Queuing up in London

The last time I spent any time in London was 1998. Strangely, the streets were almost deserted during our first walkabout, a phenomena that we later learned occurs only once every four years and only during World Cup and only when England is on the pitch. This year’s World Cup is now only a memory, as are deserted London streets. They were teaming, teaming with people from morning to night it seemed. Fortunately for us the same could not be said of the underground as we were there on the weekend.

The crush of people on Saturday was worst (best?) at the Tower of London where they are nearing completion of an art installation – Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – to commemorate Remembrance Day, this being the Great War’s centenary. Come November 11th 888,246 ceramic poppies will have been installed in the moat around the Tower walls. Each poppy represents a British or allied forces casualty of the First World War. Visually stunning it is a very moving sight – a blanket of red surrounding the Tower’s stout walls. The crowds are huge with queues that seemed to have no beginning or ending.

I can’t imagine what it will be like on the 11th. Already the crowds are so large that a couple of underground stations have been closed as they are too congested. Our group of six learned this the hard way, having carefully planned our route, only to walk onto a deserted platform with a notice announcing closure. Our plan B, which took us close to the Tower, but on the other side of the river, was not perfectly executed, but we did figure it out eventually and started to feel maybe a bit cocky about how well we were getting on with London’s transportation system.

Saturday was a lovely, sunny day and our second destination was the London Eye. We decided to walk from the Tower to the Eye by crossing the Thames (yet again) via the Tower Bridge and then back towards our destination.

While the tide (tsunami) of people eventually diminished as we started to move upriver, the walkways were still ‘chock-a-block’ with a large variety of humanity. And guess what? Seems that almost everyone else had the same idea that we had and so we chose to skip the hour plus queue for the Eye and head back to the hotel. But not before we found a suitable pub for a pint and a bit of a nosh. Saturday evening we attended a wonderful show (Once) in the theatre district. The bus ride on a new double decker was a lot of fun and we managed to snag the front seats. I have no idea how many shows were on, but there were tens of thousands of people in the area. Seems that many revellers hadn’t realized that Halloween night was the previous night as we saw all manner of costumed curiosities. After the show ended we found a lovely little Italian restaurant (I had pizza again but they had never heard of the Mignonette) and then pushing through the crowds got back to our bus stop for the journey home. It was close to midnight. It it seemed the crowds had not diminished in any way.

Sunday was our travel day to Cape Town and with an 11 hour flight we wanted to get in lots of walking. Plan A was to walk to Buckingham Palace, then a stroll through Hyde Park. I mentioned the fact that Harrods would be near by. This seemed to seal the deal. As fate and the weather gods had it we abandoned plan A in front of the Palace seeking shelter from the rain that was lashing down. Plan B, the Tate Britain, succeeded. Then Sunday roast washed down with a pint of fine ale at another fine pub and then it was time to start making our way to the airport.

This brings me to the present moment, 49 minutes from Cape Town, and the beginning of our African adventure.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 3rd, 2014 at 5:13 am and is filed under South Africa 2014. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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