Chapter-a-Day Psalm 113

Embankment Station London 031909 LR God is higher than anything and anyone, outshining everything you can see in the skies. Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned, Surveying his magnificent heavens and earth? Psalm 113:4-6 (MSG)

It was interesting reading these verses after a week in London and two long flights "across the pond." There was much about London that was different. You had to look the opposite way when crossing the street (they drive on the left hand side). There were very few public trash cans (they employ street sweepers), and there was no place to write in a tip for your server on the credit card slip.

There was much about London, however, that was the same. Some people were extremely polite and courteous. Some people were very rude. There were good times and trying times. There were things that we enjoyed and some things we didn't enjoy. Wendy and I had moments of exhiliration and moments of utter frustration. God is God, enthroned and reigning over all. Whether you live in the United States or the United Kindgom, we are all just your basic boogerheads in need of God and plodding along on this journey through life. 

London Days 6 & 7: The Last Day & the Journey Home

The only thing on our itinerary on Monday was the play England People Very Nice at the Royal National Theatre in the evening. Wendy and I went down the list and thought of the last few things on our “to-see” and “to-do” list. Our final day would be spent doing the last few things on the list.

After a leisurely morning getting up and ready, we hopped the Tube and headed for Harrod’s department store. Harrod’s is one of, if not the most famous department stores in the world. The son of the owner was Princess Di’s boyfriend, the one who was killed in the car accident with her. Just as the Mall of America would be a “must see” on a trip to Minneapolis, Harrod’s is a “must see” when you go to London. It’s four floors and an entire city block. There’s nothing you can’t find at Harrod’s. They don’t just have chocolates, they have an entire room filled with counters representing different chocolatiers from around the word. It was quite and experience just walking through the place and seeing products like jellied ox tongue. We didn’t spend a lot of time at Harrod’s, but we walked through, bought a few souvenirs, and the hopped back on the Tube.

Our next stop was Kensington Royal Gardens, and this stop was for Taylor. She and Clayton are reading some classic novels together and they’ve begun with Peter Pan. There is a famous statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, so we went to take some pictures for her. It was at this point that we felt the weather turning for the worse. We’d enjoyed five days with lots of sunshine, but as we made our way into the park the wind was chilly and cold. The statue was a lot of fun and we stopped for a few minutes to watch the swans on the lake, but it was getting cold and we soon headed back to the Tube station. I should mention, at some point, that Wendy had downloaded this really cool application for her iPod Touch which had a map of the London Underground system. You could plot where you were and where you wanted to go and it would calculate the route complete with which trains to catch at which stations and approximately how long it would take. That little program was a lifesaver all week and Wendy was constantly planning our routes.

One of the things we’d wanted to spend more time doing was walking through one of London’s open markets. We’d visited Covent Garden Market on Friday, but we were there in the evening as the vendors were shutting down. As we headed down to the Tube I noticed that we were two stops from Notting Hill, the neighborhood where the movie Notthing Hilltakes place and the site of one of London’s most famous markets on Portobello Road. So, we went two more stops and hiked about a mile up the narrow street of antique dealers, vintage clothiers and one-of-a-kind shops. It was Monday, so most of the vendors weren’t open. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the walk and stopped at a few shops.

We went back to our apartment briefly to drop off our packages and then headed back towards Covent Garden. By this time, I was craving a good American restaurant, and we’d walked past a T.G.I. Friday’s on Bedford Street several times. So, we went there for lunch. It was, indeed, much like any Friday’s here in the states. By the time we left, the rain and started and we knew we were in for some traditional London weather.

The Covent Garden market was also largely shut down on Monday, so we hoofed our way back towards Trafalgar Square. We’d picked up a few trinkets during the week, but thought that this would be our last chance to stop in one of the requisite cheesy tourist shops. As we entered, the rain began to pour. We shopped, and picked up a cheap umbrella for four pounds. Exiting the shop and heading back for our flat, we opened our new umbrella, It took all of about a half block for the wind to turn the cheap umbrella completely inside out and break it. So much for that.

