2011 UK and Ireland travel blog

Buckingham Palace


Pat unlocking the Gates at Buckingham

Berkeley Square

Carnaby Street - how it has changed

Pub next to where the T-shirts are

The T-Shirt Shop

London has its homeless too

Pat Planking with Oscar Wilde

Day 3 and it is off and on raining but still very warm and very humid. Twice a day showering is suggested. We beat most of the Germans to the hotel's morning buffet, Joan so nicely loading a plate of toast, fried tomatoes, bacon and mushrooms for me while she again chose some of that ghastly black/blood pudding. Mother got bold and put some on her plate but alas could not bring herself to even nimble. It looks like a hockey puck that has been sliced in half and then pounded with mysterious ingredients. The Germans sure like it, along with generous helpings of sausage, ham and that mounded and oaty, off-yellow mass referred quite perplexingly as scrambled eggs. Much to my chagrin, this being Sunday, I was denied my Starbucks until well past 9 AM.

The three of us walking a lot today in the off and on drizzle. Down to Trafalgar Square where now a pigeon is rare. Eradicated due to extreme defecation and threat of disease, falcons are now used to keep them away. From there we made our way down The Mall to Buckingham Palace pausing frequently to take touristy photos. Walking around the Palace, we headed up to Hyde Park and then into the luxury and wealth of Mayfair. Immaculate and beautiful with exquistly maintained ancient apartments, Mayfair is truly a marvel.

Making our way into Berkeley Square, we paused for reflection. When I was a youngster, Mom and Dad would often sing the song A Nightingale In Berkeley Square to each other.

Though they never said so, I knew it was their song. Dad was stationed here in London during The War before being deployed to Belguim and this song was so popular during The War. Mom sat on a bench in quiet remembrance a thousand thoughts no doubt filling her mind for here she was indeed in Berkeley Square. Then we walked up to Oxford Street and the so crowded shopping district. And here I must pause for casual observations. I am a people watcher, I notice things. So some unscientific statistics must be relayed.

In all our walking about London I have seen 6 dogs, 2 males wearing baseball-style caps,

at least 50% of the people in London smoke, 0 pedestrians have the right-of-way anywhere, thousands of women wear Muslim head scarves, hundreds of women dress in full black burkas and 26 women I noticed walk around in full face veils. Now I haven't that since I was in Morocco in 1970. Shocking indeed...a sign of things to come?

London is crowded, a lot of people all seemingly in a hurry and it shows. Our common and much mocked Canadian courtesy is unknown here. Pedestrians give no room to other and if one is not constantly dilligent one will be walked into and bumped aside. Even persons like Mother with a cane. We took a cab back from Oxford Street to the hotel as Mom could not do anymore walking and that was an experience. Without regard to pedestrians, traffic or signage or signals the cabbie flew through streets, alleys and lane, sometimes I swear taking corners on two wheels and quickly delivered us thankfully safely. We lunched at another terrific pub, the English serving American portions which are immense and delicious. Back to the hotel, Mom done for the day Joan & I refreshed then headed back out. Up to the huge market at Covent Gardens where I bought a terrific

picture of Keith Richards in all his wizened and wrinkled glory. Keef is such a cool guy, exquisite musician, immense talent, the brains and soul of the Rolling Stones and a wonder he is still alive. We gradually made our way through the huge crowds up to Soho and all its Bohemian wonder. The multi cult shops with unknown ethnicities, the hippies, the beatniks, the freaks, the tourists, and enchanting old vinyl record stores and vintage clothing stores and alas we haphazardly and unknowingly seemed to wander through a portion of the "alternative-lifestlyle-persons" area. Over to Carnaby Street that has so changed in 40 years, we found the little shop we were seeking and the adjacent pub.

A couple of months ago we met an English guy at the Richmond Steveston Farmer's market and he was wearing a Motown T shirt I knew I had to get. So we got to talking. "Carnaby Street, mate, a little vintage clothing shop that sells unique new T shirts." He drew me a map and a precise one as it happened. "And a great pub next door mate where I have a few pints." Check and check,some things work out just right, ain't life grand!

Joan and I wandered back through Picadilly Circus, Charring Cross and as evening approached the street bums began their slow precise settings for the night. We dined lightly at a pub up off Drury Lane right next to the Theatre Royal where the Monty Python crew made its immortal live album. Nudge nudge wink wink. Its been a day. London is overwhelming. It pulsates endlessly. One simply cannot see everything. We are bagged so until tomorrow this is again us signing off. Love to all

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