Under the Channel and through the woods

One of the things I love most about my spouse is that he never meets a stranger. As a result, I meet some very interesting people — some whom I will never see again and others who become friends. Such are Dorothy and Robert Hinton who I first met in Ft. Lauderdale where they had a sailboat in the slip next to ours. The Hintons live in Suffolk, England and were kind enough to invite John and I to stay overnight at their home yesterday in Bury St. Edmonds after a day running around London.

London has a different vibe than Paris — not quite as hustle-and-bustle as NYC, but not as laid-back as Paris. We managed to see the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace then strolled through St. James Park which was really lovely despite the fact that they’re still restoring parts of it after the Olympics. We ended up in Trafalgar Square and stopped for lunch at a pub, Clarence, diagonally across from the Horse Guard. Then it was on to see Big Ben, Parliament and a tour of Westminster Abbey.

William the Conqueror was coronated on the site of Westminster Abbey in 1066. The current Gothic structure, however, was built in the 13th century. The Abbey also houses the Coronation Throne last sat upon by the current queen. Who will be next? Charles or his son…inquiring minds around the world want to know. Speaking of inquiring minds…I didn’t make it to Fleet Street– the birthplace of British journalism — but I was captivated by the tomb of the sisters involved in the greatest sibling rivalry since Cain and Abel. Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots are both interred at Westminster Abbey — though Elizabeth ended up wth the throne and thus, the more ornate monument.

There’s a nice park beside the Abbey and across from Big Ben which features statues of some of the world’s great statesmen. Winston Churchill is front and center. We read that the Prime Minister agreed to having a statue erected in his honor, provided something was done to insure that pigeons wouldn’t poop all over it. The solution was to have an electric current run through the statue — keep the pigeons at bay and the Prime Minister free of bird doo. In addition to Nelson Mandela, I was pleasantly surprised to see a statue of Honest Abe gracing the area.

We left London on a train bound for Suffolk and about 90 minutes later were met at the Stowmarket Station by Robert. The Hintons live in this beautiful, 300-year-old farmhouse with their two dogs. Robert’s 89-year-old mother lives in an in-law suite which was converted from a garage. I had the real pleasure of meeting Mrs. Hinton and boring her with a description of the U.S. healthcare system when asked a few questions about it by Dorothy.

The Hintons are a most gracious couple and wonderful conversationalists. Luckily, they’re coming to Paris today to spend a couple of days with us and the Louvre! We left their lovely home at the crack of dawn today and journeyed back to King’s Cross/St. Pancras station to catch the Eurostar back to Paris. But not before having breakfast with Vladas Stankevicius, a friend of John’s who lives and works in London. We hosted Ugnius, Vladas’ nephew, for the summer in 2011. We’ll be seeing both Vladas and Ugnius in Paris this week — along with my Meggie Moo, who leaves the U.S. today to make her way here. Can’t wait to see ma fille!

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