A London (and Oxford) Weekday

This morning we were swept into rush hour Tube traffic. Quite an experience, the crowds are as dense as any I’ve seen in NYC or Paris, but have that Chicago-like observance of personal space.

A quick trip to Pret on Picadilly for breakfast and we were off to the Tower. It is a must-see as everyone says (retracing the steps of history nearly a millennium old is not something available traveling the US) but is not as grand in scope and time allotment as I’ve been led to fear. Two big disappointments: the Mint was completely demolished by the Victorians in a case of “oldest history wins”, and the ravens were off being quarantined to protect them from avian flu.

Lunch at Hard Rock so Kristan can get her customary shirt, and we hopped on a double-high bus for Kensington Palace, which got diverted when the police closed the street in front of the Iranian embassy just as we approached. I still don’t know what that was about.

Kensington Palace was more interesting than I’d expected, as you walk through the former homes of both Princess Margaret and Diana. In the park, even the numerous dogs were all quiet, and well-mannered. Buskers and panhandlers are rare but, too, polite. How is it that British manners are so pervasive?

We has to walk past the Queensway station due to construction. I’ve re-noticed how European construction is allowed to intermingle with the public; American lawyers would blanch (or salivate) at the sight.

A short intercity rail to Oxford for the BMW plant tour where Minis are manufactured. Bicycles are nearly the dominant form of transportation there! Far fewer smokers, as well. Wonderful food and great environment in a Smollensky’s just outside the station. I think next visit we might stay in a town like this and only visit London.

After some panicking about the timing of busses, we took a classic London taxi to the plant and Kristan has a ball watching them assemble Coopers. On our way back, we shared a cab with a girl from Singapore, who lamented about how primitive British public transport is, with having to worry about timing. She didn’t believe that we have a car for every driver in America. Neither she nor the taxi chauffeur could accept that striking and killing a cyclist on the road would result in anything less than decades of imprisonment.

I posted this in May 2006 during week 1678.

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