Sunday, May 23:  Tubing

Awoke around 6:30 AM to a steady drip-drip-drip. Eventually located it -- from the ceiling down onto a spot within the 5% of the available floor space not covered by a bed or desk. My suspicions about the plumbing had been confirmed.

Requested breakfast without an egg. Arrived with a scrambled egg and a shrug.

Set out on a walk to Buckingham Palace, to take in the daily Changing the Guard ceremony. Passed by the Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral, within spitting distance of the Queen’s home. Pisan Romanesque, with striping a la Sienna. Also on the way, we began to pass a young drunkard who was wobbling slowly down the street. Just before we passed, he crunched the middle of his extra-tall beer can and tossed it into the street right in front of us. Finally noticing us, he straightened up and sincerely said, “Excuse me.” Very polite here. (Photo 143)

Every tourist in London was at Buckingham Palace was at the Changing the Guard, but fully 75% couldn’t bear the entire hour of military band music and left. So while it was a bit tight getting a good viewing seat on the Queen Victoria monument, by the end it wasn’t so hard to get a pretty good view of the goings-on. My recommendation -- don’t bother unless you are staying three weeks.

Walked up through Green Park and then into Hyde Park with Speaker’s Corner as the destination, for the weekly Sunday afternoon free-speech gathering. There were a handful of loonies about, standing on stepstools. Mostly religious extremists as near as I could tell. Then it was down into the Tube.

Turns out what we thought were weekend passes were really just one-day passes for a weekend day. They had seemed like such a bargain when we thought they were good for two days. We bought another and were on our way to Westminster Pier. From there, we pushed through the jam-packed streets to the London Eye on the other side of the river. The Eye is a huge Ferris Wheel, for lack of a better short description. More precisely, it is constructed akin to a bicycle wheel. There is a rim made of steel members with a triangular cross-section. Long cables run from the rim to a central hub, just like spokes. The hub is mounted on one side to two steel supports that rest on the bank of the river, but slant so that the plane of the wheel is above the river. Finally, around the outside of the wheel are about twenty-four capsules that hold twenty-five people each. They rotate about an axis parallel to the axis of rotation of the hub, keeping the capsules bench and floor parallel with the ground. The whole apparatus is designed to never stop moving, you load and unload as your capsule slowly moves through the boarding zone. (Photo 149)

The views were very good, and if you didn’t look down to the rubber tires at the bottom propelling the whole thing, the lack of any fixed reference sometimes made it difficult to tell if you were moving at all. The whole trip lasted thirty minutes.

From here, Pat and the boys headed off to Westminster Abbey for evensong, a regular service that is sung. I hopped back on the tube, headed for home, but made my transfer a bit further out, where I surfaced and located the Royal Mile Whiskies shop for a more leisurely visit. Couldn’t resist a cask-strength Ardbeg, so I should have no trouble making Edinburgh well-supplied.

After some journaling and homework, we got back on the Tube at Victoria Station for a long, but direct, run out to King’s Cross Station, where in the Harry Potter films, the Hogwarts Express departs from the magical Platform 9 3/4. (Photo 150) Sure enough, just beyond Platform 7, we located an archway with the correct platform sign. Stopped at Oxford Circus on the way back and headed for the SoHo district in search of dinner. We found a more modern bar that would serve children, and had a nice meal of pasta and appetizers.

One more Tube journey back home, where we went one stop beyond Victoria Station to see if the Pimlico Station might prove an easier way to get our luggage down into the station. (Photo 151)

Tomorrow we’ll be driving on the other side of the road. . .

Photo 149  London Eye
Photo 150  Platform 9 3/4

Photo 151  The Underground