It's wonderful to be here! Wonderful to see R again, to meet her partner, to spend time with her family, to be in their home. And to see London again! I love this city.
So to backtrack... Our flight was uneventful. Flying overnight is never fun, since I don't sleep at all, but everything went smoothly. A few days ago, we had read some horror stories online about US Airways' transatlantic flights through Philadelphia, and were a bit concerned. But either US Airways has upgraded their planes and their service, or those complaining people had unreasonable expectations. The flight was typical, no issues at all.
R met us at Heathrow, which I thought was a great luxury. We would have been fine with public transit. When I saw the distance - a full hour by car, or two hours on the train and tube - I was very grateful R insisted otherwise. R and I hadn't seen each other in 14 years, since she relocated to the UK, but the moment we did, it was like old times. We were immediately laughing and chattering as if no time had passed. (The internet helps with that, too.)
R fixed breakfast for us and we hung around her lovely home and beautiful garden in Finchley. (I'm told it's not in Finchley proper, and the house needed quite a bit of work when they bought it.) Speaking of returning to old times, it wasn't long before we had killed a bottle of prosecco and whatever else, accompanied by lots of uncontrolled laughter and goofiness.
Late in the afternoon, we took the tube into central London. It's very suburban where R lives, but she's still on the tube line, which is wonderful. We walked around St. Paul's, which was cleaned recently, and is even more impressive now, all gleaming stone. We walked over Millennium Bridge, which is only 12 years old, and pedestrian only. Walking across, you get amazing views of St. Paul's on one side, and some of the newer skyscrapers on the other side, including the famous new Shard, although it's really distant from there.
The Millennium Bridge connects with Bankside and South Bank, and (among many other sites) the Tate Modern, in the converted Bankside Power Station. We didn't go to an exhibit, but walked in and around the massive building, and had a view of the Turbine Room, the enormous main exhibition hall. The Tate Modern is free, all the time. I believe all museums should be free or at most, pay-what-you-can. Why put art and ideas behind a financial barrier? (One of my biggest complaints about Toronto is the outrageously high entrance fees of its museums.)
The Millennium Bridge connects with Bankside and South Bank, the strip along the south side of the Thames. There's a pedestrian-only walkway running its entire length, with theatres, performance spaces, restaurants, pubs, design shops, and an abundance of public park area. It's a real vision of what waterside public space can be. (My other great complaint about Toronto: the ugly, privately developed waterfront.) Right now there's a battle going on to save South Bank Skate Park - one of the earliest skate parks in London - from condo development: Save Southbank Skate Park on Facebook. Last time we were in London, we saw the beautiful replica Globe Theatre, but most of the Southbank walkway was unfinished.
It was great to walk a little and get some London vibe, especially since our stay here is so brief. The walk also gave me a new idea for to do with our one full day in London.
We took a long tube ride back to R's house, where we met her partner for the first time. (R's first partner was also our very dear friend. He and I shared a birthday. He died 10 years ago.) We drank Pimm's Cups in the garden, then had a beautiful vegetarian paella, R's tribute to our upcoming travels in Spain. R's oldest son, was also at dinner. Since we last saw him about 20 years ago, it was really like meeting for the first time. (The younger brother is in the US with his grandfather.)
A lovely first day, plus I heard the pups have already been to the dog park with Essie!