The quiet of London is not what comes to mind when one thinks of this vibrant city. It was not entirely quiet at first, when I visited this Spring. The subway was still running, though would soon close forty stations. Restaurants still served food, but with shortened hours. The tourists were mostly gone, except for those who live in England and locals enjoying the city emptied of those from far away. The shows had all cancelled. We had booked two. Schools were still holding classes, and construction never ceased. The shops on Oxford street still clung to those who would visit. Employees of Waterstone Books, fearful of what was happening, were hoping to close soon. As the week wore on the grocers shelves started to empty.
We rented bikes by Paddington Station and rode along the Regents Canal to Limestone. It was a bright sunny day in London. The giraffe’s lazily ate their food, aware of life outside the gate of the Zoo in Regent’s Park. The path along the canal was not always optimal, until after King’s Cross, so we made our way through various neighborhoods until we reached the path along the canal once more. We had a glorious day with smiles on our faces, as we made our way through London.
A week later the streets were even more bare. Restaurants were closed. Trains were on a limited schedules with less cars than normal. It was an eerie feeling to get off the train at Paddington Station, as I returned to London from Devon. It is usually full of life with people coming and going in every direction. I walked a few blocks, after checking into the hotel, in search of food and found some delicious yet cold fare at Waitross Grocery, then settled in for the night in my quiet little room. The next morning I left my luggage behind at the hotel so I could go for a bike ride again. Hyde Park was still alive. There were cyclists of the faster variety, as well as those like myself. There were walkers, and couples working out together in the grass; for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had said exercise was permitted. I rode down from Green Park past a very empty street in front of Buckingham Palace, except for a camera crew packing up their bags. As I rode by St Mary’s Hospital back at Paddington, my heart went out to the healthcare worker’s going to work their shift, with solemn looks on their faces.
I have no regrets going to England two days before flights would cease to leave America. It was an experience I won’t forget. The eerie feeling of a nearly empty city, usually so full of life, was truly surreal. (More to come from this adventure in England)