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London Journal
March 7 to March 15, 1998

Day Five: Wednesday, March 11

"When a man is tied of London, he is tired of life,
for there is in London all that life can afford."
- Samuel Johnson, 1777

Today began rainy and cold, so we decided to try to stay indoors. Our first stop was St. Paul's Cathedral. We began our tour in the crypt, where Admiral Nelson, hero of the Battle of Trafalgar, lies buried directly beneath the center of the church. The Duke of Wellington is buried nearby, as is Sir Christopher Wren, the church's architect. When we got upstairs, Margie toured the nave while Barry, Flora, Martin and Melanie began their climb to the top. The first level (259 steps -- Flora counted) leads to the Whispering Gallery. One may whisper into the wall and a person seated on the opposite side of the gallery will hear if seated in the proper spot. We had a great time with this for a few minutes. The next level leads to a viewing area outside and the last level is at the top of the dome where there are great views of London from the 360-degree outdoor viewing area. The climb down is much quicker and easier. There are 530 steps total, or as Martin pointed out, 1,060, because you have to come back down.

We snacked for lunch at a café across the street from St. Paul's, then headed for the Half-Price Ticket Booth in the West End to see what matinees were available. When this didn't pan out, we walked the short walk to Her Majesty's Theatre in hopes of getting a last minute return ticket to "The Phantom of the Opera". We were at the front of the queue for returns and the line eventually grew to 20-30 people. We passed the time by seeing how close people could come to being hit by a bus while crossing the street and by watching the ticket scalpers at work in front of the theatre. After one hour and 15 minutes, our ship ca me in. We were offered two returns in the stalls and three in the dress circle. They were wonderful seats and the show did not disappoint. The production was much better than either production Flora and Barry had seen in Dallas over the past couple of years. The costumes, choreography and special effects were especially dramatic, not to mention the singing, acting, and of course, the story line and those beautiful songs! The theatre is also very lovely. At interval, it seemed unusual for us to take our snacks back to our seats and eat them there, but this is what is done. The only snack available is ice cream.

After the theatre, we made our way to Covent Garden, yet another very lively place in the evening. The restaurant we were looking for was not there any longer, so we ended up at the Spaghetti House, an authentic Italian place. We ate different types of pasta, salmon and veal. We then walked back to Covent Garden to shop, but the stores were closed, so we went home.

View from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral

Queuing for Ticket Returns at Her Masjesty's Theatre