Thank You, Britain πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§

Saturday, May 11, 2019 Road Junkies 0 Comments


Days 39-43:  Israel to London to Home.  If one wanted to devise the perfect antidote to Israeli rudeness, you couldn't do much better than hanging out among the British for a few days.  When we decided to take our leave of Israel early, we just tacked on the extra days to our stop in London.  We were glad we did.  It was so refreshing and restorative to be treated kindly and respectfully.

Rain was in the forecast at least part of the day for most of our time in London, but since we were in a winding down mode on our way home, it suited us perfectly.  In fact, a solid morning of downpour on Wednesday afforded our first opportunity to have our clothes mechanically washed in 40 days.  After six weeks of hand washing, we were giddy over the prospect of putting our laundry in a machine to wash and then transferring it to a tumble dryer, a rarity in Europe, where they're considered energy hogs.  (Yes, we booked a room in a Residence Inn exactly for this amenity.)

In addition to wandering around London, our primary excursion was a train trip to Cambridge, sixty miles north.  We've had the city and its Uni rival Oxford on our list for a while and thought we might visit both.  But the weather dictated differently, and we prioritized Cambridge because we recently learned that our brother-in-law's father, a casualty of World War II, was buried in an American military cemetery there.
Cambridge American Cemetery   (photo from Wikimedia)
Once the United States entered World War II, American forces streamed into Britain.  Over the course of the war, more than 3 million Americans were stationed in the UK at one time or another, fighting and dying alongside their British allies.  In 1943, the University of Cambridge donated a 30-acre plot of land for a temporary cemetery to shelter the remains of United States soldiers who lost their lives in battle.

At the close of the war, the British government authorized the use of this land as a permanent burial ground for Americans whose lives were sacrificed in the war.  Many who had been temporarily interred in other parts of the country were transferred to the Cambridge cemetery before its official dedication in 1956.  In addition to the 3,800 buried there, a 500-ft wall memorializes more than 5,100 additional Americans who were Missing in Action, Lost or Buried at Sea.  Included among these is Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., brother of the late President, who was lost at sea in his first mission as a bomber pilot.
Wall of the Missing
When we asked Suzie, the visitor center associate on duty, to help us locate the grave of Sgt. Adams, she could not have been kinder.  Extending the warmest sympathy, she located the needed information and asked whether we wanted the grave to be "dressed."  Unsure what that meant, we responded affirmatively since it was clear from her tone that it was a way of honoring our niece and nephew's grandfather.  She excused herself and returned with a silver bucket containing a number of items.
Suzie dressing the grave
As she guided us to the burial spot, eight landscapers who had been mowing and trimming nearby immediately halted their work and extended their respect by standing quietly by.  Suzie gave us the opportunity to take a couple of photos of the marker before she removed a small container of sand from her bucket.  Meant to fill the letters of the engraving so that the name and other information stand out clearly, sand offered a temporary, harmless solution which will wash away in the next rain with no damage to the marble headstone.  Significantly, the sand used by the cemetery for this purpose is brought from Omaha Beach, the section of Normandy Beach where so many Americans lost their lives in the name of freedom.
The effect was remarkable.
After wiping away the excess sand, Suzie planted small American and British flags beside the marker.  The flags had been used to decorate graves in the cemetery during a Memorial Day ceremony.  Having completed her part, she left us there to reflect.  Not until we walked away from the grave and back toward the visitor center did the landscaping team resume their work.  When we returned, we checked out the excellent exhibits in the center and Suzie presented a packet of information and the flags to deliver to Sgt. Adams' 98-year-old widow in Georgia.

Although this was a unique situation with an extraordinarily compassionate person, it was typical of the experiences we had in our four days in and around London.  Not once were we pushed or shoved, even in jam-packed rush hour Tube stations and trains.  Never were we made to feel unwelcome.  In fact, people eagerly engaged with us, even if just driving our taxi or selling us tickets.  And always, people seemed glad to assist if we asked a question.  It was just the reassurance we needed.

By the time we left the cemetery, rain was threatening again, so our visit to the university campus in Cambridge was cut short.  We saw just enough to whet our appetite for more and give the city a priority position on our next visit to the UK, along with Oxford.
The Bridge of Sighs at St. John's College, said to be a favorite spot of Queen Victoria
St. John's College Chapel
Main gate of St. John's College
Front court, King's College
Mathematical Bridge, Queen's College, with a rare geometric trussing technique
Ending our trip in London wasn't exactly intentional.  Though we do enjoy the city, we were just passing through because the cheap tickets we booked were between Atlanta and Heathrow.  Yet it turned out to be the perfect place to end this journey and restore our faith in our fellow humans and in travel.  

Chapter 9 Stats
    •  Started in:  Jerusalem, Israel
    •  Ended in:  Atlanta, USA
    •  Air Miles:  6,566
    •  Rail & road Miles:  214
    •  Foot Miles:   32.42
    •  Weather:  41° to 63°, rain, partly cloudy, cloudy, more rain, sunny
    •  Subway capacity at rush hour:  136%
    •  What we could buy with the cash saved from last trip:  nothing
    •  Colleges at University of Cambridge:  31
    •  Rude people we encountered:  0
Loved:  Being treated as valuable human beings.

Sunny weather and more time to explore.

Learned:  Our visit was a great reminder of how much we enjoy traveling in the United Kingdom.  We will return there soon.
Our habit of taking home extra cash for a head start fell through when new notes were issued.
We had to go to the Bank of England to exchange them for currency with more currency.
These bold starlings tried to steal a snack out of my hand.  Obviously not British. 
Definitely not rush hour at King's Cross station 
Chapel at Cambridge American Cemetery
Eagle pub in Cambridge where researchers announced their discovery of how DNA carries genetic information
We checked out the Canary Wharf area, a financial center where niece Karoline will work next month.