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Thunderstorm, lightning strike, a broken tyre: Meeting the family in UK on CX (J+PEY)

Thunderstorm, lightning strike, a broken tyre: Meeting the family in UK on CX (J+PEY)

Old Mar 13, 19, 9:27 am
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Thunderstorm, lightning strike, a broken tyre: Meeting the family in UK on CX (J+PEY)

Apparently this is one's first trip report on FT, so trip report gurus out there please have mercy on me; and know that this was written (in between idle intervals) on a night shift in a pediatric emergency service.
In 2016 the sister went to Durham for a Master's program in...... culture preservation and/or heritage management? Anyway, since the parents had never been to Europe, and the joy of seeing their offspring finally in no need of financial support for the foreseeable future, we decided to spend one week in the UK with the purpose of attending the sister's graduation ceremony.
Only one problem, the humble brother, having to do emergency department shifts and recently just back from a conference in Copenhagen, would not be able to stay until the graduation. Instead, he would spend a few days with the family and fly back alone, with a tiresome journey as a punishment reflected on the title.
Itinerary
TPE-HKG on J (bought PEY but op-up due to equipment change)
HKG-LHR on PEY
EDI-LHR on Flybe Y
LHR-HKG on PEY
HKG-TPE on J (bought PEY but op-up due to equipment change)
Cathay Pacific CX 469
Taipei TPE to Hong Kong HKG
A330-300
10:00-12:05
June 14, 2018
Business Class

A short hop over the Taiwan straits on CX J



It is always interesting to observe the crew on ultra-short CX flights. Most of the ultra-short flights are operated by relative junior crews who are:
  1. Extremely courteous and by-the-book, who applies slightly too much makeup, or
  2. Would eyeball once you have any requests out of the ordinary, i.e. no ice for my drinks
The short flight time coupled with a full cabin means service is extremely rushed. It is actually a Duracell bunny marathon from the moment the seatbelt signs are off until "crew to be seated for landing", which is at most 1 hour for a typical TPE-HKG flight.

After landing I made my way to The Pier.







I personally prefer the daytime flight out of HKG. Having infinitesimal chances of sleeping on any aircraft, I could eat and watch TV until landing just in time for bed in Europe.
Cathay, of course, operates several wonderful if occasionally crowded lounges in HKG which is one of the reasons I'm still sticking with their FFP.
Heathrow-bound on PEY. The main difference between PEY and J would be not being able to lie flat and having a neighbor beside you. The main difference between PEY and Y? Having an exclusive cabin, a separate washroom (on select 77W), and a different main for the first meal. For me departing from TPE, PEY can sometimes be good value given it is about 30 to 40% markup from a Y fare, a less crowded cabin, and a larger seat. The price difference between PEY and J is another 50 to 60% extra to Europe from TPE.

Cathay Pacific CX 253
Hong Kong HKG to London Heathrow LHR
B777-300ER
15:10-20:15
June 14, 2018
Premium Economy Class




Cathay provides amenity kits in long-haul PEY, consisting of socks, eyeshade, and ear plugs. As you can see I find no use for them, kept most of them intact over the years, and had even gave some out as gifts.



The outbound flight was uneventful. A middle-aged lady sat next to me occupied her time by coloring books (interesting hobby). Toward the end of the flight she applied some scented massage oil. I assumed it was to help her sleep, but that scent did trouble me as a seatmate. I watched a series of Wong Kar Wai films featured on the IFE back then.
Taken on the A359 from CPH a few weeks back. Also a Wong Kar Wai movie.



Overall quite a pleasant flight. While many have moaned about Cathay's poor food offerings, there is one thing consistent about Cathay long-haul - consistency. You can almost expect to receive moderate to poor food but a relatively polished crew, good IFE, and timeliness if Hong Kong's big brother up north do not act up on airspace restrictions from time to time.

Next up: London and Cambridge
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Last edited by jysim; Mar 13, 19 at 12:07 pm
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Old Mar 13, 19, 9:33 am
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Your photos are not displaying correctly. A series of gray No Entry signs instead.......
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Old Mar 13, 19, 10:21 am
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Originally Posted by 1P View Post
Your photos are not displaying correctly. A series of gray No Entry signs instead.......
Thanks for letting me know. I have reuploaded the pics and they should be working fine now.

After this I will have the utmost respect for trip report posters.
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Old Mar 13, 19, 2:43 pm
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London and Cambridge

While I live and work in Taipei, the parents and sister live in Penang, Malaysia. On this trip, they took SQ in Y. Mum, flattering as always, felt very well taken care of by the Singapore girls, whom a vast majority are Malaysians by nationality. It was simply good to know your family members, especially Mum and Dad who had no long-haul flight experiences, to be taking to flying intercontinental in Y so well.



