In London, I Let the Adventures Find Me ; I Was a Tourist on a Different Mission. I Planned to Meander like the River, Letting the Day Take Me Where It Wanted, Ending Up at the Globe Theatre

By Goldsmith, Margie | The Christian Science Monitor, January 19, 2006 | Go to article overview

In London, I Let the Adventures Find Me ; I Was a Tourist on a Different Mission. I Planned to Meander like the River, Letting the Day Take Me Where It Wanted, Ending Up at the Globe Theatre


Goldsmith, Margie, The Christian Science Monitor


It was sunny with cottony clouds in the sky as I strolled past the huge crowd at Buckingham Palace waiting for the changing of the guard.

I had done that, along with all the other London tourist attractions, 10 years ago. Today, I was a tourist on a different mission. I wanted to see a real thatched roof, and I knew there was one at the Globe Theatre, a re-creation of Shakespeare's theater that didn't exist the last time I was in London.

According to the map, I could get there by following the path along the Thames. I planned to meander like the river, letting the day take me where it wanted, ending up at the Globe.

I leaned on the railing at Westminster Bridge, taking in the view. Boats of all sizes moved in both directions. The sun made the river seem as though it were blanketed with glittering sparklers. As I stood back from the railing, I realized I had been leaning on a small plaque that read: "William Wordsworth 1770-1850, Composed Upon Westminster Bridge Sept. 1802."

A poem followed, and I read a stanza:

This City now doth, like a garment wearThe beauty of the morning; silent, bare,Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lieOpen unto the fields, and to the sky;

Back in freshman English, I thought Wordsworth was boring, but now I was standing in the same spot he'd been when he composed this poem. I could see how the modern city evolved around old London. Tall buildings had replaced the fields, but the towers and domes remained. I could imagine the three-masted ships moving downriver, sails billowing.

Today, the city's garment was anything but silent and bare. Tourists speaking every language crowded the bridge, snapping photos of Big Ben. The road had bumper-to-bumper traffic in both directions as bright red double-decker buses and sleek black turtle-shaped taxis pulled to a halt at the red light.

I walked past the long line waiting to get on the London Eye, a gigantic Ferris wheel offering a bird's-eye view of the city. A little farther up the path were outdoor bookstalls. Farther on, a man and woman wearing silver Elizabethan dress stood motionless, pretending to be statues.

At the end of a tunnel, a man who wore a red artist's cap, red shirt, and wrinkled rain jacket stood by a display of brightly colored envelopes spread out on a blanket. He smiled at me and gestured at a sign that read, Poetry Recited. About 30 envelopes were laid out like a patchwork quilt, each with a different crayoned inscription: "To a Muse," "To a Rationalist," "Bright Person," "A Word of Love," and "Incident at a Well. …

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