Monthly Archives: March 2013

My Travel in London 5 ~ London to York ~ You were right, Ricky.


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     “The signal is red,” the announcement echoed in the quiet underground train. I was in a tube train which was waiting at West Brompton Station in London on the early morning of March 20. It was at around 6:30 a.m. There were a few passengers in the carriage. The door kept opening and the train showed no sign of starting. That announcement was probably two or three minutes after I got on. I thought, “You were right, Ricky,” when I heard the message. London 2013 171

     I was supposed to take a rail train which left King’s Cross at 8:00. Ricky, who is an English teacher in Japan, had advised me, “You should take the underground at least at 6:30 because they often stop.” The tube train left West Brompton Station about five minutes later, but it stopped in the dark tunnel before reaching Earl’s Court, the next station. After a while, there was an announcement: “The signal is red. “You were right, Ricky,” I thought that again.

     I changed train at Earl’s Court Station to the Piccadilly Line from the District Line. King’s Cross is the 12th station from Earl’s Court. It would be a nearly 30-minute ride. There were many abandoned Metro, the newspapers, on the floor and seats of the train. So I picked one and began reading it: William Roach, a famous actor in U.K. had provoked fury by claiming that the victims of sexual abuse brought it on themselves because of their sins in their past lives….Uh-oh…

     At King’s Cross Station I went to the restroom. It was my first experience to use a pay toilet. It cost 30 pence. I had 30 pence, but I did not have 10 and 20 pence coins. The gate just accepts the two types of coins. So, I had to exchange at the machine nearby. At 7:45 the train I was supposed to ride started boarding. My coach was E. The train was filled with passengers. Most of them took out their computers and papers from their bags and started to work as soon as they sat in their seats. I was doing nothing but seeing changing scenery from the window.

     Vast meadows were spreading outside. I sometimes saw some small brick houses, sheep and horses there. The train was heading north toward Edinburgh, passing through fields covered with white snow. My destination was York, where I was supposed to see a friend of mine. She is a Japanese student at the University of Hull. The monotonous landscapes and the rhythm of the train made me sleepy. London 2013 173

     “Anything for your refreshment?” A voice of a spirited and cheerful man echoed in the carriage. He was pushing a trolley loaded with drinks and snacks. Many of the passengers stopped moving their hands on the keyboard or scattered papers before them and called out. “Coffee.” “Orange juice.” “Coffee and chocolate.” I was thinking of the word of “refreshment” while hearing their verbal exchange. I was trying to find a proper translation into Japanese. But I could not find a good one. “Refreshment” is a nice word.

     More than an hour had already passed since I got on the traLondon 2013 172in. There are six stations between King’s Cross and York…I thought that. But the train had not stopped once yet. Probably it was an express. The first station it stopped was York. Some of the passengers in my coach also got off the train there. They did not look like tourists but business people. Alighting, they rapidly disappeared from the station. I was the only person who was left behind on the platform. London 2013 176

     “Yuko-riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin!” I waved to my friend who had been waiting for me near the entrance of the station. I was relieved to see her smile. Yes, I had arrived at York!

     Actually I was going to write about the town this time. But I’ve already written quite a lot. I’ll tell you about York next time.


My Travel in London 4 ~ City, King’s Cross, Knightsbridge ~ : Slytherin!


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     Looking at Tower Bridge and Tower of London on the right, I was walking across London Bridge toward the north bank of the Themes. (I was traveling in London on March 19. The former episodes are here: My Travel in London 1, My travel in London 2, My travel in London 3) I was going to Leadenhall Market. If you are a fan of Harry Potter, you might know the place was used as the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley in the films. london 148

     Before arriving in the market, I went to the Monument (to the Great Fire of London) near Monument Tube Station. The tower was designed by Christopher Wren, who rebuilt 52 churches including St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London in 1666, and was constructed to commemorate the fire in 1677. Actually I was going to climb up the tower before I saw it in front of my eyes. Hmmm…311 steps…I had a second thought and just looked up at the tower… london 149

