Today is our last and partial day in London. Our plane is tomorrow morning, but we’ve learned over the years it’s easier for us to overnight at an airport hotel than to stress out getting to the airport for a morning flight. It took two hours by Underground to get from our hotel in town to Heathrow. That was in non-rush hour travel. There are faster ways to travel to Heathrow, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this trip, fast is the opposite of cheap. Heathrow Express would have been about £23/person, or $56 for the two of us, one way (non-rush hour). The Underground was about £5 each or $12 for the two of us. And since travel times are unpredictable in either case, we’d rather come out to the airport the night before than get up before dawn.
Yesterday when we were out and about, I noticed something lying on the sidewalk. It looked like the cover for an Oyster card (travel card for Underground/Bus). Sure enough, that’s what it was. When we got to a Tube station, I used one of the machines to check the balance. It had been reloaded that day and still had £17 ($20) on it! Someone is going to be very sad, but since they registered the card (I checked online) they should be able to get whatever is left after I finish using it. 😉 I could tell it had been registered, but not to whom.
One of the things that happens once in a while when you travel internationally is that you end up with some foreign currency at the end of your trip. Since we’ve been able to return periodically, we try not to keep too much, but just hold on to whatever we have until the next trip. But, for at least the third time in memory, when I went to pay for something small in cash (because the little guidebook stand at the British Museum only took cash), I was told that the £5/10 bills I had were no longer valid. Ok, I don’t need souvenir money. So I looked up where we could exchange the old bills for new ones – at the Bank of England, which is (unsurprisingly) located on Bank Street. We took the Tube to the station nearest it then walked to the BOE, a block long seven story building with no name on it. The guards at the entrance outside though told us we were in the right place and in just a few minutes, I had some new freshly printed money (must be nice, just print up some money when you need it; they don’t convert coins).! This process was so much easier than when we went thru the Stockholm airport and were told the same thing about some 500 krona bills. In that case since we were just passing through the airport and not the city, I had to mail my money to their central bank, who helpfully charged me for converting the old bills and wiring the funds to me.
On our way over to the BOE, we were getting ready to step on the down escalator in the Underground and noticed a bank note lying on the ground. My wife picked it up and found that there were two bank notes totaling £70 ($108). That person is really going to be sad.
Since we didn’t have a full day, we had limited time to do other sightseeing, but found that there was a Christopher Wren designed church not far away. St. Mary-le-Bow (known as the Bow Bells church) was about 15 minutes by foot from BOE, so we walked there. It’s not a large church, nestled in amongst the large office buildings that have grown up to surround it. The steeple that Christopher Wren designed when the church was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London was covered in scaffolding as it was being renovated, but the interior was open. According to tradition, a true Cockney must be born within earshot of the sound of Bow Bells. Many of the streets in the area are named after the goods that were once sold near there, so there are street names like Milk,Bread, Poultry, Honey Lane.
Though the church was destroyed by the Great Fire (and again in 1941 in WWII), it’s origins go back to 1080 when it was the London headquarters of the archbishops of Canterbury, and still serves the small surrounding community.
We walked past St Paul’s Cathedral, but didn’t have the time to justify the £20 entrance fee (ouch!).
St Paul’s is visible from the London Eye and the Sky Garden.
We’ve got an hour until we planned to check out, so we’re headed back to the hotel to pack one last time.
So here we are, two weeks later after having spent a total of a week in London and a week in Scotland (between Glasgow, Paisley and Edinburgh). Even though we’ve been to London a number of times before, it still wasn’t enough; there so much to see and places outside of the city we’ve not made time to visit, much less other parts of England. All the more reason to find time for more visits to England and Scotland.