Our final night in London was at the National Theatre. England People Very Nice was a very interesting play that tells the story of four waves of immigrants that have come to London throughout history: the French Heugonots, the Irish, the Jews, and the Bangladeshis. The theme of the play reveals that each group was rejected and harassed upon their arrival, but eventually they became “English” and subsequently harassed the next wave of immigrants for not being English like they were. It was extremely well done and done with a lot of comedy. It was a great way to end our trip.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was sunny once more and we were anxious to get home. We were a little rushed, having not given ourselves as much time to pack and get to the airport as we should have. But, we made it on time and had relatively uneventful flights home. There was one small delay in Chicago that left Grandpa and Grandma Vander Well waiting an extra hour at the airport, but it was so good to be home and to see them there waiting for us. We walked in the back door to be greeted by Taylor about 8:30 p.m. (though to our bodies it was 1:30 a.m.). We grabbed a bite, chatted with Taylor, and headed to bed.

Now we face theunpacking, laundry, stack of mail, full email inbox and backlog of work awaiting us!

Pictures:

  1. Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden.
  2. Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden (detail).
  3. Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden (detail…notice all the characters and animals in the base of the statue).
  4. Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden (detail).
  5. Swan at Kensington Gardens.
  6. Wendy uses her iPod Touch to map our route on the Tube.
  7. Portabello Road Market, Notting Hill.
  8. Wendy at Lancaster Gate Tube station.
  9. Notting Hill Gate Tube station.
  10. Notting Hill Gate Tube station.
  11. Villiers Street outside Embankment Station. This was the view that greeted us as we headed back to our flat from the Tube station. Two blocks up, two blocks right, one block right. If you look on the left side of the street you can barely see a Starbucks sign. That’s where we met John on Sunday.
  12. Tom at T.G.I. Friday’s on Bedford Street.

Pan statue 01 032309 LR  Pan statue 02 032309 LR  Pan statue 03 032309 LR  Pan statue 04 032309 LR  Swan @ kensington gardens 032309 LR  Wendy checks the tube map app 032309 LR Portabello Road @ notting hill 032309 LR  Wendy at the tube stop 032309 LR  Notting hill gate tube station 032309 LR  Notting hill gate tube station 02 032309 LR  Villiers Street outside Embankment Station 032309 LR  Tom @ TGIFs in London 032309 LR

London Day 5: Family Reunion

One night about six years ago I went on a Google search to see if I could unearth any information about my family still living in Holland. I knew that we had cousins there and my Grandparents visited them many years, but nothing else. All I had to go on was that my Great-grandfather had a brother named John van der Wel that he left behind when he came to America in the late 1800s. A Google search revealed one possible lead. A man with the name matching my Great-grandfather’s brother was posted on a forum along with an email address. I took a shot in the dark and emailed him. Miraculously, he turned out to be my third cousin.

Since that time, John and I have been corresponding through email and John has been working on the family tree in Holland. When John read on my blog that Wendy and I were going to be in London, he made arrangements to fly to London from Amsterdam and meet us.

It was another beautiful day in London as Wendy and I made our way down to the Starbucks across from Embankment station where I’d instructed John to meet us. The sun was bright and warm and we enjoyed sitting out in the sun drinking our respective coffee and chai. There is another Starbucks about a block up the street and somehow John managed to sneak past us and was waiting for us there. Eventually I suspected we may have missed him and I found him waiting for us there.

It was a gorgeous day to walk, so we walked over to the London Eye, which John had hoped to see. The weekends are huge for tourism in London and the lines were already very long. John decided he didn’t want to wait in line, so we walked back to Trafalgar Square and then down through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace. John and I enjoyed talking and Wendy was enjoying herself snapping pictures.

We eventually made our way back to Trafalgar Square and had a quick bite of lunch before hooking up with a walking tour that went to famous rock and roll sites in the Soho district. We saw Paul McCartney’s music publishing company, Trident studios, the mural that inspired the cover of the Beatle’s St. Pepper album and the place where the Beatles started Apple records and held their famous rooftop rock concert.

