London fog has finally made an appearance. It kind of set the mood for the day as soon as I walked out the door.
Newbold College is located in Bracknell, about an hour out of London. My journey took much longer than it should have because of uncertainties and second guessing. A whole other hour was frustratingly added to my trip, meaning I wasn’t going to be able to participate in something I was hoping to do, but what matters is I made it.
Pr. Vili, who I met last night, picked me up from the station and took me to the campus. The fog made it difficult to truly wander and take pictures, so I hung around the church while he packed up a video camera and other equipment he had been using.
The afternoon was relaxed and honestly kind of slow. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I guess it was nice to have a change of pace.
I was definitely given a glimpse of life in England outside the ever rushing London heartbeat. Quaint homes in small villages, big Walmart like one-stop-shops, people knowing all the other people in the stores. It was pleasant and refreshing.
The way back was probably what made my evening though. Two adorable little girls, aged 4 and 7, sat by me in the train and took a liking to me. The chatted with me, with smiling parents looking on, the entire way back to Waterloo Station.
Earlier in the day, I was kind of feeling like today was a bit of a loss. There are so many other things I could have done. But then a phrase one of my teachers in college loved to say came to mind, “Not every measure has to be a masterpiece.”
Every moment of every day doesn’t have to be grand and amazing. It would be more tiring and less special if they were. So, I am thankful for today, and for the fact that I was able to come home early to enjoy the beginning of Sabbath and rest.
And tomorrow is New Year’s Eve! I hope to have some good stories to share with you. 🙂
A good friend of mine told me that a friend of his that he had met while studying abroad was going to be in London the same time as me and decided to connect us.
Today I met Bruno, along with Barbara and Jennifer, for an amazing whirlwind of a day.We met at the National Gallery and got to know one another a bit as walked through the exhibits.
There were fantastic paintings from well-know and not so well-known artists. Probably my favorites were Paolo Veronese’s “The Adoration of the Kings,” and Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”
After seeing what we wanted at the Gallery, we decided to head towards the British Museum. Except… I lead us in the wrong direction, and with plans later in the day, we wouldn’t have had the time to do everything we wanted. Thankfully, we ended seeing things that some had not had a chance to see yet.
We crossed the Waterloo Bridge and then around to the Eye, back across on the Westminster Bridge up into Leicester Square. It reminded me very much of New York City, with all the lights and enormous stores, including four stories of M&Ms! Such a ridiculous amount of chocolate.
Our group began to dwindle a bit as we began a walking tour. Not even 10 minutes into the tour, the three of us left decided we would rather spend our time doing other things. So we headed to Piccadilly Circus.
What a gorgeous, expensive, and very busy area of London! If I thought Leicester Square was like New York City, Piccadilly Circus was even more so. The tight, constantly shifting crowd, the bright lights (including Europe’s largest LED screen, smaller only than the one in Times Square), and the shopping were all so reminiscent of the Big Apple.
It’s this kind of thing that I don’t mind experiencing once in a while, but also makes me never want to live in a large city. There is simply too much going on all the time, and I know I need to relax my senses once in a while.
After helping another of our friends get home, Bruno and I were left together to meet with Pr. Vili, the director for media ministry of the Southern England Conference and a pastor at Newbold College.
Pr. Vili absolutely spoiled us by taking us to the largest mall in Europe, a Westfield, no less, for dinner. The shopping center was stunning and the food was fantastic. After spending some time together getting to know each other, Pr. Vili left for home and Bruno and I were left to wander the halls of the mall.
We popped into some stores and watched people skate in the indoor ice rink, but probably the most memorable moment was at the Sky TV kiosk. They have a machine that showed some well-known characters from children’s films (all of which I know, of course) in different poses that you had to match. It was too adorable not to try, and they had pictures from Zootopia (known as Zootropolis here), so I had to do it.
On my first round, I had 100% success at matching the poses and the salespeople running the kiosk were so impressed that they decided to buy Bruno and I tea. We were so taken aback, but completely appreciative.
We ended up hanging out at the kiosk for several minutes just chatting and left feeling like we had made new friends. What a blessing!
