Friday, July 27, 2012

Drinking Tea With The Taste of the Thames

Everything I know about Great Britain comes from the BBC. Specifically, Ab Fab.

It's kind of like everyone outside of the US thinking American's all live in New York or Los Angeles and are cowboys who carry guns and talk like Clint Eastwood.

When we were in London last fall I saw everything through the prism of Ab Fab, expecting at any second that Eddie and Pats would tumble out of a cab in front of me - a bottle of voddy in one hand and a cigarette in the other - yelling, 'Sweetie! Dahling! Fashion, fashion, fashion!'

Sadly, the only fashion I saw was a lot of shorts with pantyhose (not tights, mind you), and those unfortunate bowler hats. The male hotel employees still wear them, giving them a sinister, A Clockwork Orange vibe. Unsettling for sure.
Since we had only one day and night in London before leaving for Paris, I forced my pal Gabriel to hit the ground running with me to Westminster Abbey. We'd been flying all night and were exhausted from little sleep, but I had planned a full agenda with the first stop being Poets' Corner at the Abbey.

Gabriel at Westminster Abbey.

Did you know Chaucer is buried at Westminster Abbey? Chaucer. I'm not even a big Canterbury Tales fan, but it's not often you come across the tomb of perhaps the most famous English poet (outside of Shakespeare of course) who's Middle English poem makes your native tongue read like a foreign language.

Besides that, he is OLD. As in born in 1340-something old. 

I didn't even know they had dead bodies back then, let alone do anything useful with them.

And not just Chaucer, but Charles Dickens, Browning (read this), Kipling (and this), Tennyson, all buried at Westminster under these ordinary slabs of stone. You just walk right over them on your way to the next chapel.

Westminster Abbey is a fascinating place, and I could have spent days there hearing the same tour over and over it was so rich with ceremonial history and bizarre and violent deaths.

Virgins roasted on gridirons. Beheadings. Child murders.

I could care less about dead Royals, but who doesn't love tales of family in-fighting and power thirsty relatives. It all seems so... dramatic.

Afterward, Gabriel and I drank coffee from a vendor outside of Buckingham Palace and I considered how fortunate I am to be in no immediate danger of being beheaded. 

Later that afternoon we finally caught up with our partners who were coming from a meeting somewhere in Great Britain. I hadn't seen Ray in a week because of the meeting, and the first I saw him in London I was crossing a street near Buckingham Palace. We proceeded to kiss (and surely annoy) everyone around us on Piccadilly. But it was awesome, finally seeing each other again and suddenly in another country, on another continent.

The four of us headed toward the London Eye, where we rode the city's famous Ferris wheel and took a sightseeing boat tour down the Thames.

Our tour guide was a hilariously snarky girl who colorfully brought all of the sights to life.

"Look everyone, here is London Bridge. It's not that great, is it? But up ahead is Tower Bridge, which you will be much more impressed by!"

London Bridge - Despite the nursery rhyme, not that impressive.

Tower Bridge - Way more impressive...

even from underneath.

We were cruising down the Thames at sunset, making for an accidental romantic tour of London. And yet not once did I get tired of saying, 'Look kids, Big Ben. Parliament!'

So perfectly lit and gorgeous it looks almost fake. No Instagram required.

What's funny about when I first saw Parliament and the clock tower was that I didn't recognize it as the London icon. Gabriel and I were on back side by Westminster Abbey, and when I got out of the cab he said, 'Turn around. There's Big Ben.'

I guess it's Big Ben if you say so, just take my picture.

From this angle I thought it sort of looked like Big Ben, but not exactly right. Hmm, something is missing...

Gabriel had been to London several times, but yet I was standing there in the street saying, 'I dunno Gabriel, I think you're wrong.'

All of the photos I'd seen (and episodes of Ab Fab) always showed it beside the Thames. When we crossed over the river and I saw it for the first time from that angle it was immediately recognizable.

Oh my gosh you guys, look! It's Big Ben!

I think they all would have punched me if it weren't so hilarious.

The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel in the St. Pancras Renaissance.

English breakfast.

This is significant because it's steps from the St. Pancras International train stop where tens of thousands of Olympians and fans will be traveling between Olympic Park and central London. The Olympic rings were already up when we were there.

Anyway, I have to go, Opening Ceremonies start soon.

Happy London 2012 Olympics everyone.


I stole this headline from Morrisey's fantastic song Come Back To Camden. Here's the mp3.  

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