Monthly Archives: April 2013

My Travel in London 10 ~ North and South Kensington ~ I’ll be back!

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     Trees were swaying in the heavy rain and the strong wind. I was having breakfast at the hotel, looking out of the window. Has my luck run out finally? I had not needed to use an umbrella until the previous day since I arrived at London on March 18 in spite of the chance of precipitation being more than 90 % during the week. (The former episodes on my trip are here: My Travel in London 1, My Travel in London 2, My Travel in London 3, My Travel in London 4, My Travel in London 5, My Travel in London 6, My Travel in London 7, My Travel in London 8, and My Travel in London 9) That was my last morning in London. I was supposed to leave for Japan that evening on March 22. The weather forecaster was warning of the worsening weather repeatedly on TV on the wall. London 2013 303

     After finishing my last breakfast at the hotel, I dragged myself back to my room to do my packing. I had nearly four hours until the check-out. I did not want to hang around in the heavy rain, but I decided to go out. I wanted to shop in a local supermarket. I would be able to come back to my room and to put the things I bought in the store in my pack in four hours.

     My luck was still lasting! Amazingly, it was just drizzling when I went out. It was only necessary to pull up the hood of my jacket. Before going shopping, I decided to drop by an old house of George Orwell, the author famous for Animal Farm and 1984. I walked to West Brompton Station and took the underground to Notting Hill Gate. Nathan, an English teacher in Japan, had mentioned the place before I left Japan. Notting Hill Gate is just the third station from West Brompton. London 2013 306

     It was snowing when I came out from the North Exit of Notting Hill Gate Station. But it was not so bad. I pulled over the hood and began walking in the powdery snow. I walked along Pembridge Road and then turned left at the second corner to Portbello Road. Then soon I found on the right side the round-shaped blue plaque, which is a historical marker set up at the places of famous people in U.K. Young George Orwell lived there in 1927 after coming back from Burma to become a writer after resigning as an officer of the Indian Imperial Police. London 2013 307

     I was able to locate the old house easily but I could not find “The Travel Book Shop” or “The Blue Door” eventually because I had not researched beforehand. But I was happy to be in Notting Hill as if I were in a filmic scene. All of the shops and most of the stalls had not opened yet. I walked back to the tube station. London 2013 308

     I got off the underground at Gloucester Road station. It had stopped raining and snowing. I walked toward the north and turned left at the first crossing. It was about a 10-minute walk along Cromwell Road to Sainsbury’s, the supermarket. When I was browsing through the shop, an elderly woman spoke to me, “Excuse me, but could you read this for me? I forgot my glasses!” She pointed at the bottom of a box of tea. London 2013 309

    

“Um…it says 10 sachets.”  

“10 sachets?”

“Yes, 10 sachets.”

“Oh, thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome.”

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     It was just a small interaction, but I was happy because it was my first time to communicate with a local person apart from clerks in London. I enjoyed the slow and peaceful atmosphere in the store on a weekday morning. I bought some snacks, sweets, and bread there, and went back to my hotel.

     When I turned on the TV, a reporter was talking about the terrible snow storm in the northern part of U.K. I worried about Yuko, who was going to Wales that day, and was about to text her, when I noticed a message from her had arrived in my phone. She was concerned about my condition and prayed for my safe return. Yes, I had to leave this room. I also wished her a safe and enjoyable trip, and then hoisted my pack with lots of souvenirs. Ugh! Heavy!London 2013 317

     After checking out, I asked a clerk to keep my baggage for a while. It was only at 10:30. My travel agent was supposed to pick me up at 5:00. I had much time left. I went to West Brompton Station again and took the underground to South Kensington Station. Walking through the underground passage, I entered the Victoria and Albert Museum.

