The Royal Courts of Justice
This morning I decided to follow one of the walks suggested in Rick Steves' travel guide. I started in front of The Savoy Hotel on The Strand and walked down four or five blocks to St. Paul's Cathedral.
The first sight I passed was the gorgeous, Gothic Royal Courts of Justice where all these importantly busy, proper English barristers and solicitors were scurrying around in their 2000 pound hand tailored suits. The building was so beautiful that I didn't even realize it has a fancy court house. It looked more like a college campus.
Twining's Tea store! It's in the oldest part of The City. It's also the part of the town that was burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Most of the shops and houses were lost, but when they rebuilt the town, they used the same medieval street plan they already had. The shops were long and impossibly narrow, sort of like stacked rows of shotgun houses. There were all these little hidden court yards and winding back streets that aren't really on any map. It was in one of those little court yards that I found the Temple Church. It is the oldest church in London and was founded by the Knights Templar. Dan Brown writes about this church in Angels and Demons. I would have missed it if I hadn't been looking very carefully. Unfortunately, it wasn't open yet! I may can go back this afternoon.
About four shops over from Temple Church there was a plaque that said that this particular building was where Samuel Pepys lived. I remember that in college we were assigned to read Pepys famous diary. I was dreading it because I don't usually like reading nonfiction, and nonfiction written in Shakespeare's convoluted English just seemed like cruel and unusual torture. Boy, was I wrong! Pepys was funny! He made London a real town, not just a historical artifact. He also showed me that people, even Shakespeare, didn't run around talking in Shakespeare to each other. They really talked pretty much the way we do today; well, they did use a few "thees" and "thous" for the people they didn't like too much.
What I wonder is how the people of London live with all this beauty? Everywhere you turn there is another little piece of gorgeousness! I'll be walking along thinking about how my feet hurt or how I would like some barbecue or wondering how the man next door can snore so loudly and not wake himself up, when suddenly I turn a corner and there is an incredible old church or yet another fantastic monument or something famous like London Bridge that I sang songs about as a kid. Londoners seem to live so casually with things that make my jaw drop. It makes me wonder what I'm taking for granted at home that someone with fresh eyes would find amazing. It would probably be our violent thunderstorms or our tornadoes or our massive grocery stores!
Anyway, St. Paul's is where Charles and Lady Diana were married. It much more appropriate for wedding than Westminster, "don't cha fink, darlin'?" Behind the nave was a beautiful chapel built to honor the American soldiers who died during WWII. It was very touching. There are memorials all over town to Americans and American soldiers. I think the British were glad that we joined the war.
The London Eye from Westminster Bridge
The Temple Church