Um, where’s my debit card?
First full day in London. Up at 6:30 so that I could get a proper shower before Richard had to get ready for work. It’s interesting – I had to turn the hot water heater on and wait 10 minutes for it to heat up first.
I went into town with Richard then was left to my own devices. We both decided umbrellas were not necessary for the day. We both were wrong. Although it was just cloudy most of the day (it started out perfectly clear, hence the decision), there were some showers. Thank goodness for cafes. I stopped by the monument to the great fire of 1666, then walked on to St. Paul’s cathedral, where I hiked to the top. The very top. There is some discrepancy in the number of stairs I actually climbed – the church says 434, although I’m not sure to what level that is. Lonely Planet say 530. Either way, my legs felt it. I also think I’m about the cutoff height for comfort. I had to duck a lot, and there were some very skinny corridors, but someone like my 6’8″ father would not have enjoyed it. But it was so worth it – the view from the very, very top of the dome was just brilliant.
After St. Paul’s I passed Old Bailey (the criminal courts, but I couldn’t go in because I had a cell phone, a bag, and a few other things that aren’t allowed in) and the Royal Courts of Justice. I stopped briefly in the Covent Garden Market, which is a bit touristy. Then I walked on to Trafalger Square, then popped into the National Gallery briefly (VERY briefly).
I wandered over to Buckingham Palace, where I realized it was 11:45, and the changing of the guard was occurring. Although I didn’t see them march in (but did see what I believe to be the group of relieved guards marching out), I did hear and see the band playing behind the gates. When I was still a good ways off, I swore I was hearing things, as I thought it was the Phantom of the Opera being played. I was correct – a medley of the Phantom songs were indeed on the bill. A friend tells me they alternate among the military branch bands, but I’m not sure which was playing today.
After that experience (I took some photos, mostly over heads as the crowds were quite large), I walked to Westminster Abby. The plan was to tour that, then take a look at Big Ben / Parliament. I opened my wallet to get out some money, and . . . my debit card was gone. I had stopped at a Citibank branch (there aren’t many, so I had my eye out) to get cash earlier in the morning. Unlike my bank in the states, the bank here takes one’s card and holds it for the duration of the transaction. I got my cash, got my receipt and was on my way. Needless to say I turned around right quickly and walked back to the bank – by the time I got there about 90 minutes had passed. Luckily, the machine kept the card – the folks at the bank heard the beeping and tried to find me but couldn’t. So at least the person after me didn’t take my card or anything. Unfortunately, they can only access the ATM twice a day, so they will retrieve my card in the morning Wednesday. But as I said to a friend, it could have been worse, no harm was caused, so no stress, no worries.
After that fun, I caught the tube to Oxford street for some shopping – I hit Topshop, but the fashions were a bit not of my style, so I passed. I walked back to where I started the day, then looped nearly all the way back again looking for a shop I had passed in the morning selling something I wanted. It took a few tries to find it, but I was successful. Now I’m back at the flat, resting a bit before heading to meet Richard to get some noodles and see Pirates of the Caribbean. I always feel more like I’m really in a city when I do something normal, like grocery shop or see a movie.
Tomorrow (after I retrieve my sad little bank card) I’m supposed to meet Vanessa, who is flying in from Dublin. Not sure what’s on our agenda, or how we’ll connect, but I’m confident we’ll find a way.