On the way to Istanbul, Matthew and I had a seven-hour layover in London, so we left the airport and took the tube to Westminster. The train robot said at each stop, "mind the gap," this phrase is, evidently, a cultural icon in London. English humor is such that I don't know if we're so frequently told to "mind the gap" ironically or seriously.
Also, I don't know why there is a gap--the floors of the train cars are often half a foot above the platform.
So, we got off the Tube at Westminster. There were security cameras everywhere. As we walked out of the station, I asked Matthew, "Where's Westminster Abbey?" "You're looking at it," said Matthew of the old building right in front of us. I felt a little silly, until we rounded the corner to enter, only to discover that the building is actually the Parliament building--the Abbey was next door. We went to enter it, but it's £9 to get in for students, and I didn't feel like paying that much to see a church, even such an important one.
Driving to church on Christmas Eve, I mentioned to my family the forthcoming long London layover. Eddie asked me if I could get something for him while I'm there. What? A necklace. The entire family laughed at him, poor chap. Secilee asked for a picture of Big Ben.
I saw a clock tower, but it was pretty small. I said, "Let me take a picture of this; I'll tell Secilee it's Big Ben." Matthew said, "Um, yeah, that is Big Ben."
(Later, on the phone, Secilee told me that she thought Big Ben was a double-decker bus.)
We went to the British museum, but it was closed. Instead, we got pasties and postcards, then popped in at the Museum Tavern, which is a couple of hundred years old. We each had a pint of Old Peculiar, which I would recommend.
After landing in Istanbul, late that night, we tried to find a pay phone in the airport. Everyone here is very friendly--one person told us to look outside. After going outside, and seeing no pay phone, we tried to get back in, but a police officer blew his whistle at us. We crossed the street to the parking garage and back again. We asked for directions from another police officer, and he told us to enter the airport through another door. We did, but we would have had to have our luggage x-rayed to proceed. We tried to go back, but the door was one-way. We slipped around the next slew of people entering and we escaped. We found the stairs leading down to the metro station; we figured a pay phone might be there.
We did, indeed, find a pay phone, but it only took credit cards or calling cards. I picked up the phone, Matthew handed me his card, and I slid it into the slot, and dialed our host, Elizabeth. I could only type two digits before the machine reset. I tried again.
The payphone didn't look like the payphones in the US. Those, you just drop coins through a slot and dial the number. The phones here in Turkey have a little LCD screen with two buttons on either side of it. We tried pushing buttons that we recognized, or, rather, avoided buttons that we knew wouldn't be helpful, like the one of the police or the one for pre-paid phonecards. Matthew suggested that we ask for help, but I told him that we'd probably have an easier time getting the machine to work than we would finding someone who spoke enough English well enough to help us. Repeatedly, I would push a different button, slide the card, and start dialing. Each time, I could only type two digits before the phone reset. There were other buttons, off to the left, one that I didn't recognize, one with a picture of a telephone, one with the letter L and one with the letter R. I tried those, too.
A half an hour later, I tapped the L button, but this time, the text on the screen turned to English. I swiped the card. The screen said that the card should be swiped with the magnetic stripe up.