May 26, 2018 Westminster to St. Paul's Cathedral via the South Bank.
I arrived at Gatwick in the morning on May 24 and travelled by train to Kenton where I took a taxi to Tony and Christine's house where I would be staying until I started my canoe trip. Friday, May 25, was a rest day so that I could start to adjust to the new time zone. The rest was important because on Saturday I had arranged to meet Alan Pollard, the husband of Jenny's friend since elementary school, at Westminster so that I could join him and a group of his friends and relatives to walk from Westminster to St. Paul's Cathedral. The walk was part of his current walking project to link all of the cathedrals in England with a point on one of his many previous walks. The map below will show you all of his past walks and his present connections to the cathedrals around England.
This part of his walk was to connect Southwark Cathedral and St. Paul's Cathedral with his 50 mile around London walk. We all met at the statue of Boudicca in her chariot by the side of the River Thames. There were 27 people in the group although one couple arrived late due to trouble on the rail line they were using.
After the group picture had been taken we all walked across Westminster Bridge with all of its newly installed barriers to protect the pedestrians from murderous drivers. With such a large group and with many tourists exploring the south bank of the Thames it was obvious that keeping the group together would be impossible. The solution was to identify three places where everybody would meet before going any further - Southwark Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the restaurant where we all were to meet for an evening meal. The weather was perfect. A sunny day with a cooling breeze coming from the river. As we walked along to our first gathering point we passed by the London Eye, the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre, the Globe Theatre and the Golden Hinde. When we all met up at Southwark Cathedral I was joined by Andrea, the daughter of friends in Jasper, who gave me a present to bring back to Canada for her sister's 21st birthday. We had a good but short visit before it was off again on our way to Tower Bridge
The Golden Hinde - the galleon sailed around the world by Sir Francis Drake.
The next stop was Tower Bridge where we gathered before crossing over to the Tower of London.
Alan Pollard, the intrepid walker, and three of the group by Tower Bridge with the Tower of London in the background.
When we reached St. Paul's Cathedral the group split up with some visiting the cathedral, others looking for a cool drink and me sitting in the shade on the grass with some of Alan's family. When we went to the front of the cathedral the children had fun and worked off some energy by playing on the steps leading up to the main entrance doors.
To complete an interesting and enjoyable excursion along the Thames we all met up for a meal in a restaurant close to the cathedral. And Alan had connected with two more English cathedrals with many friends and relatives as his support group. Well, moral support anyway!
How many cathedrals in England? Forty two.
Packing and airlines
The week before May 23 was filled with last minute packing and dealing with the possible cancellation of my WestJet flight to Gatwick due to the potential strike by the pilots. The packing wasn't stressful but dealing with a back-up plan for my flight plans was. As the flight date approached there was no certainty that my flight would be available so I decided I needed a contingency plan. An alternate flight plan was what I needed in order to reduce my anxiety level. This was no surprise to my wife, Jenny, who from many years experience of my need to have all my plans in place and confirmed knows that I'm a real worry wart, The issue was that whilst the pilots had given strike notice they were required to give 72 hours notice before they walked off the job. Consequently I could not be sure my flight would take off until it was inside that 72 hour period. Finally I couldn't take the uncertainty any more so I searched for other flights that were available that I could book without suffering a huge financial loss if I had to cancel. WestJet had promised to refund the cost of any flights that were cancelled so I knew I was safe there. The answer to my problem was a more expensive flight with Air Transat but which only had a $50 cancellation charge if my WestJet flight was sure to be going. After a phone call to Air Transat my back-up plan was in place. Two days before my WestJet flight was due to take off the pilots had not given notice of a work stoppage so I cancelled my Air Transat flight and drove down to Calgary. After a night in a hotel I boarded my flight to Gatwick with only one small hitch. My carry-on and my backpack were both identified for secondary safety screening because they both contained boxes of electronics and cameras. But the flight was good because I found that I had two seats all to myself. So, as Shakespeare says, "All's well that ends well."
In my last post I said I was going to post daily as I progressed down the River Thames. Unfortunately when I took out my tablet to start writing on the evening of my first day it would not boot up to the home screen. All I got was a thin line down the middle of the screen and no ability to open any of my various applications. Thus the initial silence. The silence was extended after I returned to Jasper by all of the issues that Jenny needed me to address that had been neglected while I was away. Then adjusting to Jenny's crazy schedule has been a challenge. Returning from the station around 8:30pm after meeting the Rocky Mountaineer passengers and getting to bed at 10:30pm then up at 5:00am the following morning to round up the passengers from the hotels to ensure they all get on the train with their baggage. Add to this the housekeeping that we have to do when our guests leave our B&B and trying to organise my time has been difficult. But this time I won't make any rash promises. I will try to post to my blog every day until the whole of my trip down the Thames has been reported.
I'm a grandfather who lost an infant granddaughter and who wants to help Gillian, her mother, provide support for other grieving parents through Hazel's Heroes.