Yesterday was spent in transit from Amsterdam to London via Brussels. We took the Eurostar through the chunnel. Today we set out to visit the major sites that Calvin and Octavia visited, starting with Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square. From there we walked through St. James Park (where Octavia collected a flower for her book of relics), to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and the river.
Here is an excerpt of Calvin's letter to his wife Temperance:
"The first objects I saw were the Tower and the London bridge, and the shipping that nearly choked up the river, and the huge warehouses of St. Katherine's dock, where we landed and had our baggage for the 4th or 5th time overhauled by the custom house officers— nice chaps these, very expert in rummaging a trunk, but not very particular good hands in repacking it. Of course they were no great favorites of Sis, who values herself on the order of her arrangements. But here they pounced upon some gew gaws she had purchased at Paris— they pronounced them French goods and made her pay half a guinea, which she did not like at all. We took a cab and drove 4 miles up the city by the Tower, St. Paul's, the Bank, etc. and through Temple bar to Charing Cross, where we took lodgings at the Albion Hotel. We are now I think just in the middle of the world— at least just in the center of all the noise and bustle of it, but just where strangers ought to be. We have full before us the Nelson monument 150 feet high. The Duke of Northumberlands palace. The National gallery, King Charles statue (where new kings are proclaimed etc.). Charing Cross, a large open square is the terminus of the Strand, Whitehall street, Pall Mall and the Haymarket, the greatest thoroughfares of the city and through which it would seem all the world was pouring into this great Babylon...
We have seen a few lions, spent some hours among the monuments of Westminster Abbey, rode over the city and through the parks and I attended the galleries of the two houses of parliament. In the Lords I heard speeches by the Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst and the Lords Dalhousie Whaincliff and Campbell— and in the Commons Sir Robert Peel, Lord John Russell, Mr. Villiers, Col. Libthorp & Lord Stanley. They would not admit Sis (women are not admitted for the most extraordinary and unfounded reason, that it is suspected they would talk! O, these Englishmen) but she consoles herself by saying she got a salute from the Duke of Wellington whom we met going into the parliament house as we were coming away, and that in Westminster abbey she sat in the chair in which Victoria and all the kings of England have been crowned! So now!"
And more from Calvin:
"This morning I went early into St. James Park which is very near Charing Cross. A long row of cows are tied up there; a girl asked me if I wanted a glass of milk. She milked a tumbler full for which I gave her a penny... St. James Park, I will add a word to say, is perhaps 3/4 of a mile long and 1/2 wide with a lake of irregular shape more than half its length— two Islands in it— and it is full of all sorts of aquatic fowls. You will see them at the shores eating crumbs out of the childrens' hands. Then one walks around the lake and to see crowds of men women and children walking on one side of the lake while you are on the other is delightful. Sometimes the walk is fenced off from the Lake by iron railing and the space planted with trees and shrubbery, which increases much the fine appearance of the living moving masses on the opposite shore. St. James Palace a jumbled mass of old buildings is on this Park. The Queens great palace of Buckingham is on the rising ground at the head of this Lake, 2 or 3 hundred yards from it...The River here presents a striking contrast to the Seine at Paris. There the broad quay on both sides was a most pleasant promenade— no banks or boxes— no shipping— here you cannot but at places get a view of the river— all the way blocked up with warehouses, goods, shipping and all the streets near it choked up with wagons, horses, drays, goods and human beings— dog carts would do a bad business here."