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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 5
Europe 2003
Paris, London, Provence


David and Carol 2003 
Day 14
Carol slept well but I slept fitfully, dreaming on and off of knights and kings and battles in large open fields like Agincourt. It is the magic and lure of this ancient city full of ghosts...
I have been reading Peter Ackroyd's wonderful and massive (770 pages) "London - the Biography." It is a must-read for anyone interested in the history and character of this magical and mystical place. When I first arrived in London many years ago, I noticed an ever-present, underlying, indescribable "hum," and I have noticed it on every subsequent visit. It is the "voice" of the city and has, according to Ackroyd, been noticed by travelers throughout the centuries. And I am hearing it now as I write these words. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Like the painter Hogarth, Ackroyd captures the smells, tastes and signs that a visitor, say in 1630, would have found throughout Londontown. I found it a fascinating read.
We grabbed a quick breakfast of muffins and coffee once again at the nearby Coffee Republic, then caught the Tube from South Kensington to Westminster Pier under the shadow of Big Ben, the House of Parliament, ornate Westminster Bridge, and the modern London Eye. We caught the #3 boat to Greenwich on a gray, cool, totally "London" day.
The boat ride down the Thames took us past too many ancient and famous landmarks to mention here. We also passed a couple of new, rather out-of-character buildings, and a magician (David Blaine) suspended in a box. The 8-pound fare was well worth every pence.
David on the Tube
The London Eye
Sights along the Thames
Cleopatra's Needle
The Millenium Bridge and St. Pauls
London Bridge
The Tower Bridge
City Hall
The Tower of London
The flood tide had just turned as we sailed, and our narrator enlightened us to the fact that today will be the most pronounced tide change of the month of September - a difference of about 20 feet or more from low tide to high tide. We passed "Execution Dock" where 250 years ago you could be sentenced to a gruesome and slow death by which you were chained to the river bed at low tide and left there for 36 hours.
People were executed here for mutiny and other offenses
Once this city's life-sustaining center of trade and commerce, the east Thames is now lined with luxury apartments for the astronomically wealthy. Places that were once warehouses now hold apartments that in the 1970s sold for 25,000 pounds and today sell in the millions of pounds.
Curious sign...
Carol never misses a shopportunity
We arrived at nearby Greenwich at around noon, walked past historic Cutty Sark, past the old Maritime (Naval) College and climbed the hill to the Royal Greenwich Observatory. We straddled the Prime Meridian of zero degrees longitude, and then toured the facility with its wonderful historic and important timekeeping instruments, including an atomic clock. A couple of years ago I had read "Longitude" by Dava Sobel and became intrigued by John Harrison and his award-winning H4, plus the incredible devices H1, H2, and H3. The story of John Harrison and his son and their work is fascinating. H4 is the most important watch ever invented; its importance to seagoing navigation cannot be overstated. It was an honor to be in the same room as these incredible devices, and I spent a few minutes chatting with a docent about the few people whose daily honor and privilege it is to wind them. The tour of the museum was tremendous, and included the many telescopes and other scientific devices used over the centuries by the Observatory. Included were discussions about navigation, time, space and physics, subjects which have always fascinated me.
Royal Observatory
Where East meets West...
Carol on top of the world...
One of Harrison's time keepers
Harrison's H4 chronometer.
Setting the time for ocean vessels
The Royal Observatory
We spent at least two hours at the Royal Observatory (we easily could have spent several days there,) and then walked back down the hill, through the park, and stopped at a pub called Gloucester for a lunch of Guinness, fish & chips and a burger.
The boat ride back up the Thames was cool and relaxing. The tide has risen astoundingly in the past 4 hours.
A Clipper ship on the Thames
Way Out
From Westminster Pier we took the Circle Line Tube to South Kensington and were back at the hotel in no time for a rest.
Observation: Our hotel room at the Regency in London was so small that it was difficult to take any decent photos. Our luggage barely fit into the room. But we thoroughy enjoyed our stay there.
We relaxed at the hotel for a while, and Carol called our friend Aida and made plans to meet for dim sum near Aida's apartment on Sunday. Carol also purchased tickets for the musical Bombay Dreams (we are both aficionados of "Bollywood") for this evening. So out into the cool of the evening we ventured.
We arrived at the South Kensington underground station just as it was being evacuated. Thousands of people were flowing out. We were like fish trying to swim upstream. We heard that the problem was either a bomb threat or a fire. So we walked quite a bit to the next Tube station at Sloane Square near Chelsea and caught the Tube to Victoria Station.
The Michelin Building
The Apollo Victoria Theatre was already packed with Saturday-night theatre-goers, and we made it just in time to find our seats, which were great, down front center. The show was excellent, with wonderful music and dancing, and was very much "Bollywoody." For me the best parts of the show were the two percussionists who were stationed at each side of the stage and above the audience. These two fellows stole the show.
At the Apollo Victoria
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, as did the rest of the crowd, and after the final encore we found the Tube and jumped off back at Sloane Square and strolled up Kings Road until we found an interesting restaurant called Ask where Carol had salad and wine and I had seafood ravioli with olives and Italian beer. The diner was light and delicious and really hit the spot. We walked home arm-in-arm, as usual, in the light drizzle, reminiscing about the adventures we had today on this leg of Our Magnificent Journey.

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