TRAVEL with pat and lew

Archive for the ‘… UK – London’ Category

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

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 1, 2012

Westminster Abbey


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

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 1, 2012

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We told our guests to enter the Abbey and follow the regular route until they came to signs that said “Residents Only.” Then keep on going. For Pat and me it was a great opportunity to see dear NYC running friends Suzanne and Pat (the other Pat) we hadn’t seen for several years, as well as Tom and Kristina (& their daughter Hanna), our friends from Collioure.

The lawn was all ready and sunny, and Pat and Suzanne actually has a few minutes to enjoy the outdoors. As the other guests arrived, however, so did the showers, and we moved inside. The view out the window reminded us of the very special space we were in, thanks to our friends Stuart and Jeff.

For (the other) Pat’s nieces, it was an opportunity to listen to conversations they are not usually privy to, while their aunt did her best to imitate Auntie Mame, although she is much too young for the actual part. Perspectives on many current events from the U.S. State Department (Tom) and the upper management of Westminster Abbey (Pamela). Two days later the girls were still buzzing about the royal wedding and Prince Harry.

We did miss Kristina, who was busy escorting the First Lady around London, and daughter Hannah who was a bit under the weather.

The party was in large measure made possible by Pamela (Stuart and Jeff’s friend) who helped us with the shopping, the lawn arrangements, and very much in just getting to Westminster through (or around) the Olympics’ traffic detours.

When the other guests had left, Pamela regaled us with uproarious stories. I actually made a video of a small portion of this, but I think I need permission from MI6 or MI5 (or both) before I post it.



to learn how we came to be able to give a party in the Abbey, see …

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* London … with friends from New York and Key West, and dinner at Westminster Abbey

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 20, 2010

After reluctantly completing our week at Oxford, we took the Oxford Tube coach (bus) to London. It’s a ride of about an hour and quite comfortable. The bus was filled with young ladies on their way to what they called a “hen do,” a party for a soon-to-be bride.

We stayed at the Millennium, where we had stayed before, a quite comfortable and reasonably priced hotel in Knightsbridge, close to an underground stop and within a few blocks of the fabulous Harrod’s, probably the world’s greatest department store.


Rawy and Nijole, our friends from Key West, were in London after spending a week in the English countryside. We had a sinful snack in Harrod’s chocolate bar, and were told about the unexplained “crop circles” they had seen. Are these the creation of pranksters or extra-terrestrials?

On Sunday morning, we had brunch with one of Pat’s dear running friends from New York, also named Pat, and her friend Tom at a delightful restaurant in Sloane Square, a 15 minute walk from our hotel. After breakfast, we went to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square to see an exhibit about real and imitation masterpieces. After reading the erudite descriptions of how copies were made and detected, my conclusion is that the curators are still not sure if the museum has the original or not, and that in 50 years, they will draw other conclusions as more sophisticated techniques are developed.



But clearly the most spectacular event of the weekend was dinner at Westminster Abbey. Last spring, Sandy, one of Pat’s friends in Key West had introduced us to her new neighbors, Jeff and Stuart, who lived in England and had just purchased a home in Key West. They invited us to visit them in Oxford, where Jeff works. That didn’t work out, but we did get this invitation from Jeff, with directions that included the words Whitehall, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the big Cathedral on the left.

We taxied to Westminster Abbey and were given directions by the guard at the gate, “Just go left, then right, then left again, and keep going. You can’t miss it.” So off we set through a series of medieval passages and gardens. The deeper we got into the complex, the more I was convinced someone would soon come to arrest us. But eventually we found Jeff and Stuart’s unique and beautiful apartment.

on the way to Little Cloisters

We did indeed begin with drinks in the garden. What an understatement! The garden is a large common space with small tables, and the view is Parliament!


Then came dinner. In the marvelous setting. With great conversation. And it was delicious, including Jeff’s main course and Stuart’s signature dessert.



On Monday, we went to one of the many half-price ticket offices in London’s Theatre District and got really good seats to a production of HAIR, the “mother of all rock musicals,” at the John Gielgud Theatre. One of us really like it, and the other … not so much.

Sasha Allen stars as Dionne in 'Hair'


The next morning, after another breakfast with Rawy and Nijole, who had seen the apartments at Buckingham Palace, open for two weeks each year while the Queen is elsewhere. Then a taxi to Liverpool Station, a train to Stansted Airport, Ryanair (on time!) to Perpignan, a bus to the train station, a train to Collioure, and we were home. For four days, when we go to Paris for three weeks on two different home exchanges.


Posted in ... 2010, ... UK - London | 2 Comments »