We were tired and thirsty from all the walking and we headed back to The Sherlock Holmes pub where we enjoyed a few pints and a bite before John had to catch the train back to Heathrow for his flight home. John brought us a gift of some Dutch bitters and a pint of a Dutch beer. We really enjoyed the day with John and are looking forward to paying a visit to the Netherlands and hosting John somedahy when he  decides to come to the states.

Wendy and I headed back to the apartment and realized that we were really, really tired. There’s not much happening in London on Sundays, so that gave us a good excuse to stay in, get some rest, and go to bed at a decent time. We called the girls and were able to Skype with Taylor, which was wonderful.

It’s our last day in London. Harrod’s, Kensington Gardens, and the National Theatre are on the agenda today!

Pictures:

  1. Wendy at Starbuck’s outside of Embankment Station.
  2. The famous lions of Trafalgar Square.
  3. Tom & John van der Wel on the Trafalgar Lion.
  4. St. James Park (photo by Wendy).
  5. Tom & Wendy in front of Buckingham Palace.
  6. Tom & John in front of Buckingham Palage.
  7. Tom & John at the Buckingham fountain.
  8. Lion at Buckingham palace (photo by Wendy).
  9. Buckingham fountain (photo by Wendy).
  10. John & Wendy at The Sherlock Holmes.

Wendy @ embankment station 032209 LR

Tom & wendy @ Trafalgar Square Lion 032209 LR

John vdw & tom vw @ trafalgar Lion 032209 LR  St. james park london 032209 LR    Tom & wendy @ buckingham palace 032209 LR  Tom & john @ buckingham palace 032209 LR  Tom & john at buckingham fountain 032209 LR  Lion of Buckingham Palace 032209 LR  Buckingham Palace Fountain 032209 LR  John & wendy @ the sherlock holmes pub 032209 LR

London Day 4: Tennis Anyone?

Our fourth day in London, once again, dawned sunny and warm. We’ve certainly had a nice stretch of weather for our visit. Since our initial trip to the National Gallery was made on our sleepless first day, we decided to stop back and see a couple of the works we’d missed on our initial stop. Afterwards, it was back to Embankment station to catch the Tube (a.k.a underground or subway) to Wimbledon.

When planning your visit to London, you read that the Tube is the fastest and easiest way to get around town. Wendy and I prepared with maps and iPod apps to plan our underground commutes. What they don’t prepare you for is the fact that certain stretches of the Tube can be closed with little or no warning for repair, forcing you to find a bus route instead. Bus routes in London are a bit more complicated. Those famous red London buses bustle around like an army of red ants and finding the right one can be a bit dizzying.

Nevertheless, we made it to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (otherwise known as Wimbledon) just before they were going to give away our reserved spots on the tour. That would have been a shame because the tour of Wimbledon was one of our favorite stops on our trip. Wendy and I love watching the annual summer tennis tournament with all it’s pomp and tradition. Being on those famous grounds and learning about the tournament was really fascinating. The tour takes you to many of the places that only players get to experience during the tournament, including the players entrance, the television studios, the interview room, the underground tunnels, etc. We even got to see the Wimbledon trophies. Unfortunately, Center Court was under construction, having a retractable roof put on, but we were able to see Court No. 1.

I had made an appointment in the afternoon to meet up with Jonty Pierce, who publishes an on-line magazine called Call Centre Helper here in the UK. He’d named my blog, qaqna.com, one of the 10 best Call Center related blogs in 2008. We were supposed to meet at the Victoria Terrace Cafe’ in Kew Gardens at 3:30. What was estimated as a 30 minute trip (which would have put us at our destination about five minutes late) turned into a 60 minute bus and taxi fiasco. After waiting around the cafe for a half hour hoping that Jonty hadn’t completely given up on us, we decided to give up and made our way back to the bus station. As we were waiting for what we hoped was the right bus, I saw Jonty and his family walking out of the gardens and head the other direction. So, I ran and caught him. They were on their way back to their hotel, but we were at least able to personally apologize and chat for a few minutes.