We stayed at the Hilton London Tower Bridge. As I have HH Gold, we were given lounge access. We enjoyed more than a few small bites there which turned into a meal by itself. The breakfasts were excellent if not repetitive daily. The rooms are generous by London standards and location hard to beat.





The sister spent a long time explaining London Bridge in the nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down" is actually Tower Bridge, that unlike its more flamboyant cousin, London Bridge actually looks sturdier but less memorable. As with everything British, legacy is often right beside confusion for the outsider. Regardless, the son's recommendation to visit the Royal Jewels and Beefeaters in the Tower of London went unheeded, despite it being directly opposite our hotel.



Now, brought up under Commonwealth British education and adopting a Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, the Houses of Parliament had been on my list for some while. This recommendation, though, was well-received by the parents. The tour, booked several weeks in advance, includes a guided tour of both Houses and an afternoon tea overlooking the Thames. Sadly photos were not allowed in both Houses. I assume with the current proceedings on Brexit one would have enough green- and red-upholstered chambers for a while to come.

The view was hard to beat.



The same can't be said about the food, though. Largely dried up cakes and scones with teabags instead of loose leaf tea.



On another day we took a day trip to Cambridge. I previously took a group day trip to Oxford, and felt it could have been enjoyed at a slower pace. The decision to visit Cambridge by our own is partly to visit on our own pace and partly to avoid repeating Oxford for me. Of course the romanticizing effect of Xu Zhimo, early 20th century Chinese poet, did made the allure stronger. Xu was the great romantic poet in Mum and Dad's era of typewriters, newspapers, and handwritten notes. He just so happened to have spent a semester at Cambridge and penned some beautifully melancholic poems here.

But first, a visit to the sister's friend who was working at Fitzbillies



King's Chapel


The sister with one of Xu's Cambridge poems
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Old Mar 13, 19, 3:08 pm
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Great TR so far!!

Looks like you managed to get some decent weather - looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Old Mar 13, 19, 3:51 pm
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Nice photos. I was is London last November and will be back next month.
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Old Mar 13, 19, 8:30 pm
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Originally Posted by roadwarrier View Post
Great TR so far!!

Looks like you managed to get some decent weather - looking forward to the rest of your report.
Weather was perfect when we were in southern England. But it was bad when we were in the Lake District later.

Originally Posted by CosmosHuman View Post
Nice photos. I was is London last November and will be back next month.
Thank you! London has always been one of my favorite cities to visit, better still if hotel prices are lower.
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Old Mar 13, 19, 11:13 pm
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The Lake District and our flat tyre

After spending 3 days in London, we headed to Newcastle to drop our baggage and pick up the rental car. I think Mum and Dad liked Newcastle plainly because of the small town feel and that we were able to have a hot Chinese meal after several days of cold salads, cheese, and bread.
We stayed at the Hampton directly opposite Newcastle Train Station. There were nothing to write home about this one except the central proximity.

Picture taken on a return visit when the sister bunked with the parents as the Hampton doesn't have a 3-bed room or suite.


Soon we headed west to the Lake District. Rain started drizzling and later pouring as we pass by Carlisle. As this is Britain, the gale-force winds and horizontal rain did get some breaks in between, which we quickly seized to visit some sights.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, just east of Keswick



Couldn't be sure where this was taken, but possibly around Derwent Water or Crummock Water.



Our final stop of the day was Honister Slate Mine and Honister Pass, a windy road wedged in between two mountains stretching several kilometers affording wallpaper-like picturesque views even in miserable weather. Although we were exhausted, cold, and wet, the parents' spirits were high as I've upped their anticipation of the comfy B&B with a fireplace we were staying for the night. Thinking I could soak a scalding hot bath and sit by the fireplace within an hour or so, I probably sped a little too fast for our Nissan to handle. The right front tyre probably hit a sharp slate and went flat as we made a speedy sharp turn.
The bath and fireplace won't be had until several hours later.

T'is the car, just before a tyre decided to go to tyre heaven.



T'is the driver, too eager to get indoors.



