Day #6: A smile and a snore

After a day of walking more than five consecutive hours the last thing one wants to do is walk some more. So what did I do? I took up with my new Aussie friend Stacey and headed out to see more of the city on foot. It’s not that my feet were hurting it was my lower back, likely from carrying too much around in my little REI travel backpack filled with my little netbook and Nikon D5000 + extra lens, my journal, and my recently acquired book of compiled poems by Adrienne Rich. One never knows when a park bench or grassy nook might look comfortable and poetry might need to be read.
On this day Stacey and I agreed that the Portrait Gallery was a must see before she was to leave London. The portrait gallery was not a far walk from our hostel and though the day was the first rain we had seen since arriving in fair London, we ventured out to learn the city once again.
I awoke too late for breakfast at the hostel and so our first stop was Covent Garden to acquire a meal for me so that I did not become ravenous and eat the greater city of London. We found a French Café and I sat down to a menu filled with bread this and cheese that. It is quite the task to not eat gluten and dairy here and I have slipped up a number of times on the dairy and felt the consequences in a number of not so pleasant ways. I knew that this would be a good way to prepare for my actual trip to France and so though it was a formidable task, I picked through the menu and found something edible. Scrambled eggs, porcini mushrooms, proscuitto, and a fruit bowl. I said, “no bread.” “No bread?“ I shook my head. “No bread?“ the waiter scoffed. “No bread please.“ I could just feel his disappointment as his nostrils tried their hardest not to fume. I decided from then on that I will just take the bread and not eat it and please the French as they want to be pleased. I also accidentally ordered a still water with this meal. My thought was that still water would be tap water because it was not sparkling, but it is just a glass container of water that costs an extra pound fifty. From this a lesson was learned and has not been repeated. On the upside, the meal was delicious and I am certain now that I can make it through France, though I am not sure I can 100% avoid cheese because I am in love with cheese. I also miss the feel of tart sourdough on my tongue, but… alas it is useless for me to think of this.
Covent Garden is vibrant and constantly bustling. There are large groups of buskers that filter in and out of the square. On this day there is a group of six string players that take their little stage area. They begin to play, they are… extraordinary! Not only does the bass player have an extreme amount of talent and enthusiasm. He literally picks it up and holds it on his knee for sport while playing. This group is as good if not better than going to see a symphony, I am in awe and would have dropped my fork if I had one.
Now that I have eaten I can properly see the Portrait Gallery. We walk into a pristine four story complex and begin our tour of portraits with The Tudors. Who isn’t fascinated by the Tudors? I mean there’s now an HBO tele series about them. “Off with their heads!” Okay, that comes about a bit later, but I finally pieced together the story that I was a little on the outs on. With my little guided audio tour and hours ahead of me I went about seeing England through the centuries. I loved it, was utterly fascinated by the royal line. Once again, put me near the royal line and I will jump right in. More Queen Elizabeth II was to be seen and more of me staring at her awkward beauty.
Eventually I made it beyond the royal family line and into the great artists section and once again fell in love with Alexander Pope and then Johann Christian Bach, Bach’s son. As I went around from artist to artist I saw and fell in love with each of the inspired men. However, while I was walking betwixt painting after painting of these portraits I saw droopy eyes, pock marks, weathered lips and I thought to myself, now why in the hell if you were being painted and had enough money to take a swim in would you let anyone paint you with all of your defects? I am more than grateful that most of those being painted let the artist take them at face value. I am happy to see their deficiencies because it makes them real and human. I don’t know if I could let someone paint me that way, I can barely let others photograph me.
Speaking of photographs, it was time to venture down and see some. What should I come upon but more pictures of the royal family. Queen Elizbeth, Charles, William, Harry, and Diana. It took all I had not to break down in front of Lady Di with her children. It was sad when she died, but suddenly now, I saw two boys without a mother and almost had an emotional collapse. I can’t help but bring into everything I know about loss that I didn’t have then to grieve for them. I know they have grieved, but I had to right then and it was so hard to turn away. At last, before I had the opportunity to use enough tissue to fuel a Christmas fire Stacey came down and found me. It was time to leave, to eat once again.
