Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our first day in London

When we finished our tour of Boston, we drove/careened to the airport. Now, we had heard that Virgin Airlines was working to revamp their image, but that's just ad speak, right? Well, first let me say that it was worth the bump in price to buy "premium economy" seats. We ran up to the gate, petrified that we had missed our boarding, and pulled up short when we saw the room packed with people. We were settling ourselves in for a long, drawn-out process, when that very second, all the premium economy boarders were given first boarding! Yes! They served us champagne the minute we sat down, we had extra room to store stuff, the on-flight meal was recognizable, and actually tasty, and there is an entertainment center built into every seat that lets you watch movies, tv programs, or video games for free. They had me at champagne.

A word of advice. Heathrow airport has now established stricter immigration guidelines, so don't arrive at the airport midday. You will stand in line to get your passport checked for an HOUR. Arrive in the morning or evening, you'll be fine. End of soapbox.

So, we took a cute English cab to our hotel. Every cabbie we rode with was friendly and knowledgeable. Practically everyone we spoke to in England was polite at the least, and the majority were fun and talkative. We found that if you approach an English person with a request for help, they warm up to you very quickly. And as often as we were lost, we had no shortage of requests for help. We found no dislike of Americans, just curiosity and interest. Our hotel was beautiful, with doormen in Dickens outfits, the whole nine yards. Those were the best nine-dollar jellybeans I've ever eaten. At the moment we were just interested in the bed, and man it was worth the wait. The hunky concierge left our bags in the room for us, and we collapsed. This is our hotel room.

When we woke up a few hours later, it was time for our tea at Fortnum and Mason's. F & M's is a high end department store solely devoted to food. How could you not love it? We had bought tickets for it, but it turns out the store was under renovation and they weren't serving tea. We were just about to be really disappointed, but they showed us to their new dining parlor, so we still got our girly tea. Mom had duck and quail's egg sandwich, and I had a smoked fish salad sandwich. They were actually delicious, as was the pistachio sundae we finished with.

Quail's egg anyone?

Girly tea!


It turns out that directly across the street from our tea was the Royal Academy of Arts, which had a major Impressionist exhibition, so we went on the spur of the moment. The Royal Academy is typically free, but this exhibit was extra, but it was worth every penny.

Next we had to go to Harrod's, so we took the tube. The public transport in London gets a bad rap, but we had nothing but good experiences, and it's certainly cheaper than taxis, which are $4 just to open the door. Anyway, Harrod's was a blast. The Egyptian stair has a memorial to Princess Di that was thronged with people, and the food court was so fun. There is a soda counter that you can have a meal at, or you can buy just about any food from any country in the world, all surrounded with marble and gilt carving. I loaded up with interesting cheeses for my dairy addicted husband, and we set off.
The trademark Harrod's bear

On the way around London, we had noticed an ad at St. James' cathedral for a benefit concert that evening featuring an a capella choir. Now one of the vows I had made to myself was that I would not leave English soil without experiencing some fantastic English choral music, so here was my chance. It was one of the most beautiful concerts I have ever experienced. The choir's music was so beautiful that I cried. The rest of the concert was fantastic as well, several really good pianists playing Chopin, I can't get enough. Concert patrons were treated to champagne at intermission. Can you beat it? I never wanted to leave. Artisanal, locally made champagne, no less. *sigh* God's country, this. There was a second half, but it was already 10, and we had had 3 hours' sleep, so we turned in and washed down our champagne with $8 bottled water. Tune in next time when we attempt to catch the bus to Oxford. Will we make it?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Trip of a lifetime, part 1

For the first part of our journey, we stayed in Boston for 2 days before we flew to England. Boston is a great place, the city is beautiful and historic, the people are outgoing and friendly, and the food is fantastic. We went to Plimouth Plantation, a recreation of the original Puritan village, and the Indian settlement as it was before the white devils arrived. It was very well done, the reenactors were very good at their craft.

The "Mooflower", heh heh.

The Native Americans were not in character, but they were dressed as their ancestors would have. It was a little uncomfortable, because America has not been kind to its original inhabitants, and it's tough to come face to face with it. However, one of the ones I talked to had grown up in Louisiana, he even was a Tigers fan, so it was easier to talk to him.

Cutest baby ever!

The actors in the English village were in character, they pretended not to know what a camera was, they were very well trained in the history of the period. It was fun to mess with them. We really learned a lot about the period of time, the whole museum was very well done.

There was a companion exhibit in the town of Plymouth itself, a recreation of the Mayflower. There were more reenactors explaining how awful the voyage over was, Mom took a shine to one called John Craxton and tried to marry me off to him. Plymouth is a gorgeous New England seaside town, all white clapboard houses with beautiful gardens. We had a gigantic chocolate shake and called it a day.

The next day we explored on our own. Mom rented a car, but I tell you, Boston traffic was evidently designed by whatever loonies wandered out of the booby hatch and happened into Ye Olde Urban Development office. Trying to drive around Boston is a whole category of memories to itself. It was rainy, so we drove/careened to the Boston museum. We enjoyed the Winslow Homer exhibit, there are fantastic Impressionist exhibits and way too much to explore in one morning.

The entrance to Harvard

We walked around Harvard, and went to one of the best seafood restaurants I've ever been to. That Boston cream pie will live on in my dreams.

John Kerry's house in Beacon Hill

The morning we left, we took a walking tour around downtown Boston. There is so much cool stuff crowded into a small area. Our walking guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. He had met his match with my mom, though, she is a history lover, and the revolution is her favorite era to learn about. The guide told her she wasn't allowed on any of his tours, she knew all the answers. We saw all kinds of famous stuff that you take for granted, reading about it in school, but seeing it in real life makes connections that you never would have made otherwise. I love Boston! I would go back tomorrow if I could. Then we got on the plane. I'll leave off here, my next post will be England!

I think this would be a cool job.

The site of the Boston Massacre. This pretty much sums up the impression of Boston for me, modern and bustling but still maintaining its connection to history.

Our cool guide Alan

Mother Goose's grave in the Old North Churchyard.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I live!

Okay, lots of catching up to do. Since the last time I wrote, school started, I went to England for 2 weeks, I took over as director for a piano lessons company, Ferris has been to another grad school session, and now I'm wrapping up my Thanksgiving vacation.

Wow, that was easier than I thought.

I came home from England with WAY too many pictures, so I'll post a few of my favorites. My mom and I did a home exchange with a family from England, so they stayed at my mom's house in Shreveport, and we stayed in their house. We exchanged cars, watered each other's plants, took care of pets, just like we were house sitting. Except we were on another continent. It was SO wonderful. I will start a running log of posts from each leg of the journey, but for now I want to show you a few of my favorite pictures of the whole trip.

Me and Cracker, the English Belton Setter at Danna Farm in the north country.

We went to Chatsworth manor on Gardener's Weekend Festival, so all the statues were decorated with beautiful flowers.

Later we went to Haddon Hall, and walked around the newest addition to the house, built in 1630. We also made time for the girliest, Englishiest tea ever in London at Fortnum and Mason's. *sigh* Fabulous.