A compilation of food and drink shots from the last 3.5 weeks of travel . . . .
The Elgin (or Parthenon) Marbles are parts of the Parthenon and other monuments on the Acropolis in Athens, brought by Lord Elgin to London in the early 19th century.
Their provenance is not under dispute, but the matter of ownership is. The British Museum has a website that addresses, quick lucidly, their position on the Elgin Marbles.
I saw the Elgin Marbles this past week for only the second time in my life. And now having twice been to Athens, I am so glad that I spent time with these incredible pediment marbles and metopes on Thursday.
I also stared at the Rosetta Stone for a bit!
Jet lag had me awake at 5 a.m. today. By 7 I had weeded and dead-headed in the garden, walked Auggie, and watched some of the shows I missed whilst I was away.
After taking Auggie to Mr. Warren for a spa day, I went to Soulard Market. One of my favorite vendors had a new (new to me!) vegetable, a lemon cucumber!
I decided to bring one home and have a go. The veggie is the size of a lemon, with yellow-ish flesh. Upon cutting the cucumber in half, I had the strong scent of cucumber, with rather more seeds perhaps.
I at half of the lemon cucumber at luncheon today, with some heirloom tomatoes, a bit of mango and oil dressing, and a nice slice of bacon & cheese quiche too!
Well, I’ve seen ugliness. And it’s the Red Roof Inn in downtown Chicago.
I stayed there last evening, after my United Airlines flights were canceled and United was no help in getting me a hotel room even though they owed me one, and this morning I fled back to O’Hare.
Never again will I stay in a Red Roof Inn. Scratchy bed linens. Dirt on the floor. A toilet with no lid over the tank. Cracking and flaking grout in the bathroom. Wi-Fi not working.
United redeemed themselves slightly this morning. I was confirmed on a late afternoon departure today, but walked up to the gate for the 7.30 a.m. flight and got the last seat, thanks to a First Class seat boarding card for the later flight.
And my luggage was waiting for me in Saint Louis when I arrived.
I’ll tell the whole saga later, perhaps.
Thank god for small gifts.
Auggie, of course, won’t let me out of his sight. And he’s being incredibly loving.
Over the last three weeks, this pen and Moleskin have been my faithful companion, a repository of thoughts, ideas, memories, and reminders. I’ve worked out frustrations, recorded happinesses, shared confidences, and journaled this trip for my own future reading and reminding.
As I leave London and return to the USA, I thought fitting a small photo of my most faithful companion this trip. This Moleskin now joins a dozen other travel journals from 22+ years of excursions — truly a wealth of memories and happiness and joy.
1400 British Summer Time. I am at Heathrow in the United First lounge. My flight leaves in an hour.
The lounge is quiet. I’m grateful for some peace after the scrum at the British Museum this morning.
Since I have a later flight today, I walked this morning the two blocks from my hotel to the British Museum, arriving just as they opened at 10 a.m. The hordes of Japanese and Chinese tour buses had arrived before me, though.
So . . . what to do? I could barely make it past the scrum surrounding the Rosetta Stone, but I did, and got to the Elgin Marbles hall before anyone else. And believe it or not, for the next 30 minutes I examined those amazing Greek monuments of antiquity in relative peace, with no queueing, and with a big smile on my face.
Then I tackled the Rosetta Stone.
Some observations about London, and perhaps about the state of travel tourism today:
- London frustrates in some ways. In a culture where people drive on the left, we are told to walk on the left in the Underground, but to stand on stairs to the right. Alas.
- Smart phones are a nuisance in the moment. I have watched child after child, teen after teen on this trip spend time looking at their phone screen rather than take in the heritage views right in front of their faces. This morning, it was a group of Spanish kids staring at their phones and texting, rather than looking at the ancient marble from the top of the Parthenon in Athens.
- The British Museum, to my chuckling realization, has addressed the issue of provenance of the Elgin Marbles in part by pointing out that other pieces of the Parthenon are in other museums include the Louvre. “They did it too!”, seems the ethos.
- I watched this morning as two men, both of them staring at their phones as they walked down the sidewalk, stepped right into each other. BAM! Body to body, they were They both mumbled apologies, and kept on their way, still staring at their phone screens.
- First class = dedicated check-in desks, dedicated security lanes, and dedicated lounges.
- I am coming home with 35 pounds more stuff than I had with me at the time I left. This includes new items of clothing, gifts and souvenirs, books, and MARMALADE (!) from the craft festival at Exeter.
- London traffic getting worse and worse.
- Over and over this trip, I was asked by locals “Where in the States are you from?”. This has not happened to me before, that I recall. They seemed interested in my accent (one person said “radio announcer”), and then they inevitably wanted to talk about Trump and the state of USA politics.
- I have grown accustomed to having my breakfast made for me, as I have every day this past three weeks.
- The Brits love their uniforms, their cutlery (which I do too!), and their dogs. I miss Auggie.
Well then. The last full day of my #GHTC2016 holiday yesterday included two sumptuous meals.
I joined my once-student, now fully-fledged international operatic tenor, Brenden Gunnell . . . at his tailor, of all places. We had a long stroll through Piccadilly and Covent Garden and made our way to Rules, a swank Covent Garden joint that claims well over 200 years of consecutive service and states proudly they are “England’s oldest restaurant.”
Some London scenes from Downton Abbey were filmed in the restaurant itself.
This meal officially now ranks as the most expensive I have ever had, coming in at just over £200 for the two of us. And this was just luncheon!
What to do after that? Take a walk in the humidity, down The Strand. Stop by a Christopher Wren church or two. Explore the Inns of Court. Have a sit down chat for a bit in a pub. And then attend Evensong (magically sung) at the Temple Church. And then say ‘so long’ to a dear friend and now-colleague, on the Embankment overlooking the Thames, in sight of Big Ben.
Singing “The day thou gavest” as a close to Evensong on this last day was a perfect benedictory coda to this wonderful, sometimes magical three-week holiday.
And then, as if the daylight hours with B weren’t enough, I met my friend R and we dined in style as well, and chattered and chattered about taxes and travel and RVs and all sort of mundane but fun things.
I traveled on Tuesday to Oxford and on out to Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough. And also the birthplace and sometime home of Winston Churchill, who was baptized in the chapel there and is buried nearby.
The palace dates from the early 1700s, a product of tremendous magnanimity from Queen Anne, the vision of an inspired architect, and the work of some of the biggest names in British design of the 18th century — Hawksmoor, Gibbons, Capability Brown.
And the place is stunning . . . incredible . . . must be seen to be believed.
The opulence is overwhelming. The grounds are a marvel. I mean . . . this is serious swag and splendour. There is indeed a reason that Blenheim Palace is a World Heritage Site.