Friday, July 08, 2005

Thursday - July 8th - In London the day of the bombings.

Very behind in postings!
Yes, we are all ok!!! I'm sorry I had to keep you all dangling, but we have been very busy and not near computers hardly at all... hence my posting has been very lax!

The morning unfolded...bombs in the underground...much too close for our comfort!
We were very fortunate to have gotten up a bit late the day of the London attacks, so we just missed being in the underground by about 30 minutes when the bombs went off.

We were across the street from Waterloo Station and not far from where the double decker bus was blown up. We watched it all unfold on Skynet news from the pub where we had breakfast. We could see and watch all the people stuck outside the station just across the street from us at Waterloo Station...people kept coming in to watch the television to try and figure out what was happening. When the first started the reports, they said it was power outages, but Paul said this was no power outage, because he could see emergency response tents being set up and he said that they would not have done that for mere power blowout problems.

It was really frightening as the news began to reveal that they realized this was not a power outage problem but in fact bombs that had gone off and we realized rather quickly that we were not going to be able to do the things in London we had hoped to do as the city began to shut down and draw a tight net of security in central London where, we of course, were.

After uneasily watching the news for a few hours we went for a walkabout. Our heads had been filled with enough frightening ideas by the local media and I was worried how Aurora was being affected by it as well. She, as were we all, was beginning to show signs of serious agitation and worry. We decided it would be best if we left the media of the TV behind and hoped to take in some of the sights of London if possible.

Walking our way through the streets of an edgy London
We couldn't get any transportation anywhere of any kind, buses would drive by with signs that said "Out of Service" and taxi drivers would not pull over to pick people up when you tried to hail them. The streets were full of sirens constantly and there were police everywhere. It was really frightening...as there were so many police two standing on nearly every corner and sirens going off so much...it made you jump every time you would turn around. People kept looking at other people very uncomfortably and every one seemed to huddle together tightly if they were in groups of any kind. Those who were alone were trying desperately to make calls on their phones or standing at bus stops hoping a bus would pick them up or heading for churches. The tourist trap kiosks begins closing their shops down and we walked by the London Eye to see it being shut down as they unloaded passengers and turned other riders away. Small groups of students on outings with teachers were huddled tightly as terrified looking teachers looked warily after their charges trying to reassure them things were okay as school is apparently in session for many people here.

Peace behind the walls of Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, Palace, Pubs and Dinner on the Thames
We walked for a while and ended up at Westminster Abbey. We spent most of our morning and some of the early afternoon in the Abbey with many other tourists and terrified people who wandered in off the streets with much concern written across nearly every brow. Every one was looking at every one else and so many who could not speak English in the city were obviously even more frightened and confused, more so than others. Every one seemed to talk in hushed whispers every where we went. As we walked by the Tower of London where Big Ben (the bell resides) the flag on the building had already been dropped to half mast.

We spent several hours quietly looking round at the memorials and tombs of famous royalty and some other very famous literary greats there and took much time not only appreciating the beauty of the building, but some of the safety we felt behind the Abbey's ancient walls. We listened to one of the monks give a prayer for those we had heard about that we knew already were dead or lost in the tunnels of the underground or the poor souls on the bus that had been killed that morning. We were all terribly grateful to have made the same error in not setting our clocks properly...we had forgotten to roll them back an hour from Paris time. This was really the only thing that may have saved us from being underground at all...otherwise we may have been on one of the lines when it happened going out on our first destination.

After the Abbey and a light lunch there of the Abbey's best Tomato Basil soup and a small sandwich, we went to St. James Park and walked part of the Princess Diana memorial walk way and looked at all the beautiful plants and the birds and such. We saw a really unusual duck with a bright sky blue bill! There were many other lovely varieties of birds and some lovely swans as well. Then we went to see a bit of the WWII memorial celebration being held in the park and from there we walked past Buckingham Palace...lots of security though, and we could only walk along the gardens out front. Security was very high everywhere, but especially notable outside the palace.

