Once upon a time… I was able to travel. 🙂 I went here, I went there… and did all kinds of things with family, friends and a cast of strangers. Haven’t done it in a very long while, so I am living vicariously through my own travel memories this week.
In July 2000, I visited England. I had been there before nine years earlier with my sister on a tour of England, Scotland and Wales — and I’d been longing to go back ever since. This time I went by myself to London and Stratford-upon-Avon, on a trip sponsored by my college alumni association. Since I was traveling alone, it seemed like a good way to go — doing something with planned activities in a group setting.
When I arrived in London (the non-alumni portion of my trip), I stayed with my older sister’s longtime friend in her flat in the East End. For those few days, I was essentially on my own… taking the train and Tube into the city to meet with another friend at the National Gallery.
He had been studying to be a museum curator and was pleased to lead me on a personal mini tour, telling me this and that about this and that. 😉 We ate tea and crumpets in the café and stopped in the gift shop where he bought me a little souvenir book and wrote a sweet inscription in it. I don’t recall what it was, but I have always thought it was very nice of him to go out of his way to entertain me.
Later that day, I went on a Jack the Ripper walking tour. I had done this back in 1991 with my sister, too, but with a different tour group. My tour leader this time was an actress who played on Midsomer Murders, Jane Wymark. She was fabulous, of course, but… I had (naturally) worn the wrong shoes that day… so every moment of this two-hour walking tour nearly killed me. No, this is not my attempt at a tasteless Jack the Ripper joke. I really was in dire agony by the end of that day. Or, at least, my feet were. :-\
A few days later, I left London to stay nearly a full week in Stratford-upon-Avon, taking various little day trips to places like Warwick Castle, where the tour guide jumped out at me from behind something in the dungeon and told me, “You’re cute!” (Yikes!) Each adventure was focused on learning a thing or two (in-depth) about the life and times of William Shakespeare — which was a dream come true for me. 🙂
I attended two RSC performances that week — Comedy of Errors and Romeo and Juliet. During R&J, Juliet’s father accidentally dropped her on stage when she was playing dead. But… the show must go on. He eventually did pick her back up and put her on the crypt… but that couldn’t have felt good. I imagined her punching him in the arm as soon as they were both offstage.
After the show, I and a couple of other people in the alumni group ventured into this pub — since it seemed to be the only place alive in Stratford at that hour of the evening. I remember a handsome young English gent had smiled at me and waved good-bye to me when we left. We then sang “We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz” down the street on the way back to the hotel. I’m pretty sure this was frowned upon by onlookers. 🙂
What else? Oh….
My hotel room was haunted. The crew behind the reception desk didn’t agree… they said all the ghosts resided only in the original portion of the hotel, which had existed in Shakespeare’s day. I begged to differ. I know when a ghost is looking down at me while I’m trying to get a peaceful night’s rest! 🙂 Oh… by the way… I was the only single person in the group and, therefore, had my own room all to myself. Perhaps that’s why the ghost chose to haunt me — no witnesses….? (ha)
One night at dinner at the hotel, a man dressed up as Mr. Shakespeare came to entertain us. He was hilarious… but I don’t think that was intentional.
On the final night, we had a reception outside, on a patio area behind the hotel. A man and woman in period clothing were playing English Country dance music. They were astounded when I made a request: Gathering Peascods. 🙂 And I was thrilled when they offered to teach us two traditional dances. Once we had the steps down, we danced one of them to Greensleeves. My dance partner was a young Englishman named Paul who had been our tour group leader throughout the week.
Oh… and one other special moment with him was the night we were walking back to our hotel from one of our excursions. The moon was full and, as we walked together across the little bridge over the Avon River, we both automatically began singing Moon River. It turned into a funny, unforgettable experience, in part because I wasn’t even sure I knew all the words to the song. We ended up laughing about how brilliant we sounded singing while we strolled about the town (annoying everyone around us, presumably). 🙂
After my stay in Stratford, I returned to London for a couple more days, which were rainy. I mainly spent them shopping in Covent Garden for bath fizzies at Lush… and in clothing shops on Oxford Street. I also bought some CDs at HMV… and saw a performance of Cats at a theater in the West End.
Hmm… I just scrolled through my email inbox to see how far back it went… because I originally opened the account in London at an Internet café. I found this note from a friend of mine during the trip:
“It sounds like you’re having fun even if the weather is bad.
Think of it this way, London always
has bad weather. Have you seen any ghosts yet?“
SEE?! I am not the only one who was expecting me to see ghosts on this trip! He knew me too well…. 🙂 [I have a thing for ghosts… and I love taking ghost tours.]
I also found an email with the subject line “London Calling”, which I’d sent to my BFF. I’m certain she is (and was) completely unaware of the song reference. 😛 But she will laugh when she reads this response she gave me (she hasn’t changed AT ALL over the years):
“hi!!! it was soooo exciting hearing from you in London!!!
i loved reading about what you have been doing!
have you spotted william*? ooohhh!
seen any harry potter stuff? is he popular there?
have you been shopping in notting hill?
it is supposed to be very cool!
i wish i was there with you! it would be so fun!!!
maybe i can come over when you marry the new
english yummy that you are going to meet this week!
*she meant the prince, not the poet
Keep the hope alive… 😉