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


David and Carol 2003 
Day 15
We slept well through the cool, damp English night. Another light rain gently tapped on the window at around midnight, and I woke briefly, half-dreaming about the magic and the ghosts of the giant labyrinth of London. Like Paris, one could live their entire life here and still find themselves down unfamiliar, narrow, winding alleyways. I thought of the highwaymen that used to prey on night-travelers on nearby Kensington Road, and of the mysterious, sinister, thick, often deadly fogs that would obliterate all and turn day into night. As recently as the 1950s, London experienced fogs so thick that in theatres, actors could not be seen upon the stage.
Like Paris, London has its own unique, special character and flavor that has drawn us back again and again over the years. Maybe it is the rich and ancient history. Perhaps it is the eternal hustle and bustle of the streets in the day, or is it the lovely stillness and quiet that often occurs at night? Maybe it is the awesome melting-pot quality whereby many different languages can be heard spoken by passers-by in the space of a few minutes. Much of this is true of the major cities of our planet but London, and Paris as well, have long ago worked their magic upon us, and have us in their spell. It is an almost indescribable experience to become "lost" amongst the endless sea of people and the countless majestic buildings. To borrow a wonderful quote from Peter Ackroyd: "to be alone among the confusion is perhaps the single most piercing emotion of any stranger in the city."
We took the Circle Tube to Paddington, then walked to Westbourne Avenue and found our friend Aida's apartment. We had not seen Aida since the 1995 wedding of our friends Melissa and Rene, and she looked fabulous. We spent some time admiring Aida's lovely home (it is more appropriate to call it an art gallery, since she has collected so many interesting works of art and unique pieces of furniture.) Aida is a charming, beautiful, intelligent, sweet and sensitive woman, and her home is a perfect reflection of the wonderful person she is.
Aida's poster of Aida
Aida and David
We walked with Aida to Bayswater, and arrived at Royal China Dim Sum restaurant just in time to make the first rush of hungry patrons. The dim sum was the best I have ever tasted, and the sesame sauce deserts were out of this world.
After enjoying Aida's company and warm conversation (and delicious dim sum,) we walked back to her flat and visited a bit longer, and then had to say good-bye to a truly interesting and dynamic individual. We will miss her but we will keep in touch and we know we will see her again.
After saying good-bye, we walked a few blocks to Hyde Park and strolled along the bank of the Serpentine. For some reason we always end up at Hyde Park on our last day in London, and this trip is no different. It is chilly enough for sweaters, jackets and scarves, and the park is full of people with their children and dogs, enjoying a lazy, early-fall Sunday afternoon. Hyde Park is certainly one of our favorite parks anywhere.
Enjoying Hyde Park
We left Hyde Park at the Albert Gate and walked west along Knightsbridge looking at the paintings and sculptures in Harrod's windows, then decided to Tube it to Covent Garden one last time, where we heard some really beautiful Japanese music in the busy crowded square. We then walked through ancient Seven Dials, where the great plague of the 17th century took root in the filth and morass of the poor tenements there - now it is all hyper-trendoid shops. I have socks older than most of the kids who shop there.
Musicians at Covent Garden
Continuing our exploration, we walked into Soho, along Shaftsbury Lane and all the ghosts of history there, until we came to a bustling area on Old Compton Street where we found a quiet cozy corner to enjoy a snack of olives and anchovies, Fresh German beer and dry red wine. I toasted to my travel partner on this Magnificent Journey called "life," and realized how incredibly fortunate I am I so many respects. I smile as my eyes wander among the hundreds of faces in the street and I hope that they are fortunate to know love like I do. Obviously Carol and I look at life as a journey, and I thank God for every step along the way with her.
After our visit to Soho, we walked past Chinatown and found ourselves once more in Leicester Square on the way to the Tube to Kensington High Street to try a restaurant recommended by our friend Aida. We noticed many barriers and many police stationed at points around the square. I went up to a barrier and asked a policeman what was up. He pointed to a nearby movie theatre and told me that it was the world premier of the movie Bright Young Things, and that Prince Charles was expected to drive past any moment. The policeman's name was Gary, and we chatted with him about the differences between the London weather and the Tucson weather. He was very kind and informative, and made reference at one point to the wonderful sunsets that he had heard (rightly so) occur in Tucson.
Carol and Gary
As we waited, a crowd grew around, and we spent some time chatting with Gary and Jan Bloomberg from Philadelphia. We compared notes about our experiences in London as we waited. Suddenly Gary, the policeman, came over to us and told us to get our cameras ready, and soon a Rolls Royce drove by and I snapped a picture. I couldn't see a thing. But a British family next to us recognized the Prince, so I am sure I snapped the correct car. In fact, if you look closely, you will be able to see Prince Charles in the back seat in the photo.
Prince Charles drives by
The excitement being over, we said good-bye to Gary and Jan Bloomberg, and thanked Gary, the policeman, and then two women from the US asked if they could see the photo of the alleged Prince. They were Sandra and Deana, a pair of very sweet sisters on their first trip to London, and we were more than happy to oblige. In fact, we helped get them to the Tube station and onto the correct train to their hotel. What an amazing hour. This is the "essence" of travel to us, and that which is so very important - the fleeting interaction that one has with people along the way, like ships passing in the night. We have made so many friends that way. In fact, if it is true that you are enriched by the people in your life, then Carol and I are wealthy. These moments are so warm to us - I call them snapshots. These people always have a special place in our hearts.
We eventually found ourselves at Timo, the Italian restaurant suggested by Aida. I had thin spaghetti and Carol had lamb and it was another delicious dinner. The wine was excellent. A very fine last supper.
We were exhausted. As usual, we had walked our way through Paris and London, and loved every step. But tonight our feet can go no further, so we caught the Tube from Kensington High Street to South Kensington, and dragged each other to the hotel, where we fell into bed with smiles on our faces. Packing for the flight home will have to wait until morning.

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