A belated Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all! My holidays flew by in a whirlwind of sight-seeing and visiting friends. There are many stories to tell about the trip, so I’ll try to hit the highlights.
This trip was my first experience flying out of Derry’s wee airport. As my flight was early on Dec. 22, Margaret and John offered to drive me out to Eglinton. However, it turned out that my good friends the Smyths were going to pick up their daughter Sarah from the airport that same morning! So, John drove me to the Smyths and then the Smyths drove me to Eglinton! It was a perfect blessing.
On the trip to London, I enjoyed chatting with a nice young man who gave me tips and pointers on navigating from the airport to the city centre and beyond. So, finally, at about 1 pm, after traveling by car, plane, bus and train, I arrived at the Baron’s Court tube station, where I would walk to the Holdridges’ flat. I was expecting navigation to get tricky at that point. However, right when I exited the station, I heard my name! Mr. Holdridge was there waiting for me! Another lovely blessing.
The Holdridges are very dear family friends, and it was lovely to spend my first 4 days in London with them! After settling my things, Mr. & Mrs. Holdridge, Bekah, Rachelle and I went to tour Westminster Abbey. It was absolutely magnificent. I was astounded by the number of people buried there, including Queen Mary and Elizabeth as well as many famous authors in the “Poet’s Corner” section of the building. There were monuments to George Fredrich Handel, Jane Austen and William Shakespeare among many others. I was busily snapping away for at least an hour and a half before someone stopped to tell me photography was not allowed! Having not know about the rule, I was pleased that I had both the pictures and an unburdened conscience.
After the Abbey, we walked along the decorated streets and came upon a fairy tale in the making. How neat would it be to tour the streets of London in this!
For dinner, we found a lovely curry house called Masala Zone. The food was fabulous, and there was a promotion running, so we all got free drinks of our choosing! I got a mango smoothie and a thali, a platter assortment of different Indian dishes.
The next morning, we went to the British Museum and saw loads of fascinating artifacts from Mesopotamia, Egypt and Ancient Rome. Afterwards, we joined Mrs. Holdrige’s cousin for lunch and then went of to Harrod’s. There, we browsed the caviar and diamonds, but found none to our liking. 😉 Rather, let’s just say they were a bit out of our price range. In fact, we asked about the most expensive piece of jewelry there and found out that it is in a vault: a necklace selling for £6 million. I mumbled to Bekah that I’d be nervous to wear a necklace like that outside. One of the salesmen must have heard, because he declared with a straight face: “Ladies, let me inform you that each of our pieces comes with a personal body guard. We have three left, and you may select whichever you choose.” It was pretty funny.
On Christmas Eve, we went to the Nutcracker at the English National Ballet. It was so well done! I loved every minute. From there, we visited Trafalgar Square and saw the last installment of The Hobbit in 3D.
On Christmas Day, we went to a service at Holy Trinity Brompton, which is the church that started the Alpha program. There was great worship, a hilarious nativity skit and a communion service. When we got back to the flat, we started preparing Christmas dinner and opened some presents while everything was cooking. The meal was delicious. In the evening, I skyped the Reston/Herndon gang and enjoyed catching up. Afterwards, we had an early celebration for Rachelle’s birthday. We enjoyed cake and beer, which is actually a pretty nice combination.
The following day, I said goodbye and took the tube west to meet Katherine Sheridan, a good friend from high school. She studied abroad this semester too, and asked if I wanted to come over during the holidays to her Grandpa’s house in London. That evening, she, I and a number of her other relatives went to a “panto,” a distinctive form of theatre in the UK characterized by slapstick comedy, puns, cross-dressing and singing. Snow White and the 7 Dwarves was different from any rendition that I’d seen before, but I loved it!
The next day, we enjoyed sight-seeing, and went to Buckingham Palace, the Globe Theatre and St. Paul’s Cathedral. On Dec. 28, we all had a birthday lunch for Katherine’s Grandma, and then I bid farewell to the Sheridans and headed off to Jean and Rob’s flat in London’s east end. Jean is my brother-in-law Dave’s sister, and it was lovely to see her again and meet her new husband, Rob. That night, we went to another great curry house and split a number of different dishes spicy dishes.
The next morning, I had a museum day, and went to the Victoria and Albert, Science and Natural History museums. There were some neat exhibits on, and I particularly enjoyed the Dresses through History, Biology of You and Gemstones exhibit at each of the museums respectively.
On the following day, I went to the Tower of London. Lady Jane Grey, one of my favorite historical figures, was imprisoned, executed and buried there. At 16, she became Queen of England between Henry VIII’s son Edward and his daughter Mary. She only reigned for 9 days before she was incarcerated. Then she was beheaded at age 17 because she would not renounce her faith. It was a sobering and fascinating experience to tour the complex. I also got to see armour and artifacts from as far back as the 1200s! Sadly, I was unable to see the crown jewels because the queue was extraordinarily long.
After that, I went on the the Globe Theatre to see a production! I got one of the “groundling” tickets, so I stood for the full three hours of the play, but it was well worth it! The show was called “The Knight of the Burning Pestle” and would have been performed around the time of Shakespeare. I stood next to a young man who had studied abroad in London several years ago and is now a Shakespearean actor. It was nice to chat with him during the breaks in the show.
When I returned home, Jean, Rob and I walked to one of the oldest pubs in London for dinner. It dates back to 1520! We met Rob’s brother Graeme there, and his wife Amanda and daughter Zoe. I had a classic fish pie.
On New Year’s Eve, I headed off to the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair to see long time friend Bridget. She was in London for the week and it was lovely to spend New Years Eve and New Years Day together. We enjoyed walking around to Buckingham Palace and Kensington Gardens and catching up. For lunch, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the top of Selfridge’s Department Store. The Restaurant was called “The Chalet” and was inspired by the Swiss.
That evening, we dressed up for an New Year’s Eve event at The Savoy. It was so elegant! Bridget and I enjoyed cocktails while chatting and listening to jazz piano and saxophone. The musicians played several of my favorite artists, like Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. At midnight, we saw the fabulous fireworks over the Thames! Then, we had fun taking a rickshaw part of the way back to the hotel. It was sad to part when Bridget returned to DC the next day, but it was lovely being able to spend time together.
Back at Jean’s, we three enjoyed the first day of the New Year with classic Alfred Hitchcock thrillers Psycho and Rear Window. The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast together and attempted to take a selfie of the three of us…we struggled. Then I headed off to the airport. 🙂
It was a simply fabulous holiday and I am so thankful for everyone who played a part in it! Cheers to the New Year. May 2015 be better than all that came before.