Tomorrow I’m off to London for my first visit there in about sixteen years. This is my fourth trip to this great city and the only trip where London is my only destination.
I’ve been preparing for this trip for months, making sure I will be warm and dry, my feet will be happy, and I will be visiting the best places to help me with the stories I’m working on now. At it’s heart, this is a research trip. I am in search of Charles II’s world. But I’m also going to experience Shakespeare and his world. And tea. And pubs with bitter. And Marks & Spencer. At least a little.
One big difference between this trip and last, and in fact *all* the trans-Atlantic (and trans-Pacific) trips that I’ve been on in the last forty-one years is that this time I’m flying alone.
I am a good traveler but a bad flyer. My brain understands that airplanes go up in the sky and stay there, but the rest of my body doesn’t. It believes that I belong with my feet firmly planted on the ground. On one of my last solo trips back when I was a teen, I remember sitting next to an elderly lady who asked if she could hold my hand during the take-off. She was very sweet. I’m wondering if things have come full circle and on this trip I will be that old lady.
Meanwhile, I’m keeping myself distracted by remembering my past trips. When I was seventeen I visited the British Museum (I still remember the embalmed cat and QEI’s elegantly ornate signature), Abbey Road (by fortuitous accident–it was on my way to where I was staying), Westminster Abbey (to pay tribute to QEI) and the Tower of London where I wasn’t terribly impressed with the crown jewels having just come from Persia and seeing theirs.
The next trip was when I was almost twenty. I traveled with a friend and got to stay at my Dad and step-mom’s flat in Chelsea, just off Sloane Square. They had been living there for a year and were just leaving as we arrived. It was quite comfortable and a rocking place to be in 1974. We had some fun because we were legal to drink in England but not in the states. On that trip I shopped, taking on Charing Cross Road and the great Foyles bookstore (amongst others), Marks & Spencer, and Harrods (we just looked–way too pricey for us). I revisited the Tower of London that trip and went to the Royal Portrait Gallery and the Tate for the first time. I had my first taste of steak-and-kidney pie at a family friend’s house.
My third trip was with my daughter who was a most able travel companion and helped me from getting lost time and time again. She also kept me amused throughout the trip with her wicked humor. At almost fourteen, she was already making life changing decisions:
April 2, 1996: Well, London is the city of stairs. Where everyone is in a hurry, and the traffic lights are just formalities. Apparently know one (sic) believes in escalators over here. I have decided to marry an Englishman, for he will have nice strong legs.
As well as other important impressions: The ketchup tastes different here.
On this trip–although I travel alone–I will be spending the next week with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. They’ve already been there for two weeks getting the lay of the land and breaking in their shoes. We are all Anglophiles so I’m very much looking forward to spending the next week in their good company.
I will be posting pictures and impressions on my author page on Facebook.