Haven’t fully adjusted to Greenwich Mean Time yet. We’re waiting now, groggy, to board the Eurostar train from London to Paris to take us through the Chunnel. We tossed and turned land commiserated about the ticking clock last night until we drifted blissfully off to sleep, about half hour before we had to wake up.
Had a great day exploring London yesterday, though. We decided to get out of Central London for a bit and headed down to Greenwich, a quaint little touristy area dominated by a large, beautiful park and cleaved by the prime meridian, longitude 0°0’0" and the namesake of GMT.
I’m always a sucker for a sundial, partly because they manifest mathematics in such an elegant and almost tactile way, and partly because of the "ancient technology" steampunk aura they have. I was pleased to see a bright, shiny steel polar dial right on the meridian. A polar is different from the kind you generally see about in that the face and the gnomon both lie parallel to the axis the earth spins on (which is puts the angle of the face to the ground at the cotangent of latitude of the dial, if my memory serves). It was just past 3 pm GMT when I took the shot below, if you can tell.
The park itself was large and peaceful and filled with baby carriages and the like. A large sculpture of a swimmer plowing through the grass greeted us as we entered. It wouldn’t have seemed out of place at Burning Man, except that it was paid for by the History Channel to promote a show it would air on tattoos (the time and channel were inked on the swimmer’s back). Further up was the the Royal Observatory and a stunning view of the city below.
From there, we hopped back on the tube to Westminster to get a quick gape at Big Ben, the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey. All were stunningly beautiful, intricately detailed and vast. It blew our minds that they were all built in centuries past without the benefit of our modern construction techniques.
We hadn’t a lot of time to spend there, unfortunately, as we had arranged to meet Daniel (aka Hot Limey), a friend of ours from a year ago Burning Man. Had a great time catching up and laughing in St. Christopher’s, a little courtyard off Bond St.
One thing that we’ve really enjoyed about London is how everywhere you go, restaurants, bars and pubs have outdoor seating, often on small pedestrian-only cobbled side streets or courtyards, and how they’re always filled (especially right after work) with young people and older people alike, sitting and standing enjoying a drink or a meal. I start to see how the habit of stopping for a pint with the lads on the way home can become a way of life.
That’s Michelle sitting in one such courtyard, this one by Carnaby Street, another upscale little shopping area in Central London. Maps of the area were little works of art themselves, lit and set into walls.
Food, Clothing and Money
The food in London is mostly what it’s been cracked up to be: bland and greasy. On principle, I ordered some fish and chips for lunch yesterday, but it came on a sterile plate with a packet of tartar sauce, not wrapped in a greasy newspaper like I’d hoped. It tasted more or less like it looks.
We’ve been keeping a keen eye on what folks around us are wearing, partly to see if we blend in appropriately (when not speaking) and partly anticipate the fashions that will eventually make their way across the Atlantic. Two notes:
- Pinstripes: Watch for ’em.
- Boots: Ladies, make them tall and tuck your pants into them
Finally, prices were a bit of a shock. The dollar really is crappy and London is an expensive town. Most things are about twice what they would cost in the U.S. It takes about two dollars to make one British pound, and all the prices are about the same in pounds as if they were in dollars: a beer is three pounds fifty (seven dollars), an entree in cheap restaurant seven or eight pounds (fourteen or fifteen dollars). Daniel tells us that London is much more expensive than the rest of Europe. We’ll be relieved.