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  • Writer's pictureJane Ritzenthaler

Pinch Me...

Tuesday morning, after enjoying my last English breakfast...

I took the bus back to Moreton-in-Marsh, which has the only train station in the Cotswolds, to catch the train to London. Public transportation in England far exceeds what I've experienced in most countries, including my own. Free Wi-Fi on the train! I arrived at Paddington Station, located just northwest of most of the major attractions. I selected that location for my hotel since Paddington also offers the Heathrow Express train directly to the airport. A 15-minute trip, rather than about an hour by Tube. The Tube station there provides convenient access to the Circle Line, which includes all the major sites in Central London.

Lodging in London is pricey, and I chose one of Rick Steves' budget choices, Easy Hotel, located about 3 blocks from Paddington. I reserved a double room with private bath for three nights, choosing the non-refundable rate of $287. Let's just say it makes Motel 6 look like the Ritz. (When one of their listed amenities is toilet paper, you know it's a budget hotel!)

The bed was a bit saggy, but the bath, although quite tiny, was modern and clean. My room was on the second floor (what they call the first floor) with a window overlooking the street. That's my room under the .com at the entrance. Surprisingly, I really didn't hear any street noise. But other guests tromping around at 2:00 a.m. above me was another story.

I had been checking my flight on Friday, and even before I left Stow-on-the-Wold, realized I might have to change it. There were only 20 seats left, and 5 standbys. I looked at my other options: rather than the only non-stop to Phoenix, I could connect through Charlotte, Philadelphia or Dallas. The London leg was excellent, but from the connecting city to Phoenix, not so much. And it would add another few hours to my already long travel time. The weekend looked worse (usually is), so I opted for the non-stop on Thursday. 34 open seats, and 3 standbys. I would lose my prepaid 3rd night at the hotel, but oh well. But that meant I would have only one day to see London! Plus I couldn't leave my hotel and WiFi until after I checked in for my flight; 24 hours prior to departure, 9:30 a.m. That would determine my position on the priority list, which could be critical. So I sat, poised on the bed (only place to sit other than the toilet!) and waited for my the time to arrive. Yes! I ended up #2 on the list. And still 30 seats open on the flight.

The night before I had settled on visiting Westminster Abbey, and had purchased my ticket online. I also opted for the Queen's Gallery upstairs. So I was off to the Tube. (The middle and right photos above are of the Tube.) When I emerged at Westminster Station and walked partway across the bridge, the goosebumps started. There it real life. Big Ben and Parliament. The morning was breezy and a bit cloudy, but no rain. I soaked in the views for a bit, then walked back to queue up for entrance to the Abbey. To say that it was jaw-dropping is an understatement. No photos or even BBC coverage of the procession bringing the casket of Queen Elizabeth II a couple of weeks ago could do it justice. I picked up the headset and audio guide and began the self-guided tour. Posted everywhere were signs saying "no photos allowed." Rats. But then as I looked around, it seemed everybody was taking pictures with their phones...some even had SLR cameras! And nobody was being thrown out, so I joined the happy throng of photographers.

Westminster Abbey began in 960, when twelve Benedictine monks were brought from Glastonbury to found a monastery at Westminster (west minster, or church, as distinguished from St Paul's, east minster). During the Reformation in the 1600s, the church bounced back and forth between Roman Catholic and the new Church of England, depending on who was on the throne. Unlike all other Anglican churches, which are subject to the jurisdiction of a Bishop, Westminster reports directly to the monarch. The tour wound through the various areas of the church - the nave, quire, Lady Chapel, and niches housing tombs of kings, queens and other notables. There are some 3,000 people buried in the Abbey, including the likes of Oliver Cromwell, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Steven Hawking. I am including some of the photos I took, inadequate as they are:

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries, opened in 2018, is located 52 feet above the main floor. It occupies the eastern triforium built in about 1250, and houses exhibits documenting the building of Westminster Abbey, and containing funeral effigies, replicas of the crown jewels, and the coronation chair dating to 1297.

I finished my tour around 3:00, and stopped in the cafe for a late lunch/early dinner of soup and bread. When I emerged from Westminster, the pavement was wet, but the rain had passed. I took the Tube back to my hotel to get packed and ready to return home.

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Oct 08, 2022

WoW! I can't wait to see you and hear your stories that compliment the amazing pictures.

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