Near the palace we found a local pub and went in to see how the news was progressing and to have a drink (In case you are wondering Aurora was allowed in all the pubs with us. They are allowed to drink at 18 here, and she more than appears old enough...although she was not drinking any beer!) The death toll per the news was mounting as were the number of injured. We found out that the all the zone 1 buses in central London had been shut down which explained the "Out of service" messages we had seen on most of the buses with a few only packed with people not making any stops. The taxis we had begun to see in the afternoons were full of commuters trying to get out of London...so we knew we were destined to stay on our feet and walk the London roads.

We ended up pub crawling our way back to the water front making stops as our legs and feet grew weary until we reached our destination where we were able to get our dinner cruise later in the day around 7PM which was nearly 3 hours long. We were very fortunate that our dinner cruise on the Thames River was not cancelled, as most restaurants were closed because many people had not been able to go to work for dinner shifts and most places that had shifts in had allowed their people to go home if they could get home. We had called earlier in the day as we were certain it would be cancelled, but apparently the crew had come in a 9AM that morning and they had agreed to stay on for the whole of the day for the evening cruise. Many of the boats on the River Thames were ferrying people out of the city for free all afternoon to help people get home and to places where they would again feel safe...or at least safer. Our dinner on the Thames was beautiful and much appreciated in light of our long and troubled day. We savored our dinner and enjoyed the sites of the city and the evening drew itself in. Our boat took us all the way down the Thames where it meets the estuary. The Thames is one of the World's most fascinating, exciting, mysterious and beautiful rivers. From source to sea its 200-plus miles flow from bubbling springs in Gloucestershire to the site of the old London Bridge, then on to the imposing, formidable tidal estuary to the east of London. We left from near London Bridge and went down to the estuary where you could see the special system they have built to prevent the sea from rising too high and flooding the river. We had just enough rainy mist and sunshine and it created an incredible rainbow across the river. A reminder of Gods promises to never flood the Earth and a feeling of some serenity returned to me as I watched the rainbow from inside the boat until it faded away. We listened to a wonderful singer on the boat who was from Wales (Sherilee D. tells me that people from Wales are famous for their singing abilities) and she sang for a good 30 minutes as we made our way back up the river. There was dancing afterwards, but no one really seemed to want to dance. Mostly we all took the time to look out the windows or go top side to appreciate the views at hand as the sun set. As we got further up river the The Tower Bridge (some mistake this for London Bridge) was lit up and we admired it as we passed underneath.

All in all the day and our evening turned out okay and we were all very glad to just be alive in light of it all. It was a long walk back to the hotel after our dinner and the sirens which went on and on through out the whole of the day continued to occasionally do so into the night...so no one slept really well. Despite the scariness of it all, we managed to have a fair day in London, though we all stayed tightly together with a wary eye for odd packages or anything out of the ordinary. We were all very tired by the end of the day between fear and having to walk all day about London.

Where next from here we go...
We were very pleased the next day when they had reopened the main ground line trains so that we could leave back for Staines outside of London central where we had parked the car Monday to come in to London. When we get back to Staines we will head for Wood Henge, Stone Henge and then the Barbican at Plymouth near Cornwall. We will spend one night there and then we will set our coarse back to Lytham with a swing through Bath and then Wales on the way, Which will put us back in Lytham late Sunday night. Monday will be laundry...Tuesday will be Edinburgh in Scotland as will Wednesday returning to Lytham late Wednesday night. Thursday will be the Lakes district and Beatrix Potter's home including Mr. McGregor's garden! Friday Jeff leaves...and I don't know the plans just yet from there other than that Aurora and I will be flying back Wednesday all day.

Sorry to have left anyone worrying
I apologize to all of you who may have been concerned and have been checking in off and on for news. I did call home the day of the attacks to let my family know we were ok, but much of the cellular phone systems here were crashed as they were over whelmed. Even though we tried to get text messages out that day we could not get them through to many people. Sherilee D. here could not get through to her children for some time and though there were hard lines to contact people in some places, they were for local England calls, not calls outside the states, at least not that we could find. I was fortunate to get a call through to my mother's house. I tried to call our home to get a hold of Jeff's Mom but she was out and the phone call was not clear anyway when I got through to our answering machine...when I did get through I got my Mom's answering machine as well, so the message I left for my mother was to call family including Jeff's Mom to let them all know we were okay.

I wish you all well and pray that God keeps you all safe.

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