Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018-05-05



 Cinco de Mike-O

Today is our walking tour of London. My feet are the best they have been in years, so I am psyched. I have a pocket full of Tylenol and Advil for “just in case”

First stop Buckingham Palace. Than is choosing the route, as he is the primary tourist. It’s like being the identified patient, but more fun. Last night we decided to begin at the Changing of the Guard, so it made for a slightly later departure from our hotel, which was fine by all of us. Nobody has adjusted to the time change yet. Hopping on the Underground at Holborn Station, we ride 2 stops to Green Park. What a wonderfully verdant, lush area in the middle of a bustling city. First impression was that it was not a manicured park. The grass is un-mown, with white and yellow daisy’s popping their heads up thru the grasses looking toward the sun. Large swaths of grass, scattered here and there, were knee high.  Masses of Londoner’s were staking claims to sunny positions ready for a bright warm Sunday at the park. Lawn chairs were set up and rented for a few pound sterling to families and couples. Fowls of all sorts abounded in the tall grasses and trees. 

We strolled toward the palace ahead of us. The ornate gates of the bastion of Buckingham were already crowded with tourists, there for the famous pomp and circumstance. At the cross walk we were stopped in our tracks by a loud police woman on her horse - “Back on the sidewalk”!  Behind her were honor guards on beautifully dressed horses, headed our way. All were riding in precise, straight formation. Clip-clop. Clippity-clop echo’d on the pavement.

By the time we reached the palace side of the road, we had overheard the rumor that the queen had requested no bagpipes this day – thus diminishing the pomp of the Changing of the Guard and the expectation of the crowds. Oh well, I guess she’s old, she’s got a wedding in 2 weeks, there are several hundred people outside her front door.
Traversing the boundaries of Buckingham, we headed toward Piccadilly Circus, stopping for lunchy at Caffe Concerto-Green Park.

Chicken and pesto sandwich for the rat bastard and a shared antipasto plate for us. Afterwards, across the street we purchased sweets for our walk at Patisserie Valerie (established 1926).
Fancy Homeless Person

Piccadilly, is indeed a circus – which is just a fancy work for roundabout. Theaters abound, zillions of tourists, chain restaurants’, souvenir hawkers and buskers all fill the street in a cacophony of color and sound. Veering to a side street, the din of humanity on vacation diminishes and we begin to be able to enjoy our surroundings once again.  Ever closer to the Thames, we arrive at a delightful tulip park, Whitehall Gardens. The tulips were multicolored and in full bloom. We literally, stop and smell the flowers. Leisurely, the path in the center winds down to the river. Ahead, new buildings are shooting up throughout London, like new grasses in spring. Gentrifying the gentrification.  New London seems to be all glass skyscrapers with undulating sides or sharp pointy edges. Quaintness and history has given away to shiny and new.
Our ultimate destination is the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge.

We decided to skip the Tower, to go forth and visit the bridge. I am profoundly pleased that there is an elevator there. I could have foreseen flights of stairs and pain. Stairs resulting in pain that Tylenol could not solve. The 2 towers of the bridge are connected by 2 parallel walkways. In 2014, the walkways were renovated to include glass floors. The propaganda at the entryway states that the glass is strong enough to support the weight of 6 elephants. The true brilliance of the glass walkways, are the mirrors installed above them. Surreal photos opportunities abound. 

We meet Nathan, one of the apprentices that work there. Nathan tells us a story of a visit of President Clinton to London. There was a motorcade across the bridge – Tony Blair in one limo, Clinton in another. A vast amount of secret service, and royal guards etc., accompany the motorcade. It takes an act of parliament to interrupt the schedule of the raising of the bridge. Someone had not done their homework. The draw bridge lifts: Blair and 9/10ths of the secret service are on one side, Clinton remained on the other. Chaos ensues. Clinton is stuck without Secret Service and no one is amused. Nathan continues to be a font of knowledge regarding the bridge and we chat until the infamous drawbridge is lifted to reveal only the murky water of the Thames below our feet.

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