LONDON ON A SUNNY DAY.
It is impossible to lose one’s way in London. Once you emerge from the magnificent Waterloo Station, turn left and go onto the bridge. Stop there for a moment, look around, and see the imposing St. Paul’s Cathedral dome in the distance. Look at the River, at the boats and barges busily running in all directions. Breathe the air, relax, and feel the centuries slipping by. Picture Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor from that lovely melodrama called “Waterloo Bridge” filmed in the Golden Age of Hollywood, at the end of the 1930s. Yes, one can stand in the same place on the bridge and see the same view today. Once you walk down the bridge, just follow the road. Surely the tall structure you can see ahead of you is Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square. It is flanked by the famous lions and surrounded by swarms of tourists. The street names themselves seem to point you to all the tourist attractions. There are plenty of signs, and you can ask any passer-by or street-vendor or a guard which way is your own particular place of interest. “Just walk along the Strand, luv”, said a newspaper boy cheerfully. The Strand! How many times have I come across this name in a British novel, and now I was actually walking along it. All those beautiful white buildings were surely Whitehall, and Parliament Street, I thought, would definitely bring me to the Houses of Parliament. There are plenty of monuments and statues of horsemen all along Whitehall, so when I saw another imposing figure on horseback, I thought it was one more memorial – until it moved out of the shadow! When church bells began to clamor all around me, one familiar note singled out itself: Big Ben declared the time of day. The familiar clock tower can be seen from far away. Once you come nearer, you can see the Houses of Parliament, the Thames, and the London Eye. Turn your back to all that glory, and here is Westminster Abbey. It is huge; there are plenty of tourists at any time of day and during any season. An old entrance modestly tells you, “Consecrated in 1065”. It’s been here for almost a thousand years, in constant use. One can feel history itself in such a place. A frontal view reminds one of various other cathedrals, including Notre-Dame de Paris, and yet it is different. Walk all around it, or stand in line and get inside, to see the Poet’s Corner, among many other things which the Abbey faithfully preserves through the centuries.
Following the signs from the Abbey, one can relax on a bench in one of the many parks, with their lovely greenery and many ponds where swans, geese and ducks float leisurely. Then, one can walk to BuckinghamPalace, take pictures, or again stand in line and get inside to see some rooms which are open to the public. Walk around, have lunch in any little cozy café or restaurant. When I found myself near Beg Ben again, I asked a guard if it was possible to walk to St. Paul’s from where I was. “Sure, moddom! You look like you can manage a good trek, it’s 3 miles tops! Have the River to your right; follow the embankment until you see the Dome!” Ah. Experience taught me that when they say, for example, a quarter mile, the distance is really closer to a full mile. So, three miles could be anything. I walked along the beautiful Victoria Embankment, and actually saw the Dome, still quite far away. Contrary to popular belief, it does NOT rain non-stop in Britain. In September, it was 27C, very sunny and very hot. So I climbed back onto the bridge, took pictures of St. Paul, and told it silently that I will definitely walk to it next time.