I think I did the haunting this time around!
Visited a Halloween-ready London last week for a couple days… first time since I had been there since I lived there…
In 2003 I moved to London for a year, full of excitement to learn and experience. I had been fascinated with London and England and English history and English kings and queens… for.. well… ever. Plus, London was the first place that I stepped outside of an airport in Europe. The red buses and phone booths and pub lunches and accents and crown jewels… hold a special spot.
So I made a gamble and gave up my teaching job to go study for a year in London. I studied the history of medieval objects as my MA in London… and LOVED it. I got to do an internship at the British Museum and Museum of London and LOVED It. After a year, I went back to San Diego and teaching… promising myself London is only on temporary hold.
But my focus in life shifted from London to San Diego… to that spooky difficult place called Marriage… to Amsterdam. So it’s been a while since I’ve lifted “pinky up” over tea in London.
I went to meet a friend from the US who was in London for a week. Since I was in Amsterdam… and only a 45-minute flight away… why not? And I coupled seeing Barb with seeing my friends from my study days in London. And of course… visiting my old haunts.
The National Gallery – all those lovely Canaletto’s and the Van Eycks and Raphaels… makes poor Da Vinci almost marginal… I always like going in through the Salisbury Wing… to avoid the crowds, to visit the bathroom without a line, to shop in the museum shop and browse it’s truly excellent book department, and go up the stairs that were designed to subconsciously ‘guide’ visitors to choose LEFT into the Renaissance wing when arriving at the top.
There was a period of time starting in 1994, that I walked those steps at least once every 6 months. Sigh.
Museum of London – a spot that most people miss. Which is a shame. A really great museum on the history of THE city. When I did my MA there, I was part of the group that researched and designed the remodeling… but this was my first visit to the completed new galleries. WOW. Interactive, well laid out, open and inviting – follow the history of London from prehistoric times to modern day – even referencing Twiggy and Stella McCartney! A great visit!
But then… THEN… there was walking hand-in-hand with Steven across the Millenium Bridge – a bridge I have crossed many times… alone.. with students… with friends… now… with boyfriend ;) (WHOLE NEW STORY!) The view back to the city of St. Paul’s… breath-taking. The view to the South of the newly revitalized Southwark and Bermondsey areas… vibrant. You have to laugh out loud with the joy of it!
And… Spanish tapas in Islington with my galpals… and wine! Always wine! (And waiters with Spanish accents but who spoke less Spanish than I do!) And tea in my friend Tony’s very posh “Club” off of St. James Street!
(SO cool! All of those books I’ve read where the hero goes for dinner at ‘his club’ before taking his carriage back to his mansion and the waiting Jane Eyre-like love….. there I was… having high tea with a view of Green Park and butlers wearing white gloves…LIFE IS SO COOL!)
St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The first time that I was there was in August 1995. I was not feeling well after jetlag and an accident. I was away from my family, chasing some weird desire to be in England. I was miserable and homesick. And all that faded and at the same time became more acute while I was stunned at the beauty of this great Cathedral.
And while I was standing beneath the great dome… a couple next to me were speaking Afrikaans. I started chatting with them. Me… the shy person! (Well… I was back then!) Suddenly being homesick became something that gives you strength. Something that you learn from. Thrive from.
Now… almost 20 years later – EGADS! – I couldn’t go in because the Cathedral was closed due to the Occupy London protestors… but I was still in the neighborhood… I could still see the dome… I could still appreciate where I have been and where I am going… and I could smile as my new present and tentative future snapped a picture of me with MY St. Paul’s as the backdrop.
Life is SO good,… and like London… always moving FORWARD :)