Thursday, January 08, 2009

New Year's in the UK

So, I am now back from London. Given the daily visits from some of you (thanks, Google Analytics), I am guessing at least some of you are interested in knowing how it all went. So, here it goes...

First off, I do not have a daily travelogue, which is something I tend to do on trips, but was difficult on account of the fact that I had no computer while I was there. I did pop into the Internet cafes once a day, but that was just about enough time to get through messages on all of my social networks and e-mail. I did do a lot of writing on this trip, but I mostly wrote things out longhand--it's amazing how bad I've gotten at that. I am so used to just typing away; I did not bring my Macbook due to the adapter issue (there is no way my battery would have lasted 2 weeks). People tell me that I can just adapt my American plug using a converter, but I have 2 experiences of converter plugs--they either "work", or they "set the wall on fire, and your attached appliance." Given that the odds of the latter happening are rather good, I decided not to risk it.

A few general comments about London:

1. It seems smaller. The last time I spent any significant time in London was in 1993, though I have been back since that time. The whole city just doesn't seem as big. I don't know if I'm using New York as my yardstick, or maybe I'm just more used to the London streets now--but it doesn't seem like it takes very long to go from the West End to the East End on foot.

2. It doesn't have a lot of English people. I kind of knew this, but it just seemed more apparent this time around. There are people from all over the world in London, and few of them seem to be English. I heard a lot of French there this time--even from the Japanese tourists, which was kind of weird. I find it amazing that the English are branded as warm and friendly as compared to the French. Not that I have any problem with the English (my own personal space habits tend to mirror theirs, actually), but in the States they are not known for being warm and cuddly. The French are often downright rude. I was chatting with a French woman while doing my laundry out in Glastonbury, and she mentioned that the French are raised to be very competitive and individualistic, at least the Parisian French. Often they don't have any regard for you--they are competing with you. I thought that was rather interesting, and does bear out what I've observed about the French I've come in contact with overseas. Not that a sweeping generalization is fair, and I'm not making one--I just didn't meet too many French who fell outside of that way of behaving.

3. It's dirtier. Certainly the air is dirtier. I'd go back to my hotel at the end of the day, blow my nose, and there would be black, sooty stuff coming out. The underground has definitely, well, gone downhill. It's approaching New York City-subway filthy, although New York tends to be cleaning up a bit, so, maybe they're just meeting in the middle now.

By contrast, Glastonbury was a lot more open and laid back. Not much different from the last time I was there, just more expensive, and the high street is more built-up. In Glastonbury, you're more likely to strike up conversations with the locals, whereas in London it's unlikely that anyone who doesn't know you will attempt to speak to you. I met a lot of nice people in Glastonbury, hanging out in the pubs, and even just going to the shops.

So, what did I do while I was there? I visited friends and drank a lot of beer--and bought books. Yes, even on holiday, I can't stay out of the fucking bookstores. And when I'm not in the bookstores, I'm in the damn libraries. The British Library, to be exact, so not just any library. That was worth the trip, actually, since they have a lot of their national treasures on display, and nothing makes me drool like really old, valuable books. The Lindsfarne Gospels, a couple of Gutenberg Bibles, pages from Da Vinci's notebooks--and some amazing classical Hindu artwork. All in one place. Like heaven, really. The British Museum was not too shabby, either. I had never been there, and still didn't get through all of it, but it was amazing. I was partial to the Roman Britain collections, as that is something you're not likely to see too many examples of outside of the British Isles, unless there's a special exhibit.

On New Year's Eve I visited with a friend in Guildford, but ended up going back to my hotel fairly early, as I was not feeling well, and--happy new year!--I ended up with the flu and bedridden the whole next day. In a word, it was awful. I had to travel to Glastonbury the next day, so I spent the day in bed doing Reiki therapy on myself, and drinking a ton of orange juice, just to be well enough to grab the train to Bristol. Fortunately I was in much better shape by the 2nd, and being out in the country during that time was fortuitous. I stayed in a B&B overlooking the Glastonbury Abbey ruins, which was a 200% improvement over the place I stayed in London. Being able to chill out, do some writing, and chat with the locals was a good way to end the holiday. I also climbed the Tor (in spite of just getting over the flu and it being rather cold) and headed over to the Chalice Well gardens (which now costs 3.25 to get in, rather than .50, which is what it cost in 1993).

Normally the UK weather is balmier than it is here in New Jersey at this time of year, but I seem to have brought the cold weather along--it was between -5 and -10 Celsius (that's about 13 to 20 degrees Farenheit) while I was there. In Glastonbury there was also a fierce wind, which made it difficult to be out for too long. It's actually colder than that here in the States (we usually wake up to -12 Celsius on average in the winter mornings here), but I was expecting temps a little higher than that.

All in all, it was a lovely trip, but money was running low, and all good things must come to an end, so here I am again, back at home watching the cat's head move in concert with the snow flurries whizzing by outside. I still feel like I'm functioning on another planet, or maybe in another dimension, but I'm sure that feeling will subside. I did actually do quite a bit of writing on this trip, so I need to spend time making sense out of my own chicken scratch and get a few new things posted or updated.

Hope everyone had a splendid new year!


Denise said...

Thanks for the update re: your trip. As I indicated in a recent note on FB, I am a semi-closeted anglogphile but strangely, I have never been to England except on business. During the brief amount of personal free time that I had on those trips I too had a lovely time at the British Museum visiting the Roman collection. One day I hope to go back for pleasure and may visit some of the places mentioned in your post. Now I need to look up 'Reiki therapy'. What is that?

Brigid N. Burke said...

Reiki is a type of energy therapy that's supposed to re-balance the blocked energy in your body. No one knows exactly how it works, it just does. I've been a Reiki master for a number of years now (not that impressive really, there are lots of us), and used to do Reiki therapy for the cancer patients at MMH. At the very least it's relaxing, at the most, it can cure ills. It did help a lot.

You and Neal and Maura should take a trip to London one day--I think you'd enjoy it.