Travel through time and space by choosing from below:

Tuesday-Sunday, April 28th-May 3rd / Monday-Wednesday, May 4th-6th / Thurday-Friday, May 7th-8th / Saturday-Sunday, May 9th-10th / Monday-Thursday, May 11th-14th

Monday May 4, 2009

This morning we went to the Museum of London - Docklands, which was a most interesting experience. The trip there was pretty horrid, by Bank Tube Station (stairs, then more stairs, then a lift (yay!) but then two more flights of stairs). What's with that? Then got out at the wrong tube station (thanks to the usually helpful London Transport website) - there was a lift at least, but it smelled strongly of urine. Don't get out at Westferry! We were absolutely lost once we got out on the streets, but eventually we made our way to the Museum, where we were greeted by very friendly staff members and great cups of tea, to recover from our ordeal. The Museum is situated in a collection of warehouses dating back to 1802 (below).

This museum is devoted to the area now known as "Docklands" and the role it has played in London's history, from ancient Roman times (beginning 43 A.D.) to today, including the growth of maritime commerce, Lloyds of London, the brutal "Triangle" trade of slaves and sugar and the bombing raids of World War II.

I found the Roman section especially interesting, as the artifacts presented, including waxed wooden writing tablets, lead ingots with Emperor Vespasian's seal, coins, and the seal of the "procurator" are all important elements of the "Falco" series of books, about a private detective c. 78 A.D. Rome who lives for a time in London and southern England.

Below is a treadmill. Humans were used in the early days to power the lifting apparatus to unload and load cargo holds of ships. We also saw a real gibbet, where the rotting bodies of executed pirates were hung in the public gaze, plus a wicked looking viking axe recovered from the river.

Below, Mom sniffs each box, identifying through sense of smell a collection of spices or commodities that were shipped into the London docks. The collection included pepper, cloves, tea, coffee, and vanilla.

The museum was laid out so well, and included informative videos, amazing artifacts, models and small folding chairs we were invited to use ("Just leave them anywhere; we'll clear them up").

Here, we march off through th Docklands redevelopment area, searching for a (apparently non-existent) Bus 15. We eventually get home via Docklands Light Rail and then a cab ride home.

That's it for today,
Becky and Awanna

Tuesday May 5, 2009

Good morning! I went downstairs to Fuzzy's Grub shop for some so-called "doorstop" toast, thick sliced whole grain toast and marmalade. They threw in a free round doughnut, just because they were so nice. Then we did a bit of laundry, turning our cute little flat into something resembling a tenement building...behold our "kitchenette."

Out on Fleet Street, I mailed arty postcards from the National Gallery to Linda and Amy.

We bussed towards Trafalgar Square, but hopped off first at Essex Street to visit the Unitarian Headquarters in the UK, which we had noticed earlier. There, we met two lovely ladies, Audrey and Rosemary. Mom and the ladies traded stories about being Unitarian, attending the national meetings, and similarities between US and UK congregations. Audrey gave us a fine rendition of a unique song from the hot-off-the-press new Unitarian hymnal - to the tune of "This Old Man," with new words: "Here I am all alone, can't do this job on my on; but if you come with me, I'll soon be done - two can do much more than one!" (It continues on in this vein.)

Rosemary joined us a few minutes later. She is the wife of the former UK Unitarian president. Meanwhile, Audrey laughingly filled Mom's vial with special "Unitarian" water from a chilled water dispenser for Mom to take back to her church in Eureka, instead of the Thames water she was going to use; the "gathering of the waters" (usually from wherever a member had travelled/vacationed) is a tradition with her fellowship.

Back on the bus to Trafalgar Square. While Mom fiddled with the Spot device (wide open areas are essential for successful transmission), I went for tea and coffee. I returned to find a quintessential English gentleman sitting near Mom. Picture a dapper man, dressed in a black suit, crisp white shirt, red silk handkerchief, and bowler hat. The three of us ended up having a lovely chat, about the Square, living in London, feeding squirrels in St James Park, etc.

We eventually said our good bye's and crossed the street to St Martin-in-the-Fields church. We've been here before, but only to the Crypt; the church is famous for its brass rubbing center, its charity programs for the homeless and meals of fine tastiness and great value, if you don't mind walking and eating atop ancient burial stones. Note the new entrance to the Crypt, just north of the church.

We started with lunch downstairs (yes, I had bread pudding with custard sauce), then went upstairs to enjoy a free lunchtime concert, under the magnificent white and gilded Baroque ceiling. (I took the photo during their rehearsal earlier.)

The concert today was a 40 minute program of wind chamber music, performed by young (18 or younger) musicians from the Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama. My goodness, they were impressive. These young people performed so beautifully and with such confidence and grace.

Next, downstairs to peruse the gift store (Scottish silk scarf for me, St Martin Teddy Bear for Mom (she named him "Martin") and to decide that making a brass rubbing looked like too much work.

