Sunday, September 24, 2006

Recent London Excursions

Over the past few weeks, I've had the opportunity to see many more sites of London. Westminster Abbey was a nice highlight. There are many kings/queens, statesmen, and literary figures burried here such as Chaucer, Robert Browning, Henry VII, Elizabeth I, King James the same one who promoted that version of the Bible, amongst others.

I also got a picture in front of Big Ben the clock tower for the houses of Parliment. While there, I took a tour of the houses of Parliment which used to be a palace as well. Here both the House of Commons (elected officials) and the House of Lords operate. The UK does not have a constitution and as such has a relatively flexible legislative system which can be adapted as lawmakers find necessary.

The London Tower is what some would consider a castle. It is a series of towers and large buildings which comprise essentially, a small settlement from which quite a few kings and queens ruled (most notably King Henry VIII). This castle is located right off of the Thames river and provided easy access for going out to sea or where ever the king fancied. The crown jewels are housed here as well. Some local residents of the tower are a group of 9 ravens of whom it is said if they ever fly away, the British empire will fall. They and their ancestors have inhabited the Tower for several hundred years. Right across (literally) the river is the London Bridge. It wasn't exactly falling down and seemed well intact so I'm not sure where the song's writer got his information. Check out pictures at the links at the end of the blog.

I also went to a cemetery which contains the graves of John Bunyan, author of Pilgram's Progress, and Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe.

Buckingham Palace was a spectacular encounter. It is lavish with amazing decorations and architecture orignally designed by the famous architect John Nash. The royal family lives here when not the summer months during which they go to Scotland. State dinners, events, and other formal occasions occur here throughout the year. I did not plan it but happened to be there for the changing of the guard. Fairly cerimonious with an accompanying band and the traditional red coat and big black hat uniform.

Since it is talked about by many people, I figured I might as well go to Harrod's to see what all the fuss is about. For the uninitiated, Harrod's is a department store in London which I would call something more along the size of a mall. It has 6 floors and covers an entire block. They have pretty much any and everything you can imagine for sale much of which is priced quite high. Restaurants accompany most floors and they even have an opera singer serenading those going up the escalater.

This past week I got to see the inside of a cricket field for the first time. Now, some of you may think, "a cricket field? That's nothing special. Most fields I know of have crickets." However, let me educate you. Cricket is traditionally British sport which is somewhat similar to baseball though games last much longer as much as 5 days with appropriate tea breaks as necessary. Lord's Cricket ground was the field I saw.

What visit to London and the UK would be complete without taking in a Shakespere play? In 1994, some people rebuilt a full size replica of the Globe Theatre close to the Thames river in London. They even have a mosh pit where you can pay 5 pounds for admission. The pit was sold out by the time I arrived but it ended up raining so the covered seat ended up being a good choice. The play was "The Comedy of Errors" and is probably my favorite Shakespere play (quite humorous and entertaining).

Continuing in the literary arts arena, I acheived a personal goal of seeing "The Phantom of the Opera" this past weekend in the West End. The West End is the London equivalent of Broadway in New York and has tremondously talented actors/actresses and set designs. It was much enjoyed and I would do it again if the opportunity presented.

Please view pictures of the previously mentioned sites at:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Abiding in Christ

Abiding in Christ. This truly is the answer to the successful Christian walk. How many times do we try in our own power to live the good life and do the "God things?" How foolish to use our human abilities to line up with Christ? He gave salvation which we had no power or ability to attain in our own doing. How can we expect to live our after-salvation days without letting him work his power and might through us? If He is not the one calling, and He is not the one prompting, we may think it's a good thing to do (and on the surface it may be), but if not, it is all for naught. A portion of the chaff which will be blown away. Life truly is much simpler when embracing this reality and allowing Christ to do the work and to simply be His vessel.

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." -John 15:5

For good reading on this subject, check out "Practicing the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence and "Grace Walk" by Steve McVey.

Word of the Day

commodious \kuh-MOH-dee-us\, adjective: Comfortably or conveniently spacious; roomy; as, a commodious house

Thursday, September 07, 2006

221b Baker Street, Dickens, and more...

This past weekend, I paid a visit to a dear old friend's residence at 221b Baker Street. Mr. Holmes was home for part of the time and we had a nice chat. It was then on to the former residence of one Charles Dickens. While there, I observed a desk he used as a law clerk, an arm statue which appears in "A Tale of Two Cities" and various original versions of his writings.

I also went on a tour titled Roman London which went to various parts of the city which were a part of Roman history. The city was formerly called Londinium with the Roman's arrival in 43 AD. A couple walls still stand from Roman times. London Stone, an anomoly of London written about by Shakespere and others, was included on the tour and is said to have been around since ancient times. Whenever they do construction in the London area, archeaologists are called in because of the great amount of history occuring here. Many Roman artifacts are housed at the museum of London.

Sunday, I went on a ride in the sky on the London Eye. (an enormous ferris wheel) It overlooks the Thames river, Big Ben, Parliment, Westminster Abbey, and many other famous sites. The weather was fairly decent and when we reached the top you could see for around 25 miles in all directions. Took a nap in a park by Parliment and then went on a Jack the Ripper tour led by Donald Rumblelow the leading Ripperologist in the world. Quite interesting and informative. London's East End, where the incidents occured, during the late 1800s was a very poor area of the city. Many times as many as 9 people would share one room of a shabby house. A bed could be had for the night for 3 pence and if you didn't have that much 2 pence would buy you the right to sleep while leaning against a rope strung across the room.