     Turning right toward Fenchurch Street from Gracechurch Street, soon I took a left toward Lime Street. Then when I entered a narrow passage, suddenly a shopping arcade with an impressive dome-shaped roof emerged in front of me. Leadenhall Market! The history of the market dates back to the 14th Century. That was massive architecture indeed, but it did not look timeworn at all. It was a lively market, where many office workers were enjoying their lunchtime holding beer in their hands. I regretted having sandwiches at Tate Modern again… london 152

     Leaving Leadenhall Market, I walked on Cornhill, the street which is the financial center of London. There were historical stone buildings on both sides of the street. Some of them are now used as shops of luxury brands such as Tiffany & Co., Hermes, and Paul Smith. It was interesting that the appearances were historic structures but the inside was modern shops. Shortly after I arrived at Bank Tube Station, and got on the underground there. london 154

     Using the Northern Line, I arrived at King’s Cross Station. Harry Potter and his friends had gotten on the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 in this station. There were two men in station attendant costume in front of the wall. They looked bored because there were no tourists around there. london 159-aI wondered if Platform 9 3/4was no longer a tourist attraction. Actually it still is. Two days later when I passed by the same place, more than 30 people were very excited to take photos. So, it might have been a kind of miracle I was the only person who was standing at the spot at that time.

     “Excuse me…but could you take a photo for me, please?” I asked the two men. “Of course!” They consented willingly to my request. london 160They were not real station workers, but the clerks at Harry Potter shop nearby. One of them asked to me, “Which house’s muffler would you like to wear?” When I shouted, “Slytherin!” they shouted back, “Slytherin?!” in surprise. I am a fan of Professor Snape… I thanked them and dropped by the shop. I bought a pack of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans there. Happy! london 164

     Then I used the Piccadilly Line from King’s Cross and got off the train at Knightsbridge Station. I wanted to see the Cadogan Hotel, where Oscar Wilde had stayed, and the Ecuadorian Embassy, where Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was staying…But I could not find both of them because I had not checked with a map beforehand. Besides, I was too tired to search. So, I went to Harrods and enjoyed sopping there. london 163

     It was before 5 o’clock. I did not have enough stamina for exploring in London anymore. That was why I went to Earl’s Court Station by the Piccadilly Line from Knightsbridge Station, and shopped some food at Marks & Spencer there. My last meal that day was a pack of sushi. I was interested in sushi outside Japan. Interestingly the package said, “No Raw Fish”. Basically Sushi is made from raw fish in Japan. london 169Marks & Spenser’s sushi was boiled prawn, smoked salmon and mackerel, and so on. It was quite nice, though Japan’s sushi is cheaper and more delicious. I was really tired, but was feeling content on my first day in London…

     Next day I went to York. I’ll write about it next time…

My Travel in London 3 ~ Southwark ~ : Do you live here in this church, Cat?


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     Tate Modern was being occupied by high school (probably) students…I crossed the Millennium Bridge and came to the museum. (I was traveling in London. The former episodes are here: My Travel to London 1, and My Travel to London 2) While walking on the bridge, I already passed bunches of students. Many groups of young people were coming and going before me when I arrived on the south bank of the riveropposite riverside. It was Tate Modern that stood towering in front of me. I pushed my way through flocks of students and entered the museum. london 099

     It was already in the afternoon. I was exhausted and starved. There was a café corner before me when I went through the riverside entrance. Many students were waiting for their turn to buy something. Food! Coffee! I also stood in the line. A short time later, I got a cup of coffee (Americano) and a pack of sandwiches (ham and cheese). But I could not find an empty seat there. Some students were sitting on the floor. I gave up eating there, and went out. london 101

     Luckily it was not raining or cold outside that day, and I was able to find a bench soon. Three men were playing music two benches away. I enjoyed my lunch, looking at the St. Paul far away over the river and listening to their Latin music. Occasionally some people passing by started dancing or/and singing before the musicians, and laughter broke out. It was nice to see those people. I was enjoying a sense of liberty. london 104

     By the time when I finished my lunch, the musicians had stopped playing and the riverside had become a little quiet. I went back to Tate Modern and explored on the level 2. I enjoyed seeing some paintings of Picasso and other surrealists’ works. Then I dropped by a shop of the museum. I like museums’ 106 A lot of products were beckoning at the shop. Ah…how tempting! But I was able to overcome my desire because I had to walk for a while and did not want to carry heavy things. london 117

