Happy Birthday, America!

We'll be missing the fireworks today, unless the US Embassy decides to let off a few rounds over #10 Downing.


A couple of things are different here observations.

° We've lived and slept with the windows open for 6 days because our flat does not have an air conditioner. The windows have a handle that turns two ways. If you turn the handle up, the window comes in at the top for ventilation. If you turn the handle down, the window opens from the side, allowing you to look out on the world. There are no screens on the windows, so I suppose we might plummet to our deaths if we weren't ever vigilant.

° Imagine if you left the windows (without screens) open for 6 days during July in Oklahoma. You would spend until November trying to get the houseflies out of your home. I don't think I've seen a fly since we've been here. Not much in the way of other insects, either.

° Towel heaters in the bathroom. A towel heater is a rack that operates at about 110F (45C). Even in summer, it's nice to step out of the shower into a nice warm towel. Many of the hotels I've stayed at have had them as does this apartment. I highly approve. I may have to get on Amazon and have one delivered to our home.

° This flat has a washer/dryer combo unit. It has just enough capacity to do one days worth of clothing for a family of four. Jackie puts in a load as we're leaving and when we're back the clothes are still damp. There is also a clothes drying rack. I don't know if these units are common in homes, but they are shown in nearly all the rental units we looked at before we came here. We're so accustomed to our massive Whirlpool front-loading unit that can do a weeks worth of laundry at a time, we're having to learn to allocate time daily.

° Oklahoma, at it's worst, wouldn't show up on the meter compared to the relative humidity in London. Combined with the lack of air conditioning, this makes 90F (32C) days really unbearable. We hear about heat waves in Europe and snicker at them for sweltering in 95F (35C) conditions, but it's every bit as miserable as the month of 105 degree days we had a couple years ago.


Walking so much every day has put blisters on our feet. Today won't be any better, so we're just going to have to wear better socks.


At Windsor Castle, I noticed graffiti chiseled into the stone in a number of places. As we were walking out the Cathedral, I spotted an entire wall defaced with initials. I couldn't imagine someone doing this to the White House. I asked one of the wardens at the gate if this was a recent phenomenon. He said "Bored soldiers have been scratching their initials into this building for 500 years. If we catch any of them doing it, we'll crack their head open, but we can't watch them every hour of the day." He then showed us some examples in the gateway going back to the 17th century.


Well, we're off to see Greenwich. Check in later...


We decided to head for Greenwich and the Royal Observatory. This was a fun trip just getting there as we took one of the City Cruise boats from the Tower of London. There were a few complications getting to the boat, such as the Tower Bridge being raised for a Tall Ship and being directed to the wrong queue for our ride. But, once we were on the right boat we found a nice table with padded seat for our 30 minute ride down the Thames.

The City Cruise boats are double decked. The top deck has metal chairs and an open roof. The bottom deck is glassed in with large windows to allow a breeze in. One of the watermen (passenger pilots) manned a microphone and gave a running commentary about the buildings alongside the river and their historical significance. He was a natural at keeping a running monologue and possibly does this hundreds of times a year. At the end, he asked the crowd to provide a small "consideration" for his commentary. He said the donations went to a good cause--research on historical pubs along the Thames, which he and his crew mates personally conduct at the end of their shift.

Landing at Greenwich, we walked along the Old War College and onto the grounds of the National Maritime Museum. We didn't stop for the displays, instead heading toward the Royal observatory. The observatory is easily visible from the middle of the Thames and there's a reason for this. It's uphill. A lot uphill if you're walking. By the time we got to the top, Jackie was giving some choice words about me for not taking the less direct handicapped entrance with a shallower slope.


The Royal Observatory is a great place to visit, if nobody else is there. On a Saturday afternoon in July, there's a lot of people there. It would've been nice to visit the planetarium and see the telescope, but there were far too many people. We checked out a couple of exhibits and then went to the Prime Meridian.

History Lesson: I'll try to be brief here. The Prime Meridian is important to map nerds and especially people who engage in the bit of silliness known as Geocaching. Because the Prime Meridian defines the boundary between East and West. Any time zones to the east of the Prime Meridian add hours to the clock, while those to the west subtract hours.

We have the equator to provide a real model of the North and South, as it is equidistant between the two poles where the axis of the Earth spins. It can be measured and discovered. We can discover how far north or south we are by looking at the night sky using a device called an astrolabe. We cannot tell how far east or west we are using scientific measurements.

We can, however, tell how far east or west we are by keeping a very accurate clock and measuring the location of the sun at exactly noon. There is a ball at the top of the observatory that drops at exactly noon and outgoing ships would look for it. They would synchronize their ships' clock to the ball dropping on their way out of port. A ships navigator who kept time well and was able to determine a ships location was said to be on the ball.

For map nerds and geocachers, this all comes down to the lines of latitude and longitude we read on our maps and GPS devices.

OK, history lesson over...

From the observatory, we headed down the hill. No need for a handicap entrance as it's all downhill to the river. But you can't beat the view.

We went back to the river to hop on another City Cruise boat. This was a different boat with a different commentator who had a different style. We took the City Cruise to Westminster pier, near the houses of Parliament. Jackie had in mind to go to the Church of St. Martin in the Fields and do a few brass rubbings. Jackie and the kids spent about an hour at the church, while I sat outside watching the crowds and street performers around Trafalgar Square.

We had supper at a Moroccan restaurant up the street from the church and then hopped on the Leicester Square tube to Waterloo station. I made a mistake in choosing the northbound 188 bus rather than the southbound bus so we ended up going across the Thames. No worries as we hopped off at the next stop, crossed the street and waited for the next southbound 188 bus.

Our southbound bus crossed the Thames right as the sun was setting and it was a beautiful sight to see. Sometimes a mistake happens for the right reasons. Thirty minutes later, we were at our flat, where Jackie is busily puttering about packing for tomorrow and doing a last load of laundry before we are 6 days without a washer.

We tookonly 16,000 steps today.


A couple of people-watching items today...

I was waiting in the queue to get on the boat to leave Greenwich. Jackie and the kids were getting a soda or something. The queue was in the sun and the boat wouldn't leave for another 20 minutes, so there was no hurry for them to join me. They sat in the shade until later. After a while, a woman in her 60's comes along and lifts the zippered line between the queues. She then proceeds to cut past most everyone in line. A few minutes later, she calls out to her friends and then opens the line to let them in. She tells them it's OK because they are "VIPs". They all have a laugh and start talking among themselves. They're Americans. A few minutes later, more of their party arrive and people behind me are expressing complete annoyance. I'm not ashamed to be an American, but I felt like giving them a piece of my mind.

The area where we waited on our southbound bus was a very trendy part of town with nice restaurants and lots of people dressed up for a night on the town. A young woman in a nice sequin and satin dress was escorted out of a pub by the bouncers, along with two of her friends. The Metropolitan Police were outside the pub and tried to convince her friends to get her home. At some point, she started melting down and Beau watched it all. She started making catty remarks and we told her it was a life lesson--if you're going to get drunk and have a meltdown in public, people are going to snicker and say catty things about you.

Sleep awaits.