Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life

"...for there is in London all that life can afford."  So said Samuel Johnson in 1777. The quote applies equally to women. The first time I visited London, I was reminded in some ways of New York City, particularly the theater district. However, I came to realize that NYC is like London's younger brother, trying on his elder brother's cool jacket and trying to look sophisticated. One must admire his energy and give him points for trying, but he is a somewhat paler imitation.

New York City can brag to history buffs of its Dutch colonial history and former identity as New Amsterdam. That's adorable. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The oldest part of the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror nearly a thousand years ago.

I love travelling to London, even if it means staying in a small, overpriced hotel room, eating the abomination that is an English breakfast (complete with runny scrambled eggs and black pudding) and rarely finding a decent cup of coffee. I even enjoy spending time at Heathrow, although my flight home is always at least an hour late, and the repeated security warnings about unattended parcels delivered in a calm female voice with a perfect BBC accent makes me feel like I am in a dystopian science fiction film. Those minor inconveniences are a small price to pay for being in London.

Interior of The Orangery
During our first visit to London, we wanted to have a nice afternoon tea but had not made reservations in advance. Happily, we discovered The Orangery at Kensington Gardens, where we had delicious tea sandwiches, scones that were to-die-for, and decadent pastries with our tea. The building was originally Queen Anne's actual orangery. That visit started my addiction to fancy afternoon teas. One minor disappointment was the lack of a tiered service for the refreshments -- it was served in three courses instead (first sandwiches, then scones with clotted cream and jam, then dessert pastries).

St. Paul's Cathedral
Saint Paul's cathedral is truly magnificent. The influence on the U.S. Capitol building (and therefore numerous State Capitols, including Wisconsin's) is obvious. For those Mary Poppins fans out there, be warned -- they have posted a sign asking one not to feed the birds, in the interests of hygiene.

Being a fan of the late Warren Zevon, I also felt compelled to order a pina colada at Trader Vic's. The waiter seemed a bit confused, since they actually call that drink a Bahia at Trader Vic's. Also, the waiter was an immigrant and probably unfamiliar with the cultural reference. However, I eventually got a pina colada, and it was very good.

I recently discovered a fantastic travel guide -- Walking Jane Austen's London by romance novelist Louise Allen. It's a terrific book for aspiring writers of Georgian and Regency historical fiction, as well as being a delightful travel guide. I am looking forward to trying a couple of those walking tours myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment