“Is this for real????” I had to keep asking myself. It had been all of a little more than a day since we arrived in London, and I already felt like I couldn’t possibly see any more cool things than I already had. It was waaaaay too early for me to hit my point-of-overwhelm, so I pulled in my sense of panic, thought calm and happy thoughts, and tried to contain my urge to bounce-bounce-bounce as my hubby and I sat down for breakfast at a local café eating the standard English fair of beans, eggs, “bacon” (which I have to put in quotes simply because it isn’t the delicacy that we have here), and really yummy tea.
My hubby was a champ at navigating the tube system. While it took me a little while, I started to get the hang of it over time; thinking of it more and more like getting around San Francisco. But after going up and down stairs, changing trains, and being jostled around a bit; my poor hubby was starting to succumb to the first of what would turn out to be severely chronic back pain. Knowing that we had a LOT of walking in our future, we set up the standard practice pretty early – walk while you can. Stop to rest when you need. No rush. No pressure. And that is good, because this particular expedition involved a bit more underground walking than we had anticipated. But it was worth it! Why? Because our destination was none other than the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Already treasure-struck with so many shinies from the British Museum, visiting the Victoria and Albert was an unusually different experience. More modern than I had anticipated, the first few rooms that we visited displayed beautiful objects of more recent times – 17th century and onward. While beautiful, it wasn’t really so much my thing. But it gave my brain the needed time and input to reset – which was fantastic and much appreciated by the time we reached items of Cavalier, Elizabethan, and medieval age. Once again, SOOOO many pretties! The GLOVES! The Jewelry! The paintings! The sculpture!!!! (particularly the Dacre Beasts) The embroidery!!!! I swear, to do and make all the things I want would take several lifetimes. I saw a couple of pieces of embroidery I want so much to replicate (and know that I can!). But…. One thing at a time.
I have to admit to a particularly geeky moment. Of all of the pieces that I saw in the V&A, the one that made me have a distinct paused “O…M…G…” out loud was not a particular treasure (at least not in the average sense). Rather, it was a beautiful and impressively large majolica jar with the word, “Mostarda” in large script. Now, for those of you who haven’t been following, mostarda has been one of my deepest rabbit-hole dives as of late. So to see a really GORGEOUS mostarda jar from the 16th century that was clearly designed for a merchant selling that particular product; yah… I had a moment (and had to commission a replica to be made.)
A couple of times, I had to go ahead of my hubby while he planted himself on a bench to rest up. And naturally, we simply HAD to have tea in the William Morris Arts and Crafts Tea Room. (Whimper again!) Just sitting there and in the courtyard watching kids play in the fountain, my head started fantasizing about what it might be like to, oh… I dunno… live there. But I digress.
Making our first real solid killing in the book store, it was time to maneuver back to the hotel for post-museum-overwhelm nap. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the inspiration, and cannot wait to start some new projects!!!!
After years of saving money, planning, hoarding vacation time; and receiving some much-appreciated assistance from our buddy, Kevin (thank you so much, Kevin!!!!!); we were finally able to have what effectively turned into a second honeymoon in England. I have dreamed of visiting the country ever since I was a child. For so long, it was just a fantasy and I wasn’t sure if it would ever come true. But finally... FINALLY… it did. And being able to experience this adventure with my favorite person in the world – my hubby – made an already perfect experience even better.
After arriving and maneuvering the tube to the hotel; we quickly got ourselves settled and gained our bearings. My hubby did a great job securing us at the St. Giles Hotel which was situated perfectly in the middle of SoHo – a fun area of London bustling with pubs, restaurants, theaters, book shops; and a plethora of gay bars. (Hubby claims the hotel name was merely a coincidence. I don’t buy it. What do YOU think?) One of the best parts about our location was its proximity to the British Museum, which was about two short blocks away and the first check on my bucket list of things to see and do in England. Taking it really easy on the day of arrival, we concentrated mostly on just getting acclimated to the city and to the shift in time. And after a good night’s sleep, we were ready to grab breakfast and then achieve goal number one.
Arriving just a few minutes before opening, I could barely contain my excitement. There it was! One of the world’s most important museums with priceless treasures of cultures all over the world. And I was finally – FINALLY going to see these things that I had always wanted to see with my own eyes. Taking our place in the queue, I stood in awe of the magnificent Temple façade, and focused on breathing calmly so that I wouldn’t completely freak out.
As we entered the museum and found ourselves in the great center court, we began our sightseeing in the “Age of Enlightenment” room where the hyperventilating began. I have to say that I found the presentation of items in the Enlightenment room most interesting in that they focused not simply on ancient items; but ancient items as they were collected by intellectuals of the 18th century. On the one hand, it was really interesting to see various items as they were collected within the context of the Enlightenment. But for my already-excited-and-distracted-brain; it was a bit disconcerting to see something from ancient Egypt next to something ancient Greek next to Italian Renaissance, etc. It meant that I needed to really slow down and take my time looking at each curio cabinet, each shelf, each drawer, and around every corner so as not to miss something that might make me go “Squeeeeee!!!” That room, in and of itself, was very overwhelming. And I’m sure I could visit it over and over again, finding something new each time. But there was still more to see – so much more!
