The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Foggy Gay in London Town...

Okay, so I’ve been a little lax with the blog updates. But my Grandma Hirsch recently turned 100 years old, and since the New Year I’ve been very busy making a film about her life and soliciting congratulatory notes from world leaders. Perhaps that’ll be the topic of another blog entry…but in the meantime, speaking of New Year’s, I spent this one in London. I uploaded some pictures right after the trip but haven’t had time to write about it; so here it goes…

Colleen recently relocated to London, and Janét and I had been talking for a while about going for a long weekend. So we did so right after Christmas Janét, Suzanne, and I took off on Virgin Atlantic for some London fun. We had a blast. We flew into Heathrow and took the Tube to Colleen’s beautiful apartment in Notting Hill. After only minutes in the UK, Suzanne already made a special friend: the man sitting next to her with his fly wide open (as always, you can click on any picture to enlarge):

By the time we got to Colleen’s, we were all exhausted and fell asleep—making our first day in London less than eventful. But we did head out in the evening to see a few key landmarks, and get the obligatory “checking your watch in front of Big Ben” photo out of the way:

The next day we got up and headed out to see the Changing of the Guard:

As on my last visit, they were in their winter uniforms, which really just look way too much like the Wicked Witch of the West’s guards’ uniforms to be taken seriously:

(*Yes, apparently these guards were officially called “Winkies”.)

In addition, the musical portion of the ceremony included such bizarre selections as Stars and Stripes Forever and—I’m not kidding here—a Barbra Streisand medley. I assume the guard has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Then Queen Elizabeth II came outside and kept busting into our pictures:

Anyways, from there it was on to Trafalgar Square, bedecked for the holidays:

That night we went to a party with some of Colleen’s friends. And maybe it was the night of carousing, but the next morning we didn’t exactly get an early start. The plan had been to take a bus tour and visit St. Paul’s and the Tower of London. So we ended up taking a small part of the bus tour and then hopping a cab to get to St. Paul’s Cathedral before they closed. I’d never been there; it’s the church where many British notables are buried (such as Nelson, Churchill, and the always delicious Duke of Wellington) and, more recently, where Charles and Diana were married (which turned out so well):

We hurried on to the Tower of London:

By then, time was short and the lines were long, and the only building we got to go inside was the Jewel House, which contains the Crown Jewels (which are of course beautiful and rich with history). I enjoyed the fact that they had a Christmas tree in the Tower courtyard, right where countless people have been imprisoned, tortured, and executed over the last 1000 years. I think it really brightens up the place:

Of course the Tower is famously home to a flock of ravens, but we spotted a fox!. Now I’m not from the UK, but I feel that foxes don’t often appear in central London (especially one with devil eyes!)…:

A little disheartened by our previous day’s lack of timely organization, we made sure the next one went like clockwork. In the morning we would visit Westminster Abbey. I’ve been there before, but it’s always my favorite stop. The sense of history—ancient and modern—is awesome in the truest sense of that word. Here is the place where nearly every British monarch since William the Conqueror in 1066 has been crowned, and where many of them now lie, including Elizabeth I—along with so many other British luminaries such as Newton, Dickens, Chaucer, and Darwin:

Photography is forbidden inside the Abbey…so of course I took plenty. Here’s King Edward’s Chair, the throne on which nearly every British monarch has been crowned since 1308:

The beautiful ceiling of the Lady Chapel:

Colleen in the cloisters:

Then we took the train to Windsor, a few miles outside London. Windsor Castle is another one of the royal residences, and another place I’d never visited. Again, the history was impressive. It’s been in use for 900 years, and is the largest inhabited castle in the world. It’s still a royal residence, but much is open to the public when not in use—including the staterooms and St. George’s Chapel. Here's a picture of my Merry Wives at Windsor:

The weather took a turn for the worse. Ironically, when I was going through my Grandma’s pictures for her 100th birthday film, I found pictures of her at Windsor Castle 50 years ago…and it was still raining:

Given my fondness for the Queen, Suzanne bought me a life-size cutout, which then accompanied us on the rest of our trip. Here the ladies chat with Her Majesty on the train back to London:

That evening Colleen and I went to the West End to see a revival of Evita (the show, not the woman). By the time we got home, Her Majesty was quite exhausted from her big day out:

The next day (New Year’s Eve) we split up a bit. Janét and I first went to Kensington Palace. I never knew much about it except that it’s where Princess Diana lived after her divorce; but it’s quite a historic place. Some monarchs lived here during their reigns; other royals live there even now. It’s also where Queen Victoria grew up: on the tour you visit the bedroom in which she was born and where—years later—she was awakened in the middle of the night to learn that she was Queen. Here’s Janét in front of the gates where you may remember flowers were piled high after Diana’s death:

A fireplace inside Kensington Palace (it’s comforting to know that even royal palaces need roach traps):

Then Janét made the call to go to the British Museum (warning: an even worse joke is coming…):

I was excited to finally make it to the The British Museum. Of course it is huge, so we focused mainly on the world-famous Egyptian and Greek collections. Here’s Janét with her mummy (hey, you were warned):

The most famous treasures in the British museum are the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles, which is a collection of about half of the original friezes from the Parthenon. They’re beautifully displayed, but the Greeks are pissed and want them back. In any event, I enjoyed this rather painful-looking section where a naked man is punching a horse, who in turn appears to be kicking him in the ol’ change purse:

Now it was New Year’s Eve, and we headed out to a great restaurant near Colleen. We took a double-decker bus just for the experience:

Now, as soon as I took that picture of Janét getting on the bus, the driver yelled at me saying he didn’t want his picture taken. At first we thought he was joking, because clearly I wasn’t trying to take his picture, and why the hell would he care anyway? But he was dead serious and genuinely mad! Freak.

In any event, the restaurant was very festive and handed out balloons, hats, and noisemakers at midnight:

We sat near an older couple, the husband of which kept hitting on Janét right in front of his wife (with such classic lines as “you look like an ebony princess!”):

Then came the controversy…when we stepped out of the restaurant, we stood outside, letting our balloons go and deciding what to do next. Then…SPLOOSH!! A woman who lived over the restaurant dumped a bucket of water on us and yelled at us to “keep quiet” because “people are trying to sleep!!!!” First of all, it was only about 12:30, (on New Year’s Eve to boot). Second, we weren’t making all that much noise. Third, who does that?!?! What is this, the Dark Ages?! I got the brunt of the water, but luckily, my inebriated state—coupled with the sheer disbelief that this had really just happened—just incapacitated me with laughter. Literally.

After composing ourselves we went to find a bar for a nightcap. The first place we went was still charging an exorbitant New Year’s Eve cover charge, even though it was after midnight. So we moved on. The next place wouldn’t let us in because the bouncer pointed to me and said, “it looks like he’s had enough!” I wasn’t really drunk, and certainly no more so than anyone else…but I think that my broken antler hat didn’t help, and I also think that the fact that I was soaking wet also made him suspicious. So instead Colleen talked a grocery owner into selling her some beer (illegally, because it was after midnight) and we went back to her place to dry off and warm up by the fire.

The next day we bade Colleen adieu and headed to Heathrow. Colleen has an amazing apartment and was a gracious host, and we had a great—if exhausting—time. Our flight home was uneventful, though Her Majesty claimed the window seat and ate all my cheese and crackers:


  • laughed out loud as sure do have a way of telling a story and your photos are fantastic!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:40 PM  

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