We had a flat tyre, in a valley, with no mobile connection, in monsoon weather, with nobody else in sight. Now we all knew how it felt like being Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, or Mary in The Secret Garden. A few wondering sheep and lambs passed by, the waterfalls gurgled, the winds howled, and rain hammered the narrow road and our beleaguered Nissan.
Yours truly had never changed a tyre in his decade-long driving experience. Dad came to the rescue. "They should have a spare tyre here somewhere," he said confidently. We almost disassembled the trunk only to find a tyre sealant. The device was so full of instructions and pictures even a Martian would understand how to operate in the event of a flat tyre.
Apparently since the parents last repaired a tyre, the world has moved on to tubeless or pneumatic tyres. When the aforementioned state-of-the-art movers of human civilization is damaged, one could apply the sealant by following about 27 steps printed on the sealant. If successful, you could drive to a nearby mechanic for help. If not, good luck mobilizing an out-of-hour tow truck from about 30 kilometers, if and when you find a mobile phone signal.
We eventually waved down a couple who drove us to a nearby inn and called our car rescue there. By then any imagery of a crackling wood fireplace and onsen bathtubs had vanished from everyone's minds. We were still grappling with the fact that inner tube tyres had become passť, much like telegraph users waking up one day to find the world had moved on to text messages.

Richard and Diney of Riverside, Ambleside were sympathetic (and probably covertly amused) to learn about our plight. "A first flat tyre in 20 years and it has to be in England when you guys are on holiday?" Richard teased. Nevertheless, they offered help and settled both anxious parents within the next hour. The car would rest at the B&B while we explore the Lake District on foot the next day. "That's what you guys are here for, right? Walks." Richard dictated.
On a previous occasion, we told Richard we are driving to so-and-so, then take a short walk around, then drive back to the B&B.
"People visit the Lake District specifically to walk," he glared.
The following day, we asked him for directions to a certain route, for which he replied "take the road for 30 miles, turn right, ascend the hill for another 20, and you'll be there."
Unfamiliar with the imperial system, for which almost the entire world has abandoned except for a few relic countries, we looked at him blankly.
"30 miles, then 20 miles, ok?" He confirmed. Then he burst into a childish laughter befitting for a 5th grader. "I was kidding, you can't possibly walk for 30 miles. You could, of course, drive there."
Since then, we identified ourselves by "Mr. Sim who drove in the Lake District."

Full English by Diney the following morning.



What a wonderful sight after a series of tyre sealant, tow truck, and "No Service" messages.



Richard and Diney, effervescent as they were, had quaint tastes when it comes to their B&B.





While Enterprise took 2 days to replace our tyre, we did several (short) walks around and thoroughly enjoyed the B&B's hospitality. The weather cleared up significantly the following day and made exploring much more comfortable. Not the walkers and trekkers that we are, we still managed to had some relaxation without a motor vehicle.







I personally think the Lake District is the most quintessentially English experience one could get - the weather, cottages, lambs, and rolling hills. Everything about William Blake's Jerusalem is here. Be prepared for long, solitary walks though, as Richard's voice reverberates through the valley "people visit the Lake District specifically to walk."

Last edited by jysim; Mar 13, 19 at 11:51 pm
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Old Mar 14, 19, 5:11 am
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lovely.... pics and writing... looking forward to more
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Old Mar 14, 19, 11:35 pm
  #10  
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Dunblane and Edinburgh

After replacing the flat tyre, we bid goodbye to Richard and Diney and headed to Dunblane. When one Googles Dunblane, the first hit is about a primary school massacre in 1996. The sister was not too pleased we were to spend a night there, while my initial thought was just to break the trip to 2 days just so we don't get too exhausted.

On the road again.



What the internet did not immediately tell them about Dunblane, was this spa hotel dating from the 19th century. The Doubletree Dunblane Hydro originally housed an extensive bath facility where the sick and ill come to recuperate before the days of modern medicine. Besides the heritage, internet reviews on the restaurant, The Kailyard by Nick Nairn, seems worthy of a try. The price we got from hilton.com was very reasonable as well.

Arrived at 3 pm to this weather and handsome mansion.



Going about a week without a proper swim, I went to check out the (minuscule) pool after settling in the parents. Before I left, I told them we had a reservation at the Kailyard for dinner. "The restaurant looks quite posh when I passed by just now," I briefly mentioned just before leaving for the pool.
Ninety minutes later, I returned to find the parents busy ironing their full dinner clothes complete with a tie and jacket. As the sister complained, they took my words to heart and thought it would be wise to wear their Sunday clothes for dinner. The sister was eyeballing me. "If I don't see anyone else with a tie in that restaurant besides the waiter, I will kick you down the slope after dinner."



Generally we found the service to be much more slow relaxed compared to Asia or even London. Of course it might be due to the slower pace of life up north. Dinner was enjoyable and even the waiters did not wear ties.

The Dad still insisting on a shirt, while Yours Truly with a polo.



