Tuesday, November 30, 2010

London: Snow and Student Protests

I woke up to a fresh layer of snow, and much thicker this time. Put all my stuff together and made my way to the Leamington Spa train station and London. Remarkably, given the weather, my train was on time and stayed on time. By 12:30pm, I was at my youth hostel and checking in, storing my stuff, and off for an afternoon of London.

I love this city. Always have. Always will. I'm not sure why I bought a one day travel card because I walked all day. I started at my St. Paul's youth hostel and walked west to my usual first destination: St. Martin-in-the-Field's church. (For the non South African readers, did you know that somebody built a replica of this church in Craddock, South Africa because his wife was homesick....? It's true! I've seen it!) Anyways, I digress. I showed up and was shocked to see that they now have a separate entrance to the crypt. I suppose the cramped, crowded gift shop on top of restaurant on top of brass rubbing was too much. Too bad. I liked that cramped, crowded look. So, I left and went in pursuit of food elsewhere.

Ended up at Covent Garden and the snow began. Musicians were out and about. Holiday decorations are up. Oversized round balls in reds and blues. Large reindeers. Lights everywhere. Pretty in all that snow.

Then, I decided to make my way to Piccadilly Circus for a photo for my mom (who for some reason loves this busy intersection). I then thought, 'It's snowing. I think I'll go to the National Museum.' As I started walking closer, I saw the bright yellow police jackets, lots of police vans, and some serious shouting. Of course, I kept walking closer. A full Trafalger Square greeted me. Police at the ready. Students started throwing those cans with the colored smoke. I thought, 'Now is the time to back away from the protest.'

I left and walked the way I come. Two streets away, another line of students was marching to Trafalgar Square right down the street intersecting with me. At this point, I was laughing and just a little nervous (okay, more than a little). I've only protested once, and I felt like such a daredevil... I just don't big unruly groups of people.

So, I walked down another street, making my way somehow to the end of St. James Park behind the horse guards. A big empty mall, cars being diverted, the police out and ready and closing off any roads that led past Downing Street. When I crossed over to Whitehall, it was still and quiet. A handfull of police in front of 10 Downing Street (for the yanks who don't know, this is where the Prime Minister lives). In a previous protest, students actually made it to the front door. Yikes. So quiet and weird.

I walked towards Parliament and Westminster Abbey. More cops, all in riot gear. Horses in riot gear. We could walk through, but they were ready.

I found my way to the gardens beyond Parliament and it began to snow again. Beautiful large snowflakes. A think sky. Absolutely gorgeous. I spent about a half hour or more just walking all around Parliament and the Abbey taking photos. I love this city.

Eventually, I began to make my way back up Westminster and very cold. I figured, 'The protest must be over. It's dark. It's freezing.' As I got closer to Trafalgar, you could still hear the shouts. Police were encouraging us to walk around. I did, once I took some more photos of course. I felt like a tourist/journalist or something. Call me Lois Lane :)

I got back home, feet tired, and watched the news. It's all about the student protests and the bad weather that's blocking roads and airports. Let's hope I get out to Sweden tomorrow.

I've just been out to a lovely dinner with Lucy, a friend from, gulp, 17 years ago. We met way back in 1993. How does this happen???? We haven't seen each other for a few years, and much to catch up on. I haven't even met her youngest daughter. Wow.

So, back at the hostel, dreading the 4:45am wake up call to head to the airport. brrrrrrrr.

Hugs and love,


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