We'd seen the parade at Buckingham Palace with the Changing of the Guards.
We'd visited the Tower Bridge and Tower of London.
We thoroughly enjoyed "Guys and Dolls" playing in the West End with
Jane Krakowski and Ewan McGregor!
We'd wandered parks and seen statues, and tributes galore.
The plan was to jump on the tube at Swiss Cottage Station near Regent's Park and get off at Kings Cross Station before boating up the River Thames to Windsor Castle. SO looking forward to seeing the castle. Aaaahhh.... the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.... or so they say.
At approximately 8:45am on July 7th, 2005 the London Underground Railway came to a screeching halt when three bombs exploded simultaneously destroying multiple sections of the track. Our vehicle stopped midway between two stations to unload commuters into the darkened passageways of the underground. An electric failure was given as the reason for disembarking the train and we followed along, climbing into the London sunshine and the monumentally crowded streets above. Over 700 people were injured and 52 people were killed in this horrifying display of terrorism. Yet here we were, blissfully unaware of the tragedy, mildly disappointed that we'd miss Windsor Castle.
And so our day began. Strangely enough, it was one of the loveliest days we've spent together as a family. The city was basically at a standstill, especially after a double-decker bus was bombed and all traffic was removed from the city streets. Hundreds of thousands of Londoners were out walking to work, or back home as shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions closed their doors. We stumbled into a grocery store with a television and saw the news reports. Scary to be sure, with our only recourse to head back to our hotel on foot.
You cannot possibly imagine the sense of quiet that comes over a major city when everything shuts down. It was an experience like none other - truly surreal.
There were a few shops that stayed open and an eatery or two along the way. We meandered unhurriedly, crisscrossing the city back to our hotel on foot... a mere 7 hours, mind you. We really did stop to smell the roses in Queen Mary's Rose Garden and shared a most delicious afternoon tea at a little stand inside the park, not knowing if any of the Regent's Park restaurants would be open when we got there.
Jeff had left his cell phone in the hotel room so we wouldn't be bothered with work phone calls - the only day he had left it behind! When we arrived back at our hotel, we checked in with family and friends who had called throughout the day, all of them concerned for our safety. Feeling that depth of both love and worry humbled us.
We are so blessed, so lucky, so fortunate to have been so close to a disaster of this magnitude and escape with only the memory of an extraordinary day. Our story has been told many times to new friends who cannot believe we were there. But, we were and we are better for the experience.
Travel is a grand opportunity to experience this beautiful planet we inhabit. There are certainly terrors and boogeymen everywhere we go. But I cannot travel in fear. I research and plan, begging and cajoling others to join us for adventures near and far. I am unafraid and eager for that next delicious plate of food, a chance to spy a glorious bit of nature, and a reverence for the differences that bind us together.