Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Wilder European Trip: London, Part 1 (or) New City, New Sneakers, Old Friends

Hello my dearest readers,

 I am back! I couldn't post during the trip due to internet issues, but I think this was a good thing; being disconnected allowed me to really soak up the cities. It was an amazing trip filled with beautiful things, friends, food, art, and time with my mom. I missed you all, though; this is the longest I've gone without posting since I started seriously blogging. I'm beyond thrilled to be able to share the trip with you now!

 Over the next few days I'm going to roll out the posts that I wrote and photographed; some, like this one, I put together while I was in London or Paris, and some I've written since I've gotten home. I'm also going to post individual street style posts over the next few weeks, because I've never seen such well-dressed women and men as I did in France. Now, without further ado, le voyage!

xx, Charlotte

London, Day 1:

Forgive me, for I am about to sound quite ignorant, but I did not expect London to be as quintessentially British as it is. People look British, our hotel feels British, the whole culture seems much like the books and movies through which I've come to know London. So much so, in fact, that I feel like I've been here before (more after the jump).

One stereotype that has not held true, however, is that Brits are inherently standoff-ish. People have approached me and my mom a number of times in restaurants, stores, and museums just to chat. They want to know where we're from, how we like London, and whether we knew that the woman they are dining with is a dancer in the Olympics closing ceremony (we did not). I have also been surprised at the sheer volume of people wandering through the city and the number of different languages I've heard. I knew London was huge and cosmopolitan, yes, but I wasn't expecting the throngs surrounding Buckingham Palace or the changing of the guards, or the number of people in the museums. And I have to say, while I get annoyed with the crowds when I'm trying to navigate through them on the sidewalk (and get tempted to throw a few 'bows here and there), I do love the energy.

London is a cozy city. It feels more similar to Boston than any other European city I've been to (probably because Boston was built by Brits, duh). I feel like I fit in here, like I can fool people into thinking I'm a Londoner as long as I don't open my mouth. Today someone stopped me and my mom for directions; that was a major win. I've always had an aversion to being a tourist, even though that's what I am. I like people to think, when I visit a place, that I live there. And with the help of my new camouflage Emma Hope high-top sneakers (pictured above with my mother's leopard print ones) I like to think I'm doing a decent job.

And now, day 1 in pictures:

We left our adorable hotel, The Sloane Club, just off of Sloane Square, and headed to the Chelsea Embankment to walk to Westminster Abbey.

We strolled along the banks of the dirty, dirty Thames and marveled at how James McNeil Whistler sketched from exactly where we were walking.

I particularly liked this flower box/hanging thing. Very British, don't you think?

I refused, on principle, to take a photo with me or my mom in or around the telephone booth, but I had to take a photo of the thing itself.

Every little street I looked down, I thought, "Yup. I could live there." St. George's square, above, was no exception.

I got a bit too excited when I saw my first double-decker bus.

My dear mother, looking left instead of right.

Westminster Abbey was closed for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee preparations, so we couldn't go in. I really wanted to see the tombs, but so it goes.

Above you can see Big Ben (my favorite clock EVER, since I was obsessed with the Disney movie The Great Mouse Detective at the age of 6) and the London Eye. 

The biggest Ben I know. 

Beautiful gardens at St. James Square.

Me at St. James Square, before purchasing the best shoes ever. My Sperrys gave me blisters because it turns out that walking five miles in boat shoes with no socks isn't a great idea.

The guards! Beefeater gin!

A mounted policeman. 

We met up with our dear friend Clelia after we bought our awesome sneakers. Clelia is the daughter of my parents' oldest friends, who are about as close to family as you can get without being related by blood. We and had a lovely lunch at The Orange on Pimlico Road. Clel lives in London and I love her. And, with her assistance and depth of local knowledge, I felt like even less of a tourist.

After we had walked so much and were so jet-lagged, caffeine was clearly the only option. We hopped in a cab and rolled over to the British Museum.  

I gleefully showed off my shoes and loved being in the cab. 

All the museums in London are free. You just walk right in and start looking at great art. I think that is fabulous.

As was the roof of the British Museum.

As well as these Egyptian statues.

The way the stone still, my heart.

Birdman Jr. (probably senior, actually).

Ah, the Elgin Marbles. I spent a month in Greece in 2010, and since I saw the Parthenon and the place these statues came from, I've wanted to see them in person. A debate has raged about where they should live since Lord Elgin took them from Greece to England in the 1800s. The Brits argue that they've protected them from potential ruin better than the Greeks would have, and, by displaying them in London, have allowed more people to see them. The Greeks argue that the statues were taken unfairly and should be returned to their place of origin. I held back on voicing an opinion because I hadn't seen the statues in England, but since visiting the British Museum, I really do think they should be back in Greece. They make more sense there. Though they're staggeringly beautiful no matter where they are.

I adored this boar's head drinking vessel.

And the most delicate little vase. What a beautiful heron!

And ancient bling. What could be better?

We then had drinks with one of my friends from high school, who's getting her master's degree in art business from Sotheby's. It was so great to see her, since it had been a few years, and because it's always nice to connect with old friends who seem really happy and in a great place. I should have taken pictures, but I forgot.

We then went to see The Collaborators at the National Theatre, a show about Stalin and the playwright Bulgakov; it wasn’t very good. I felt unfairly manipulated watching it, and since I’ve studied the history and read Bulgakov’s work on which it was based, I felt that, despite some really good acting, it didn’t go deep enough into the subject matter. But it was a wonderful experience to see a show in London nonetheless. 

We had a delicious dinner afterwards at The Botanist in Sloane Square (Irish oysters, it turns out, give Pemaquid ones a run for their money). The decor was made up of old botanical prints; aren't they beautiful?

MUCH more to come!

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