I woke up early so I could have breakfast at Starbucks and blog for a bit. I had warm porridge with dried fruit. (Yum!) Unfortunately, I didn’t get too much writing done, but I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere. Afterwards, I met with our group and we took the Tube to Westminster. Once we stepped off the Tube we saw Big Ben and I snapped even more photos of the giant clock. We made our way to Westminster Abbey and took shelter inside from the bitter cold. I think our entire group gasped collectively when we walked through the door and saw the first alter. The high alter took my breath away with its golden glory. Words cannot describe the beauty of the Abbey (and unfortunately photography is not permitted inside).
We walked past the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, surrounded by large crimson flowers. Our tour guide told us that there are over 3,000 tombs in the church, but this is the only tomb in the floor that people do not walk on out of respect. We continued into the church, walking along the same route that Kate Middleton walked during her wedding to Prince William. If while I was watching the royal wedding someone had told me that in just over a year I would be standing in that very church, I would not have believed them. This entire trip has been like a fairytale and I still cannot believe that I am actually here!
As we continued into the church, we passed the tombs of Sir Isaac Newton and Sigmund Freud. Next we made our way into a small alcove where two royal half sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, are buried. Some of our group became a bit emotional at this portion of our tour, but I was able to hold it together until I heard a voice over the loudspeaker that filled the entire Abbey announcing the hourly moment of prayer. I am not by any means a religious person, but when I opened my eyes after the prayer I had tears streaming down my face. From this point on I really began to grasp where I was. My favorite part of the tour was at the end when we visited Poets’ Corner. I saw tombs and commemorative plaques to some of the most beloved authors and writers in the history of the English language. I saw plaques and/or tombs for Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, William Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens. Lewis Carroll’s plaque had his name written in a circle to play homage to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Somehow another hour had slipped away and while we were in Poets’ Corner it was time to pray again. When I opened my eyes and saw the bust of William Shakespeare I started to cry all over again. If you ever find yourself in Westminster, you must explore the Abbey.
At noon we had a lovely lunch at the Middle Temple and sat very close to the high table. This was a buffet style lunch and I had some nice warm soup, a vegetable pie, and a few samplings of different salads. Salads in the U.K. are very different from salads at home. In the States, salads usually have lettuce, but here they rarely do and are made of any number of fruits, vegetables, pastas, potatoes, and/or seafood. They are very delicious and there are so many vegetarian options! After lunch I shopped at the original Twinings tea shop that opened in the early 1700s and bought more tea than I could ever drink in a lifetime. (It looks like I’ll need to throw some tea parties once I get home!)
In the evening we saw the opening night of The Three Sisters production at the New Diorama Theatre. This was definitely my least favorite play that we’ve seen so far on the trip. For fear of sounding whiney or ungrateful, I’ll just say that some actors were prone to overacting and the lighting was a bit blinding at times. I was definitely not alone in feeling this way because when the lights went out at the end of the show, I heard the most unenthusiastic applause I’ve ever heard and I feared that it wouldn’t last until the lights went back on and the actors took their bows. I would like to think that the production was still working out some kinks and that future performances will show some improvement. Even though the show was a disappointment, I still had a wonderful day!