     More than 100 people were queuing inside. I wondered what exhibit was ahead. I passed them walking along the line and went to the room. It was an exhibition of David Bowie! Unfortunately it would start next day. Those people were supporting members of the museum and were able to see the exhibition the previous day. I might be able to see it if I became a member on the spot. But I would have to wait in the line for more than two hours. So, I gave up seeing David Bowie’s costumes, and went to see other treasures. London 2013 328

     Ah…I should have decided what to see ahead…I got tired soon because I walked around at random. Actually, I had already been exhausted before coming to the museum. I had been occupying a bench before one of Raphael’s big paintings for a long time, but I was not only appreciating it but also having a rest. Raphael’s works were indeed therapeutic, but not enough for me. So, I went to the café on the ground floor. London 2013 321

     Wow! There were many kinds of food, sweets, and drinks in the cafe! It was around 11:30. Many people were enjoying their breakfast, brunch, or lunch. I decided to have early lunch there. I ordered smoke salmon and cream cheese sandwiches. The clerk asked me smilingly, “Would you like salad?” So, I replied, “Oh, yes. Well…some green salad and that carrot’s one, please.” Then I was very surprised at the amounts of the salads she served. In addition, I was astonished at the weight when I received the tray from her. I wobbled to an empty table. London 2013 319

     The sandwiches and the salads were excellent! If I had a much bigger stomach, I could eat them up…I enjoyed my lunch, reading a book. I had dropped by a book shop in the museum before coming to the café and had bought a copy of Walk London. It is a guide book for walking tours with beautiful illustrated maps. It may sound strange to buy a travel guide book several hours before leaving the place. But I had sworn to myself to come back to London! So, I was planning my next visit…CAM00931

     Actually it is tiring to keep sitting at the same place for a long time. So, I explored in the museum again, and then went out for some fresh air. It had completely stopped raining and snowing. I decided to go to see Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace. I walked on Exhibition Road and came to Kensington Road, when I felt really exhausted. I did not have that stamina to keep walking. So, I turned back and went to the Science Museum, across from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was not for seeing the exhibits, but for taking a rest at a café. London 2013 329

     The Science Museum was filled with little kids! More than 100 pupils were lining up to buy souvenirs at the shop. They were holding something small such as erasers and excited. How noisy! And how cute! I got a pot of tea and was seated against the wall on the first floor. I was able to see the ground floor because the walls were made of clear acrylic boards. There was a big wheel in the air, and it responded to the sound when an attendant clapped her hands and flashed red lights. She was trying to attract children’s attentions. I was watching her and school kids absent-mindedly for a while. It was time to leave…London 2013 332

     I went back to the hotel and talked to the clerk who I had asked to keep my bag in the morning. He looked at me coldly and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “What?! Wh, where should I…?” I was surprised and stammered. Then he produced a big smile and slapped my back saying, “Ha ha! Don’t worry! Follow me!” He was just pulling my leg! Oh, London! I did not want to leave…In the back seat of the car where I was committing myself to come back to this wonderful city, hearing the driver talking to my travel agent in the passenger seat that he really liked to see planes. Heathrow Airport loomed in front of us…

My Travel in London 9 ~ Soho ~ Singin’ in the rain!

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     I was too tired to appreciate the exhibits at the British Museum. I was sitting down on a stool against the wall at a café and browsing through a guide book of the museum instead of looking at the real things. In the meantime, I was getting a little energy back with a cup of coffee. There was a museum shop in front of the café. I decided to look around the shop until Yuko came. (The former episodes are here: My Travel in London 1, My Travel in London 2, My Travel in London 3, My Travel in London 4, My Travel in London 5, My Travel in London 6, My Travel in London 7, and My Travel in London 8)

     Mmm…Should I have bought something with the Rosetta Stone motif? There were many kinds of souvenirs printed with the text of the stone in the Collection Shop: Rosetta Stone T-shirts, Rosetta Stone iPhone cases, Rosetta Stone calculators, Rosetta Stone notebooks, Rosetta Stone bags, Rosetta Stone mug cups, Rosetta Stone umbrellas, Rosetta Stone ties, Rosetta Stone USB stick, etc! Yuko phoned me when I was debating whether to buy one of them. She came to the main entrance. I went out of the museum without buying any goods of the Rosetta Stone. Actually you can get them anytime on the Internet. http://www.britishmuseumshoponline.org/icat/rosetta_stone So, I might buy something with the stone motif later!London 2013 295

