London, England, August 2016

We took the Eurostar from Paris to London- woohoo! Only a little over two hours- unbelievable. I had tea under the English Channel! For some reason, upper class seats were cheaper than coach so our seats were nice, too.

Our first task was to find a place called New Cross Gate. We were invited to stay with a couple we had met on the Trans-Siberian Railway, M and S. We worried about annoying them in the many ways a family of six might while staying with English retirees, but this was unfounded. They had raised three boys and now have grandkids; also they have boundless energy and numerous projects and I don’t think I could keep up with them even without the kids and husband! Anyway, it is hard to overstate how wonderful it was to stay with M and S, it was a joy at the time and a joy to remember. Their house was cozy and full of interesting objects and their own photos from their prodigious travels. The garden was vivacious and full of color and flowery smells and more art and several live frogs. The place inspired all of us in making a home when we return to the US. 

After tea with our hosts and realizing it was still quite early in the day (we had gained an hour since crossing into England), we headed right out to see a few things.

We got metro passes* and started out at the tower bridge and Tower of London. The twins found a spray fountain and got to work. I looked at the skyline. It was kind of jarring to see all of the modern buildings after the elegance of Paris. I was here once before, 26 years ago, and I don’t remember much. But it is clear that construction businesses have not been idle since my last visit. We were to see many historic architecture but the Shard and other new structures stood out to me that first day.

We walked across the bridge, wandered a little, had fish and chips, rode a double-decker bus, and walked around Trafalgar Square. We had great weather and a great first day.

The next day we walked around New Cross Gate to the beautiful Telegraph Hill Park and to the volunteer-run library on the main street. The kids were thrilled to get library cards. We also went to see places from Harry Potter (long line so I took a photo of other people at platform 9 & 3/4) and Sherlock Holmes.

We went to the British National Library and saw the Magna Carta as well as many illuminated texts, original sheet music by Beethoven and other classical composers, and other historic documents. Plus, just to challenge expectations of what should be in a museum of historic documents, an exhibit on punk rock. 

*best public transport yet!! Twins were free, F and C discounted (£20 each, lasted all week) and we adults got 7-day passes for about £50. Small tunnels and cars from the first subway system in the world. Excellent design for everything, especially signs.


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