We did get back to Richmond and found the Richmond Theatre where we had tickets for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of “The Tempest.” Now we were a few hours early, so we found a place to eat. It was an Irish pub, but as we entered past the two security guards we found things a bit in chaos. We’d been told that there was a huge rugby match between England and Scotland at one of the local stadiums, followed by a rugby match between Ireland and Wales. The Ireland Wales match had just started as we arrived and the pub was packed with rugby fans (you could tell the Scottish fans by their kilts). It was really crazy, but the table furthest from the television was vacant, so we decided to stay and eat.

After ordering our meal, I had to use the restroom, but 1) I couldn’t find it in the crowd and 2) there was no way I could get to it. So, I decided to exit the pub and go to the McDonalds next door to use the facilities. When I made my way back I was stopped by security and told that I couldn’t enter because the pub was too full. They had started to make people line up outside the entrance. I tried to explain that I’d just left, my wife was inside, and I’d already ordered my food – but they didn’t care and refused to listen. So, I found myself standing in line hoping that I’d get in before my food got cold. I did, but it was a bit surreal. By the way, Ireand beat Wales.

The Shakespeare performance was the best performance we’ve seen in London and among the best performances we’ve ever seen in our lives. Royal Shakespeare combined with a South African Theatre to produce the show. “The Tempest” takes place on a deserted island off the coast of Africa, and the production brought rich African tradition and music to the production (think Hamlet meets the Lion King). It was amazing!

After the show, we had to find the right bus to the right Tube staion where we could catch the right line back to our flat. We made it without a hitch, but were really glad to be back at our apartment!

Picutres:

  1. The players’ entrance to Wimbledon.
  2. Wendy stands on “Henman Hill” outside Court No. 1
  3. Wendy looks over the grass courts.
  4. Tom sits in the players’ after-match interview chair.
  5. Tom & Wendy with Court No. 1 behind.
  6. Richmond Theatre where we saw Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “The Tempest.”
  7. Wimbledon Court No. 1 [click on picture to enlarge]
  8. Wimbledon Complex from “Henman Hill” (Cranes are working on retractable roof over Center Court) [click on picture to enlarge]

Wimbledon 032109 LR  Wendy on henman hill 032109 LR  Wendy looks over the grass courts 032109 LR  Tom interviewed after his match 032109 LR  Tom & wendy @ court one 032109 LR  Richmond Theatre 032109 LR Wimdledon Court Number One Wide LR  Wimbledon from Henman Hill LR

London Day 3: An Easier Pace

After two days that felt frantic with activity, we decided to spend Friday at an easier pace. Our bus tour tickets were good until noon, so we hopped on near Trafalgar Square and took in many of the sites of London we’d missed the previous day including Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. We eventually ended up at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where we hopped off.

The replica of Shakespeare’s London Theatre recreates an Elizabethan stage, constructed just as it would have been built in Shakespeare’s time. As you can imagine, Wendy and I enjoyed seeing it. Their season doesn’t start until late April when it’s warmer. In fact, the chill in the wind and air kept us from enjoying it more. It was a sunny day, but the wind of the Thames reminded me of the wind off Lake Michigan in Chicago.

Since our bus tickets were no longer valid, we decided to hoof it back to the apartment. We crossed to the north side of the river where we’d be out of the wind a bit and walked along the embankment. The distance seemed a bit daunting when we took off, but we were back at our flat in no time, where we decided to rest for a bit.

As evening approached, we walked up to Covent Garden, a large open market near the opera house where we’d seen Swan Lake the night before. We did a little browsing, but the merchants were beginning to pack up for the night. We smelled something wonderful and realized it was the falafel stand, so we picked one up and munched on it as we made our way to the Nag’s Head pub.

It was Friday night and London was bustling with people ready for the weekend. The noise inside the Nag’s head was so great that we opted to step outside onto the street with many of the other patrons who’s overflowed into the open. After a drink we walked a few blocks to Belgo Centraal, a Belgian restaurant our friend Mary Jo Sodd recommended. We had an amazing dinner that was complimented by Belgian chocolate desserts. After dinner we headed back towards our flat, stopping at the Lamb & Flag pub, which is the oldest pub in the area. It was truly and old English pub. Once again, the place was packed with patrons. The streets of London are filled with people in the evenings.

