We had it easy last week, settling into a comfortable seat, sipping a glass of rose wine, while experiencing the Eurostar train descend from daylight into darkness. We had left Fraaaance and had come to conquer London—seat of the unmatched Winston Churchill, the English monarchy, famous cathedrals and fish and chips (in no order of importance)—and we were on route in much the same way another dynamic conqueror had come 950 years before across the English Channel. Well, sort of.
My husband fell asleep, lulled by the rhythm of the train and seduced by the darkness all around. He may have been tired because he was coerced into taking a French cooking class.
I sat wide awake and let my imagination run back to 1066 CE when one of the most dynamic and ruthless leaders of all time—Duke William of Normandy—commandeered his flotilla of over 600 ships, laden with war horses and men, and all the accouterments of war, across the English Channel to invade England in what most of us know to be the Battle of Hastings. He finished off the unlucky and decent English King Harold and marched into London, through Southwark, and held his coronation on Christmas Day, 1066, in Westminster Abbey.
As we rode into London( by car instead of destrier), we found her to be energetic, hip, chic, and magnificent. The Queen’s 90th Jubilee brought thousands of well-wishers and two unsuspecting tourists into a sea of cheering humanity, picnics on the Mall, and a St. James Park in full bloom.
Our friends from the blogging world and now from London, Richard and Glenys, took us on a historic walking tour during which we visited the Tower of London, built by William the Conqueror in 1078, The Old George, a pub frequented by Shakespeare and Dickens, and Southwark Cathedral, among many other stops. How Richard and Glenys walk so many miles without aching feet, I do not know. We ended our visit with fish and chips, beer and wine.
My husband and I visited the British Museum the next day to see the contents of an undisturbed Viking burial mound unearthed in 1939 at Sutton Hoo in East Anglia. Think Beowulf and the hoard. The ship itself was similar in construction to some of those that the shipwrights working for Duke William constructed for the Channel crossing.
Oh, I could post the picture of some of the 250 naked men who rode down the side streets after the Queen’s Jubilee but I think not.
Instead, I’ll leave you with the sweetest image…of British schoolboys visiting the British Museum with their headmaster. I couldn’t help but compare their demeanor and dress with American junior high school students. I don’t think I’ve ever seen junior high boys in slacks and shirts!
Next post: the Churchill War Rooms and Olive Christopher