Monday, July 20, 2009

RandA or Rafi's trip to London: July 2009

How Rafi after his Bar Mitzva took his Saba and off they
went to see London and its historical sites.

RandA London July 2, 2009

We left Winnipeg together with Yosefa on Tuesday 30.6, said
farewell to her in Toronto where she went to be Tata Fifa to
little Hillel. We flew on to London with Air Canada, a suitably
boring flight. We arrived and made our way to the hotel. This
was and is a major disappointment and Odelia who recommended it
will have her ears pasted back when I get home. It claims to be
an apartment hotel, but the room is tiny and up four flights
with no elevator. There are rudimentary cooking facilities, but
no breakfast is served. The TV is a joke with a rabbit ear
antenna that gets nothing. Rafi does not seem to mind so we
will not let it spoil our fun. This morning we found a source
of grilled cheese sandwiches so Rafi had a breakfast. The same
snack bar scrambled eggs for me.

Today we went to the Tower Hill tube station to
meet our guide for the trip to Greenwich. She is a charming
white haired lady with a wealth of information stored
underneath her hair.

The boat ride was lovely and Kim the
guide took us around historic Greenwich with a full detailed
set of gossipy tales ranging from the 11th to the 19th
centuries. After she left us we repaired to a pub for lunch,
I fish & chips plus beer and Rafi a side of chips and a few
pints of apple juice.

We next climbed the hill to the Royal Observatory where we saw
the history of time and a planetarium show.

The museum of time and longitude was fascinating and then of course we had to straddle the Earth and have a foot in each hemisphere:

We then spent an
hour each online at an Internet cafe and returned to London by
train. We spent the evening in a cinema watching the sort of
fantasy action film that teenagers love. I found it silly,
but the theater was air conditioned and more comfortable than
the room.

And now to quote Mr. Pepys, who visited the observatory
often, and so to bed.

Friday July 3
Today was not the most successful of days. We overslept
because of the late film and missed our planned walking tour
of the old Jewish quarter of London. We got off the tube at
Westminster and walked over to the Aquarium where we spent an
interesting few hours, although the place was crowded and
noisy with school classes and mamas in hijabs shepherding
masses of children around. We see the demographic future of
Europe before our eyes.
After Rafi finished his souvenir shopping we went back to the
hotel to drop off the stuff and change cameras. Yesterday
I forgot to take the camera to Greenwich and bought at
disposal Kodak at the appropriately punnish shop named
Traders Gate at the Tower.
After that we decided to go to St. Paul's Cathedral. We had a
minor lunch crisis resolved by finding a pizzeria and then took
a ride in a double decker bus to Trafalgar Square where we
noted Adm. Nelson on his column

and a bust of Cunningham the
last British ruler of our country on a plinth. I am pleased to
report to you that Gen. Cunningham was appropriately visited by
a pigeon while we were there. The square is being tarted up in
style for tomorrow's pride parade. I append a picture that puts
it in perspective...

and shows that there is no
discrimination at the highest
of municipal levels.
From there we went to the canonical
internet cafe to write to our families and then took another
double decker bus back to our hotel in nowhere land.

Shabbat is
upon us soon and we shall see how we deal with it.

Saturday July 4, evening

First happy Fourth to our American friends although it was not
noted here in London.

After a bit of discussion that included Rafi' suggestion that
we walk to the Zoo, we ended up going there about noontime by a
combination of underground, bus and walking. The London Zoo is
famous and indeed we saw many fascinating things, although I
think the ballyhoo is somewhat exaggerated. In fact, the Ramat
Gan Zoo and Safari offer no less, although there were a few
exotic animals not found everywhere. The message is heavy
conservation and rain forest preservation propaganda, very well
done and we hope effective.

Members of the family who know the Zebra stripes story will certainly be impressed by this character from the narrative:

I append a modern sculptor's concept of Mr. Tiger, Sir:

We stayed until closing time and
then came home via bus and rail but by a different route.

rested in the room for a while and then went out for a meal

I phoned my dear friend Yael and she invited us to dinner on
Wednesday evening. Rafi should feel at home with a double dose
of Ari-age kids in the form of their twins, Iris and Opher.

Sunday July 5, evening

Today we had to get out early because the local underground
line, the Jubilee, was closed all day for works of various
types and we had get down to the center by bus. It worked out
OK and we reached Tower Hill in time to join the tour of the
old Jewish Quarter,

i.e. the East End of London. We had an
excellent and knowledgable guide named Judy

who knows all the
ins and out of the history of the Jews of London. We saw the
old Portuguese synagogue

where Montifiori had been a member as
well as the Disraeli family who converted their children to the
Anglican church while remaining Jewish themselves. Rafi was suitably impressed
by all this.

We went
through the old Whitechapel market and old Petticoat Lane and
many other fascinating things and places. For example the old soup kitchen
for poor Jews:

The violin in the sidewalk marks the site of the old Yiddish
theater of London. The theater was quite popular in its time,
but after a fire stampede it closed and the owner went on to
start a Yiddish theater in New York.

The Jews have more or
less moved out, but the synagogue serves Jews who work in the
City during the week and an older congregation (about 60
people) on Shabbat. We then wandered through the marketplace
which is now Bangladesh West as you can see from this former synagogue

and found a nice Italian
restaurant in the neighborhood of Spitalfields. There are also restaurants
whose names evoke statistical associations...sorry about that.

