellies, unaccustomed to such long neglect, finally insisted that we go back to the apartment and make pesto pasta. We didn’t hear another word from them until the following morning when they reminded us that we were in the land of scones.