Dateline: Saturday, 12 May – We had taken the train from Templecombe, Somerset to London for a surprise experience primarily for Carrolle, of riding the London Eye. As a quick note, the Eye (extremely prominently promoted by Coca-Cola), is a 443ft tall, very slow moving ferris wheel, in which the captives, er, riders, are contained, 12 at a time, in a large spaceship shaped gondola. The Eye takes just about 1/2 hr to make a complete rotation and only actually stops if someone that is wheelchair bound is getting on. The Eye has it! The Bird’s Eye View
Like so many things in life, the anticipation was as good as, or even better than the actuality. You can see most of London, so much so, that even if you’re familiar with the locations, it gets confusing. All in all, it was enjoyable, especially since the rain held off until after we boarded.
Then the fun started.
We disembarked, took the Tube from Waterloo Train station to one of the stations near to the British Museum. My amazement, when we arrived to find every other tourist, looking for an attraction out of the rain, cannot be overstated. The line was approximately 2 hrs long, so we nixed that idea and headed for a bus station to get back to Waterloo. We bought bus tickets, found that no fewer than six routes went to Waterloo . We chose Route 188. Because, why? Because the 188 bus was on the way to the stop when we got there. We boarded. I asked the driver, a broadly smiling young man from a Balkan country, “Does this route go to Waterloo?” Mirov answers immediately, “Yes, yes, Waterloo, yes!” Another very broad smile. We wind our way around St. James Square (a nice park actually), and on the second circumnavigation, the bus pulls up to a stop and shuts off. The driver announces that all passengers must exit and wait for next bus. I asked the driver, just conversationally, “Is the bus broken down?” “No, just break time – next bus in 14 minutes, you board and go to Waterloo – Route 188!” Ok, so not a big deal. Mirov then hand rolls a cigarette and walks around the outside of the bus, occasionally darting in to answer a radio call from his supervisor. Exactly 14 minutes later, he enters the bus, starts it and pulls up to us, from 30 feet away, opens the door and announces, “Route 188 to Waterloo and points east!” We arrive Waterloo, a little soggy, about 8 minutes and two stops later. Our spirits having been dampened, just a little, but now it was beginning to be a little funny and warm food and drink were inside.
We board our return train, Waterloo to Templecombe, promptly and found a table seat where the four of us could face each other eat some cheese and crackers we picked up at Waterloo in a very nice little boutique grocery store right in the station. Good seating for a two hour tour
Even though the itinerary included four more stops than on the outbound trip, the schedule showed us arriving back at Templecombe Station only four minutes longer than the trip time inbound into London – so not bad. We met some nice folks, had some laughs about our American accents (I told them we were all Cockneys but we were practicing our American accents). Every single person we met told us we were spot on! Things were good as we rolled in Templecombe. I led our foursome to the back of the car, pressed the button that allowed us out into the vestibule between cars, stepped through and pressed the button that actually opened the outside doors and…nothing! Pressed again, no open doors. I looked around for the attendant, saw him the next car back and was about to call him when the train started moving. We were about to experience being “over-carried”. We rode to the next stop and purely by chance, there was another train headed back to London coming into the station in 90 seconds. We gathered up our stuff, ran up the stairs to the cross-over bridge, back down and as promised the eastbound train pulled in. Back to Templecombe at last.
Today was another sort of train experience in every way. An afternoon Cream Tea on the East Somerset Railway, departing from Cranmore, Shepton Mallet, Somerset station. The engine is steam driven, the speed is slow – it takes 45 minutes to travel the 2.5 miles down and the same back and the experience was a step back to a more genteel age. A perfect afternoon on a great day!
I highly recommend that if you find yourself in the area, wend your way to Cranmore and book your own Tea! The experience is made even more memorable by some of the more esoteric sights to take in –
Sign inside the men’s urinal closet
The British have an overseer for every occasion and activity….sign seen outside the WC.