Friday, August 26, 2005

3d Week in July, Part2

While the boys still hunkered snoring under their blankets, I snuck out for a walk to King's Cross Station this morning -- the third bombing site and again within just a couple of blocks of our hotel. Here too was a pile of flowers and memorabilia. I took a few photos of storefronts in the deserted and somewhat run-down streets and returned in time for breakfast in the basement of the Avalon.

Afterwards we walked to "sunny" (per Donovan Leitch) Goodge Street (it really was sunny, and already hot) -- the nearest tube stop now that the Russell Square station was closed. A small station as they go, there was a very long series of art-deco stairs spiraling deep into the ground before we hit the platform. The train was full of commuters and stifling. We got out at the river and crossed over the Jubilee Bridge so I could treat the boys to the London Eye. Even first thing in the morning (9:30 or so) there was a huge line of international tourists snaking around the base of the gigantic ferris wheel; we shuffled half an hour in the glaring sun before we set foot in the fortunately air-conditioned plexiglass egg. It rose very slowly a couple hundred feet for a pretty comprehensive view of greater London and then back down. Frankly however I like the view from the top of St. Paul's better. More on that later.

We bought some souvenirs, meandered the embankment again, watched an amusing magician, and crossed over the river again to walk to Trafalgar Square. There what had evidently been an Indian cultural fair was just breaking down; booths for food and Hindu information were still set up. We lunched at a Pret a Manger  nearby and then returned via the convenient Covent Garden tube to Goodge Street. Next stop, the British Museum.

They boys attended an Egyptian 3-D show while I did a quick once-over of the exhibits, traversing the spiral stairs under the geodesic web of the ceiling and circling the huge marble rotunda; and then we all toured the Greek (Elgin Marbles etc.), Egyptian (Rosetta Stone etc.), African (masks etc.), and Anglo-Saxon exhibits (Viking and Celtic coins, swords, etc.). (Below is me reflected in the back side of the Rosetta Stone.)

We also enjoyed a huge library-like room of dark bookcases filled with an amazing miscellany of objects from the entire history of mankind. The museum was oddly hot and stuffy, and after a while we scuttled across the street to have frappucinos in the cool basement of a Starbucks.

We retreated in the heat of the afternoon to the hotel, where the boys read their books while I read e-mail and posted an entry here. Then after a cold shower (ahhhh!) I walked around the neighborhood for awhile, camera in hand as usual, returning around 7 to lead the boys to the dinner location I'd spotted, Cafe Mercato, near Russell Square. (High compliment from Nick: "This place sure beats Pizza Hut!") We sat on the cool sidewalk and chatted with a table of Yank retirees. Then, feeling slightly lightfooted after a couple of glasses of wine, I led the boys back to Goodge Street again for a nightime stroll, taking advantage of our day pass. They discovered that the railtracks were populated by tiny black mice (the color of the surrounding soot), and spotting them occupied Nick and Ben fully for the next 48 hours.

We debarked at St. Paul's, the trees blazing electric green from footlights, and crossed the aluminum bridge to the Tate Modern and back along the Thames. There was still red in the sky and the riverside pubs and the promenade were thronged by walkers and partiers, the city lights brilliant against the dark blue, St. Paul's dome illuminated. We walked as far as the Eye; the boys were then thirsty and a bit tired, and after getting them a soda in an arcade, I gave them some money and they rode bumper cars and played the slot machines. About 11 we returned via the Embankment to Goodge Street and thence home to bed (after a final bit of Potter).

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