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London Journal
March 7 to March 15, 1998

Day Three: Monday, March 9

"The way to see London is from the top of a bus -- the top of a bus, gentlemen."
- William Gladstone

The day dawned bright and sunny, but Barry and Martin slept in to combat the effects of jet lag. Margie, Flora and Melanie walked around the corner to Pollock's Toy Museum-an old three-story house full of Victorian paper theatres, dolls, dollhouses, vintage teddy bears and every kind of toy imaginable from times past-several hundred years ago to the middle of this century. There were also antique toys from different countries around the world.

We picked up Barry and Martin around noon and went to the West End Kitchen for lunch where we enjoyed fish 'n chips, bangers 'n mash with Yorkshire pudding, and chicken hot pot with apple crumble and bread and butter pudding for dessert. We then boarded the "Original London Sightseeing Tour" bus at Piccadilly. The bus has live commentary for two hours and passes all of London's major sights (and most minor ones, for that matter). We passed a peaceful protest in front of St. James' Palace (Prince Charles' home) and the Commonwealth Day Observances at Westminster Abbey. The ambassador from Gambia was arriving as we passed. When the bus arrived at Trafalgar Square, we got off to feed the pidgeons. There were thousands of them and when you put birdseed in your hands, they swarm all over you--your head, arms, shoulders, etc. We spent an enjoyable hour doing this. We reboarded the next bus, which was open-topped, and of course, we went upstairs to enjoy the view. The hats, gloves, scarves and thermal underwear that we left at home because it was "March" would certainly have come in handy!

We finished the tour at Piccadilly where we began and shopped a little on the way to dinner in Soho at the Stockpot Restaurant. Excellent fishcakes, spaghetti bolognese, and delicious salad were the order of the day. Soho is a very busy place at night -- not at all like the East End!

Melanie had gotten the sniffles from the open-topped bus ride, so we took her back to the flat, while Margie stayed behind and had coffee at a café on Leicester Square (another "happening" place in the evening). Barry stayed home with Melanie and watched "Apollo 13" on SKY Movies Screen One while Flora and Martin put on warmer clothes and rejoined Margie in time to tour Segaworld (a multi-story entertainment complex for children and teens). At 8:45pm, the three of them set out on their journey to the Tower of London to witness the Ceremony of the Keys. These tickets are only available by writing to the Resident Governor of the Tower weeks in advance and they felt fortunate to have gotten them. They were let in to the Tower by a Yeoman Warder and briefed on the history of the ceremony. The Tower has been locked up in this ceremonial way every night for over 700 years without a missed day, even during the Blitz in World War II, when a bomb was dropped in the Tower while the ceremony was in progress. The ceremony, although short -- it starts at 9:53pm and finishes just as the 10:00pm bell is tolling -- is very moving and memorable. Martin broke the eerie silence by quietly beginning to hum the marching song from "The Wizard of Oz". Fortunately, no one other that Margie and Flora heard him! The only remaining question is -- if the Tower has been locked, how did they get out? I'll never tell!

Feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square