Thursday, June 19, 2014

Three Full Days in London

This is long. Apologies. You can just skip to the pictures at the bottom if you want.

I meant to write each day in London as I was trying to do in Ireland, but I ended up getting sick in the middle of our stretch here. Yesterday was kind of a wash. We've been doing so much and pushing so hard since I got to Europe that I think I just wore myself down. Tuesday was the busiest day yet, and by Wednesday morning I had a super-duper migraine. After crying myself into an ugly snotball because I was upset that I might miss something, I went back to bed and waited until my migraine meds made things a little better. The headache didn't go away, but after a few hours' rest I managed to drag myself into the shower and then get on the tube.

Being sick meant I didn't do everything I wanted to do, but it's okay. I will just need to come back. We saw so much of the city anyway, so I can't really be sad. I think it was just forced relaxation. I've been hydrating, eating, and resting more. That all appears to be working.

Anyway. What we've seen...

Our travel day from Ireland to England was fairly easy. We took an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to London, so much of that was just waiting around in airports. Once we got here it was easy to catch the train to Paddington and then walk to the flat we rented on airbnb. It isn't fancy, but we have plenty of space, a kitchen, and my favorite: a washer and dryer. London meant clean clothes that I didn't have to wash in the sink. I really tried to pack light (I just have a carry-on size backpack and my purse) so I was needing to do a load of laundry by the time we got here. Monday night was pretty much dinner and clothes-washing. We have comfy couches and a comfy bed, and it felt like we could stretch out a little bit more.

Tuesday we decided we'd see museums. We got kind of a late start (we were starting to drag a bit from more than a week of travel without a ton of rest), but we saw The British Museum. And when I say we saw it, I mean we saw almost the whole darn thing. Save a couple of exhibits, we wandered through those halls gawking at antiquities for the better part of the day. Highlights: all the mummies (but especially the cat mummy) and Egyptian relics, the Rosetta Stone, the Sutton Hoo finds (a Viking ship burial that proved Vikings made it all over the place), all the Greek and Roman stuff, the Elgin Marbles/Parthenon stuff, giant Egyptian sculptures. I know I'm forgetting something, but it was overwhelming. In a good way.

After the Museum, we headed over to the British Library, to see their collection of manuscripts. The room--the Treasury of the British Library--was the single most awe-inspiring room I've ever been in. It was nerd heaven. In one small room are The Diamond Sutra (the world's earliest printed book), a Gutenberg Bible, the oldest (and only surviving) manuscript copy of Beowulf, the Magna Carta, Jane Austen's writing desk and her manuscript of Persuasion, Bronte's manuscript of Jane Eyre, a handwritten poem by Sylvia Plath, Shakespeare's first folio, Handel's Messiah, a collection of lyrics from The Beatles, DaVinci's notebooks, and so much more. My feet were killing me by the time we were there, but I didn't want to leave the room. I was completely under the spell of all those great works. It was incredible.

So like I said, I got sick the next day. Big migraine-and-nausea sick. My late start meant I had to play catch-up with everyone once I got to the Tower of London. But I saw the Crown Jewels, the torture room, the White Tower--all the good stuff. After being in empty Irish castles, it felt strange to be in one in the middle of the city, and full of life (and windows). I liked it, but I think all the touristy aspects of it made it harder to imagine what it was really like. I know it's an important historical site, but it didn't feel real. It felt kind of Disneylandy, which is a horrible thing to say about a place where real people lived and died. But I couldn't get my imagination to what it might have actually been like. (That was easier for me in Ireland, where Castles stand in the middle of fields and you don't see skyscrapers.) I loved the Tower, though. I'm glad I saw it.

After the Tower we walked through Westminster Abbey. It felt strange, too, but for a different reason. It's always strange for me to be in a place I've seen on TV a bunch of times. It felt smaller. And so much is packed into that one building. Wow. So much. We did the audio tour (those little things you hold up to your ears) and I couldn't believe it kept going and going. It's a beautiful structure, but it's also a lot to take in.

By the time we finished there, my head hurt again and my legs wouldn't stop shaking. We decided to head home and get something to eat so I could make it an early night. We keep inadvertently stepping into pubs as World Cup games are about to begin (I know, I know... I'm not sporty!), but we found a quiet corner at The Cow pub, and ordered a Cow Pie. (Hee!) I was out really early.

And today (I'm sorry this is so long), our last full day before moving on to France, we went out to Oxford. We caught a bus about 9:00 this morning and spent the better part of the day there. I know I'm nerding out over everything I see, so a positive word from me about something doesn't mean much now, but I was really glad to make it out there. Oxford is a great place to indulge a childhood desire to duck into nooks and crannies and discover things. We started at Christ Church, had a picnic in Christ Church Meadow and walked along the Thames, drank a pint at The Eagle & Child (where Lewis and Tolkien hung out), wandered the streets and shops, bought a copy of Tolkien's Beowulf from Blackwell's (why not?), and checked out the Bodleian Library and Radcliff Camera before wandering back to catch the bus again, taking our time and ducking into open gates when we saw them. Our bus dropped us off near Buckingham Palace, so we took the obligatory pictures near the gate and then found an address my grandpa gave me where one of my ancestors lived, on St. James Place. Another full day.

Tonight it's laundry time again, and packing. Now, France!

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