TRAVEL with pat and lew

* at Westminster Abbey with our very special London (and Key West) friends

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 1, 2012

Westminster Abbey

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Several years ago, Pat’s friend Sandy said she wanted us to meet two of her neighbors (in Key West) who also lived in London. “Perhaps,” Sandy said, “you might do a home exchange with them. They live in Westminster Abbey.”

And so we met Stuart and Jeff, two of the most charming and interesting people we know. We visited with them two years ago, after our first trip to Oxford, and Jeff cooked us a spectacular meal. This year, after signing up for Oxford, Pat started to look for hotels for a few days in London after Oxford. None to be had. It turned out we were due to arrive the day after the 2012 Olympics opened.

Jeff and Stuart immediately said we could stay at their place, and we accepted. Then they went off to Key West for the first two days of our stay, but they left us in the capable hands of their friend Pamela. With her impressive assistance, we were on our own in what can only be described as a glorious home within the walls of the Abbey. So we gave a party and invited our London friends.

(see … * come to our party in Westminster Abbey … go past the sign that says “Residents Only”)

The morning after the party, we took a brief walk and Underground outing, enough to convince ourselves that we would very much like to return to London for an extended period as we move into Plan C of our retirement plan. The city is really interesting and colorful, especially now for the games. Stunning modern art decorates the front of the ancient cathedral, and the McDonald’s looks like it has been there for centuries.

Jeff and Stuart arrived on Monday afternoon, and we had the unusual opportunity (for us) to see Stuart, who is the CFO of the Abbey, in his business attire. We also got a very special tour of the Abbey, but photos are forbidden, and the only one we took was of the Thomas Crapper toilet adjacent to the elegant ceremonial meeting room of the Abbey known as the Jerusalem Room.

Why Jerusalem? Well it seems one of the English kings of yore had planned to go on a crusade to Jerusalem. But he was old and not well, and he collapsed just a few feet from where he started, in the Abbey where presumably he had gone to pray for the success of his mission. Before he died, the confused king asked if he was in Jerusalem. Not wanting him to die disappointed, he was told that he was. The room was then named the Jerusalem Room to turn a white lie into a stretched truth. At least that’s how I remember the story Stuart told us.

Our final photos at the Abbey, or just outside it, catch some of the feeling of a very special place at 5:30 am as we waited for our taxi to St. Pancras station and hence on the Eurostar to Paris.

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