Throughout the course of the day, we traversed the museum focusing on European history from ancient to the Renaissance (except of course when we took a break for tea. England, ya know). In each room, I saw treasure after treasure – Anglo Saxon finds, Viking-age items; daily medieval functional items, famous jewels, priceless artifacts; and in every direction – inspiration. History geek that I am, each item told me a story; and left me asking so many questions in my head. Every item, whether a fine jewel; or a broken piece of tile; meant something important. They represented art and craftsmanship of a person long-gone. But these often-anonymous artists live on through their work or remains. Truly, the biggest challenge for me was to not scream in excitement when I would look in a cabinet full of objects; only to stumble upon some treasure that I have studied or seen over and over in books interspersed among several other items. I did a good job at staying quiet and not embarrassing myself. But in my head, I would be screaming:
“AAAAAHHH!!!!!! It’s the Lewis Chess set! Right in front of me! How FREAKEN COOL!”
“OMG!!!!! The Sutton Hoo Helmet! Hwaet he garadana in gearadagum…”
“Holy Hannah!!!!!!! I’m alone with the Lycurgus Cup! It is even more magnificent in person!”
“LOOOOOOOK!!!!! It’s the Dunstable Jewel! It’s smaller than I thought it was. I bet I could make that! Hmmmm…(wheels turning)”
“GASP! It’s Lindow Man! Not just a picture, but the body – right… there… Just as he was found…”
I can’t say that I had one overall favorite item, because there were simply too many from which to choose. And as I mentioned earlier, each and every item told a story. Even if we visited nothing else in England, I could have visited the British Museum each and every day; seeing something new each time. But that was not to be. I had more places to visit and more adventures to experience – MANY more.
With my mind overwhelmed with art, inspiration, and complete sensory overload; we whisked ourselves off to dinner at Rules – the oldest restaurant in London, established in 1798. Specializing in game meat, the menu warns patrons to be careful, as the food might still contain buckshot. As we dined on a fine English meal and clinked our solid silver tankards full of icy cold Guinness; we toasted to our trip, to each other, and to what was only the beginning of one of our greatest adventures.
After the snarkworthy Emerald Eye of the Tsar series, the possibility of a better read with the newest Bruno book, The Templar's Last Secret, made my day. I like Martin Walker's series. He does a great job of teaching you a little history within a modern framework. The Bruno series has flirted with a lot of France's dark past. Walker builds intricate plots that his hero, Bruno, sleepwalks through. Bruno is a nice guy. End of characterization. Oh, supposedly he feels pain at the loss of the Great Love in his Life, but you get told this, instead of feeling any of his lovesickness. Women love Bruno; Bruno loves women; he also loves to cook and is wildly popular. Plot-driven stories aren't my favorites, but I'll still request the next book in the series from the library. I just wish they didn't all have the same feel to them, no matter what the plot.
Hooray for Libraries! Just as I turned old Bruno back in, I got a notice that the newest Longmire mystery, The Western Star, was waiting for me. Just fell back in love with reading. Johnson can really write characters. Old Walt Longmire has actual pain and flaws and interactions with other characters who feel real. Plus, Johnson can write and plot and, well, he's damn near perfect after all the crap I've been trying to read the last several months. I tried limiting myself to how much I got to read each time I opened the book to make it last a little bit longer. It worked. Sorta. Instead of four comfy sessions, it was two reasonable ones and one "leave me alone until the book's finished or I'll bite your head off." Yeah, that kind of read. Darn Johnson pulled a cliffhanger on me that kept me awake last night.
Netflix has us in the midst of three series. Well, two, since I'm hanging onto S2 of Borgin until we can watch it all in a go. We're halfway through both S2 of The Expanse and Arn, Knight Templar (no relation whatsoever to the Bruno book). The Expanse has really improved. The look was always beautiful, but the acting? Eh. This season, the characters all work. Arn was a surprise. Most medieval movies suck so badly. Arn looks great most of the time, the power of the Church makes sense, and it charges through its plot without spoonfeeding the audience. If you don't know anything about the late twelfth century, you'll miss a lot of the plot and have to settle for glorious shots of Oltramare and Norway.
Real life has been all about canning. Yeah. Exciting.
I realize, on posting this, that I completely blew past LHMP entry number 150 without any fanfare. Entry 100 corresponded closely with the release of The Mystic Marriage and I used it as an opportunity for a promotional giveaway. Depending on how many multi-blog publications I cover in the next year or so, I suppose it's possible that entry 200 might provide an opportunity to do a cross-promotion with the next Alpennia novel, Floodtide, although there's nothing even faintly resembling a projected finish date for it. My LHMP publication spreadsheet currently has about 400 titles. I suppose it's possible that I'll eventually be celebrating an Entry 500. Who knows? But let's keep our sights on more immediate goals: what sort of celebratory event should I plan for LHMP #200?