Friday, August 8, 2008

Goodbye, My Dear England (Part VII)

Tuesday came much too early. My train was to leave at 6:30 in the evening, and I wanted to get a full day in before that. Unfortunately I didn’t start as early as I wanted because a ridiculously rude Irish guy in the hotel decided he was going to punish everyone because of a disagreement he had with someone and went to bed very late (and loudly), left his light on the entire night, and got a phone call early in the morning which he felt he must share with the entire room. I didn’t have the most restful night in the hotel, but I have learned decisively never to do the dorm-style thing again no matter how much cheaper it is. Seriously the rudest guy I’ve met in Europe. Even ruder than the Spanish. But he’s proven to be a major exception, especially of the Irish whereas a non-rude Spaniard were definitely be the exception.

First thing on my itinerary was the Tower of London, the famous fortress used by kings of England since Edward II back in… a long time ago. For me it is best known as the place that Bloody Mary held her sister, Elizabeth, when she suspected her of treason.

Here are a few photos of the castle:

This is the scaffold where so many famous people from English history met their fate. Interestingly, it was only for men. There was a smaller, less public scaffold for women traitors to the State (such as Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Queen of Scots, etc.)

Our tour guide was amazing. He had an incredible sense of humor (or is that “humour”?) and, after discovering I was from America, did a jolly good job of welcoming me “home”.

Traitors’ Gate, the gate coming from the Thames. Mary had Elizabeth brought this way because she was afraid Protestant resisters would rescue her if she was brought by land. Elizabeth, it is rumored, wouldn’t walk up the steps until she had declared her innocence and her guards agreed with her. Elizabeth just happens to be a fascinating historical character for me, and my second favorite character from the Reformation time period, so this was an awesome experience for me.

London Bridge! Again, I didn’t explore because it cost simply too much (and I was tired of walking). Instead I had a cup of tea roughly underneath it right next to a lovely little boat harbor (habour?). And yes, the British do enjoy Starbucks.

My last stop was Covenant Gardens, the famous setting of the opening for My Fair Lady. Eliza was, I believe, sitting beneath this alcove when she was confronted my Henry Higgins for her ghastly pattern of speech (“It’s ‘aouh’ and ‘garn’ that keep this wretched girl in her place/not her dirty clothes and wretched face… This is what the British population/calls an elementary education!”)

And I was out of time and on my way back to the train station. As I boarded the eurostar, I felt a pang of sadness. London does feel a bit like home. But I find that everywhere has a bit of home and a bit that is strange and other-worldly. The sadness, I think, was because I had only had four days. Next time I will spend longer and get farther away from London.

That’s all! Hope you all enjoyed this little mini-series of blog entries and, once again, I do apologize for not getting them on earlier. Next up: My great Europe Tour!

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