Getting home late several nights in a row is starting to get to me, but I am just so thankful for all the wonderful things God has blessed me with and used me to be a blessing to others. I pray that the rest of my time here in London will continue to be the same.
I didn’t walk quite as much today as I did yesterday.
Mostly, it was because two of the attractions I went to involved standing in line and the third was all sitting.
With a rather late start to the day, I decided to pick a point and explore around it. I had mentioned in an Instagram post that I was planning on getting closer to Big Ben today and I very well succeeded.
The clock tower was looming over pedestrians right at the exit of Westminster Underground Station.
As the Parliament building was right there, I thought I would visit. It wasn’t something I had done before and was hoping maybe to get closer or even inside Big Ben.
However, admission only allows so many entrants every 20 minutes and since I had come by lunch time, a good portion of the day was already full. The next available entrance time was three hours or so later.
I took it anyways, figuring I could fill my time with something else nearby. And of course, right next to the Parliament Building is Westminster Abbey.
I can’t remember whether I went into the Abbey last time I was in London. Since no pictures are allowed inside the space, I have nothing to reference. We must have gone in, but I thought it was worth to go just in case.
The Abbey is an interesting place. The hall for worship is beautiful and the sections where the choir sings, coronations take place, and the most recent royal wedding happened are exquisite. The rest is an interesting mixture of tombs, memorials, and out of the way rooms for prayer.
Some of the most interesting for me were G. F. Handel, David Livingstone, Sir Issac Newton, Henry Purcell, Charles Dickens, all three Brontë sisters, Shakespeare, and sister queens Elizabeth and Mary. There were many musicians, literary artists, politicians, and of course, members of the royal family from across (literally) centuries were represented there.
Westminster is an active church, holding services every Sunday and holding moments of prayer every hour throughout the week. How interesting it must be to attend a church with so much history and that most people view only as a historical symbol. Also, I can’t imagine working at the Abbey.
To be in charge of music (official title being Organist and Master of Choristers) or even to be a member of the Abbey choir must be such an amazing honor and a heavy burden, knowing the great standard of musicianship that is expected.
In case anyone is interested, there is an annual apprenticeship position in the Abbey to work along the official Organist and Master of Choristers and their two assistants. There are also other vacancies In case anyone is looking for something new and interesting to do.
I left the Abbey with just enough time to grab a quick sandwich, crisps (chips), and a Kinder Egg (illegal in the States, so I had to get one) before making my appointed time to the Parliament Building.
Now this building I know I had never been in before, and I’m so glad I chose to spend the couple of hours walking through and listening to the audio tour to learn more about how the United Kingdom’s government developed and functioned.
Part of the tour included visiting the rooms where the House of Lords and the House of Commons function and debate. Everything in the hall for the Lords was red and for the Commons green. Made for some interesting items in the shop afterwards.
There was a story shared about the position known as the Black Rod (House of Lords), which is like the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Commons. Back in 1642, someone from the House of Lords wanted to arrest five members from the House of Commons, but the members of the latter house refused to let it happen. Since then, there has been an annual ceremony of the Black Rod coming to the House of Commons to summon the MP’s to the State Opening Speeh of Parliament, but the door gets slammed in his face. This is supposed to represent the autonomy of power that the House of Commons has from the House of Lords. The Black Rod then has to knock on the door three times with his staff before he is attended to and finally can make the proper summons.
It’s an interesting display of tradition and ceremony that I would like to discuss further, but not at this time.
The Parliament Building overall is very grand and majestic. Sadly, we weren’t allowed nearer or inside Big Ben. I also don’t have too many pictures to share because like the Westminster Abbey, photos were allowed throughout most of the building.
Grabbing a hot tea in the cafe before leaving the Parliament Building, I was able to ask one of the staff what I should do with my evening (that didn’t involve drinking – he found that amusing). After thinking a bit, he suggested I go up to Leicester Square where I could find some cinemas that screened a wide variety of blockbuster, independent, and vintage films.
I made my way to the square and passed by yet another throwback to memories from 2009 – Trafalgar Square, the Lord Nelson column, the National Gallery, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Maybe I’ll be able to go back there tomorrow for a proper visit!