     When I looked back, the overwhelming powerful-looking edifice was there. You know, I had entered the museum from the north entrance under construction. Wow! I had actually been at the museum! I could hardly see its precious items, though…Well, I was not supposed to feel down! Yuko and I were going to see a musical that night! I was surprised when I met Yuko again. Both of us did not know where the theatre was located exactly… London 2013 296-a

     Not to worry! We were in London, which had been named as the best city to visit in the world last year. There were many signposts with detailed maps and street names in town. Besides I could tell the direction because I had seen a map of London many times. So, without any problems Yuko and I were able to get to the theater: the Palace Theatre. We were supposed to see Singin’ In The Rain in the prominent red-brick building.London 2013 298

     Yuko and I need to eat something before the musical started. After getting the tickets, we set off to a night town of the West End. Walking from Moor Street to Old Compton Street, we were standing at the door of Café Boheme. We did not have so much time to drift from place to place. So, we decided to have quick meal there. Actually I was too tired to have good appetite at that time, but the French restaurant gave me great satisfaction. London 2013 299

     I ordered Soupe a l’oignon or a cup of onion soup and Omelette or an omelet with herbs. They were excellent! The onion soup was the best I had ever had! The golden liquid gave energy to me! Yuko had the same onion soup and hamburger with French fries. Her dishes also looked really delicious. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their food. The atmosphere of the restaurant was very nice and our waiter was gentle and good-looking! Yuko and I had a great time at Café Boheme.

     At around 7:00 we left the French restaurant and headed to the Palace Theatre. All of the doors of the theater had already opened and were swallowing up people, when we arrived. Climbing up short stairs, we saw a bar floor on the right and many excited people holding glasses there. The interior decorations were gorgeous. I was almost overwhelmed by the historical atmosphere of the theater. Mmm…Should I have worn a more fashionable dress?CAM00929

     My seat was O-14 in the Stalls. A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N and O. That is, I was sitting the eleventh row from the front. We were quite close to the stage because there was not a pit on the ground floor for the orchestra, which played above the stage. Yuko was sitting at O-15, which was next to the aisle. We were able to see the actors up close because they acted not only on the stage but also in the aisle. It was as if we were also in the scene. The stage was really wonderful. I could not understand all the actors were saying, but I really enjoyed their performances.CAM00928

     They showered large quantity of water on the stage before the intermission and the ending and the stage became like a pool. The actors splashed water to the auditorium seating on purpose while dancing. That was why people sitting from the first to the fourth or fifth row got wet. Of course, they were squealing with delight instead of complaining. The rest of the audience also cheered at the spectacle. At the end of the play, the whole audience gave a standing ovation to the actors, the orchestra, and the rest of the staff. Yuko and I had a really great time!

     It was raining when we went outside. But no one put up an umbrella. Many people from the Palace Theatre were willingly getting wet, singing in the rain “Singin’ In The Rain”! Lots of people came out from not only the Palace Theatre but also other theaters in the West End. The street was full of excited people. Yuko and I did not know where the underground station was, but we did not need a map. We were just swept along in the crowd and then arrived at Leicester Square Tube Station automatically. CAM00930

     We took the Piccadilly Line to Earl’s Court Station together. Yuko’s hotel was near Bayswater and mine was near West Brompton. We said goodbye to each other at Earl’s Court Station. Yuko went to the eastbound platform and I went to the westbound of the District Line. Yuko was supposed to go to Wales and I was leaving for Japan next day. My feeling was still running high even after I was alone. But at the same moment, I was feeling sad when I thought about my flight back on the following day…

My Travel in London 8 ~ Back to London ~ I was making a strategic plan!

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     I cannot believe I have not finished writing about my travel in London yet. This is the eighth episode on my travel in London. (The previous ones are here: My Travel in London 1, My Travel in London 2, My Travel in London 3, My Travel in London 4, My Travel in London 5, My Travel in London 6, and My Travel in London 7) I have just said “in London” above, but I was in York on March 20 and stayed in Hull that night. A friend of mine Yuko, who studies English at the University of Hull, let me stay at her dormitory. London 2013 269

     Yuko and I got up at 6:00 next morning. We shouted for joy when she opened the curtains. It was sunny! Surprisingly there were no clouds in the sky. We made a quick change and headed to the kitchen. Yuko began preparing for our breakfast in a very assured manner when we arrived there. I asked her, “Do you need a hand?” in a fashion, but I did not help her. I was just watching TV in the sitting room instead. Hmm…we looked like a sweet mother and a spoiled daughter…London 2013 276

