In this post I mentioned that when my friend and I toured London on that October day twenty years ago (and if I were organized enough I would have planned these posts to be exactly twenty years after each event - oh well) it was our outdoor tour. The plan was to see as much as we could see in one day and then go back another day to take the guided tours of places like Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. So we picked a day to do our indoor tours. We chose October 16, 1987.
If that date doesn't ring any bells with you, perhaps it's because you weren't in England at the time and don't recall one of the worst wind storms southern England has ever had. Not quite a hurricane - but close enough to be called that by most people.
A little more back ground here. My touring buddy, Wendy, was not yet living in our house - she lived another mile or so down the road (she later moved in with us), and we didn't have phones. This is important - because we made plans to meet on the morning of the sixteenth. And although it had rained and the wind had howled for most of the night - and there were a lot of trees down and the wind was still howling - we couldn't call each other to cancel the trip. And the rain had stopped, so we figured we were good to go.
I waited at our appointed waiting place, for nearly half an hour before she arrived. "It took me more than twice as long as normal to get here," she told me, "because I was walking into the wind."
Perhaps this should have been our clue to stop there and pick another day. But we decided to persevere, after all, it wasn't raining anymore.
We got to our tube station only to find that either no trains were running, or they were so delayed that the crowds at the station were many people deep on the platforms. Not able to get into the center of the city this way, we decided to walk in.
It was really only a couple of miles, and other than the heavy winds, and all the fallen branches and big puddles, not that big a deal.
So, we finally made our way to Westminster Abbey, the first place on our list. And this time we knew exactly how to get to the front door. In we went, full of confidence, up to the tour desk and were promptly told - that because of the storm there would be no tours today.
Fine then. We wandered around on our own a little bit and went to the next place on our agenda. The Tower of London. Where the gates were closed and a sign hung on them saying "closed due to hurricane".
This was not boding well.
Where to now? Our plan had really only included Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. We decided on Greenwich and the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian! Closed - because over 200 trees were down in the park.
We finally found a tourist attraction that was open. The London Dungeon. (I see on their website that they now have thrill rides there - that was certainly not the case 20 years ago). The eerie thing about the dungeons, besides all the displays of instruments of torture, was that due to the storm the ceiling was leaking, creating ominous drips and puddles and some of the lights were out. So it gave a little more of the feeling of a dungeon.
It was an interesting day - and we had to make another trip in later on to finally get to Westminster Abbey - and I didn't get a tour of the Tower of London until a day or two before I went home.
And one other thing - we had planned to go to Kew Gardens the following weekend but the Gardens was devastated by the storm, losing 700 trees and many rare plants. I don't believe it even opened again until after I had gone home in December.
Basic advice from all this: don't try to go sightseeing when a city is recovering from a hurricane.