Yet another battle with the menu was about to arise. This time we were headed to the second least likely place for me to find a meal, Italian. I have to say I was confronting absolute scenarios. When I say absolute I just mean that I will in fact be in Italy staring at menu’s and wondering what the hell to eat when I can’t have a delicious penne covered in a cheese sauce, but instead I’ll go for the chicken breast. I actually ended up going for risotto, which did have cheese and began the downward spiral of me and dairy that day. The meal was rich and delicious. My risotto was cooked in a creamy mushroom sauce that tasted only of dairy crack. No, you don’t understand. I mmmmd and ohhhd over the food because it had been so long. It had been so long that after the meal we walked over to a gelato shop and yes, I had more. It was like I was on a spree to milk every cow in London and eat the goods. Toffee gelato. It was more than I could have ever hoped for in more ways than it being delicious. Besides my tongue that was full of excitement, the rest of my body was angry at my hurtful decision. It was angry at the way I made a decision without consultation. I summarily apologized and went about eating my gelato. Lucky for everyone at the hostel I was to be leaving that night and moving onto my couch surfing hosts house, so they wouldn’t be subjected to the consequences of my dairy consumption.
It was now time for more walking and my body was already aching from the morning of walking, but I was determined to go on. We decided to walk towards Westminster Abbey. On a Sunday this wasn’t a good idea because both of us foreigners were unaware that it, just as everything else in London seems to be closed on Sunday. However, it was a good and gratifying walk because of two things: 1) The London Marathon= there is nothing more inspiring than seeing people at odds with their bodies complete a marathon. One woman had two hip replacements and still completed the thing. Stacey became determined to return to the city one year from now to complete the trial of the marathon. I swooned over the possibility of a marathon and have become determined to really train for one once I get back. For realz this time. 2) Even if you can’t go inside Westminster Abbey, the architecture is so gorgeous that being on the outside won’t disappoint. It is so delicately detailed that the idea of crafting it seems a task beyond reason.
After a walk around this wonder it was time for us to call it a day and head back so I could get to my hosts house at the reasonable hour of 10pm. His house is East of the city and takes a bit of time on the tube. I gathered all of my belongings and put my backpack on and could swear it got heavier already. I could not imagine transporting this from my hostel to his place, but that I did. Barely fitting through the tube entrance, I was reminded of my former self when my body was almost large enough to get stuck in turnstiles and desks. I was grateful it was just my bag and that I was not that former self.
After half an hour I made it to his beautiful upstairs flat in Tottenham and eyed the comfy blue couch I would soon be sleeping on. My host is Spyros, he is Greek but has been in the city for 9 years now. I ask him all about his work and how he has come to it. He is a sociology professor and I am impressed of course. His house is covered with books I want to read, but decide instead to just take note of for later. I am happy for a host and happy to be out of the hostel for a good rest.

2 thoughts on “Day #6: A smile and a snore

  1. December 26, 1944We took off on a mission in 082 – the Mission Mistress, but we aborted shortly. Which was a very lucky thing. Dropped bombs in Channel. Tail-pin was broken. 082 cracked up on take off the next day.December 30, 1944Mission to Mannheim. It was fairly easy – light flak. We broke in a new pilot for another crew today. Flying in Miss Gloria II — one strike on us so we took off at 9:30. time was 8 hours. Altitude was 22,000 feet. And it was 28 ° below. We were on the bomb run at 1:02 and back to the base at 5:30. Two forts collided in the group behind us.December 31, 1944I can think of a lot better ways to end a year. Today the mission is to Harburg, which is a suburb of Hamburg. Smoke was at least 10,000 feet high. Intense flak over the target. Wonder who the guy was that invented flak? We had to feather an engine over the target, so we flew wide of it and never got hit. Boy, does that sea look cold. Altitude was 26,000 ft. It was 39 ° below. We took off in Miss Gloria II at 7:30 and were over the target at 11:39. Back home at 4:10.

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