My best day in London

Now that I’m back in the real world, after hitting the ground running I have a break on this post-call day to catch up on a few things. I wanted to finish my series of posts on my London trip.

Friday was probably my favorite day of vacation. I set my alarm clock for 6:20, and not long thereafter I was out in the early morning jogging along the Thames. As I ran, I couldn’t help but remember all the miles I logged on the running trail behind my apartment complex in the Texas city I called home for five years, and I couldn’t help to compare the plain foilage and buildings of that path to my present surroundings–one of the cleanest rivers of Europe on my left hand side, impressive buildings–both ancient and modern–on my right, and the sunny English morning sky overhead.

For those of you who surmised I started my run on the north bank (according to my last post, I was staying near St Paul’s), you now know that I was running from east to west, or upstream. Just as I reached the tower of Big Ben where I’d decided would be my turn-around point, the gigantic bell struck 0700!

After a quick shower and breakfast at the lodge, I set out for the second time that day for the City of Westminster. Being still before 0900, I sat on the riverbank and read for a while before touring the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. I really liked seeing the British command post for operations in World War II, left virtually untouched since 1945.

I took a stroll then in nearby St James Park and sat on some steps for another hour or so to read. Lunch was excellent and inexpensive–coconut milk soup and pad thai. I made a quick tour of the National Gallery–which just so happened to have a free special exhibit on the Impressionists, and read a few pages in Trafalgar Square before realizing that I needed another nap.

Better rested and refreshed, I went to Westminster for the third time that day, this time entering Westminster Abbey for the daily Evensong service as the chimes struck five o’clock. This was definitely a highlight of the trip–worshipping in a church that’s nearly 1,000 years old. The nave is only 35 feet wide, but the ceiling towers nearly 100 feet above the floor! The boys choir was in top form that day (a few second reverberation time in the ancient space surely can’t hurt), and I appreciated the simple but beautiful Anglican liturgy.

My last evening was peaceful, spending a few hours in the common room–you guessed it–reading and drinking tea.

Upon a little reflection, I’ve realized some key elements that make for a successful vacation, Jonathan style:

  • Interesting things. (1-2 hours at a museum is interesting, 4-5 is not.)
  • Walking interesting places. Parks. City streets. Seeing a city as someone who lives there does.
  • Sleep. Should be ample. Option for naps is a plus.
  • Plenty of leisure reading.
  • Alone time. Maybe a vacation by oneself in another country is a bit on the introverted end of the spectrum, but I think I need a little solitude to feel recharged.
  • Nature. I really like seeing different parts of the world for the differences in terrain, rather it’s hiking through a meadow in western England or enjoying a forest in Pennsylvania.
  • Leaving the house tidy before leaving.
  • Most importantly–a day or two buffer upon getting home before returning to work. An otherwise good vacation can be simply ruined by flying in the night before returning to work.

On all counts–except for leaving my room tidy–this was a successful one.

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1 Comment

Filed under Traveling

One response to “My best day in London

  1. David

    At an Auburn Avenue conference, NT Wright commented that when he used to be Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, he used to give tours to wide-eyed Americans of the very chambers in which the Westminster Standards were drafted in the 1640s.

    He added, “It’s nice to know you Presbyterians have your holy sites as well.”

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