|England, Take One
||[Aug. 3rd, 2006|01:09 pm]
As a child, I flew over London rooftops with Peter Pan, walked London streets with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and wandered the English countryside with the Robin Hood and King Arthur. Later, I spent many a mannered evening with Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and rather less mannered ones in the company of Becky Sharp. I also took in a backstage view of the doings of Parliament looking over the shoulder of Sir Humphrey Appleby and only recently trailed along behind Doctor Who as he saved the world a time or two.
I've loved England since I was a kid. Now, for the first time, my body is visiting where my brain has often lived.
I still love England.
Our first day we visited Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Neither of them particularly noticed our presence, of course, what with all those other tourists. Walking through the Abbey was an interesting and then overwhelming experience. The building is impressive, and it is also chock full o' dead people. Some of them are entombed in great monuments, some buried under the stones, some apparently only memorialized in this structure while their bones rest elsewhere. What they have in common, these monuments, is that they have nothing in common. Some are gothic, some are gilt, some are massive stone, others lacey fretwork.
And they're all in the same room. Between the monuments and the press of people, it began to feel a bit like a flea market. There was the moment when I thought that claustrophobia would drive me out of the building.
Then we came to the Chapter House. This round room was where the monks gathered to pray and chant. Even in the hush of tourists walking around the edges, the acoustics were obviously impressive. The walls were covered with aged frescoes, and the sense of the ages transformed the space.
And then, just to top everything off, I found the grave of Edward Bulwer-Lytton! I bounced in excitement and dragged Ferrett over to see. All the kings, queens, poets, philosophers buried there, and I was most excited by the grave of the man that gave us the famous sentences, "It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out."
From Westminster, we wandered to Picadilly Circus, then through Soho, and finally back up to King's Cross and our hotel. It was rather longer a walk than I realized it was going to be – like 4 miles longer. We were exhausted.
The second day was sort of lost to exhaustion and jet lag, but we still walked many miles and then went searching for the oldest pub in London, the Grenadier. We knew the tube stop we needed to get off at, and we found the street of the right name, but the pub was "in a mews" that we simply could not locate. Ferrett, being male, was ready to give up. I, however, was not to be deterred. I asked directions from the bouncer at a casino.
"Aye. Ye go down past that furniture store that’s got all the signs for a sale? Then turn right into the alley follow it 'round. You’ll get there."
Following these directions, we turned into a dark, Dickensian alley filled with trash bins. I expected rats. Ferrett hesitated, and we debated whether we were being let in on a secret or being set up for a mugging. Either way, however, it would be a unique experience, so we forged on.
Sure enough, we found The Grenadier at the end of the alley. The people at the table next to us, noting our accents, asked how long we'd been in London – and how the hell we'd managed to find The Grenadier. We felt very impressed with ourselves.
We had their delicious Beef Wellington and then Ferrett drank a couple beers and I had three ports and when we left we decided to try and find the proper way into the place. We ended up on Grosvenor's Place, a street that was so like Henry Higgins' that I burst into "The Street Where You Live" until Ferrett shushed me. (This is rather a reversal for the two of us, amusing me greatly.)
Yesterday was Buckingham Palace, which I will write about another time because this is getting long. Now we are in Brighton, visiting with scarletdemon and having a marvelous time. Now that Ferrett and I are actually speaking to British people, we hear our voices taking on Britishisms. We look at each other with a bit of helpless amusement. We've been visiting pubs and shopping and doing next to nothing that is historic, but we are having a marvelous time. And now we're about to eat pasties and chips with vinegar. And drink tea, and watch British TV.
(Ferrett has also written his impressions of our first three days here, if you want another look at our trip.)