I also went on a run in Hyde Park which is about a mile from my flat. Highly recommended running if you're ever in London. Huge park around the size of Central Park in New York city.

Pictures of the above:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First Weekend in London

Thankfully, I arrived in London the weekend prior to a bank holiday and as a result got a 3 day weekend. After recovering to some degree from jet lag, I got out and about the town to get my bearings. To give you an idea where Paddington is within London, I'm in the Northwest part of central London. London is truly an international city. As you walk down the street you'll hear languages and see people from every ethnicity. Of course there is the ever-present British accent which is what many people think of when they hear the "proper" English of Londoners.

On Sunday, I went to church at a place called All Souls It is kind of a mix of traditional and contemporary style worship. I then checked out some of the sites of London. Sunday was also my first experience on the tube. Being a bank holiday weekend, it was especially busy, but I had no idea it would be that packed. Tons of people were on the train on a Sunday morning at 10:30 am. Back in the states most people are just barely rolling out of bed at that time. Being such a big tourist destination plays a big factor in this. The Tube system is quite well laid out and you can truly get anywhere within the city via train. There is the occasional station closed due to maintenance so one must be cognizant of these closures. Once you figure out which train line to take where, it is pretty convenient.

My first tourist stop was Leicester Square which is a nice sized park with some statues in the middle. Quite close to this are several of the theatres of the West End (London equivalent of Broadway). Loads of people milling around. If you ever come to London, I recommend keeping a wallet in your front pocket with a hand on it. Pick pockets are known to frequent highly populated areas.

It was then on to Trafalgar Square where St. Martin-in-the-Field church is located as well as a couple fountains, and the National Portrait gallery. St. Martin-in-the-Field is a well known concert venue as well as a church where they host around 300 concerts per year. You may have heard some classical music recorded there.

On Monday, I went to Notting Hill for the annual festival. It seemed much like Mardi-Gras but I wasn't all that impressed.

Though the tube system is quite good, it would behoove one to be in good condition due to the large quantity of walking performed within London. I consider myself to be in decent athletic shape but my legs were quite sore after so much walking.

My office is located a short 4-5 minute walk so that makes for a nice commute. :-)

See the following link for some good pictures in Trafalgar Square.

Trip to London

Due to the absence of recent blogs, I will post seperate segments in order to help on the length of the overall entry.

Trip to London
We begin our journey at 5:45 am on the 24th of August. After spending half the night packing, and getting a small quantity of sleep, I headed to the airport courtesy of the honorable Mr. Kolvin's taxi service. Checked luggage at the Southwest Airlines counter en route to Chicago. (Yes, Chicago. We must first obtain a visa prior to the ultimate destination) After waiting for an hour at the front of the B line, we learned that the flight would be delayed due to extreme weather conditions in Chicago. This is cause for consternation. I meticulously planned the trip around the flight times, and arriving at the British consulate by 10:30 am for my visa appointment. I called my dad who prayed and also relayed the prayer request to my grandparents and the weather kindly moved on for a departure around 8:00 am.

Additional security screening was being performed at the gate and I was pulled from the front of the line. This did not take an extended period of time, but I unecessarily got frustrated for I did find myself with a seat quite close to the front of the plane. I felt a bit of chagrin as God gently reminded me "hey, I'm in control here don't sweat it." Oh yeah, forgot about that for a minute. This really helped to provide additional peace for the remainder of the trip.

Southwest really is a quality airline. I think I would fly them every flight if I could. They touched down around 8:55 am right on schedule by my reckoning. I quickly exited the plane and made my way to the baggage area. After talking with the gate agent, I sucessfully left my bags locked up in the luggage area for later pick up.

It was then on to the Chicago train system. I successfully got on the train toward the British consulate in downtown and after 30 minutes arrived at the last station. A quick 15 minute walk put me at the consulate at 10:27 am right on schedule. I then turned in lots of documentation and went to hang out in the city while the paper work was processed. Walked around a good bit, had lunch, saw a 6.5 foot Lego Yoda (seriously). Checked out Navy Pier then headed back to pick up the visa. Jumped back on the train, retrieved luggage and checked in to Northwest Airlines.

The next leg of the journey was a connecting flight from Chicago to Detroit. I arrived in Detroit just in time due to some delays in Chicago. I was quite pleased to have medallion status which allowed me to jump to the front of a long line to get on the plane. My neighbor on the plane was a native UK citizen who had been in the US on business so we had some good discussion as to UK/US similarities/differences.

Watched 3 movies on the way over, slept around 30 minutes and touched down about 10:00 am local London time on August 25th. Cleared customs, headed for the ATM (cash machine in UK lingo), then went with the driver to my flat in the Paddington area of downtown London.
Paddington train station is fairly busy with both the local London "Tube" underground system as well as trains going to other locales. It also has several shops/restaurants. I picked up some essential groceries from the grocery store in the station (yes, really). I definitely could empathize with our friend Paddington Bear on his arrival to the said train station. It was a bit overwhelming with so many people busily on their way here or there.

On the suprise side, I was a bit suprised that I experienced some culture shock such as "they don't have turkey or peanut butter in the grocery store?!" "lots of coin money" "things cost twice as much here" "Salt for the dishwasher?!" "A clothing washer/dryer combo that is truly weird" "how exactly do these electrical outlets work?" I promptly went to bed that evening to awake 12 hours later, eat breakfast and head straight back to sleep for a nice 3 hour nap.

I saw God work throughout the trip helping me to make connections, pick up luggage, obtain the visa with no hitches, ultimately arriving in London. Many thanks go out to Him. :-)

See for some pictures in Chicago including the Lego Yoda.
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