A fellow tourist took a shot of us:

I would never
have come to these places on my own. I highly recommend this
tour to anyone who comes to London.

After lunch, things became confused. The web site had
announced the Harry Potter tour for 1700, but when we found no
one at the site, we checked the printed pamphlet and found that
it had gone off two hours earlier. I thought it was because of
synching my Palm with the computer, but indeed the discrepancy
was theirs. It may be because I downloaded in June and now they
have a July timetable. Tomorrow I shall found out about the
difference in the time set for the Westminster Abbey tour.

Despite the loss of the HP tour,it was a good day and we did
very well together.

Monday July 6, evening

Today was quite a busy and successful day. In the morning we
joined a walking tour called Secrets of Westminster Abbey. Our
guide Mary knows the gossip since the days of Edward the
Confessor and of course Henry III who rebuilt the Abbey on the
site of the church and monastery build by Edward the Confessor.
We visited a large number of illustrious dead people from many
walks of life and various eras. Photography is forbidden in the
Abbey, so we have no pix to show. I have been there in the past
more than once, but this was my first guided tour. I have no
idea what Rafi took away from it,but he will have the memory.

In the afternoon, we did the ultimate, we flew The Eye of
London. This is a monster Ferris wheel (135 meters in
diameter) on the pier near
Westminster. It gave us a beautiful view of London and was a
real experience. I probably would never have done it were it
not for being on tour with Rafi. I append a few samples of the view and
of Rafi the astronaut.

There are a few Dali statues on the walk along the pier that I
found interesting.

We then repaired to an Internet cafe and I chatted with both
Yosefa and Hadass while Rafi communicated with his brother Ari
and his sister Shira.

Tuesday, July 7, evening

Today was a day with no particular tours, although there had
been a tentative plan to do the Westminster history gig.
Instead I let Rafi sleep in until 0830 since he had been
complaining of fatigue. We retrieved our travel documents from
the safe and made our way by bus to King's Cross. The bus line
was new to us and wended its way through Hampstead which I knew
not at all. We bought his train ticket to Edinburgh and then he
asked to see Buckingham Palace. Off we went to Green Park,
strolled through the Park in the off and on rain and viewed the
royal residence. Rafi asked if the guards in the booths were
real people or statues, which says something about discipline
and immobility.

We continued our walk through Whitehall, had some lunch, posed
the Abbey with Rafi, with the drizzle doing its intermittent
thing. We saw the well guarded entrance to Downing St. and since Mr.
and Mrs. Brown

did not appear eager to invite us in for tea, we went on. We
saw the base of a battalion of Grenadier Guards with a phone number for anyone interested in joining and a horse guard as well.

At Trafalgar Square we found a book shop which was something I
had promised him. He spent a bundle of his own money on books
and we proceeded by bus to Hanley's toy store for Ma'ayan's
gift. I could not find Fischer so he will have to settle for
Meccano. Rafi went a bit wild buying presents for his sibs so I
bailed him out.

As we headed for the exit, the sky opened up and the grandpa of
thundershowers hit us. I was amazed to see that the drainage
on Regent St. failed and the sidewalks flooded. Eventually we
reached an underground station and wended our way back to the
hotel. For a free day, it was quite adventurous.

Tomorrow we shall tour the Tower of London, which, according
to Yosefa, is a must for anyone visiting here. In the afternoon
we are at the British Museum and in the evening dinner with
Yael and her family.

Wednesday, July 8, evening

Indeed we went to the Tower and has a fascinating tour with an
excellent guide. Unfortunately we left the camera in the room,
but I bought a disposable and managed to take some pictures.
BTW, we did the same thing on the Greenwich tour on our first
day. I will make digital pix of them at home and fit them all
into the blog.
The Tower and its environs

are a metaphor for all English
history and Brian the guide knows all the ins and outs. Much of
the history is quite cruel and gory, but that seems to be the
way of the world. Many of the kings were not nice guys,but
presumably they had heard of Leo Durocher, the great American
philosopher (of baseball) who left behind the dictum "nice guys
finish last" which has yet to be disproved. The Tower does contain
some creepy places

We saw the Crown Jewels and were suitably impressed. In my next incarnation I might apply to be a royal, although without the implication of decapitation as in the old days. Rafi seemed quite taken with the place:

We did not make it to the British Museum because the Tower tour
was longer than we expected. Now we are in the room packed and
ready to take off tomorrow, Rafi for Edinburgh and I to the
airport for my early flight on Friday. We shall soon get on our
way to dinner with Yael, Yonni et al.

Dinner was great and I greatly enjoyed touching base with Yael
and Yonni. Rafi hit it off beautifully with the twins and they
had a wonderful time together. At the end, Yael drove us home
and we geared up for the morning.

Saturday, July 11 at home

On Thursday morning we took a taxi to King's Cross, dropped my
stuff at left luggage, had a quickie breakfast at a Nero kiosk
and made our way to track 1 where the train to Edinburgh was
waiting. I parked Rafi in his reserved first class seat and off
he went. There is no longer a need for a platform ticket, you
simply walk up to the train and board it.
As soon as he left, I began to miss him.

I spent the morning and early afternoon at the British Library
which I strongly recommend to anyone who is visiting London. In
the evening, I went to a hotel at Heathrow and yesterday flew
home to Yosefa who was waiting at the airport. It was a fun
trip for me and I hope for Rafi.