Tuesday was our last full day in the Big City and we still had a full day’s use of the CityPass to take advantage of so naturally, we were once again up and out early in the day. This time, our destination was a bit outside the city center and was looking like it would take close to an hour to get there: The London Motor Museum.
The London Motor Museum came to us via my friend Jennifer, who is a font of information on most things London. Having lived there for a year and visited regularly (I visited with her back in 2011 when we were able to see David Tennant and Catherine Tate in Much Ado About Nothing as well as Arthur Darvill in Faust) she knows stuff. When I told her Rasa was a fan of cars, she immediately came back with the Motor Museum. The Motor Museum is also on the CityPass list (which, at £30 for entrance was not only the most expensive thing we did, but the reason the CityPass was a viable option to begin with). So off we went, taking tubes and trains and ultimately ending up at an industrial looking building in a run down neighborhood.
My first impressions were not sparkling, for sure. But in we went.
shadows of their former glory, but all of them were impressive. There were fast cars and tractors, concept cars and classics all mixed up together. There was a little organization to the collection, for instance the Muscle Cars were in the same “road” while the movie cars all huddled together as if between takes. There was also two different Batmobiles in their own “cave.” There were race cars and vintage production models.
There was also a full shop in the back. Turns out the place is a working shop and a lot of the cars had been restored in-house. Rasa was in absolute heaven! She was telling racing stories about the manufactures, admiring lines, laughing with joy at Mr. Bean’s Mini (complete with chair and teddy bear).
Cars are interesting even just sitting in a showroom they are unfused with personality and vitality. Like names, you can make all sorts of assumptions about the types of people by the vehicles they drive – they may be inaccurate, sure, but the perceptions are there. They become ways to sublimate our deepest desires and fears, they can fulfill dreams and cause nightmares. And seeing scores of them in one place, just thrown together without curation or carpeting, is both awe-inspiring and overwhelming. We took lots of pictures and spent a great deal of time examining lines and curves before finally deciding to head back into the city. There was still more to do on our agenda.
First stop back was Westminster Abbey. From our first sight of it a week earlier, Rasa knew she wanted to see inside so this is where we headed. Since it was already early afternoon, the line to get in was about 25 minutes long. We dutifully took our place and ended up just in front of an elderly couple from the US. Now, I don’t want to disparage anyone’s relationship, but wow… the husband must have been a saint! The woman, while seemingly very nice, complained about everything! It started with the CityPass card, which they obviously did not get full value for. Then when I mentioned things like being uncomfortable with the height of the Tower Bridge, the woman explained to me it wasn’t that high and she didn’t have a problem with it. After trying to explain in different ways for several minutes, I just let it go, knowing she had no problem with heights and damned to anyone else who did, they just needed to get over it. It just struck me as typical of a lot of people in general, being unable to get out of their own heads long enough to realize their experiences were not universal and other people might feel differently about things.
Inside the Abbey, we left our new friends, grabbed an audio guide and headed into the crush of people. The building itself is stunning, no question. There was a service going on while we walked through, which also struck me as odd. I know it;s a working church, but it seemed fairly incongruous to have a priest in the background talking about how it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven after having just watched people pay £18 for entrance and then seen several collection boxes next to most major sights. That all said, it was still fascinating to see the historically important tombs of the past monarchs of England as well as my personal favorite area, Poet’s Corner, where everyone from Geoffrey Chaucer to Charles Dickens is buried and Lewis Carroll, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron have memorials. I think one of the most fitting burials though, is Sir Laurence Olivier, whose ashes reside directly under the gaze of the monument to William Shakespeare.
Our last bit of touring for the day, we had decided, was to take the CityTours ferry boat down to Greenwich and see some of the sites we’d missed on Sunday. The boat was part of our CityPass and was a hop on/hop off deal for the day so we could go, see, and come back, easy as you please.
We got seats inside (it was chilly and raining), eventually moving all the way to the front so we could see everything out of the forward facing windows and basically just decided to enjoy the ride. It had been a long week and being able to relax and enjoy the sights as they rolled past seemed like a nice way to spend an hour or of the afternoon.
