London: On my own

Sam's time was, of course, required elsewhere at times while we were in London, and while I would have much preferred to have him with me, I did reactivate my long-dormant ability to enjoy going places and doing things by myself. I may even enjoy it MORE than I did in college, due to its current novelty and the fact that it's not accompanied by dramatic thoughts of "oh, will I NEVER have someone to love me?" :)
Sam was busy meeting people and "networking" and keeping the students at the workshop enthralled. I did get to be with him for some of that, which I always enjoy. But I wasn't going to spend ALL my precious time in London sitting around watching him sign autographs! :)
One thing I loved was when I got to walk through Hyde Park Sunday morning on my way to church. After the earlier days of cold and rain, it seemed like the most beautiful and glorious morning in the history of the world. I'd left early enough that I could spend all the time I wanted dawdling and wandering and daydreaming and taking pictures, and it all felt so strange and wonderful. I kept looking around for children that I'd forgotten, and not finding any.

Bluebells everywhere!
There was hardly anyone else around, and that made everything feel even more like it was there just for me. It was so serene and quiet, with the birds chirping, and faint city and traffic sounds beyond!
When I was here in college, they sent all the BYU students out to help in different wards further afield, so I had only actually been to the Hyde Park Chapel once or twice. I didn't remember much about it except, vaguely, how to get there: across the park, turn at the Royal Albert Hall. It's on Exhibition Row, right across from the Science and Natural History Museums and nearly next to the V&A. Great location.
As I got closer I was treated to the sight of this pink Lamborghini with painted money flying around on it. I was hoping its owner would be at church, but no such luck. :)
Even though I didn't remember everything, I was pretty sure the church looked different than it used to. They remodeled it for the Olympics, I guess, and made it into a small visitor's center as well as a chapel. There's a beautiful Thorvaldson Christus in the front window. It all looks so pretty. I love it! The missionaries inside said they get all kinds of people just wandering by (on their way to the museums, or whatever) and coming in out of curiosity. What a fun mission assignment that would be!
After church, I rode the tube down to Westminster again, and accomplished something I always WANTED to do when I was in London before, but didn't get to, which is going to a church service at Westminster Abbey. I really loved it. I thought there was a lovely spirit and solemnity to it. They had everything (all the calls and responses and so forth) nicely written out on a program so even people like me could participate and follow along. And I even knew some of the hymns! There was a nice familiarity about singing with everyone else. The organ was much grander and more enveloping than anything I've heard (or played) in our chapel before, though! It gave me goosebumps. And the light coming in through the rose windows…utterly transportive. And then at the end of the service the organist launched into something very modern and clamorous by Messiaen, and it took us all quite by surprise. It sounded like an animal had landed on the keys, or perhaps a falling gargoyle. NOT very reverent, although I'm sure the organist had a wonderful time playing it. When I asked if, as a church organist myself (ha ha), I could go up and see the organ, the nice usher politely refused, but did comment, "Did you hear the postlude? Wasn't it terrifying?" Yes…yes it was.
Map room, in the underground Cabinet rooms. You can see the pins and notes and strings, where the troop movements and battle lines were plotted as they occurred.
Another thing I got to do on my own was going to the Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms from World War II. I don't think I got there on my last visit (and the Churchill Museum section is new) so I was happy to stumble upon them while wandering around the city. I had been reading about World War II in preparation for going to Berlin, and because we'll be studying it next year, so I was really interested to get a feel for what London was like during that time. I haven't yet gone so far as to read the three-volume biography of Churchill that my brother is reading, but it's on my list for this summer! He is a fascinating man (Churchill, not my brother, I mean, though of course Philip is quite fascinating as well).
Near the war rooms is St. James's Park, which was packed with people that day because it was so lovely outside. I took my time looking at all the birds and flowers, and watching people. It's nice to be alone in a crowd sometimes. And it is a pretty great feeling to just follow any whim, and do whatever you feel like doing without consulting a single other person about it! But it would…no doubt…get tedious over time? (I have to tell myself this so I don't get too wistful as I talk about it.) :) I remember how much I loved riding the tube all over the place, trying to find a new garden or a park to study in, last time I was in London. Pretty gardens are my favorite, and I was so happy we had a few nice days/hours while we were here this time so I could get outside and enjoy them! 
I always feel so important when I'm somewhere by myself. I don't know why; you'd think I'd feel much more important when I hold seven infant lives in the balance. But I think when I'm alone, I imagine that other people are looking at me admiringly, saying to themselves "Look at that capable woman, striding along so confidently by herself. She must be going somewhere important, perhaps to a conference or a summit of some kind." Or, "That lone woman there seems to really have this subway system figured out; see how she inserts her card and turns unerringly through the correct doorway without even consulting the map! She must have lived here for ages." Ha! Maybe because I'm imagining stories and lives for everyone else I see, I feel almost a new person myself as well. Not to mention there is lots of time to let your mind go where it will, when you hardly have to say a word outside of your own thoughts all day! I love it. In moderation, anyway.
I loved this jumbled collection of roofs and towers in the distance. So romantic and Londonish!
Closer roofs and towers.
Past St. James's park is Buckingham Palace, which I'd never realized, having mostly gone everywhere underground. I'd been past all the landmarks, but the layout of the city was always essentially a mystery to me, even though I knew the Tube map well. And I never did go before to see the Changing of the Guard, since people had told me it was crowded and hard to see and not really worth the time. So it was fun to walk by Buckingham Palace and stop to peer through the gates with all the other tourists, and see the guards standing faithfully at attention.
I loved the flowerbeds and the ornate wrought-iron fences.
Detailed down to the fancy E, for Elizabeth, I presume.
The trip wouldn't have been truly complete without a visit to my favorite road in all of London. (I felt sure I'd written about it in this post, but I guess not specifically. That's a picture of it, though.) It's near Kensington Palace and houses a bunch of embassies and billionaires. The houses are under a row of arching trees and behind beautiful tall gates, and some of them have little guard houses in front. The street is lit with only gas lamps, and it's closed to through traffic, so you can walk along it in the quiet and hear the gas lamps hissing and feel you've been transported to another time and place. I used to walk down it at night with friends, or even alone, and I always felt safe there (it's probably the most well-protected street in the city, what with all the billionaires and their billions!). I feel like I had so many dreams and thoughts and ponderings there, they must be lingering there still. It is a place outside time for me, and I wanted so much to go there with Sam! We weren't able to get away for the first few nights, and even though I ran there a couple times in the morning, I was worrying that Sam wouldn't get to see it WITH me and that was unacceptable! But it all worked out. We finally got there for a lovely midnight walk and we even got to show some of the other instructors the place too, although I'm sure it wasn't half as magical for them as it was for me!

4 comments

  1. Ahhhhh. London: on my own might very well have been the part of your trip I would most like . . . for my own!

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    1. I wish I could have taken you with me. :)

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  2. I remember those single, college-age dramatic thoughts :) -- and it's so fantastic that you were able to go back to those experiences and places with the one you love! Thank you for letting others come along on your journey in a way with all your lovely descriptions and thoughts!

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    1. Ha ha. Reading my old journals is a horrifying experience. But it's a bit of a comfort knowing I wasn't the only loony one. :)

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