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14

London

My reason for including this stop was that of all my years of traveling to various locations and whilst there trying to take in as much of the local culture, history and sites as possible I realised on a recent trip to the capital that I had never really taken any time out to enjoy London. Now that I have, I found it to be absolutely fantastic and probably, has as much to offer if not more, than other cities I have visited.

After a 5 week silent retreat it takes some adjusting to slot back into society and I was in no rush to force the process. The other reason for my time in London was to create some space and thinking/reflection time to make sure that I was fully prepared for the next stages. So whilst I wanted to see some sights it was not my intention to cram an itinerary together; rather cherry pick a few activities to give me an overview and a feel of the city as apposed to visiting every attraction individually. My biggest problem that I had to come to terms with was guilt. As operating at what I would consider a slower pace was alien to my normal work pattern. It took me some time before I understood and accepted this.

My stop, however, didn't get off to the best start. I pre-booked the site but when I arrived they had no details of my booking, luckily they were able to fit me in so it wasn't too much of a problem - except for the deposit I thought I had paid. It wasn't until 2 days later that I realised that the site I was staying at in Crystal Palace was somehow different to the one I reserved in Walthemstow which is in the region of 50 miles away!.......I guess this doesn't bode well for someone who intends to travel around the world on their own. But for those that are familiar with my sense of direction this probably won't be too much of a surprise!

Of the tourist attractions I visited the one that stands out is the Houses of Parliament. A spectacular building. I was also lucky enough to be there on the day Gordon Brown released his paper on the Euro, so was able to attend the debate.

Whilst there I had a meeting with the Mother Teresa order, the "Missionaries of Charity", as their UK "office" is in London. A house in a less than salubrious area. In fact an area I didn't feel too safe in daylight, never mind after dark. To the extent that having parked my Bus with my bike on the back I wondered which of the two I would see again. But it would not be possible to do this trip if I am going to be worried where I park the Bus. There is something about the Sisters that just leaves you in complete awe at their courage, strength, belief but moreover their absolute humility. They go where others may not, work in conditions that are unworkable, in situations that may seem futile. As far as charities go they are far from "a popular choice" as they do very little marketing and as for funds and volunteers, they rely on God to provide. The encounter whilst brief was very poignant and makes one feel completely unworthy and even writing this makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It served to strengthen my resolve to work with them whilst on route.