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St. Paul's Cathedral, and Not Much More

Continuing my tradition of checking things out pre-crowds, Monday morning I finally saw the famous London fog. Undoubtedly there are days when it is more dense, but on this Monday morning in October it was dense enough to shroud The Shard. (try saying that a few times fast!)
Beginning my last post with pretty much the same image, if you've been reading along, you'll note that this scene looked quite differently on Sunday.

By the time Matt arrived at our hotel the fog was mostly gone, and so we went for a walk, crossing London bridge and then some. Here's Bruce passing yet another pub with the operative word, passing!
You'll know the pubs by their flowers which are abundant in front of most of them. Last trip, he visited several pubs, sampling the British ales, with Tom a great help describing them, however, this trip--nary a one. I guess we'll just have to go back....

Although we've been on the outside of St. Paul's we'd never gone inside--that missing piece of being a tourist in London has now been rectified. If you're looking for interior photos, I can't share any as they are not allowed, however, trust me when I tell you it is magnificent! But, we're getting ahead of ourselves; let's look at the journey first.
Remember this restaurant, as I'm thinking Leon will be in our future Orlando friends.
Brad Blum, former president of Olive Garden, who Bruce had the pleasure of working with, is, according to our local paper, heavily involved in bringing the concept to the States. Before going further I want to comment on the above picture because to me it says a lot about London...layers and layers of stimuli, from the man with the briefcase, the colorful sign, people in the restaurant, people walking along the street, and of course, St. Paul's Cathedral, which as you know by now looms large in both the skyline and history of London.

So, we're almost there and here comes what I think I recall Matt calling a "legacy bus?" An old-fashioned one used mostly for the likes of us tourists!
And what is this you say? A black phone box?
Now you know.

Paying for the full tour, our wait time was minimal. A very pleasant woman arranged the group of about twenty, and began apologizing profusely because she claimed, due to her "Monday brain," that she'd gotten the full tour times mixed up, and there was only time for the condensed version. Accepting her apology, we followed her around the cathedral floor as she explained the wonderful details and what they know about the construction, begun in 1675. As an American, just the date alone is enough to impress. You know what? Never did she quit apologizing for her mix-up, going so far as to take us to two places reserved for the "big tour." Try as we might, I don't think we could convince her that it was all okay.

Leaving her, we climbed 257 winding, narrow steps to the "Whispering Gallery", which you can read about here. Had we the stamina, we could have climbed all the way to the top of the dome, and go outside like you see these folks have done,
however, 528 steps was just a little too many for Bruce and me. Matt, he most likely could have sprinted up to the top! Oh to be young again....

All that walking necessitated re-fueling our tanks, so we sat outside with a sandwich at Eat, just across the street. The window on the building housing Topshop, reflected the cathedral nicely.
I wonder what the workers who built the cathedral, on site mind you, with wagons bringing trees for the wooden parts, carts with boulders for the stone work, would have made of these fashions?
Next up a trip to Liberty, best made on the Underground, or the Tube as some folks call it.
Some of the stations require you to ride escalators down about four flights, standing on the right while others fly by you on the left. This shot taken mid-day does not illustrate that very well, however, believe me, London is a young city with young legs!

Liberty, one of the oldest department stores in London did not disappoint.
Begun with a 2,000 pound loan from his future father-in-law in 1875, Arthur Liberty started small, selling fabric, ornaments, and decorative objects from what was then called, "the Orient." Read further if you're interested in more history. The fabric department was divine, with a meter of fabric costing 22 pounds, which to us is about $36 a yard for cotton fabric! I wonder how many of these kits they sell?
I did not purchase anything, but I enjoyed looking. We did, however, buy some candy at their chocolate shop.
We should have bought more--delicious! The side door, facing, I think Carnaby Street looks like this:
Carnaby Street--to anyone growing up with the British Invasion of pop music and fashion, this place is iconic. I love this quote from the Wikipedia article: "By the 1960s, Carnaby Street proved popular for followers of both the Mod and hippie styles"
Flagging energy caused us to head back to the hotel before meeting up with Tom for dinner, at, you guessed it, NANDO'S! Woo hoo!

Saying our goodbyes, we returned to the hotel to pack, and an early bedtime. Originally our reservations were for a hotel at Heathrow, however, we liked the London Bridge Hotel so well, we stayed there our final night. 

I talked to another guest, a woman from Pennsylvania, who told me she and her husband, on this European trip, stayed at LBH for forty nights!!! Patent attorneys like her husband must make lots and lots of money.

Of all things, we hated to turn off the television to go to sleep. What pray tell were we watching? A dart tournament from Dublin! It was fascinating. But lights out it was because early the next morning we walked just down the street to the station. So early in fact, not many folks were around except the cleaners.
The train trip to Heathrow, early as it was, was uneventful. The airport was good, albeit slightly confusing. I kept thinking how hard that trip to Japan must have been for Jonathan and Alissa, what with signs you can't read and the like. Because of Bruce's frequent flyer status, we waited for our plane in the Skyclub, a very nice perk indeed.
Not only do they serve food, but I saw a woman on this side of the room picking up some magazines and newspapers for her journey,
and I did the same, reading these on the flight home.
The flight home was fine, albeit long, however, when we got to JFK, I was a bit dismayed to see our gate number--37, the furthest away from Immigration that you could get. After walking what seemed like at least a mile, we got through customs with little trouble, although they were using a brand new self-check in system which proved slightly tricky. Then we had to change terminals. Mrs. Peck was getting a little testy by now. Of all things, we boarded a Delta bus to take us to the new terminal, driving on the runways!
That was most certainly a first for me! 
Finally around 4 in the afternoon, our plane took off for Orlando, depositing us around 7:00 PM, which if you're not doing the math, was midnight to our body clocks. Whew--I was pooped, and so ready to get out of those traveling clothes. Bill picked us up in the Hummer, and Baxter, whom Angela had dropped off around 6, was mighty happy to see us come home!

Do you feel as if you've been to England? I sure hope so! Before leaving people would say something like, "I bet you'll take lots of great shots," or something on that order. The truth is, I'm just like any other tourist, telling the story of our life through my photographs. Unlike our last trip, I'm not sure even one out of the 1,000 photos is worth printing for mass consumption. Don't you like the way I said mass? Haha!

Next up--back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now....
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