Southern Meets Northern...Almost

Sunday, May 29, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

London, England. 
This morning we transferred from our Regents Park area hotel to one in the West End, near Leicester Square and the theatre district, hoping we'll be able to catch a couple more plays before we leave on Wednesday.  After we dropped off our bags at our final hotel of the trip, it was time to explore.
Letterboxes and curiosity led us to visit one of London's most recognized sights today.  Built at the top of Ludgate Hill, London's highest point, St. Paul's Cathedral (pictured above) is the second largest church in Great Britain. This particular St. Paul's is the fifth church by that name on the same spot since the year 604 AD.  From the time of its completion in 1710, St. Paul's stood as the tallest building in the city until 1962.  Even with the advent of skyscrapers, it remains in the top 30. 
On this Sunday afternoon, the cathedral and its grounds were awash with thousands of tourists. But with a recent multimillion dollar facelift in honor of its 300th anniversary, St. Paul's was ready to receive visitors.  With all that activity, we were glad that the letterbox honoring this Christopher Wren architectural masterpiece was not at the cathedral but in a small park nearby.
After locating the box, we crossed the River Thames on the spectacular Millennium Footbridge to search for another letterbox near the Tate Modern Museum.  Opened in June, 2000, the bridge became the subject of controversy because of swaying inadvertently created by its design.
London Millennium Footbridge
Although it was deemed perfectly safe, the bridge was closed almost immediately after opening due to the public outcry.  With two years of modifications, this now popular footbridge was reopened in 2002.  It crosses the river between St. Paul's and the Tate Modern, where we found the letterbox to be missing.
Deciding to leave our visit to the Tate for a later time, we decided to catch a train back to our hotel.  What seemed like a simple journey became very complicated through a series of blunders and bizarre circumstances.
3:50 pm:  Misjudging our location, we entered the Mansion House subway station rather than St. Paul's, the station where we had arrived, so we had to recalculate because the two stations are served by different lines.
4:00 pm:  We took the wrong subway line from Mansion House.  Instead of the Circle line we intended to take, we boarded a train on the District line.  (Let the record show that both lines shared the same platform.)
4:10 pm:  Once we discovered we were on the wrong train (just after it left the station), we asked one of our knowledgeable fellow passengers which direction the train was headed.  "Upminster," she replied.  Oops!  Wrong direction.  We studied the map for a station with an intersecting line we could use.  No problem.  Two stops later we exited the train at the Monument station, which happened to be served by the Northern line, which would take us to Leicester Square near our hotel.
4:15 pm:  Congratulating ourselves for figuring out such a quick solution, we headed toward the platform for the Northern line.  As we were going down the stairs, we heard a distorted intercom announcement regarding that very line.  "Turn around....(garbled)... up the stairs...(garbled)...Northern line... (garbled)."  When we saw people begin flooding up the stairs we were descending, we thought it was a strong indication we should reverse course.
Can't go there
4:25 p.m.  Trailing after the crowd and hoping some of them may have actually understood the announcement, which was garbled/repeated several times, we walked up more stairs to another level.  Following the signs for the Northern line there, we reached an escalator where two members of the transit police blocked our way and told us we could go no further, that the Northern line was closed there, that we needed to turn around, go back the way we came, turn left, then right, then left again, blah, blah, blah.
4:35 p.m. - Walking off in the many directions we were instructed to go, we saw paramedics carrying a bloke strapped to a stretcher up a set of stairs.  He looked pretty banged up and we wondered if there was a connection to the closed train line...
4:45 p.m. - Still trudging toward the Northern signs, we realized we had actually walked underground a quarter of a mile from the Monument station to the Bank station.  About the time we experienced this epiphany, we encountered a Tube system employee in the corridor.  "What's the best way to Leicester Square?" we asked.  "Catch the Central line at platform 5, go to Holborn and transfer to Piccadilly there," he replied cheerfully.
the wild goose

Say what??  The Northern line wasn't the one we needed after all?? 
5:10 p.m. - We finally arrived at the Leicester Square station after an 80-minute journey.  Had we just walked from the Tate, it would have been only a mile and a half, not much more than we had walked in all the subway stations we had just visited, and probably wouldn't have taken more than 30 minutes.  Or, put another way, if we hadn't gone to the wrong station, boarded the wrong train, going in the wrong direction, everything would have been just fine.
SUNDAY, 29 MAY 2011