“There’s no rest for the weary.” Or so the saying goes. In this case, there’s no rest for the jet-lagged. After very little sleep (more like a few winks) on last night’s overnight flight from Boston, I arrived in London excited and ready to go. That lasted for about 10 minutes. Or the time it took to get from my gate to the “UK Border” sign at immigration (I love that sign!). Exhaustion set in hard and fast. Determined to beat it, I quickly made my way to the Underground ticket booth and discovered that my Oyster card from my visit two years ago was not only still active, it still had money on it! The 45 minute tube ride from Heathrow left me outside Pimlico station, where the cool air and crisp breeze perked me right back up. I made my way to my nearby hotel and took advantage of the Executive Lounge to grab a Diet Coke and some enormous marshmallows. Completely random, but coupled with the warm Doubletree cookie and hot shower, I was good to go.
Having no plans whatsoever, I decided to just wander. The only goal I had was to make it to the 3:00 Evensong service at Westminster Abbey. I walked a couple of blocks back toward the tube station so I could enjoy a walk through Millbank Gardens. EVERYTHING is in bloom here. Everything. Thumbs up for pretty flower pictures, but I’m pretty sure it will be thumbs down for aggravating my allergies. That’s yet to be determined. I wound my way through St. John’s Gardens, past Westminster Abbey, and eventually to St. James Park. Did I mention everything is in bloom? There were huge plots of flowers, every color imaginable mixed together, and they were all beautiful. After taking more than enough pictures of the flower beds, I walked across the street from St. James Park to the Royal Horse Guards Parade. Finding a crowd gathering out front, I figured something must be about to happen. Sure enough, 2:00 on the dot, the changing of the guard. Not as impressive as Buckingham Palace, but also not nearly as crowded.
Afterwards, I walked towards Trafalgar Square. Not being a city person, the crowds soon turned me around. I decided to set off for Westminster Abbey and joined the queue already forming for the Evensong service. If you’ve never been to Westminster Abbey, put it on your bucket list. I did a verger tour on my last trip here, and it has remained one of the highlights of that trip. The history and atmosphere alone are worth a visit. Since photos are not allowed, this 360° panorama is at least a look at what’s inside: http://a.abcnews.com/flash/interactives/westminsterpano/tour.html Of course, by this time, I was past the point of exhaustion. Not that I didn’t enjoy the service, but it was somewhat overshadowed by the constant reminder to myself that it wasn’t bedtime yet. After leaving Westminster Abbey, I high-tailed it back to the hotel for a quick pit stop and then sought out a recommended pub – The White Lion – close to the Pimlico tube. It did not disappoint. Especially the apple pie! 🙂 All in all, a successful first day in the U.K.!
Tomorrow’s adventures include heading back to Heathrow to pick up a rental car (or “car hire” as they are called here) and getting my first taste of the Cotswolds! Oh, and driving on the left side of the road…