     Wow! What a lovely breakfast! Boiled potatoes, a boiled egg, a sliced cucumber, cheese, ham, blood oranges, toast with cream and jams, and tea, which Yuko had bought in York the previous day. Everything was fantastic. We enjoyed our breakfast in a relaxed atmosphere. London 2013 275

     There is a bus stop across from the dormitory. We left the dorm and took a bus for Hull Rail Station at around 10:00. I do not know the details, but it seems that there are at least two bus companies that run buses to the station, and that the fare is different. So, I did not know how much I would pay when I got on the bus. London 2013 278

     Actually I do not know how much I should have paid still now. When I asked the bus driver what the fare to the station was (You tell the driver where to go and pay the fare when you get on the bus in York and Hull.), he said something, blocking the slot of the fare box with his left hand, and motioned me to get in with his right hand. I did not understand what he said exactly, but I got the meaning. It looked like the fare box had broken. That was why I took the bus without paying. Oh, I’m lucky! London 2013 281

      After about a 20-minute ride, we arrived at Hull Rail Station. There is a statue of a British poet Philip Larkin in the concourse. Yuko says to him, “Wish me a safe trip!” when she sets out and “I’m home!” when she arrives at the station from her journey. Well, I will say to him, “Hi, Mr. Larkin! Nice to see you again!” next time when I visit the station.

     We were going to London. Most of the scenery we saw from the train window was the rural countryside to Doncaster from Hull. Suddenly Yuko shouted, “I’ve just seen a hare!” “Where!?” I looked for the form but missed it. What I just found from the window was a power plant where a chimney and its cooling towers were billowing out white smoke. Those concrete structures looked ominous in the idyllic view. London 2013 282

     We changed trains at Doncaster to King’s Cross in London. The train was almost filled with passengers. Our seats were rear-facing table seats. It was my first time to sit at a table seat in a train. Yuko and I were sitting across the table from other passengers. At first, I felt a little awkward, but soon I noticed the advantage of our seats. Surprisingly, Yuko had prepared for our lunch: sandwiches! It was very convenient for us to use the table when we were having the sandwiches. They were, of course, delicious! 907249_502287319819908_976877235_n-a

     We arrived at London at around 2:00. Yuko was going to her hotel in Bayswater to check in and then to St. James’s Park to see daffodils. In the meantime, I was going to the British Museum. We decided to meet each other at the shop in the British Museum at 4:00 and went to each destination separately at King’s Cross. I took the underground to Russell Square. It was an about 10-minute walk to the British Museum from the station. I entered the museum from its north gate, which was under construction when I visited. London 2013 283

     My main target in the museum was that famous chunk of rock: the Rosetta Stone. As you know, the Rosetta Stone was a part of a stone pillar discovered by Napoleon’s army in the Nile Delta in the 18th Century. There are the same text written in three scripts- ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic and ancient Greek- on the surface of the stone. It is beyond renown that a French scholar Champollion deciphered the text in the 19th Century. London 2013 284

     I found the stone easier than I had imagined. The stone was sitting neatly in the Egyptian Sculpture section in the Ancient Egypt Department on the ground floor near the shop. It is wonderful to see the real thing that I learned from the textbook in my school days. I had thought the stone would be much smaller.

     London 2013 290After the Rosetta Stone, I began exploring in the museum. But I could not. I was more tired than I had thought. I could not climb up the stairs from the ground floor briskly. My legs were heavy like lead. I had to drag myself. I was walking somehow, but I did not have stamina or concentration to appreciate precious exhibits. I was just browsing. I got more exhausted because I was just walking without a plan.

       At last, I got too tired to move any more. I used all my strength that was left and bought a guide book of the museum, and then slumped in a chair at Court Café on the ground floor. It was almost 4:00, when I was seeing Yuko. Then she phoned me and said that she would arrive at the museum near 5:00. “Take your time,” I replied and decided to rest there for a while. It was funny and pitiful to scan the guide book of the museum without looking at actual things…Well, I was making a strategic plan to walk in the museum efficiently if you look at it another way…

My Travel in London 7 ~ York 2 ~ Where’s Betty?

