Jill MacAlpine Merrell is the daughter of Jim’s best friend and neighbor since fifth grade, Bob MacAlpine. She and her husband David attended Tufts Dental School in Boston and we grew quite close to them during that time, loaning our cars to them for weekend trips, running the Charles River together and helping Jill climb the barrier to run the last few hundred yards of the 2007 Boston Marathon with Dave (while pregnant). We attended their wedding in 2004, their graduation from Dental School in 2007, David’s Naval officer commissioning on the USS Constitution after graduation and have visited them many times since then. They even invited us to a large family gathering where they announced Jill’s first pregnancy. We have watched their two children, Evelyn and Mitch mature into delightful young people and we just love spending time with them. They have had a standing invitation to visit us anywhere in the world but parenthood and management of a thriving Dental practice has kept them too busy for a long time. David decided this year would be a good time for a long weekend in London to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary and Jill’s 40th birthday.
We had booked a 5 o’clock climb of the O2 arena and the walk along the Thames took much longer than anticipated. Jim had almost given up hope of making our booking but Jill kept saying “we are going to make it.” And sure enough we arrived right at 4:59 and they approached us at the end of the queue calling us by name and taking us right in.
And so ends day one for Jill and David. Jim had scheduled a very busy day and we hit every activity with the exception of not walking the Greenwich Foot Tunnel which runs underneath the Thames from Greenwich to The Isle of Dogs. We did walk 8.2 miles for the day though. They were real troopers and had a great day. We even stayed up until midnight talking. It was the longest either of them had ever stayed up without sleeping. We had pre-booked a Buckingham Palace tour at 10:45 on day two and had to wake them up in order to arrive on time. We took this tour last year and feel that it is well worth the time as the palace is only open for tours six weeks out of the year while the Queen is in Scotland. No pictures are allowed in the palace. They both thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
After the palace tour we stopped off at The Goring Hotel for drinks overlooking the back lawn. This is our third visit here and we really recommend it. Sandy had high tea here last year with Donna Quirk and we have been here for drinks and a meal this year.
After St. Paul’s we went to a great Indian restaurant, Indian City, which we found last summer very near the Cathedral. We were not disappointed, Jim liked it even better this year and David and Jill just loved it. Our leftovers provided a whole other meal on Sunday.
Jill & David scheduled a 10am bike tour on Saturday with Notting Hill Bike Tours so we scheduled a tour of Westminster Palace which is the houses of Parliament. We headed out the door together at 9:00. We took the underground to Westminster and they walked the 2 miles to Hyde Park for their three hour bike tour. Our tour of Parliament was only so so as we had a very controlling soft spoken dry tour guide. It was quite interesting to see but may have been better with a self guided audio tour. Again, no pictures allowed.
We met David and Jill after our respective tours and had a great lunch/brunch in Mayfair. Their bike tour was great and highly recommended with a very funny outgoing young tour guide. We walked to Portobello Road as David wanted to see Notting Hill but it started to rain so we cabbed home for some rest and relaxation before introducing them to our world travel game of Buraco.
We had no solid plans for their last day on Sunday but David wanted to go to Wimbledon and we had been able to book a 12:30 guided tour. We decided to go to church at Westminster Abbey on Sunday morning as it is free and there are no crowds. We attended the 10am morning prayer, said with hymns, which was held in the quire. This was spectacular as there were very few people there and we were seated in the back row of the quire surrounded by ancient historical carved wooden seats that tourists are not even allowed to get close to, much less sit in. You are not allowed to tour all of the Abbey but are able to walk in the main entrance which is the usual tourist exit and they got to see a lot just walking in and out, including the Poet’s corner.
We left Westminster Abbey with thoughts of taking them by the Queens horse guard and 10 Downing Street but passed by Winston Churchill’s War rooms which happened to have a remarkably short ticket line. This had been on David’s wish list but we hadn’t pre-booked online tickets and the lines are usually prodigious. We did a 30 minute perusal of the War Rooms and headed for Wimbledon.
Deja vu, we were rushing the last mile on foot to make our tour arriving a couple of minutes late this time but they still let us into our tour group.
What a great weekend we had with these two. We hit very different highlights of London but we all loved what we did and how much we saw in a few days. Did you notice that our Sunday was all W’s? Westminster Abbey, Winston’s War Rooms and Wimbledon. Such symmetry.
We are septuagenarians doing our best to set an example as to what a good retirement looks and feels like. Feel free to travel along on a very personal journey with us. Just remember that the destination is not important, it is the journey that counts.
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