Our tummies were full and our legs were tired, so we headed back to the flat and called it a day.

Photographs:

  1. St. Martin in the Fields Church (Royal Family’s Parish)
  2. Houses of Parliament
  3. Big Ben
  4. The Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral (Where Chuck & Di were hitched)
  5. Horse Guard on duty at the parade grounds
  6. Stage of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
  7. Tom & Wendy at The Globe
  8. Wendy & the Sphinx on the Thames (The London Eye is in the background)
  9. Street Performers at Covent Garden Market
  10. Wendy waits for falafel
  11. The Lamb & Flag pub

St. martin in the fields 032009 LR  Houses of parliment 032009 LR  Big ben 032009 LR  Dome of st. pauls 032009 LR  Horse guard at parade grounds 032009 LR  Shakespeare's globe 032109 LR  Tom and wendy at the globe 032009 LR  Wendy & the sphinx on the thames 032009 LR  Covent garden market 032009 LR  Wendy waits for falafel @ covent garden 032009 LR  Lamb & flag 032009 LR

London Day 3: An Easier Pace

After two days that felt frantic with activity, we decided to spend Friday at an easier pace. Our bus tour tickets were good until noon, so we hopped on near Trafalgar Square and took in many of the sites of London we’d missed the previous day including Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. We eventually ended up at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where we hopped off.

The replica of Shakespeare’s London Theatre recreates an Elizabethan stage, constructed just as it would have been built in Shakespeare’s time. As you can imagine, Wendy and I enjoyed seeing it. Their season doesn’t start until late April when it’s warmer. In fact, the chill in the wind and air kept us from enjoying it more. It was a sunny day, but the wind of the Thames reminded me of the wind off Lake Michigan in Chicago.

Since our bus tickets were no longer valid, we decided to hoof it back to the apartment. We crossed to the north side of the river where we’d be out of the wind a bit and walked along the embankment. The distance seemed a bit daunting when we took off, but we were back at our flat in no time, where we decided to rest for a bit.

As evening approached, we walked up to Covent Garden, a large open market near the opera house where we’d seen Swan Lake the night before. We did a little browsing, but the merchants were beginning to pack up for the night. We smelled something wonderful and realized it was the falafel stand, so we picked one up and munched on it as we made our way to the Nag’s Head pub.

It was Friday night and London was bustling with people ready for the weekend. The noise inside the Nag’s head was so great that we opted to step outside onto the street with many of the other patrons who’s overflowed into the open. After a drink we walked a few blocks to Belgo Centraal, a Belgian restaurant our friend Mary Jo Sodd recommended. We had an amazing dinner that was complimented by Belgian chocolate desserts. After dinner we headed back towards our flat, stopping at the Lamb & Flag pub, which is the oldest pub in the area. It was truly and old English pub. Once again, the place was packed with patrons. The streets of London are filled with people in the evenings.

Our tummies were full and our legs were tired, so we headed back to the flat and called it a day.

Photographs:

  1. St. Martin in the Fields Church (Royal Family’s Parish)
  2. Houses of Parliament
  3. Big Ben
  4. The Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral (Where Chuck & Di were hitched)
  5. Horse Guard on duty at the parade grounds
  6. Stage of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
  7. Tom & Wendy at The Globe
  8. Wendy & the Sphinx on the Thames (The London Eye is in the background)
  9. Street Performers at Covent Garden Market
  10. Wendy waits for falafel
  11. The Lamb & Flag pub

St. martin in the fields 032009 LR  Houses of parliment 032009 LR  Big ben 032009 LR  Dome of st. pauls 032009 LR  Horse guard at parade grounds 032009 LR  Shakespeare's globe 032109 LR  Tom and wendy at the globe 032009 LR  Wendy & the sphinx on the thames 032009 LR  Covent garden market 032009 LR  Wendy waits for falafel @ covent garden 032009 LR  Lamb & flag 032009 LR