Our redeye from Grand Rapids (via Minneapolis/St. Paul) landed about a half hour early at Heathrow in London, which meant that some of our number were unable to watch the final scene of Jungle Book. Darn! We were also three suitcases short (all arrived the next day), but otherwise our chartered coach delivered us bleary-eyed and intact to our home for the first four days of our odyssey: the Royal Bayswater Hostel on Bayswater Road in central London, adjacent to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and the humming international Queensway.
Straight to sleep? Nope! (We couldn't check in, and besides we were intent on getting our biological clocks onto London time as quickly as possible.) So we jumped on the Tube and alit at Trafalgar Square, on our way to the National Gallery. ("Alit?" Well, that's how they say it around here. The subway wall reads: "Alight here for Trafalgar Square.")
|Andrew Rienstra tries to feed the lions in Trafalgar Square.|
One goal at the National Gallery: to examine the Painting of the Month, a fascinating work with an Enlightenment theme – that being an emphasis on observation of the world. Other highlights: The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, some remarkable Impressionist works, and a room featuring no less than four beheadings.
|The Painting of the Month at the National Gallery, January 2009: An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768.|
After shuffling through the theater-rich Leicester Square in search of lunch, we checked into our rustic hostel and collapsed later that evening. More than one person remarked that "it hasn't yet sunk in that I'm in London." Next up: St. Paul's Cathedral.