The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sail Ho! Email No!

Wednesday, 23 October.

Tomorrow we depart for home on a two-week sea voyage. At about 10 a.m. we'll grab a taxi and make our way to London's Victoria Station where a motor coach will carry us and our huge pile of luggage to the port city of Harwich and the ship that awaits us. The Celebrity Infinity will carry us to Miami after a few stops on the continent -- one in France, two in Spain, and another in Portugal. We also visit Nassau before finally arriving back home. 

When it comes to cruises, my favorite activity is sitting on our balcony or in some other comfortable, relatively quiet spot on the ship and reading a good book. Every so often one of the crew stops by and asks if I'd like a drink. It's all very civilized, and extremely relaxing...just what I need after our busy two weeks in England. Dear Diane likes the shows aboard ship, so I'll no doubt attend many of these. And of course there's the food, the tempting food that I intend to sample only in reasonable amounts. I lost 20 pounds in the three months before our trip and I would hate to gain it all back again. 

Because cruise ships charge ridiculous amounts for only minutes of WiFi internet access, I will probably not post anything until we return. My small, but select group of readers will no doubt appreciate this and turn their attention to something more rewarding. Anyway, shipboard posts would likely be pretty boring and redundant...I ate, I read, I went to the show with Diane.

More exciting was what Dear Diane and I did today. We first walked down to the Parliament buildings via Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, and all the government buildings along Whitehall. The security at the Prime Minister's place -- 10 Downing Street -- was rather impressive. Here's a photo of the two of us outside the PM's digs...

Indeed London's finest were out in force today, presumably because of the scheduled baptism of little George, the royal baby. Inexplicably Diane and I didn't receive the expected invitation, which no doubt had trouble finding us in the midst of all our travels. We'll have to send William and Kate a little something for the little one.

Assisted by a helpful bobby, we managed to find Westminster Pier and used our London Passes to board a tour boat for the trip along the Thames to the Tower Pier. The trip, just about 20 minutes long, was enhanced by a young crewman who gave constant commentary describing all that we passed en route. And by the time we arrived the sun appeared for good, and we were given a truly marvelous day, sunny and quite warm. I've added below a few photos taken from the tour boat.

We arrived at Tower Pier and immediately entered the Tower of London grounds. We joined the crowd following one of the Yeoman Warders and listened to his descriptions of kings, queens, saints, sinners, executions, escapes, and tortures, all woven into wonderful stories of the Tower's infamous past. Here's the man himself, like all his colleagues a retired Sergeant Major... 

We then checked out the Crown Jewels, a rather ostentatious collection of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and gold...lots and lots of gold. I'd seen them back in 1985 but had forgotten how impressive they actually are. The building is guarded by this young man:

We strolled through the Tower grounds for a while enjoying the sights before taking the boat farther down the Thames to Greenwich. Below you can see two views of the oldest building, the White Tower, built by William the Conqueror himself back in the 11th century.

At Greenwich we first stopped for lunch at a pub called The Gypsy Moth. I couldn't resist the name since it was also the name of Sir Francis Chichester's sailboat when he made the first solo around-the-world trip back in the 60s. The food was quite good too, and for a change of pace I had another typical English pub dish, bangers and mash, while Diane had the soup. Good stuff! Oh, yes, and pretty waitresses.

After lunch we made our way, a long way that is all uphill, to the Royal Observatory. The view of London from this height is spectacular, especially on a day like today. We also did the expected thing and straddled the prime meridian with a leg in each hemisphere. Photos below, including one of the rigging of the Cutty Sark, the famous British clipper ship...

Back aboard our tour boat, we returned to Tower Pier and made our way to Fleet Street where we found the well-hidden house of Dr. Samuel Johnson, another of my heroes. Sadly we arrived just as they were closing for the day and were unable to tour the house -- a major disappointment for we stopped by the gift shop where I bought another book. We walked a few yards to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of London's oldest pubs and a place frequented not only by Dr. Johnson in the 18th century, but also by Charles Dickens and Mark Twain in the 19th century, and by the great G. K. Chesterton in the early 20th century. I stopped in and had a pint. I could do no less. Photos follow: Johnson's house, the pub...

Finally we walked back to our flat via Foyle's Books, perhaps London's largest and best bookstore. On the way we passed the Aldwych Theatre where we had seen Top Hat yesterday and I took another photo.

Quite a day...and now time to pack and relax a bit. Oh, yes, one more little glitch. We returned to the flat but were unable to open the inside door to the apartment. We called Julian, our young Brazilian manager, who took the tube to help us. He arrived an hour later while we sat in the corridor outside our door reading books. Using a master key he let us in and still could not understand why our key suddenly stopped working. Ah, well, we really didn't mind too much. We are, after all retired with time on our hands.

God's peace.

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