Sunday, May 20, 2012

London Calling... In hindsight

I had every intention of posting while I travelled with my friend Kirsten in London last week. Well the wifi gods were against me, so instead I'm doing post trip postings. If that annoys your sense of authenticity, tough. :) Enjoy!

Watch where you're going, you foolish tourist!

I think I may have learned to play poker at Kensington Palace! But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

London is even more beautiful than I remember it. And the weather even less cooperative, but it is London so suck it up and get on with it, which, I believe is what they really mean with "Keep calm and carry on."

The flight over was relatively uneventful, as is normal when spending 6 and a half hours crammed in a shoe box 30,000 feet in the air. One note to fellow overnight travellers: if the sign says fasten your seat belts, stay in your damned seat. The rest of us really resent you having to be told to sit down over the PA in two official languages PLUS Hindi for good measure. 

The first couple of days were dedicated to getting oriented. We're staying in Kensington right near the High Street and the palace. Thank the sweet Lord, we are right next to a Boots. Every hotel on earth should be required to have a large drug store next door. It's more important than a coffee shop, I swear. 
I don't think I did a very good job of warning Kirsten that in the night, I may turn into a moaning ghost. Not sure if I can spell this out well, but it's best described as a cross between Jacob Marley from "A Christmas Carol" and any number of the ghosts from "Scooby Doo."  Thankfully she hasn't smothered me with a pillow. Not yet anyway. 

But on to the sites! The first day was really sunny and lovely. We did the hop on and hop off tour to get oriented to the city. The tour gave us a fantastic view of every angle of Big Ben. I have pictures of Ben coming and going, underneath him and from a distance. Ben and I are tight. 
One of the many views of my friend Ben (plus some dude's balding head)

We ended day one with a ghost walk where we learned snippets of history, saw the Savoy up close (Bev Oda does have good taste) and spent some quality time in a pub. Hard cider tastes even better here. 

I was assured that I was less disruptive in my second night of sleep. However, a familiar obnoxious feeling crept into my throat. By 1 pm the next day there was no denying it. I have my traditional travel cold. In the last 3 years I have not been able to travel without getting sick either during or immediately after a trip. Thank you forties. 

But before full blown congestion, we did see some sights. The highlight was definitely Kensington Palace.  We bought a joint membership, which not only gets us into 5 key palaces, it also legally weds me and Kirsten in a few countries. 

I'm glad we started with the Diana exhibit, because it was the most disappointing. It was billed as a glimpse of the princess. Well that's accurate. 5 of her dresses crammed into one small room. I was really hoping her wedding gown would be there, but the gown that 10 years later influenced the puffiness of my own wedding gown's sleeves was nowhere to be seen. 

The rest of the experience was outstanding. The king's apartment gave us a good understanding of George I, who was plucked from Germany to be king of England to keep those pesky Catholics off the throne. He couldn't speak English and was coached by his advisors to say "I'm here for the good of you all!" But instead he said "I'm here for all your goods." I believe I've witness this type of PR situation in my career as a communicator. That's what you call the "jumping for the microphone" moment. 

This is where I learned to play poker! Ok it's called Commerce, but whatever. A young courtier taught us how it worked to live in court and earn favour. Playing cards was extremely important and helped you to move up the ranks. He taught us the popular game at time, which, with its 3 of a kind, straights and flushes, must be a precursor to poker. Anyway, I won. I can't tell you what I won because I don't think Kirsten has broken it to her husband that she put him up for collateral. She claims he was offered because she didn't have any land to wager.   

In the Queen's apartment, the most helpful man on earth cleared up about 300 years of confusing history by explaining what happened in the time between Elizabeth I and Victoria. Don't get him started on how they teach about the glorious revolution in school. 

The Victoria exhibit shed light on this fascinating woman. Most of us think of her as a dour widow but she was young and lively and beautiful during her years with Albert. She had 9 children with him. And she was devastated and heartbroken when he died of typhoid fever at 41. Oh yeah, he was her first cousin. 

Interesting tidbit, the 2 most remarkable love matches in royal history - Victoria and Albert, and William of Orange and Mary II - were between first cousins. Go figure. 

A feeble attempt to hold Ben
We ended our rainy day tour with a trip on the London Eye. Not really sure it was worth the nearly 20 quid. We did get to see more angles of Big Ben and there was a woman on board who appeared just this side of crazy. Oh, and we conquered the tube.

Today we're off to Hampton Court. Kirsten is hoping to find a "Henry's 7th wife" shirt. I'll be looking for nasal spray and perhaps clotted cream. 

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