Then the call came. My friend DMC was doing some work near Picadilly Circus and invited us to come down and say hi. So when we hit the dock at Greenwich, we got off the boat and headed for the train to get back to town. Naturally, the first thing we had to do, behind actually finding the station, was get down to the platform. Normally, there’s an escalator or even several different stairwells but here, we made a slightly wrong turn and ended up in one of the behind the scenes stairways which, yes, did get us down to the platform for the train, but it felt like we were going down 15 flights and hundreds of feet. Honestly, there were points where we weren’t sure it was ever going to end. It was like the Escherian staircase. Eventually, we made it, got on the train and met up with DMC.
Being a magician, he was filming some effects for his new TV series so we were able to watch a bit and hang out in between takes. It was fun, some good conversations and Rasa learned a thing or two about magic (no secrets given away but theory and application). It actually was our day for magic since we left DMC and went off to meet another good friend, Ian Rowland (who also happens to be a magician) and his girlfriend Careena (yup, you guessed it, magician, too) for dinner. We had a lovely time, with lots of laughter. The only down side was we didn’t get to spend more time with them as Careena had to catch a train.
It worked out okay, though, as we needed to get back to the hotel and figure pout how we were going to pack everything into our two a piece carry-on bags. Turned out we needn’t have worried so much. It took some time and maneuvering of items but before bed, we (I say we but really Rasa) had everything in the requisite four bags and we were ready to head out in the morning.
Our first stop on travel day, naturally, was at the “left luggage” spot at Victoria station. No need to carry our heavy bags with us while we finished up our sightseeing and what have you. Naturally, since they’d done away with lockers and those guys were the only game in town, they were making the most of it. It wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it to have everything tucked away.
With the bags safely stored we had our first (and only) full English breakfast of the trip at The Shakespeare, a little pub just across from the station. While we ate we made our plan. We were going to go to Parliament Square to get one last look at Big Ben and write out some postcards. We got to hear the bell chime 12 times for noon and since we didn’t have to be back to the station for another 90 minutes or so, we decided to walk up Whitehall, past the Horse Guards to Trafalgar Square. I figured we had a few minutes, and the National Gallery had free entrance so why not pop in and see what was on offer.
Walking in, I saw a gift stand covered in all sorts of items featuring Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and made the educated guess this particular piece of art might actually be hanging nearby. So I asked:
Me: “Hi. We have about 10 minutes until we have to go and catch a plane. Can you tell me where Sunflowers is hanging?”
Attendant (slightly confused): “Umm… through that gallery and turn left. You’ll see it.”
We did. There were a group of people gathered around but we waited and got to spend a few minutes enjoying some phenomenal historical artwork (even taking a picture or two – and yes, slightly disappointed it didn’t say “for Amy” on it) and then we headed immediately back to the Victoria Station.
At the station we turned in our Oyster Cards, had Krispy Kreme donuts and retrieved our luggage before hopping on the Gatwick express back to Gatwick Airport, figuring our adventures were over.
You can see where this is going, right?
We checked in no problem, and made our way to security, where I got flagged for having an external keyboard for my iPad. The security guy was apologetic, he knew exactly what it was and knew it wasn’t a threat, but since it had been flagged, he had to check my bag. Then he explained he was going talk to his colleagues about what actually constituted a threat. That was the point Rasa noticed she no longer had her boarding pass. She had put it in the basket to go through the X-ray machine but it never came out. The security people looked for it but couldn’t find it, saying it happened from time to time that the machine ate paper. No worries, the explained, just go to the airline service desk and explain, they’ll call the gate and all will be okay.
Except there was no one at the airline service desk. We went to several different places and eventually found a person to talk to, who then called a different number and put us in touch with someone who told us they would call the gate, tell them we were coming and not to worry. Whew… we breathed a sigh of relief. Until we got to the gate and they had no idea about us. They looked at ID cards, double checked it against manifests and eventually hand wrote, on a torn piece, Rasa’s name and seat assignment. That’s it. No explanation, no signature, no nothing. So when we got on board the plane, the flight attendant looked at the paper and wanted to know what the hell this was? Where was the official boarding pass? It took another few minutes of explaining but eventually they let us on the plane, we took our seats and the plane took off, leaving London and the end of that particular set of adventures.
Here’s to the next set.