After walking another 10 minutes or so, I finally reached Leicester Square and started looking for the cinemas. Kind of hard when they are not clearly marked on maps and you don’t have cell service… But as I wandered around trying to find them, I noticed posters for different theatre productions. Then I realized the street name on one of the posters was the same as the street I was on and it hit me – I was in the West End!
Forget the cinema, I instantly decided I was going to see a musical.
I had to make a decision fast – performance started in roughly 45 minutes and there were so many to choose from! I wanted something that wasn’t going to be easy to find in Broadway or the Kennedy Center and that had a distinct British flavor to it.
All that in more was in the delightful show, “Half a Sixpence.” For £25, I had an amazing seat in the Noël Coward Theater to a show I knew nothing about and ended up thourougly enjoying. Sweet, heartwarming, and filled with fun songs and breataking choreography (especially from the lead actor), I could not have picked a better show to be my first experience on the West End.
If you are, or will be, in London in the near future, absolutely come see “Half a Sixpence.”
I hope in my time here I will be able to see some other performances, including something in the Globe and at the Royal Albert Hall. If I plan things right, I might be able to even meet with some of the administration of these organizations. Making connections is always a good thing. 🙂
A full day is gone and another is just ahead. Keep a look out for tomorrow’s post and don’t forget to check out my Instagram: @wanderingminstrelette
It was a bit hard to get out of bed this morning, the warmth of the electric blanket just kept making me doze off. I should buy one for myself at home.
But I was excited to spend my first full day in the city, and felt doubly blessed that I was able to spend the day with my friend Brianna, who happened to be in the area visiting family for the holidays.
The day started with one of the things I had been dying to do since I came in 2009 – ride the London Eye.
Let me tell you, it is so not worth buying a ticket and then waiting in line for a printed version. Being one of the most popular attractions in town, it really makes sense to ask for the ticket to be electronic to just get into the queue for the Eye itself. Thankfully, I thought to take a screen shot, because not having constant service or wifi can make downloading things online rather difficult.
The view was wonderful. The late morning sun shone a golden touch across the Thames and the buildings, including the iconic Big Ben, stood proudly in its light.
Thankfully, the wheel turns slow enough that everyone in the glass enclosed pod can walk around and have a 360 degree view of the city with fighting for window space to snap a photo.
I’m so glad to now be able to tick that off my bucket list. 🙂
Lunch was spent in Box Park at East Croyden where I had the chance to meet with Richard Daly, director of Hope Channel UK. What a pleasant gentleman with a true heart for ministry through media! It a pleasure to hear about his plans for the channel and its programming here in the UK and discuss ideas of how to make it happen. I pray that the Lord will bless his efforts and those of his team as the move forward in this amazing and important project.
If you are interested in seeing any of Hope Channel UK’s programming, you can find them on Roku or on Sky 581, Revelation TV.
By the time Brianna and I were back on the train to Central London, the sun was already setting. But 4pm was simply too early to call things a day, so we decided to continue our adventure.
And what an adventure we had! We passed well known and lesser known landmarks of London. We, of course, had to stop by Buckingham Palace, where I attempted to recreate a photo from when I had come before.
Then we came across two war memorials. The first was fairly new, unveiled in 2012 at HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to honor the British and other Allies bombers who served during World War II. The detail in the statues was simply remarkable – they almost looked alive!
This memorial touched me because my uncle served as a tail gunner in a bomber during WWII. I’ll have to be sure to show this picture to him once I return to the States.
The second was for those who had served and died in World War 1, and had become a place to honor British soldiers across the years who had lost their lives serving their country. It became especially sobering when we came across a wreath laid on the steps of the memorial for a Tom Sawyer. His young face in the photo made it all the more poignant. War is so awful…
Not wanting to end our evening on a sad note, we walked past Wellington Arch to Hyde Park that had been completely bedazzled in order to become: WINTER WONDERLAND!
I truly have never seen a fair of such enormous proportions. There were lights everywhere, with more food and rides than anyone could ever know what to do with.
There were sections of this pop-up theme park: Santa Land, Bavarian Village, Ice Mountain, etc. Everything was so absolutely extra, it was nearly overwhelming.
