London July 28

I was up early to beat the traffic and try out one of those green ebikes available for use all over town.  Just download the app, and it tells you the location of any available ones nearby and how much time on it the battery still provides.  Scanning the qr code on the bike unlocks it and locks you in to the elaborate network controlling it

Two Limes–the most numerous of several brands– were left at a corner just around the block.  Their design is well suited for non hotshot bikers, the only accessories a fat basket hanging from the handlebars and a little rack to hold your cellphone showing the zoomable map of where you are and if you’re somewhere the bike is not allowed to be ridden or parked.  The app’s location disclosure connected to the phone enables the invisible network, for better or worse, to track your every move. I later learned that Google and Uber own major portions of the company.


I headed for South Holland Park, the place I’d seen near the restaurant we’d gone to on Jan’s Birthday, because it looked available to bikes and contained an open bathroom and a large Japanese garden.



It was thrilling to search out paths through manicured and then wilder areas which led me to a tree shaded neighborhood.  I turned down a wide street lined with mansions and embassies and found myself at the gateway of Kensington Palace, residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales.  When I stopped to take a picture, two black suited gentlemen popped out of nowhere and told me no photography was permitted.  The map led me to the nearby entrance of Kensington Gardens.


There I found the Palace’s side gate and its front, where I was greeted by the statue of Queen Victoria who ‘d grown up there before assuming the throne, empty of people this early



At the Round Pond I enjoyed the storybook sight of children feeding swans.


I whizzed down wide promenades all the way to adjoining Hyde Park, where I enjoyed coffee and a croissant at the restaurant by the Serpentine just opening.


Back at the hotel, I left the bike on the street for the next rider and met Jan.  She wanted to visit the playground and memorial sculpture for Princess Diana located in Kensington Gardens so we returned there by bus.


Admission to the palace required waiting in line and paying a $27 entry fee, which we declined. A trudge across the park to the playground left us seeking lunch along exclusive Bayswater Road, but we found an affordable falafel place up a sidestreet.

After siesta we headed downtown early with tickets for “Dr. Semmelweis” starring the Mark Rylance of whom we were enthusiastic fans since seeing him at the opening of Shakespeare’s Globe we’d recalled two days earlier while passing it on the river.


We reached the newly renovated National Portrait Gallery near the theatre with just enough time before closing to visit some old friends




Even with the route shown and spoken by the map app, we lost the way to the Harold Pinter theatre in the maze of West End streets and feared we’d have to miss dinner.

But directly across the road, we found “A Taste of Italy,” whose manager served us excellent pasta at a sidewalk table with time to spare.


Like “Patriots,” the play was the kind of theatrical experience one wished for in London.  A historical drama set in mid 19th century Budapest and Vienna that resonates with present day concerns about pandemic and the politics of medicine, it tells another story of a brilliant, overreaching  tragic hero–in this case altruistic rather than greedy– tracing the rise and fall of a doctor who discovered that deadly infections were transmitted to women giving birth by surgeons who refused to wash their hands.  The harrowing narrative was intensified by a string quartet of dancer-musicians.

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Our excitement upon leaving the theatre was heightened on the way to the bus stop by shouldering  through the exuberant nighttime crowds in Piccadilly Circus.


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