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     I had a weak feeling in my knees after descending the tower of York Minster. Yet I was able to walk briskly because my appetite was exceeding my fatigue. Yuko and I were heading for a famous café in York: Bettys Café Tea Rooms. (Former episodes on my travel are here: My Travel in London1, My Travel in London 2, My Travel in London 3, My Travel in London 4, My Travel in London 5, and My Travel in London 6) London 2013 229

     On our way to Bettys, there was a pub named Guy Fawkes Inn across from York Minster on High Petergate. Most Japanese people might not be familiar with the name, but I happened to have an English class dealing with Guy Fawkes Night last November. I was happy to find the birthplace of the notorious plotter in U.K. by accident. London 2013 235

     Walking on High Petergate toward Low Petergate, we turned right at the first corner. Bettys Café Tea Rooms was there on Stonegate. There was a dog waiting for its owner to finish his or her lunch outside and there were many people waiting for tables inside. The left side of the café was a cake shop, where wonderful-looking sweets were arrayed on its tables and shelves, and the right side was a tea room, where people were enjoying tea and food. But it was the basement floor where we were led to after a short time.London 2013 236

     Descending the narrow circular staircase, a vast room in dim light loomed before us. There were also many people enjoying their lunch on the basement floor. After wavering, Yuko ordered “Breakfast Rosti – grated potato and gruyere cheese mixed with cream and fried until golden. Topped with grilled dry-cured bacon, a grilled plum tomato, chestnut mushrooms and a poached egg – andLondon 2013 241 I “English Breakfast” – grilled dry-cured bacon, scrambled eggs, a grilled plum tomato, Bettys Yorkshire sausage, chestnut mushrooms and buttered toast. Sound delicious? Yeah, they were very nice. We enjoyed them with Bettys Breakfast Tea, though it was in the afternoon.

     We finished our lunch and were about to climb up the circular staircase, when a little boy came running down the stairs shouting, “Where is Betty?” That was funny. After leaving the café, we enjoyed walking on an old street named Shambles, where buildings of the 14th Century were standing along the narrow passage. London 2013 247The old structures are still used as shops and attract many tourists. I felt as if I was wandering into Hogsmeade Village, one of the places in Harry Potter. And then we were exploring in an open-air market called Newgate Market. There were vegetables, fruits, and fish that I had never seen in Japan selling in the stalls. If I lived in U.K., I would try them…Chagrin.

     Leaving the market, we walked through Piccadilly to York Castle Museum. There was a prominent stone construction in front of the museum: Clifford’s Tower.London 2013 250 It is the remains of a medieval Norman castle built in the 11th century. In spite of the peaceful-looking appearance, it has a bloody past as a prison, and a place for public displays of enemies’ bodies or for massacring Jewish people…Although I did not know the fact, I could not climb up the tower. Was it because I sensed something? No, I was too tired to go up after climbing the tower in York Minster. London 2013 252

     Actually Castle Museum itself used to be a prison…But nowadays the building displays everyday life in U.K. The most famous one of the exhibits in the museum is a recreated Victorian street, Kirkgate, which was named after the place’s founder, Dr. John.L. Kirk. You can enjoy exploring not only in the main street but also in the backstreet, where you can enjoy talking to clerks and shopping in a chemist shop or a sweet shop of the era. I thought the sweet shop was almost the same as the one we had seen in Shambles. The town of York itself looked like a museum to me. London 2013 255

     Then we went to Marks & Spencer on Pavement to buy something for our breakfast. I was supposed to stay at Yuko’s room in Hull that night. After shopping, we took a rest at Costa until the bus for Hull came. It was the first time for me to take a bus in Britain. London 2013 259Double-Decker! We sat on the upper deck. While riding, I noticed that the bus had no announcements for the next stop. I was wondering how people got to know where they got off the bus when it was dark outside. Yuko said, “You need to get used to it. I got off at wrong stops many times.” That was why she was concentrating to see outside when the bus was approaching the nearest stop to her dormitory.

