We caught a bus at 7:30AM after getting dropped off by Gav at the stop. We owe him a lot after taking us in, and we expect to return the favor when he starts travelling. We had decided the night before to take the bus because it was cheaper, but we regret it. We were going on three hours of sleep, and the seats were impossible to sleep in. Not to mention, the co-driver kept shouting back to some girls near us trying to flirt with them.
Arriving in London, we purchased Oyster Passes, which are good for any form of travel made within the city. We were walking like turtles through the rat race of people to get through to the underground trains. I told Brittany I can’t imagine living like this everyday. The trains show up every 2-3 minutes but still they choose to cram themselves into one train rather than wait and stand comfortably.
We drop our packs off at the hostel and set out to explore. Deciding on Big Ben as our first stop, we stepped out into the sunlight from the subway to see the massive and elaborate building of Parliament. I’m looking around for the clock when Britt taps me on the shoulder and points directly behind us. We were standing right in the shadow of it. My favorite movies when I was a kid were always Peter Pan and Hook, and I always expected to see someone flying up there on the minute hand when I saw it in person. Feeling a little disappointed, we walked around the back of it to Westminster Abbey.
On our way, it struck five o’clock, and those great deep bells rang out for the city to hear. It was then that I realized how my mind’s image and the actual London differed. My favorite author is Charles Dickens, and every year since I was eleven and was required to read it for my 6th grade English class, I have read A Christmas Carol around Christmas time. I had always imagined seeing horse-drawn carriages getting pulled down snowy lanes, and everyone wearing top hats and long coats. Big Ben would have been the way for the whole city to tell time, and not be just another monument.
The Abbey probably wouldn’t charge £16 just to look around at that time either. We skipped the Abbey and headed to the Westminster Cathedral instead. It was around 5:30pm when we walked in. Britt has been wanting to go up into the Cathedral’s tower since it’s free and supposedly a lot better than paying £20 to go up into the London Eye, the city’s souped up ferris wheel.
When I walked in, I notice the giant cathedral is silent dispite there being a huge amount of people in it. I found this strange as I walked ahead of Britt a little bit to look around. I head a slightly loud and echoing, “Ah man!” from behind me. She had just read a sign saying the tower is closed at 5pm. At that very moment, a wise and soothing voice comes over the loudspeaker and begins a prayer. We both face each other looking startled and shocked, and then turn to face the front of the Cathedral. Seeing a priest standing at the altar in a green robe, we realize we had just walked into the Friday night Mass. I consoled Britt in her embarrassment by telling her it kind of sounded like she said, “Amen.”
We sat through our first Catholic service, and took Communion whether we were allowed to or not. When the congregation said something in unison in response to the priest’s liturgy, we say silently and listened.
The message was about the greatest commandment according to Jesus when asked by the Pharisees, “The first of all the commandments is: Hear O Israel , the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Matthew 12:29-31)