Brianna and I decided simply to walk around and take in the sights (as there were so many to take in), stopping periodically to eat or take a closer look at the craft stands. We got into the park at 5pm and didn’t exit until nearly 8:30pm. And we might still have not seen everything, although I’m pretty sure we saw a good 98 percent or something.
We would have stayed longer, but by 8:30pm, the cold was starting to settle in, encouraging us to say that now was a good time to call it a night.
Truly a fun and blessing-filled day. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for tomorrow!
There are many advantages to staying at an AirBnb as opposed to a hotel. A homey atmosphere, personal connection with a local, a sense of being part of wherever you are instead merely visiting. These are things you simply will never experience at a hotel.
Of course, there are disadvantages, too. Unfortunately my host was not be ready to welcome me until noon, which (combined with landing in London half an hour earlier than expected) meant I had a lot of time to kill.
Once I arrived in Ealing, though, I recognized how great a spot I had found to stay. The streets are nice, sidewalks half-covered in leaves, people fairly friendly.
My host, I’ll call her P, is absolutely lovely and had everything set out of me once I arrived. After explaining some general house rules, she left me to my own devices.
Too tired to do anything immediately (my brain was still 5 hours behind), I took a much desired nap and then set out to explore the town.
Ealing is a western borough of London, identified as a major metropolitan center in the London Plan. It used to be a rural village in the county of Middlesex and formed an ancient parish (Wikipedia).
Now there are several subsections, including Ealing Commons, where I am staying, of the greatly expanded suburb. The best know section is probably Ealing Broadway, where there are tons of shopping, restaurants, and services.
Tonight, Ealing Broadway was packed. My host had mentioned that with all the post-Christmas sales, Boxing Day is very similar to the US Black Friday. Except, from what I could see, there was No one trying to kill one another for a television… but I digress.
It was lovely walking the streets. The homes in this area are gorgeous. A church nearby my accommodations has been repurposed as a Montessori school, which I think is so amazing. I especially loved the doors. (Warning: I may post a lot of door pictures, there are so many nice ones here!)
I even ventured into various stores and bought myself a little something:
Once 5pm came around, my jet lag kicked in again. Got back rather early to the house, though you would never know by the darkness.
By tomorrow, I am sure I’ll be completely set, mentally and physically, to explore London.
Thank you for your prayers of traveling mercies, the Lord certainly heard and answered you prayers. Until tomorrow!
For the first time in my life, I’m spending Christmas at an airport.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport, to be exact.
It all came about rather last minute.
For the first time, I have a full time job that requires me to make proper vacation requests. Originally, I had wanted to travel to Eastern Europe in February, but circumstances made that very difficult, so I decided to take advantage of the two weeks of vacation for the “price” of one.
I looked into trips to South America or Asia, but not seemed to quite fit or work out. Finally, I decided to do what I should have done from the beginning–pray and ask God where I should go.
The answer came much quicker than I expected: “London.”
I had been before, back in the summer of 2009 with the New England Youth Ensemble of Washington Adventist University. It had been a blast and I have wanted to go back, but was kind of hoping to go somewhere new. However, the answer was clear.
Unsure of why, but completely sure this is what I needed to do, I made the necessary arrangements just before Thanksgiving. Quite tight in terms of a time frame for finding a plane ticket, accommodations, etc., but you know? Things fell right into place.
Which brings me to today. It was a short flight from Washington DC to Detroit, with a seven hour layover before my flight to London.
I spent a lot of that time walking (I don’t think I’ve ever reached my step goal so early in the day!), observing people, and thinking about what is in store for the next two weeks.
I have made some connections with people in London/Southern England and have some friends who happen to be in the in the city that I plan to meet up with. I did plan one official tour (can’t wait to see Stonehenge!), but otherwise my days are very free.
God is sending me here for something. Guess I’m just going to have wait and see what He has in store for me.
Oh, and I’m completely open to suggestions of things I should see or do while in London. Please, comment with suggestions and I’ll see if I can actually see them through!
I pray that each of you are spending your Christmas (or Hanukkah) exactly where you want to be–with your loved ones, making wonderful memories to cherish for a lifetime. There is truly few blessings greater than that.