After a good night's sleep, we drove the final journey into Edinburgh. We dropped by Stirling Castle on the way. The castle is perched on top a hill offering panoramic views of the plains and National Wallace Monument nearby.



Into the city again after several days of hills, valleys, and castles. Dropped my parents at the hotel and returned the car to Enterprise. So after our flat tyre in Buttermere, Mum had been very adamant I drove too fast and insisted I slow down on an hourly basis. "We can get there later but still in one piece, as long as we are safe..."
Another favorite pastime after the accident is to estimate the cost of the repairs, including a tow service of nearly 20 km and replacing a tyre by a mobile unit. We bought damage waiver capped at £100, but different calls to different agents revealed varying explanation on whether the cap is applicable to a flat tyre. In truth I think the agents are clueless themselves.
The suspense was finally lifted when we found out the cap is applicable. So for our tow and tyres, we paid the extra £100 and nothing more.

A heatwave was running through Edinburgh. One more night and I'll be back to Taipei while the family continues their trip here.



Hotel Indigo Edinburgh City Center



Final installment: the long trip home
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Old Mar 15, 19, 9:24 am
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Delays, delays, and more delays

On a wonderfully sunny Edinburgh day, the parents and sister walked Yours Truly across the street to the tram station heading for the airport. As with all normal families, we squabble, nag, quarrel, and bully each other into our ultimate goals, but at the end we still have each other to fall back on. In this case, they carried the baggages into the tram and waved me goodbye as I leave them with their plans of Edinburgh Castle later. It would be a long way home for me. And as I probably wouldn't sleep on an aeroplane, I would only start work 2 days after arriving in Taipei. So just to recap:
Itinerary
EDI-LHR on Flybe Y
LHR-HKG on PEY
HKG-TPE on J (bought PEY but op-up due to equipment change)
Things had not started well for the day. I received 2 consecutive emails from Cathay Pacific a day before - we regret to advise you that your flight has been re-scheduled - it says. Ahem, your flight from London, and the next one from Hong Kong, too. Have a nice flight. So on the day I was to take 3 flights of 22 hours, I arrived at Edinburgh airport to an army of self check-in machines. I punched in my booking reference only to find check-in has not yet begun - it was 2 hours before the flight.
"Hiya, sir. You're obviously from a very stressful Asian country. We do things differently here. Just chill. Go get a gin and tonic, come back 50 minutes later," says an agent wearing an Edinburgh airport polo shirt.

There must be some scam going on between EDI agents and airlines selling non-refundable tickets which involves cheating old ladies about a precipitous check-in time and charging them their funds for nursing home when they fail to sprint and drop their bags and prostheses in time.

Anyway, after I bid farewell to my hold baggage and giving the polo shirt agent a scowl, I step into a commuter plane operated by FlyBe and flew uneventfully into London Heathrow.

After several clicks on the computer, the lovely lady at Cathay Pacific Heathrow lounge managed to squeeze me into an earlier flight. "But do note sir, this flight was also delayed." I thanked her profusely while the Indian lady beside her spoke Cantonese with an English accent on the phone about demanding passengers.

In between our exchange, a dozen anxious passengers from stressful Asian countries came and went asking about the boarding gate for our flight. In between phone conversations, Indian lady speaking Anglo-Cantonese told them to chill out, get another gin and tonic, and come back 50 minutes later.

Obviously my drink of choice is not G&T.



In between a wonton noodle and har gow (Cantonese prawn dumpling), a family of Mandarin speakers came and asked, relatively politely, what the dumplings are called. "Har gow," I said in my 3-year-old Cantonese taught by the babysitter. They went excitedly to the noodle bar to order. I hope the English-speaking Romanian chef knows what they wanted.

Nibbling and showering done, we finally boarded the plane and was greeted by our captain.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I do apologize for the delay, which was due to the poor weather departing from Hong Kong earlier. This, and a lightning strike later, means we have to inspect the aircraft carefully after landing."
"Now, just sit back, chill out, and enjoy the flight, folks. We should be able to make up some time in flight and hopefully have you all at the Peninsula for gin and tonic before your Hong Kong dinner!" How can you not love Aussie pilots?

Cathay Pacific CX 238
London Heathrow LHR to Hong Kong HKG
B777-300ER
16:50-12:55+1
June 23, 2018
Premium Economy Class


Another smooth if not delayed flight on CX. Forgive me for not remembering the duration of the delay as this was almost 9 months ago. It was a delay of around 2 to 3 hours by the time we landed in HKG, which is cutting it close for my flight to TPE.



