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England, Take One [Aug. 3rd, 2006|01:09 pm]
[Current Mood |bouncyrunning!]

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.)

[User Picture]From: longtimegone
2006-08-03 05:24 pm (UTC)
Oooooh, I am loving reading your's and Ferrett's entries. I recently went to London for the first time in April, and I'm vicariously reliving it through your posts.

I can't wait to hear about the rest of your travels!
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From: odclay
2006-08-03 05:25 pm (UTC)
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

I didn't know that Bulwer-Lytton was buried at Westminster. Dang, I could've looked for it while I was there. But my friend and I just went for Evensong, so we didn't bother browsing the graves.

Good to hear you're having a good time in London! It's an amazing place. I spent ten days there in January and I doubt I saw everything there is to see there--must go back, someday.
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[User Picture]From: labelleizzy
2006-08-03 05:38 pm (UTC)
oh, goddesses, enjoy! I'm a little bit jealous that I'm not you at this moment, but I know I will go back again.

oh, and don't worry if you don't do all the classic touristy bits. Your trip will be fabulous on small _or_ large scale. I hope you both get a chance to get into the North, like to York or Chester or Edinburgh.

And do keep sharing with details and wonderful (or other) times.

thanks for writing in detail...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-08-03 06:41 pm (UTC)
We're going up to Leeds in the Lake Country. I will share when I'm able, but our internet time is limited because we are so busy! We're having a wonderful time!
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[User Picture]From: jenk
2006-08-03 05:39 pm (UTC)
Glad you're having fun! Sounds like a blast! You're reminding me of the first time I went to New York after a lifetime of reading EL Konigsburg, Mary Rodgers, Norma Klein, Susan Isaacs, Madeleine L'Engle, Lawrence Block, & so on. Nothing like re-reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler the week before you tour the Met for the first time... :)

And yes, after the Famous Five books, Narnia, other CS Lewis, plenty of biographies & romances, CC Benison's murders set in the Queen's palaces, and Dorothy Sayers, the only thing keeping me from England is not wanting to deal with smoke everywhere....
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[User Picture]From: ls56
2006-08-03 05:41 pm (UTC)

Pandora was playing "The Street Where You Live" while I was reading that.
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[User Picture]From: the_magician
2006-08-03 05:45 pm (UTC)

Welcome to England!

From my desk at work I can see the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye (among many other places!)

I hadn't spotted you'd be over or I'd have offered either a few of my favourite places to visit, or to buy you lunch while you were here.

Have a great time, and if you get stuck, need advice or whatever, you can call me on 0776 990 3675, or email me chris (at) magician.co.uk
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-08-03 08:22 pm (UTC)

Re: Welcome to England!

Aw, thanks so much. We're crazy busy, but we want to come back! Loving it here.
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[User Picture]From: kathrynrose
2006-08-03 05:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for checking in. We miss you. Have a marvelous time. You deserve it!
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[User Picture]From: trianakvetch
2006-08-03 06:02 pm (UTC)
I adore London :) I'm so grateful that growing up in Spain, Englad was just a hop away.

It truly is a lovely city...mmmm. As touristy as this sounds, try to fit the Tower of London in there. Reading all the graffiti left behind by those who were captured there is so creepy :)
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[User Picture]From: trianakvetch
2006-08-03 06:04 pm (UTC)
err, that would be a EnglaNd. Or En is very glad.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-08-03 07:10 pm (UTC)
Believe me, my typos are appalling. No worries!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-08-03 07:10 pm (UTC)
Tower of London is reserved for next week when we are touring with nuala. We're trying to hit the big ones!
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[User Picture]From: kid_lit_fan
2006-08-03 06:21 pm (UTC)
Now, for the first time, my body is visiting where my brain has often lived.

Helene Hanff (author of 84 Charing Cross Road, Underfoot in Show Business and a bunch of other lovely, lovely books) told a British friend that she was looking for the London of Dickens and A Little Princess, and he said "Then, it's there."

I felt the same. At 23, I was looking for A Little Princess, a little history, some music that I couldn't find in America, shopgirls that called me "luv," a bit of leftover Carnaby Street Swinging London and...it was there.
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[User Picture]From: theferrett
2006-08-03 08:31 pm (UTC)
I have turned more corners and found Dickens here and there. It's brilliant!
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[User Picture]From: theferrett
2006-08-03 08:33 pm (UTC)
Actually, this is Gini. I'm on Ferrett's computer....
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-08-03 10:08 pm (UTC)
And now this is Ferrett on Gini's account.

Isn't life strange?
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[User Picture]From: yndy
2006-08-03 07:10 pm (UTC)
Rabidly Jealous.
Eagerly Awaiting the Next Installment of your Travelogue!!

Moremoremoremoremore!!!! :)
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[User Picture]From: mycorethoughts
2006-08-03 08:11 pm (UTC)
Glad you're enjoying it over there! You deserve it!

As for Westminster Abbey, the place is a freaking ZOO this time of year. It's much more enjoyable off-season, when all the tourists go home.

My great-grandparents (my mother's paternal grandparents) lived in Grosvenor Square. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-08-19 03:38 pm (UTC)
It was hard to come home. I really did love it over there. I think I loved Bavaria even more, because they have a real sense of living with the land and a conservation ethic. (Germany now imports garbage to burn in its incinerators because it does not generate enough of its own to run them efficiently!)

Of course, the rotting refrigerator did not help the homecoming any.
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From: stella_x3x3
2006-08-03 08:26 pm (UTC)
I was in England last summer as well as twice when i was a child. I love it there I cannot wait to return next winter.
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[User Picture]From: ba1126
2006-08-03 08:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks for you and Ferrett taking the time to share your unique take on London, etc. I may never get there, but reading about it is so enjoyable! We are also getting posts from my son's girlfriend, who is in Japan for four more days!
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[User Picture]From: dandelion_diva
2006-08-03 09:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, it sounds absolutely wonderful. I envy you. Hope the rest of your trip rocks as well.:)

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[User Picture]From: glorgana
2006-08-03 11:01 pm (UTC)
Unsurprisingly it's the little things that make you realize you are in a differnt counrty, such as perfectly lovely shops being located down twisty dark alleys. When you are walking down the sidewalk be sure to keep peaking in to alleys, you'll find the greatest little places.

Also, eat lots of Cadbury's chocolate.
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[User Picture]From: nuala
2006-08-04 10:30 am (UTC)
Yay!! :D Did you know there are gargoyles sliding down the flying buttresses on Westminster Abbey? ;-)

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-08-08 08:42 am (UTC)
Those are fabulous.
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[User Picture]From: nuala
2006-08-08 08:44 am (UTC)
They make me giggle. :D
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[User Picture]From: drd2be
2006-08-04 01:48 pm (UTC)


If you want an interesting Westminster experience, go back for a service. You can get in free if you choose to worship with them, and hearing the choir in the...quire (I think that's how it's spelled) is gorgeous. You get to look around at certain parts. It's a good time. :) But I went after walking all day and fell asleep in the Church. That I do not reccommend.

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[User Picture]From: mamaursula
2006-08-04 04:58 pm (UTC)
This is so cool for you guys! Have a blast.
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