Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 4: Mass, Speakers' Corner, Free Hugs, and (Shocker!) More Walking

Today being Sunday, I started out my day walking to St. George's Cathedral for mass. It's only about a fifteen minute walk from my flat, and a real neighborhood parish church filled with regular churchgoers as opposed to tourists. The service was quite nice, with a very sweet-sounding choir, and the church itself was absolutely beautiful. I love being able to admire stained glass windows during a church service! I saw my first stained-glass angels' wings today: a great combination of bright green, yellow, pink, and purple wings, all in the same scene:

After lunch, I headed out on a "walking" tour to Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. The guiding professor actually led us there via bus, which turns out to be much simpler than I had thought. Once at Hyde Park, he gave us a bit of history about the Marble Arch just outside of the park and Speakers' Corner itself. Standing adjacent to the park is Tyburn Tree, the place where London used to publicly hang criminals. Since these men and women were about to be hanged when they ended up at Tyburn Tree; and since they were liquored up on the walk from the prison; and since all condemned criminals were given an opportunity to state any last words, this spot along Hyde Park became associated with free speech. Nowadays there are always a handful of people on their soapboxes, as it were, talking about issues they feel are important. I listened to a few of them, and I definitely have some interesting points to mull over in my head tonight.

My favorite park of Speakers' Corner, however, was Stuart with the Free Hugs. (Yes, another Stuart!) I saw him holding his "Free Hugs" sign and, intrigued, went to ask him about it. According to him, he's been coming to Speakers' Corner with a "Free Hugs" sign most weekends for the past three years--that's when he moved to London from Glasgow. He said he started out offering free hugs because London, despite being filled with people all the time, can feel like a very lonely and alienating city. Now, he says, he also does it to be nice. Sometimes people just need a hug, and when someone's offering, it makes getting that hug so much simpler. That's Stuart of the Free Hugs.

I walked around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens for a bit, enjoying seeing all the people out picnicking, walking their dogs, and even a group salsa-ing in a gazebo. After rendezvousing back at the flats, three girls and I went for a long walk along the Thames in the southwesternly direction, which we hadn't yet explored.

This walk offered some choice views of Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, and Lambeth Palace, which has some really interesting architecture--obviously of three very different times and styles--and to where I hope to return later this month. After some serious walking, we finally found an open restaurant to get our dinner (pub kitchens generally close by 6 on Sundays; good factoid to keep in mind!). It was an Italian place, where I got a delicious fettuccine with Italian ham, potatoes, and Romano cheese. Leftovers!

My feet are most definitely throbbing right now, but I am still very much excited to being the library-ing portion of my trip tomorrow! Just wait to see what I get to do...

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