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Serendipity Afternoon: The Story of Gloria and Stuart

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Story time! We were wandering around Marylebone since that's not really a place we've spent a lot of time in and we came across St Marylebone Parish Church and I have a rule that if we come across an interesting church, we try to go in.

Upon walking in, we walked past a "help desk" that was in the lobby and no one was there. They have an NHS clinic in their basement, and I assumed it was for that.

Someone was playing the organ and I love that. We wandered for a bit and then started to leave only to be approached by a lovely woman named, Gloria. She seemed to desperately want to tell us the story of the church, so we stopped to listen. She also volunteers at the Victoria and Albert Museum and wanted to tell us about parts of that, too. Then, she offered to take us up to the balcony for a better view of the church so we climbed the stairs after her and went. The church has a very nice pipe organ and sits across the street from the Roya Academy of Music and the music students play the organ and the Academy foots a lot of the huge costs of maintaining the organ. However, Gloria told us that the students are quite rude if there is noise in the church while they are practicing. Not sure if that's true or not, but clearly, Gloria has had words with them over it.

After listening to her tell us some stories, we went back into the sanctuary to check out a couple of things she had told us about (like how the windows were blown out during the war and the pieces were just randomly used to put the windows back together so the stained glass is just bits of randomness). While there, my husband noticed writing on the wall on the end of the church in the apse (that large domed part at the end of most naves). We couldn't quite finish reading it. There was a man walking through who had a name tag on and we asked him if he could finish it for us. He just dropped the rope and told us to walk up there and read it. That was how we met Stuart - the main caretaker of the church.

Stuart had keys to everything and the authority to take us everywhere and he did! We climbed back up the stairs to the highest balconies for an even better view of the church. Only HE could take us up there. He took us down to the crypt (basically a room with small boxes full of ashes) and he took us into a side office where a replica of the church's most famous marriage license was hanging on the wall. Poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning were married in that church.

We had a lovely private and unexpected double tour of a church we just stumbled upon wandering around London. It was awesome and we were glad we didn't have to hurry off to something else.

These serendipitous moments are the best part of travelling. I am a firm believer that not every moment should be scheduled. Leave an afternoon open here and there to just wander around like this. I often plan nothing on my last full day anywhere so I can just wander around and enjoy the city I'm in.

Let the serendipity happen!

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