QXZ's London Invasion, Part Eight
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Paul is dead
on the steps of the palace.
Grabbed breakfast at a pastry shop in Earl's Court Road. Interesting that some cafes charge you more if you're eating in rather than taking your food out. I think it's a tax thing. Regardless, this £2.74 isn't going to be very filling. I should have just ordered "the breakfast". Aargh! Why is hot chocolate always too hot?
The hostel was remarkably quiet last night and I actually got a fair amount of sleep. Still didn't manage to leave before 11:00 this morning, though. I'm hopeless.
Realized I could legitimately buy a souvenir mug of some kind, as I don't own any useful mugs. Then I could make warm chocolate, just the way I like it. Ha!
The man sitting down the row from me is looking at me sideways as I pull the raisins out of my Belgian roll and stir my hot chocolate. Am I violating some obscure taboo?
Overshot the Tube station I wanted and got off at Monument to take a look at Wren's monument to the Great Fire of 1666. Hard to believe how much of the city was destroyed in that fire, and how much work Wren got because of it.
That's a shame: the yellow-leaved tree in St. Paul's Churchyard that I wanted to re-photograph by daylight has lost all its leaves. Ah well.
SUBTUS CONDITUR HUIUS ECCLESIAE ET URBIS CONDITOR CHRISTOPHORUS WREN, QUI VIXIT ANNOS ULTRA NONAGINTA, NON SIBI SED BONO PUBLICO. LECTOR, SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS, CIRCUMSPICE. OBIT XXV FEB. AETATIS XCI AN. MDCCXXIII
-Wren's epitaph, directly under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. Bold and punctuation are mine. "Reader, if you need his monument, look around." That, not to be blasphemous, is goddamn right. To be capable of creating a place like this...
The ceiling over the quire is a glittering mosaic in blues, reds, greens and gold. It's not original, unfortunately; several German bombs crashed through the roof of the cathedral during the War. The chapel in the apse, which appears to feature the only stained glass here, is the American Chapel. It's dedicated to the British-based Americans killed in WWII. Somebody put a huge scratch into the glass over the book of the names of American dead. I wonder if that was intentional?
"Up the stairs and to the landing." 259 spiral steps up to the Whispering Gallery, so called because I should be able to hear the whispers of people on the other side of the dome. Doesn't seem to be be working, though. Hundreds of people have scratched their names into the wall up here.
"Up the stairs and to the hall." Another 113 spiral steps to the exterior Stone Gallery. The view is excellent, although blocked by low columns. It'll be better further up.
Made it! Up more scary spiral stairs, and I'm all the way up on the dome. Amazing view of the whole city! Too bad it's hazy. This city is dense, and it seems to stretch to the horizon.
The sun's hitting it: I can make out Christ Church Spitalfields. The Wren/Hawksmoor axis. Another axis is that of the skyscrapers. London, overall, isn't a very tall city. But there's a line of new, newer, and not yet built highrises on a line from Canary Wharf northward. It nearly runs through the heart of The City; a modern ley line? Down the stairs now.
Well. That was hard on the ol' tendons. God, how I hate spiral staircases.
Buckingham Palace, as a building, is amazingly unimpressive. It's just like any large, neo-classical government building you can see in most national capitals. The palace gates and the gigantic statue of Victoria (REGINA : IMPERATRIX) are more interesting than the palace itself.
The two guards posted are gray-coated, not red. Their occasional marching up and down comes off more as cute than anything else. Maybe it's the big, furry hats. Aww...wook at da widdle guards.
Lethargy? Laziness? I spent two hours online then went for dinner. It's friday night in London and I can't think of anything I'd really like to do. That's not overly surprising; even at home I'm not likely to go out by myself. Movies here are far more expensive than I'm comfortable with (though they'll probably be up to $15.00 in NYC before three years are up), and drinking by myself in a pub isn't all that appealing. I suppose I'll go see what the hostel-mates are doing this evening. It's almost guaranteed to be a club, which, again, doesn't quite float my boat. They're going to be up forever tonight. Maybe that's why my energy is low, surprise surprise. Bad sleep doesn't exactly recharge the batteries.
I'm drinking a Pepsi; Charmayne would he happy. She's been to London... maybe bringing her some lame souvenir isn't really necessary. I suppose the flip side of that is that I should bring her something really cool. Argh. I love giving things to people, but I hate shopping for them.
Jebus! This pizza's almost entirely crust! Yeah; that's a good value. Oh well; Lonely Planet warned me about the food.
According to my watch (though I know now just how accurate that is), I've been in London exactly a week as of right now. Wow. It's really blown by me. Of course, my issues with getting up late helped that along considerably.
Ah, no, it's a night in for the migrant workers. Generic whisky and TESCO cola. U2 on the boombox, Frasier on the TV.
Ivan, one of the Spaniards, has a cell phone which rings Take On Me. Urgent conversation, in and out the door, about jobs and flats. An Australian visitor has decided he'll be more intelligible to Aisa, the French drinker, by dropping prepositions, plural endings, articles and most pronouns from his English. Two semi-drunken Ozzies singing along to You're So Vain on the radio.
Ivan squeezes his Kenny keychain (squeaky squeaky) and says "Yeah, I love Kenny, man." Squeaky squeaky.
Excerpted from QXZ's travel journal, 12/7/01.
QXZ endorses nothing.
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