     After leaving the museum, I passed by Shakespeare’s Globe. Next time I visit London, I will go inside. But I just looked at the theater from outside that day because it was really crowded. Then I walked through old beer brewery area and came to Borough Market. london 121

     Actually, my main destination was Southwark Cathedral. Borough Market was next to the church. In contrast with the silence of the stone-built Gothic architecture, the market was bustling with people who were enjoying a relaxing lunchtime. Delicious-smelling air was wafting. Oh, roast hog! I regretted eating sandwiches at Tate Modern a little… london 113

     When I opened the door of Southwark Cathedral, there was a completely different world inside from outside. I was in the serene hush. london 122Some people were taking their seats and saying silent prayers. I also sat down and had a rest for a while. I do not know the reason but the church was very comfortable. I went to the shop and bought the permission to take photos inside for £2.

     Interestingly they have a huge head of Jesus Christ on the alter. When I was taking that photo, a cat came to me from nowhere. It greeted me with its tail up, and was chafing between my legs for a while. london 141Does the cat live in the church? I liked the place very much because of its atmosphere and the lovely creature.

     When I went outside, it was London Bridge before me. I was crossing the bridge and going to Leadenhall Market. I’ll write about the place next time…london 138

My Travel in London 2 ~ St. Paul’s Cathedral and Temple Church ~ : Yes, I’m in London!


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     Saying Goodbye to Big Ben, I entered Westminster Tube Station. I went to Bond Street by the Jubilee Line, and there I changed trains to the Central Line and got off at St. Paul’s Station. (This is part 2 of My Travel to London. Part 1 is here: ) When I went outside of the station, St. Paul’s Cathedral towered behind me. I was too close to the church to see the famous dome. london 074

     I had bought a ticket online beforehand. Online ticket is £13 and £2 cheaper than the gate price. According to the ticket, I was supposed to enter from its west gate and did not need to stand in line waiting to buy tickets. But I did not see any lines outside. Actually, there were few people around the building. I climbed up the stairs and opened the door. It was quiet inside from apart soft murmurs. I saw several people in dim light. No one was queuing there. I showed my e-ticket to a receptionist and got a real ticket. Then I started walking slowly and quietly. london 077

     I felt it was strange to be standing in the famous place as tombs for legendary British people like Sir Winston Churchill, and as a celebration place for the 80th birthday and the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, or for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Actually it was not comfortable for me to walk on gravestones at the crypt. I was overwhelmed by the cathedral’s solemnity, magnificence, elaborateness and, air of substance, and felt stifled. I had a little giddy feeling and went out. london 079

     The outside world was bustling with cars, buses and people. I started walking on Ludgate Hill, and headed to Temple Church on Fleet Street. The church’s open time is different every day. When I visited on March 19, they opened from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for visitors. I had heard that it would be very difficult to find the church, but I found it soon. It was a little bit earlier than 11 o’clock. So, I visited Twinings Strand Shop Museum nearby. london 080There were a lot of kinds of teas in the narrow shop. I bought their newly herbal teas: Butter Mint Sensation and Raspberry and Dragon Fruit Sensation. Don’t you think both of them sound interesting?

     london 081 After leaving Twinings, I dropped by a Tesco along the street and bought a plastic bottle of energy drink. Then I went to Temple Church. As you know, this place is very famous for an important setting in the film: Da Vinci Code. I waited for their opening time, sitting on a bench near the building and 086 11 o’clock! I walked to the door and tried to open the door. But it didn’t open. While I was wondering whether it was a bit earlier, someone came out of the door. I glided in past the opening door. It was brighter inside than I had imagined. A woman at the door welcomed me gently. The entrance fee was £4. london 091

     There were many children inside. All of them were sketching something in the church. It seemed to be an educational trip from their school. The kids were doing their work without uttering a word. I just heard scratches of their pencils on paper and my own footstep. I was surrounded by peculiar silence. I felt as if time had stopped or suspended in the 094 I was looking up the ceiling for a while, probably opening my mouth, from a bench inside. I was able to relax there. I thanked  the receptionist and tried to leave. But I couldn’t open the door again. “Excuse me, but I don’t know how to open the door…” I said sheepishly to her. She smiled and replied, “You turn the knob clockwise.” Of course… london 095

     While walking, I came to the side of the Themes: Victoria Embankment. I passed under Blackfriars Bridge and walked to the Millennium Bridge. I was going to Southwark via the bridge. london 096At last I was able to see the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral from the bridge when I looked back. I was very happy to see the figure and thought, “Yes, I’m in London!”

