July 2, 2011

Day 1 - London: Westminster & Evensong

We're here!! 

Look out, London, the Redmons are taking over.  After getting harassed at the Houston airport for taking a picture… 

…we were on our way to a 9 hour overnight (6:30pm – 9:30am) flight! 

(Allison's Note:  Those TSA peeps have waaaay too much time on their hands.
Big TSA Dude: “Mam, who are you taking a picture of?? 
Me:  “My husband.” 
Big TSA Dude:  “Can I see the camera please?” 
Me:  Thinks “No!” Says “Of course, officer.” 
Big TSA Dude:  “Oh, it is your husband… ‘cause I don’t like it when people take pictures of me without a royalty being given to me. 
Me:  “Yep.  You’re definitely not in that picture.” 
Andrew:  “And…. It’s time to go!”  *Drags me off before I’m arrested.*)

We both thought the flight to London felt really short, but neither of us got much sleep at all.  I think I had maybe 3 hours and Allison had maybe 3 minutes.  Needless to say, we are WIPED OUT!  We’re trying our best right now to stay awake as long as we can so we can go to bed at a normal time tonight (Read 6 PM).
We arrived at Heathrow right on time and went through customs.  We felt like we were being grilled hardcore by the customs guy, (Don’t ever answer… “Because we were given $10,000.”  It leads to 10 minutes of very intense questions and lots and lots of paperwork) but it turned out he was just REALLY interested about the Fund for Teachers grant!  He kept going on and on about how they didn’t have anything like that in the UK and how great that was for us and our students – pretty cool!  After quite some time there, we stepped outside to the most glorious thing for two Houstonians – 66 degree temperatures in the middle of the day!  This is my cup of tea (ha!)  (I was cold.)

We managed the tube stations and found our hotel. (Not without bemoaning the fact that we should have had Tyler Look, one of my band kids, to give us the skinny on maneuvering the London Tube system on a Saturday which is, by the way, when half of the tube system is shut down due to maintenance.  The route we ended up taking to our hotel looked like a smiley face once completed.)  The hotel is a nice little place right next to a street full of Indian restaurants – so we hopped right out to get going.  We ate at a fantastic Indian vegetarian place about 100 feet…sorry….30 meters :-)…..from our hotel (It was us and a bunch of Dutch backpackers who stood just a little too close to us in the buffet line).  Boy, Indian food in England is AWESOME.  Behold, pictures of our happiness (We're going to go ahead and just apologize now for all the food pictures you’re going to see on this blog…. Mmmmm, we sure do like to eat.):



After that, we took the tube again to go to Westminster Abbey.  This experience was incredible…we could NOT have found a better way to start this trip!  Westminster is probably the most famous church in the English-speaking world - the place has 3,000 tombs (29 of which are kings and queens) and so many memorials to prominent people that you can hardly take 3 steps without stepping on one of them.  The walls  contain everything from new, shiny marble to 1,000 year old columns to bomb holes from the German bombing campaigns of World War II.

Westminster Abbey

"Will you take our picture without stealing our camera?"

The side of the Abbey.  No pictures allowed inside :-(

Somebody's been awake for too long....
We took the self guided audio tour (which is free, but you pay for admission - absolutely worth the money.)  The different parts of the Abbey they describe are fascinating, and you wouldn’t know half of it unless someone told you.  The highlight of the tour had to be the burial site of the Baroque composer George Frederick Handel.  Doesn’t ring a bell??  One word:

This guy is one of the most famous composers to have ever lived and we stood 2 feet from where he was buried in 250 years ago!! (Actually, I’m pretty sure we stood on him.)  We also saw burial plates for Ralph Vaughn Williams (Love!), Edward Elgar, Benjamin Britten, and Henry Purcell.  Talk about bridging what you’ve studied to real life!  

After the tour, we walked across Westminster Bridge to get a few good pictures of Parliament and Big Ben!  (For the record, we keep saying “What time is it?” to each other because we don’t have cell phones with us…nevermind that there’s a clock the size of Alaska constantly in view.)  (Sooo, I planed everything out right?? And missed one MAJOR detail.  We don’t have phones.  And I haven’t worn a watch since… oh…. 2001??  We literally had no idea what time it was all day.)   

It really is a large Ben.
This is not to scale.
Big Ben and Parliment
That is NOT our kid.
The icing on the cake for us and the reason I said this was the perfect way to start the trip was what we came back to the Abbey for at 5pm – the nightly Evensong service.  This is a free hour-long service that is about 90% sung liturgy.  We heard EXACTLY what we’re here for – the first song was the Choir of Westminster Abbey singing a plainsong chant by the composer Ambrose from about 370 A.D.  Hearing that in the middle of downtown London in a beautiful cathedral that has been singing those services since about 950 A.D. was nearly too much for me.  I’ll tell you, it’s difficult to break the fog of jet lag and concentrate on something the first day of a trip, but that was an experience we will never in our lives forget.  I was speechless.  (Both of us might or might not have cried…  : )       


  1. you nerds look great!

  2. Tiffany F7/02/2011

    I am getting teary just thinking about Evensong in the Abby. Wow.

  3. TylerL7/02/2011

    jealous!!! you guys took the Tube!!! awesomeness!
    oh, and yah...forgot to mention that weekends were a pain.
    here's a map with up-to-date closures and detours:
    so glad to hear you guys are having a great time!

  4. Sounds like you're having a great time already! What happened to the Ambien??!! Glad to see Tyler's got you lined up with some help! Chili and Wonton send their regards...right now they are in a coma. Each night I've walked them around the big lake. They'll probably lose a few pounds this week, and they should sleep well! The crazy thing was that Wonton was the one that was running ahead the whole way. Chili just walked next to me the whole time. I think he may have a cold. Won Ton has christened every tree and pole around that whole lake! Have fun!

  5. We went to Evensong with HC students a few years ago and it was fantastic. The pulpit used at that time was connected to a famous missionary but I don't remember which one. Thanks for the update; keep them coming!

  6. WOW, WOW, WOW!! sounds like you all are having a great trip!!! How exciting!!