Day 11: Saturday, September 15, 2012
Well, when your day starts at 5:30am and doesn’t end until 4:00am the next day, I suppose you’re setting yourself up for quite the marathon of a blog entry. However, it also sets you up for some invaluable Londoner lessons.
Lesson 1: London is not the city that never sleeps. In fact, London does not wake up until after 8am on Saturday mornings.
Lesson 2: 6:30am is the best time to ride London’s public transportation. Since you’re the only one on the bus, it picks you up, skips all the rest of the stops (since no one’s waiting to board) and gets you to the station in five seconds flat (okay, maybe a little longer). Since you’re the only one on the tube, there’s quite a lot of room to spread out and get comfy (and there are no Tube Farters or strange Lifesaver-eating dogs).
Lesson 3: The tube has a great deal of engineering maintenance and subsequent closures on the weekends. It’s the best to check your travel itineraries on the tfl (Transport for London website) before making your journey.
Lesson 4: Stonehenge is approximately two hours away from Kensington. Note: Two hours feels a great deal longer when you are trapped on a coach bus with a tour guide who wants to talk to you the entire trip. While I did learn some fun facts, I also should have gone to bed earlier the previous night.
Lesson 5: Uncultured as it may sound, I had never thought about Stonehenge’s construction or purpose before Saturday morning, as I sat on a bus on my way to visit the historical landmark.
Lesson 6: Lesson 5 was really of no matter, since no one really knows how or why Stonehenge was built. Essentially all we know is this World Heritage Site was built between 2500 and 1500 BC and was fine-tuned and rearranged for 1000 years after. We also know a fun array of facts about the tools available in these times, the arrangement of Stonehenge and its unique relationship to the summer and winter solstices, and the calendar-like attributes of the large stone arrangement. It all sounds very sophisticated when you’re hearing it from a British scholar.
Now, if I may, I will explain my impressions of the impressively massive construct upon my arrival: “Here are a bunch of rocks. They look really heavy. I don’t get it.” Our brochures suggested perhaps Stonehenge is the gateway for life. Perhaps it had healing powers. Maybe the stones are actually giants who were turned to stone by moonlight. Others suggest it really had no purpose at all. While it makes loads of sense to me that men dragged these 20-ton stones hundreds of miles to arrange them just so over thousands of years for it to have no meaning or purpose to them (PLEASE note my sarcasm), I still really don’t understand.
While we toured the perimeter, we exchanged our own theories. My favorites were: sports stadium, old-time prison of sorts, and the place where all the fairies went to “hang out.” As I’m sure you can tell, I was with some brilliant thinkers much like myself. Note: With these brilliant thinkers, I was involved in both a human pyramid and the YMCA dance in front of Stonehenge. My mother would have been so proud.
Lesson 7: Thatch-roof houses are still built in the English countryside.
Lesson 8: In the olden days, the thatch in the roofs was the warmest place in the home, so the animals (cats and dogs) used to climb into the thatch during the colder months. This was convenient until it started raining and the animals would slip from their perches into the house. Have you ever heard the expression “It’s raining cats and dogs”? It was real life!
Lesson 9: There are many sheep farms in the English countryside. Bucket list addition: pet an English sheep before I leave Europe. On these sheep farms, when it’s time for breeding season, farmers will paint the bellies of male sheep, so that, when they climb atop the female sheep, they leave paint stains behind. The farmers know the female sheep sporting colored backsides can be sequestered, as they are already impregnated.
Lesson 10: Whoever spread the awful rumor that English food is intolerable is absolutely mad. I never want to eat anywhere else as long as I live. Note: That’s not entirely true. I am partial to my parents’ adventurous kitchen creations, Greek pita salads, and Fox’s veggie pizzas back in America. We had “pasties” in Bath – everything from vegetable to feta and spinach to cheese. They also had omnivore options for those of you who are into that. I ordered a cheese and onion pasty that essentially tasted like a huge pirogue. It is the best thing I have ever eaten in my entire life.
Lesson 11: Romans spent a lot of time bathing, but the water in their baths is green now. Gross.
Lesson 12: When you nap in London before you go out for the night, they call it a “disco nap” because you nap, and then go to the disco. We liked this term, but thought the alliteration of “disco downtime” had a better ring. See? Already making London our own.
Lesson 13: There are cookies here. They are called biscuits. There is a brand of biscuits here. They are called Digestives. These Digestive biscuit cookie creations are the greatest thing to ever happen to mankind. Except for Bath pasty.
Lesson 14: When you’re sitting at a bus stop at 8pm and you still haven’t eaten supper, the dark chocolate Digestives you just got at the market are a really good option.
Lesson 15: Knockoff Spaghettios are only 20 pence a can at TESCO (the local supermarket).
Lesson 16: Knockoff Spaghettios that cost 20 pence a can are really disgusting.
Lesson 17: I love red lipstick. I think this might become a “thing” in my daily life.
Lesson 18: Just because you know you’re legal doesn’t meet the club bouncers know you’re legal. Forgetting your ID at home does not make for a good time in the city.
Lesson 19: Sightseeing in Historic London during the day is great. Sightseeing in Historic London at night is so much better. In Trafalgar Square, there are these huge lions that sit on pedestals. The pedestals are six feet off the ground, and the lions are probably another six feet tall on top of that. Guess who climbed up there and hugged those lions last night! Oh, yes. My body hates me for several reasons today, but jumping off of the six-foot platform after accomplishing the hugging feat could be a big part of the hatred.
Lesson 20: Making friends with locals on the nightbus is a jolly good time. I agreed to marry one of the guys I met, but he shared his fries with me so I stand by the decision.
Lesson 21: The nightbus takes a LONG time to get you where you need to go.
Lesson 22: Though this is one I’ve certainly learned before: looking cute and staying warm do not go together. Though looking cute may seem the better of the two when you’re leaving the flat, you’re going to regret that decision when you’re walking a mile and a half back to it at 3:30am. I suppose this is my own fault, though. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Einstein probably said it because he was sick of his girlfriend whining about being cold every night she came back from the clubs. Jackets (or parkas) should be more socially acceptable.
Lesson 23: It’s not so much where you are or what you’re doing or what you’re seeing and eating. Stonehenge was great, but doing the YMCA dance in front of some big rocks with my friends was hilarious. Bath was interesting, but applying obnoxious “tester” makeup in a local beauty shop with new comrades was something I’ll never forget. Memories are better when you’re with people worth remembering. Life is about the people with whom you get to spend it.
While I’m desperately missing those people who remain in America over these months, I am also taking some extra time to appreciate those with whom I get to share the experience I am currently living. Without you lovely lot, Stonehenge would just be rocks, Bath just water, and life just sad.