Tag Archives: U.K.

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I have given up trying to get to Patisserie Valerie, which everyone and their brother tells me is the best bakery/dessert chain in London. Maybe it is. I wouldn’t know. Every time I’ve tried to grab a seat at their shops, I’ve been treated like one of the following:

  • a leper
  • some sort of used turd salesman
  • a suspected dog rapist

I’m sort of guessing. I’ve never encountered any of these folks in real life, so I don’t know how they are treated, but I assume it’s not very good.

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Words are funny little things.

I know, because I spend most of my days wrestling with them, trying to manipulate them into what I want them to be, often to no avail. Have you ever tried chiseling someone’s likeness in a a hunk of jell-o? It’s something like that.

But I love them, and I can’t rightly abandon them, because my blog would be oh-so-boring without words. It would be nothing more than photos of cupcakes and me making out with my husband. (I realize it’s not much more than that now, but it has the potential to be more, thanks to words. Or so I tell myself.)

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For years, The British Museum in London was like a book I’ve cracked open a dozen times, but was never able to get passed the first chapter.

I knew its beginning pages almost by heart. The crowds in front of the Rosetta Stone are mentioned in the dedication. This little one-eyed bird made an appearance in Chapter One:

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But I didn’t know much more than that. Did the two leads who once hated each other finally succumb to their growing passions? Did the weather worn detective ever discover who the killer was? Beaten down by jetlag, I never found out. I just reread the first chapter, and left.

This time, though, I was determined to get through every page of the British Museum. Or at the very least, skim them enough to have an idea of what was going on.

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I visited Occupy London on an unseasonably warm and sunny day in late October. In a paradox that is no doubt indicative of who I am, I stopped off at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the Occupy protesters were gathered, before heading off to Spitalfields (the famed shopping district).
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There are some arguments that will consume you. They will take over your entire mind and body, so that you find yourself shaking with rage, unable to think of anything else. Your hands clench into fists, your teeth gnash together, and you are filled with anger and the conviction that DEAR GOD YOU ARE RIGHT AND THEY ARE SO, SO WRONG.

This is a story about one such argument.

I don’t remember how it began. Few great battles in history have marked beginnings. We say it was the assassination of Ferdinand, we suggest that it may have been the killing of Crispus Attucks and four others on a chilly night in Boston, but we are only guessing – trying to add sense and order to a situation where there likely isn’t one. Where there is only chaos and conflict.

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I have something very important to tell you with regards to travel. It has absolutely nothing to do with what you should pack or where you should go. I have no insightful revelations about which airline seat to pick in order to avoid sitting next to a guy who obviously has TB. I always end up in that seat. Perhaps that’s an area where you might be able to advise me.

No, the bit of advice that I have to offer is far less complicated than all of that. It’s simply this: that in the end, it does not matter where you go. You can climb Kilimanjaro. You can stay in a yurt and do whatever it is people do when they’re inside one of those things. You can take lots of photos, perhaps expertly, or, if you are like me, as though you have handed your camera to a drunken baboon. Do whatever you like, because really, it won’t make a lick of difference. In the end, the thing that matters is not where you go, but who is with you.

There are no two people who have taught me this lesson more than Jon and Lisa.

We were in Oslo, on a sunny day in October, and couldn't figure out how to get off a roof.

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Whenever we meet up with the two of them, which is most often in the U.K., but occasionally in countries with slightly worse climates, things go awry. And yet I’ve never really noticed that our trips together are stunning examples of mediocrity, because, damn it, we have so much fun.

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At the Kennedy Museum near Boston, MA.

 

It’s the Fourth of July, and while I had told myself I would be taking the day off to get drunk and eat hot dogs, because that’s what our founding fathers would have wanted, I instead find myself thinking about what it means to be an American. How centuries ago we split from the British and formed our own little country (well, not we, exactly. My family was happily toiling away and drinking in Europe. They wouldn’t get to the states for another 204 years), with its own cultures and tendencies that are so radically different from the English. Even the Canadians, who are so damn close to us, are strange and exotic in my mind, largely because they are subjects of the queen. As an American, queens are relegated to fairy tales, decks of cards, and pride parades. They are not heads of state.

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Sign on the wall inside at the Churchill War Museum.

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The strangest thing happened to me that last time I was in London: I went to a museum dedicated to Britain’s role in WWII. And I liked it.

I know – you’re thinking that you can’t have read that correctly. “She must have meant cupcakes,” you think. “Or possibly Jeff Goldblum. She just got the names woefully confused.”

Which is a fair assumption, because were there museums dedicated to cupcakes or the equally-delicious Mr. Goldblum, I would be a lifetime member. But no, that is no typo – I went to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms  (known collectively as the Churchill War Rooms), and I truly enjoyed the experience.

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