I’m sure London is beautiful any time of year, but London at Christmas time is spectacular!
After enjoying a couple of weeks in Switzerland together, Donnie and I got to spend the last five days of his trip in London. He’s been to London many times before, but the poor guy had to play tourist with me being there for the first time. Since we weren’t able to spend Thanksgiving together, it was really special for us to be together for Christmas this year.
We started off with a whirlwind day visiting some of the big sites in the city – Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Each building is absolutely stunning in its own way, the architecture really is a work of art. Westminster Abbey in particular was so impressive – it’s gigantic! Just when you think you’ve finally reached the back of the church, nope, there’s more! The intricacy that goes into every little detail is incredible. I especially enjoyed Poet’s Corner, seeing some of the great British artists who are buried or memorialized in the Abbey – Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Frederic Handel, C.S. Lewis, and SO many more!
We also got to meet up for lunch with a friend of mine from high school who’s now living in London and who I hadn’t seen in 4 or 5 years! Yanna and I danced together so we spent quite a lot of time training and performing together back in the day. It’s such a treat to have friends who are now all over the world and to have the opportunity to reconnect. It was so much fun reminiscing about “the good old days” and catching up on life!
That evening Donnie and I rode the London Eye and got to see the city from the sky at night – SO beautiful! We finished the night just wandering down the Thames and through the streets of Picadilly Circus and around Trafalgar Square. An exhausting first day, but we (especially I) wanted to see as much as possible. Who knows if or when I’ll get to be in London again?!?!
The next day we toured the Tower of London, learning all about the history of the complex and its many famous visitors. The Crown Jewels are also housed there, so we got to walk through the exhibit and see those. We saw the Tower Bridge (NOT London Bridge from the children’s song) all lit up at night, then had a fun evening having dinner and making new friends in Covent Garden.
The morning of Christmas Eve we went down to watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Although it’s a long ceremony, it’s so worth it to see the pomp and history of Britain and to really appreciate British culture and the respect they have for the monarchy! Afterwards, we braved the Christmas Eve crowds at Harrod’s to wander through some of the departments, trying turkish delights and seeing all the things one can buy – I’m pretty sure if you can get it, they sell it at Harrod’s!
I took Donnie to see Million Dollar Quartet – an American musical about Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins – as a Christmas present that afternoon. I’d gotten to see the show in Chicago a few years ago but he had never seen it before. We had a great time singing and dancing along to some of the greatest classic hits of all time!
I have to say it was the strangest feeling as a pastor to not be in worship on Christmas Eve. Especially with it being my first Christmas as a clergyperson, I felt sad and pretty guilty about not being at church, knowing that my friends and colleagues were leading 3, 4, 5 or more services that day! I missed the dimming of the lights as the congregation raised their lit candles and sang Silent Night at Pulaski Heights just before the bells rang midnight. I’m a sucker for the sentimental, I know, but it’s a pretty darn holy moment…
On Christmas Day life pretty much shuts down completely in London – grocery stores and restaurants are closed and the Tube doesn’t run at all. So we enjoyed a completely lazy day with Christmas movies (Donnie saw It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time!) and just relaxing. Not rushing around or traveling to see families and not getting caught up in the frenzy of presents was so refreshing. By pure coincidence, my travel buddy Brianna and I had BOTH planned to be in London with our significant others for Christmas, and then booked AirBnB’s about half an hour walking from one another! So we coordinated having Christmas dinner so that we would get to celebrate the holiday together with friends. Four Americans, far away from home, but still getting to spend Christmas with people we love. It was such a blessing!
And then it was time to go home. 😦 Donnie headed back to the States directly from London and I flew back to Geneva to prepare for my next visitors (more on that soon!) and for my exams (more on that soon too!) While I’m enjoying my time here at the Ecumenical Institute very much, it is pretty exciting now that it’s January to say that I’m coming home THIS MONTH! I’m looking forward to returning back to my family and friends and to my work at Pulaski Heights.
Happy New Year to everyone and all of God’s richest blessings as we begin 2017!