Freeze column: London trip, Part III

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 7, 2012

My marathon and my several days of London sightseeing were completed, and now I had the opportunity to go see a portion of the English countryside.
Beth Patterson Masters lived in Surrey at the time, just a short train ride from London. I had known Beth since I worked for her dad and his brother at Patterson Farms as a teenager.
We kept in touch over the years and shared lots of things, including being New York Yankee fans. Beth’s husband, Kent, was working in London for a couple of years, so the trip to London was another opportunity to see her. Our plan was to meet for the day and explore the area around where she lived.
I was up very early, walking once again several miles across the Thames River to the Waterloo train station. I took the train to Weybridge, where she would meet me, and was surprised to stop at Wimbledon along the way. Wimbledon, the famed tennis complex, was once in Surrey County where Beth lived. But it was eventually absorbed into Greater London.
Beth picked me up at Weybridge and off we went. She really did well at driving on the wrong side of the road. We drove to an area called the “Downs,” which just happened to be the beautiful countryside featured in the movie “Holiday” with Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Eli Wallach and Kate Winslet. We planned a long hike through the countryside and Beth assured me that I wouldn’t be disappointed, even though I admitted to having never seen the movie. We walked about 8 miles past historic old churches and homes, and entered a village called Shere. Shere was featured in the movie and one scene was in an old pub. We ate lunch in that pub, a common practice in England. The village itself looked like much like it did in 1600. St. James Church had a unique story. Church member Christine Carpenter decided she wanted to devote her life to the church and to God. She was kept in a small cell beginning in 1329, but after 3 years asked to be released. Later that same year, she returned to the cell “to continue her salvation” and lived out her remaining years in the church. Her window was positioned so that she could only see the altar at the church.
On the return hike to her car, we passed several structures built by the Romans. The countryside was beautiful and the walk was a perfect way to loosen those sore marathon muscles. I promised Beth that I would rent the movie “Holiday.”
Next up was a trip to a local grocery store. We had to rent a cart, but the fee is refundable if you return it. Everyone bags their own groceries, eggs are not refrigerated and lots of unique items filled the shelves. Many items were unfamiliar and the prices seemed very high. We enjoyed some bread, fruit and cheese at Beth’s old English home until it was time to head back to London.
It was twilight when I arrived, so l chose to walk along the Thames as far as I could. My last night was so beautiful that I didn’t hurry back to my room. But the trip did have to come to an end, so upon returning I pulled out the Lufthansa ticket and realized there was a big problem. My flight would leave before 7 a.m., but the tube (subway) didn’t open till 6. The ride to the airport was over an hour, so the tube was out unless I went before midnight. That’s just what I did, and ended up riding the last tube to one of the busiest airports in the world. I then realized that the airport was closing at midnight.
What to do?
I just walked in as they closed the doors acting like I knew what to do. I walked around till finding about 15 other people near a security area. That’s where I spent the rest of the night, complete with bright lights and the never-ending sound of vacuums.
I boarded my return flight having experienced what might be the trip of a lifetime. British people were polite, fun and helpful. The weather had been comfortable for sightseeing. I still haven’t met the queen, but maybe next time. We settled in for the long flight back to Charlotte, and imagine my surprise when the first movie shown was “Holiday.” And there again were all the places I’d seen the day before.
Now as the Olympics loom in just a few days, I’ll revisit those memories of a beautiful city and a great trip with the hope of returning again.