     At last after a two-hour ride we were able to get off the bus at the right place safely. Leaving our baggage in her room, we set off to a pub, the Old Gray Mare near the University of Hull, where Yuko studies. London 2013 261Yuko and I enjoyed beer and fantastic food at the pub. Who said “British food is bad”? It is excellent!

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My Travel in London 6~ York 1 ~ How come I’ve joined this activity…?

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     “How did you enter this station?” I asked Yuko when I met her at York Station. (I was traveling in London. Oh, in this case I just arrived at York from London. My former articles are here: My Travel in London 1, My Travel in London 2, My Travel in London 3, My Travel in London 4, My Travel in London 5) london 181
“There’s no gate here.”
Ah, yes. I did not need to insert my ticket to the ticket wicket to go outside. We were walking to the street from the station without meeting any barriers.
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     “But I inserted my ticket in the entrance gate at King’s Cross.”
“A conductor checked your ticket in the train, right? Then, that’s okay.”
     “Oh, I see…” london 190

     Yuko lives in Hull. When I told her about my visit to London, she suggested going to York together. It was colder in York than in London. And it was raining, but it was not necessary to put up an umbrella. There were long stone walls before us. They are York City Walls, a part of which was made in the Roman era. We crossed the road and went up to the walls. While walking along the walls, we arrived at The York Museum Gardens, which used to be the gardens of St. Mary’s Abbey. london 217london 199

     St. Mary’s Abbey is now a ruin. Its stone remain were standing there silently in the rain. There were few visitors in the place that day. We were wrapped in silence. It was as if time had stopped. We were walking by lovely white snowdrops in the wrong season. They were bending down their heads in the rain. After leaving the peaceful place, we were walking to York Minster. london 207

     York Minster, the massive Gothic architectural masterpiece, was towering over us. Yes, it was towering literally. Unwisely I bought a combined ticket: the minster and the TOWER…The church is very large and has many things to see. So, you do not need to climb up 275 steps to stand on the top of the building. You know, you have to climb down the same numbers of steps to return to the ground. That was the toughest experience for me in the last several years…Well, I would like to write about the minster part before telling you about the hard part… london 208

     The church was very beautiful and magnificent. All of the decorations were intricate and elaborate. Look at the ceiling of the chapter house. The octagonal dome with that beautiful stained glass was spectacular. london 212But what I liked the most in the place was its curved wall, which had innumerable sculptural humans and animals. Their expressions were unique and humorous. It was interesting to let my mind drift about what the sculptors had been thinking about during work. london 203The part of the church is under construction for conservation. You can experience a part of the repair work virtually by playing a restoration game. Yuko was recognized as a skilled craftsman in this game.

     When Yuko and I finished seeing most parts of the church, it was a few minutes before the tour of climbing up the tower began. About twenty people were waiting for the tour. At 11:30, we ducked under the small door to the circular stairs of the tower and started climbing up. The inside of the tower was very narrow, and the stone steps were very small. It was not easy to keep on climbing up on the steep and narrow steps. But there were no places to rest or to retreat once you began climbing up. london 221

     My heart was pounding incredibly fast, and my legs were leaden.
     “Where is the goal?”
     “I don’t know.” 216784_501180926597214_1456011810_n

Suddenly it was getting brighter ahead. Next moment we were standing outside. But our joy did not last. That was a connecting path to the next building. We were just on a half way. Still, we were able to get our breath back a little and to inhale fresh air. london 220

     Then we had to climb up in the dark tower again. All I was able to hear were my own heavy steps and my hard breath. How come I’ve joined this activity…? I was regretting…But I had to go ahead. There were nearly 20 people behind me. I couldn’t stop. Finally, I stepped on the last stone and went outside. I was standing on the top of the tower. It was incredibly cold. It was snowing! But even the coldness was comfortable for my flushed skin. My heart was almost bursting out from my rib cage.

     I saw london 224Scarborough far away from the place. I was happy to see the town although I just knew the name from the famous song: Scarborough Fair. I realized that I climbed up to such a high place when I looked down at the town of York. Oh, no…I had to go down with the same route… london 227

     Actually I was going to write about other events in York here too, but, I’ve already written much today. So, I’ll tell you the rest next time…