     I’ll write about Southwark area next time…

My Travel in London 1 ~ Westminster ~: Would you stop climbing up my leg, please?


london 168      I opened the curtains and looked out of the window. It wasn’t raining. “Oh, I’m lucky!” I was at a room of a hotel near West Brompton Tube Station in London on the morning of March 19. I arrived at Heathrow Airport the previous night, when it was raining hard. Besides, the weather forecast on the Internet had said the week’s precipitation would be more than 90% when I had checked in Japan. london 010

     I got dressed immediately and headed to the restaurant in the hotel for breakfast. I was supposed to have continental breakfast, but I upgraded it to a hot meal by paying £5.50. It was at around 6:30 a.m. but there were more than 10 people in the restaurant. There were fruits, salads, sausages, bacons, hams, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets, bread, cereals, juices, tea, and coffee on the counter. Everything  was delicious, and I ate too 017

     It was my first time to visit London. Actually, it was also my first time to go abroad by myself. I was thrilled to plan where to go that day while having breakfast. I had many places I wanted to see. I got up early because I wanted to spend my time well. After finishing breakfast, I left the hotel before 8 o’clock. london 019

     It was about a five-minute walk from the hotel to the underground station. A man was giving Metro, the newspaper, to people in front of the station. Wow! You can get a newspaper for free in London! It was my first time to use the subway in U.K., but I was able to pass the gate smoothly with an Oyster, which is an IC card for taking buses, subways and trains in 026

     London’s subway is very easy to use. If your destination is west from your present place, you just go to westbound platform. That’s all. So, I did not need to check the underground map during my trip. First, I changed the train at Earl’s Court, and then got off at St. James’s Park Station. My first destination was Buckingham Palace. I walked through Petti France and got to the palace. It took about 15 minutes from the 029

     There were no tourists near the palace. I just saw some people who appeared to be in a hurry to get to their offices. It was before 8:30. It might have been a little bit too early for sightseeing. I heard something like drums while I was taking photos of the palace. I started walking towards the sound, and saw some guards were marching in Wellington Barracks. I was happy to see moving guards because the guards at Buckingham Palace looked like statues…london 031

     The place I was standing and looking at the march was an entrance to St. James’s Park. I decided to walk through the park to my next destination: Westminster Abbey. People were passing by at a quick pace. They must have been in a hurry to their work places, but I was in no hurry. I was walking at leisure. london 032There were many birds and squirrels in the park. When I stopped walking to see the squirrels, one of them came to me and started climbing up my leg. “Would you stop climbing up my leg, please?” I said that in Japanese. Oh, it understood Japanese! It stared at me for a while, then climbed down and went up to a fence and saw me off. Daffodils were beautiful in the park…london 034

     When I arrived at Westminster Abbey, I saw hundreds of people waiting to enter the church. Most of them were students on school trips. I lost my drive to see the inside of the building when I saw so many people. london 039So, I went to Dean’s Yard instead of the abbey. You can go there through the gate of the yellow building next to Westminster Abbey. There is a building called the Cloisters near the yard. london 043Actually, I was going to a café named Cellarium in the building. But I didn’t have some tea there because it was before 9 o’clock, when they would open, and I was still full. That was why I just walked around the corridors peacefully. london 046

     There was a demonstration in Parliament Square across from Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. The participants looked like students. london 067All of them were wearing the same masks of Mr. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of U.K. and holding the same bags written “IF”. london 068Afterwards I discovered that it was to remind the chancellor to keep his promise on overseas aid spending before he revealed the 2013 budget next day. It is wonderful that young people are interested in politics and think seriously about the world. Sadly most Japanese students are not interested in such issues… london 061

     After seeing the flashmob, I left Westminster and headed for St. Paul’s by tube. I’ll write about Holborn and City area next time.