As I prepare to unleash my inner Usain Bolt to my next flight, which is departing in less than 40 minutes, expecting to see a Cathay Pacific agent sweeping people out of my way like an enchantress, I was greeted by a nonchalant female looking like she had 18 years' experience dealing with delayed flights and anxious passengers from stressful Asian countries.

"Your flight? Here on the board? No? If not on the board then you go on your own. Bye bye."

So I went lounge hopping instead. As you can see from the pictures, the wait stretched from afternoon to dusk into evening.







The delay stretched on for quite a while, even the lounge attendants did not bother to print a new boarding pass.



At long last, as the crowds taking CX 472 got their bats and axes ready to attack the set of overwhelmed ground crews, we were allowed to board.
I managed to walk like a zombie to Gate 67, board the plane, and slump into my seat. Then I passed out.

What seemed like 7 hours later, I woke up to Alex (name changed to protect his identity) handing out hot towels.
"H'mph, where are we, Alex?" My retina sending just enough neurotransmitter to make out his name tag.
"We're still in Hong Kong, sir."
"You mean we haven't took off?"
"The aircraft door is still open, sir."

I must had said so much cuss words the Captain overhead through his bulletproof cockpit door. He went on the PA soon after.
"Ladies and gents, I do hope you don't take out your frustration on our cabin crew. They are primarily here for your safety."
"On our delay, it seemed like the previous flight from San Francisco was late and we had a very short turnaround. We found out one of the tyre needs replacing and the engineers are doing their best now. I shall keep you updated. Meanwhile, do help yourself to some gin and tonic, chill out, and you'll be in the Regent for a nightcap in a jiffy!" How can you not love British pilots? Several eternities later, the engineer announced to the captain and crew the plane won't be fit for flying tonight.

I think poor Alex must have drunk a whole bottle of whiskey before finally mustering the courage to make the announcement. "Please, as orderly as you can, exit the aircraft and head to gate 69. If you feel like screaming at something, the pillows or blankets are good choices compared to the crew. Thank you for choosing Cathay Pacific."

If you wanted to learn cuss words in all the Chinese dialects, CX472 on 24 June is your best bet. In the cabin of 300+ passengers, everyone is giving a lecture on punctuality peppered with words ranging from a greeting to your great-great-grandmother to wishing your child has anorectal dysfunction, in 50 or so Chinese dialects.

A meal service the crew wished had been served 5 hours ago.



Almost home. Almost. I think I share the feelings of Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Song when they fled Nanking for Taipei after being defeated by the Communists in this particular occasion.



Cathay was kind enough to offer a taxi service when I told a crew I had difficulty heading home due to the late arrival. Arriving home after a 32-hour ordeal, I made myself a gin and tonic, and landed in bed for 10 hours.
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Old Mar 16, 19, 6:42 am
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If you wanted to learn cuss words in all the Chinese dialects, CX472 on 24 June is your best bet. In the cabin of 300+ passengers, everyone is giving a lecture on punctuality peppered with words ranging from a greeting to your great-great-grandmother to wishing your child has anorectal dysfunction, in 50 or so Chinese dialects.


I wish I was a fly on the wall.... Great TR - lovely style of writing, thank you.
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Old Mar 16, 19, 7:03 am
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Originally Posted by jysim View Post
Thanks for letting me know. I have reuploaded the pics and they should be working fine now.
Brilliant! Thanks!
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Old Mar 16, 19, 7:17 am
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Originally Posted by jysim View Post
The sister spent a long time explaining London Bridge in the nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down" is actually Tower Bridge, that unlike its more flamboyant cousin, London Bridge actually looks sturdier but less memorable.
I'm afraid this is completely wrong. Tower Bridge is not the London Bridge in the nursery rhyme. Tower Bridge hadn't even been built when this rhyme originated two centuries earlier. It's one of the older London Bridges, the wooden one with houses on it, that is referred to in the rhyme.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Bridge
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London...s_Falling_Down

Great TR, though!
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Old Mar 16, 19, 11:55 pm
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Originally Posted by 1P View Post
I'm afraid this is completely wrong. Tower Bridge is not the London Bridge in the nursery rhyme. Tower Bridge hadn't even been built when this rhyme originated two centuries earlier. It's one of the older London Bridges, the wooden one with houses on it, that is referred to in the rhyme.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Bridge
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London...s_Falling_Down
We do learn something new everyday, don't we? I recall seeing a documentary about the Old London Bridge, but I didn't made the connection with the rhyme. Apparently the houses, seemingly counterintuitive on a falling bridge, made disposing off excrements and wastewater much easier before the invention of sewage systems.
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