On the way back, as if by magic, David fishes two tickets from the inner pocket of his tailored sports jacket, hands them to us as a special surprise and explains, ‘London is the city of theatre, musicals and extraordinary shows. It was already in Shakespeare’s day and will always be so. I’ve got you tickets for the Apollo Theatre. Treat yourselves to ‘Wicked’ tomorrow. It’s a sensation for all the senses. I’ll let you know this much: it completely redefines gravity. I’m confident you’ll be just as enthusiastic as my family and I were.’ Wow! Thank you very much. We’ll look forward to it immensely.
London hallmarks: from the Natural History Museum to Hyde Park
Back in town, the next highlight of our tour is the gigantic Natural History Museum. The sheer size of the imposing Romanesque-Byzantine building sends a shiver down the spine. With more than a hint of pride, David records that this is one of the world’s largest natural history museums. In the dinosaur exhibition, it fully dawns on us how small we are. Friendly and interested staff are ready to help us find our way round the cavernous galleries. The state-owned London museums display their treasures to the general public without charging for admission. So there is never any lingering impression of elitism. A correspondingly mixed and colourful crowd thread their way through the vast halls, pausing here and there in astonishment at the exhibits.
The home of the monarchy holds a special place in nearly every British heart. The royals are omnipresent, and even hard-bitten Londoners can often be found among the tens of thousands of fascinated tourists who watch the daily changing of the guard ceremony in front of Buckingham Palace. Many have not yet got over the tragic death of their ‘Queen of Hearts’, Lady Diana, and often seek out the Diana Memorial for a moment of quiet reflection. The fountains in the south-western part of Hyde Park, one of London’s many green lungs, are an attraction to visitors great and small. ‘The kids love paddling in the water and letting off steam in this safe, traffic-free park. For many adults, the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain is a place of meditation, where they can remember her great charitable work for underprivileged children and her humanitarian commitment in general,’ is David’s description of this special place, which has an air of calm and reconciliation.