Next we strolled north to Stanford's Maps, stopping along the way at an ironmonger's store (= hardware) to purchase tea spoons and wood glue; you know, the typical purchases of American tourists... At Stanford's we looked over their vast array of maps and travel guides. Miraculously, we got out without buying anything. A short walk away, we found ourselves in Covent Garden again, where we watched a young Chinese Australian perform exciting acrobatic feats and Mom bought four Medjool dates.

A few blocks away, we came across Penhaligon's Perfumes, established 1870, where - after sniffing about 100 different samples (I exaggerate, a bit) - I settled on the famous "Bluebell" scent, in solid form, in a beautiful silver case. I am so good to myself.

We bussed ourselves home, unloaded our bags, then ventured back onto Fleet Street - no sandwiches or frozen food for supper tonight, for our last evening in London. Instead, we had a very tasty meal (and friendly service) at Wagamama's, which is a popular chain of restaurants specializing in noodle dishes. I took a slice of their Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Wasabi Sauce back home. (Tasty, but oddly, needed more wasabi.)

Now I am typing this, while Mom lounges on the little couch, singing songs from her new Unitarian hymnal.

The photo below provides a good slice of our life in our flat...that's my purse and my little computer on the miniature table to the left, and Mom's stuff everywhere else (just kidding!).

OK, that's our day. Tomorrow morning, we pack up and say good bye to London. The Martins are arriving at 10:30 to pick us up (they are too kind!) and whisk us away to Salisbury, for even more adventures.

Becky and Awanna

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

This morning we packed all our belongings and tidied up the flat, prior to leaving London for Salisbury. We were done so quickly, and the Martins were not due to pick us up until 10:30 am, that I had time to take a quick bus trip back to the Unitarian Headquarters, while Mom rested. My goal was to pick up an additional copy of the new hymnal, so that Mom had one to give to the Choir Director back in Eureka.

Alighting in Essex Street, I pressed the intercom button for the Unitarians and was buzzed in. Audrey was not there, but I met Peter, who works there and hails from Bellingham, Washington. His wife, who is a Unitarian minister, recently accepted a position in Richmond, England, so the family of three, including 8 year old daughter Claire, moved to England. It was a real treat talking to a "west coast" American, who even knew about the tribulations of the timber industry. No confusing translations from UK to American English! Audrey walked in a few minutes later, and we chatted some more, before I headed back out. The streets are filled with all sorts of busy, busy people; as usual, this is not a real touristy area.

I stopped in at the famous Twinings Tea Shop, where I selected an assortment of a dozen individual tea bags - a huge purchase of L 1.50, but I was treated as if I'd spend L 50.

Back at the flat, we heaved our bags down the stairs, and waited on the sidewalk (or "pavement," as the British would say, somewhat confusingly to an American) for the arrival of our friends Barbara and Dennis Martin from Salisbury.

Everything fit in the "boot," and we were on our way through the traffic of London and finally onto the highways.

At the Martin's, Dennis treated us to homemade and absolutely delicious parsnip/apple soup and crusty bread. We also got to use the thoroughly helpful "Martin Full Service Laundry" - clean clothes, yay!

We then drove to the Salisbury Cathedral Close, and scampered into the Cathedral to see the brand new font, commissioned for the 750th birthday of the Cathedral. It's beautiful and unique. The still water pours continually from the four corners, and reflects the ceiling and nave.

Across the way from Dennis and Barbara, were Mom and me (Photo courtesy of Barbara or Dennis Martin)

And of course the tomb of William Longspee, our ancestor. (Photo courtesy of Barbara or Dennis Martin)

The newest status was installed last year; it's Canon Ezra born in 1917, who was caught in a crossfire in 1991 in Sudan.

Soon after arrival, while I was standing near the font, my phone rang. Hooray, it was Gil, calling to tell me I was in the Cathedral, according to the SPOT website. How wonderful to hear his voice and how amazing that such reception was possible in this huge, stone building (note I did retreat to the foyer to have the chat).

Next, the Salisbury Museum, which always has something new and some things VERY old, from pre-historic Archer Man, to ancient Roman artifacts, to Saxon, Medieval, and on into the recent past. We saw the dead rat (dead from arsenic poisoning) which was found preserved in the skull of our ancestor William Longspee.

We then drove to our Bed and Breakfast, called Byways, just a few blocks from the Martin's house. Our very well behaved servants Martin and Martin heaved all of our luggage inside for us in a most sprightly manner, before departing. After we settled into our room, Mom and I walked the streets and footpaths down the hill and across the railway bridge directly to the Martin's house. The flowers along the way were lovely. Once again, we lamented the lack of city footpaths in the states.

Fish and chips and salad for dinner at the Martins, followed by Den's bread pudding with custard sauce, made by his clever new kitchen gadget, a saucier from France, which does all the stirring and heating for you! Everything was lovely, but I think Mom enjoyed most of all the fabulous stalks of watercress. It's such a rare treat back home. After second (or perhaps third) helpings of the pudding, we took our leave, and walked back through the flowers to Byways and bed.

Time to rest up.

Becky and Awanna

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