I’m very excited to say that I’ve been to the UK and actually left London this time! Kate and I went to England for a wedding and did a bunch of other stuff while we were there. Enough stuff that it may have been a bit too much stuff. But it was fun! And busy. I’ve had to make my peace with not really having a place-by-place recounting of my trips since to do that I’d have to take time off from my trip to write things down or narrate or whathaveyou. So here are some bare bones outlines and feel free to ask me about the rest of it. Trip photoset is here.
We flew into Heathrow and arrived at our weird AirBnB pretty late. Which wasn’t a problem except our host had given us the wrong keycode. Nothing makes you reconsider your AirBnB vs. hotel stance like sitting in the middle of a residential neighborhood in the middle of noplace, ten feet away from the bed you’re supposed to sleep in but with no way to get there. We worked it out (numbers had been transposed) but it was touch and go there for a bit. The place was weird and funky, I liked it a lot. Kate liked it a little less. It was well-situated to go see a lot of London and easy to get to/from places and walkable to some shops and things to look at. We noodled around in London for a few days, checking out museums and libraries and managing to deal with the incredible heat wave that we hadn’t packed for. Vermont is a little like London in that people don’t have a lot of fans or AC since it rarely gets that hot.
We then took a train down to Exeter (and then got a ride to Okehampton) where I was going to perform a wedding. I can’t legally marry people in the UK but I can do a nice ceremony (you can read it). It was so great to be in the countryside. Not only was it cooler but the AirBnB we had butted up against a farm which meant familiar smells of home (which was actually fine, I am not being passive-aggressive) and a GIANT BULL who would come by to say hello and we could chitchat with. There was a lot of driving on single-track roads and we met a ton of people every single one of whom was great to talk with and get to know. The wedding was one of those just-worked affairs where people were all up for it, the weather complied and folks were on their best behavior. After getting home from the wedding I just face-planted and felt like I slept forever. Sleep was a little hard to come by on this trip. Neither Kate nor I are great sleepers. I was just reading in a doctor’s waiting room that the first night in a new place, you’re only really half-sleep anyhow because some lizard brain part of you is half-awake being vigilant against… trouble. Makes sense to me.
On the way out we took three trains, missed two (scheduling nonsense, we were on time!) and it all worked out just fine. I even left my luggage on a train and Kate figured it out before the train left and the vacation was completely ruined. Look at me, sprinting in the train station! There were a lot of those little things: victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. We wanted to spend the last day just chilling and sidling up close to the airport so we stayed in Windsor and had a nice afternoon/evening walking along the Thames and checking out the castle and taking photos of swans. Yet another weird AirBnB (just two bedrooms and a kitchen, no living room but we knew this ahead of time and it’s really all we needed) but one that was just what we were looking for. Up and out the next morning and a decent flight home. Jet lag was pretty intense for a few days but it’s really nice to just be able to be awake when you need to be and sleep when you need to. And then Childnado IV happened (pix in the last entry) and I came back to Vermont a few days later.
So I know some people come back from vacation and talk about the food, or the shopping or the views. I mostly enjoyed getting nerdy about the places we stayed (and the libraries we saw) and otherwise it was just great getting to walk and eat and make jokes with Kate in an all new place. I love getting to stay in people’s houses instead of hotels and enjoy staying in neighborhoods instead of business centers and busy intersections. And it’s great getting to see friends and hang out with locals and the wedding was a great opportunity to do that. It was definitely a lot of vacationing for a not-that-long summer, but on the other hand, it was about time for a lot of vacationing.
So one of the many many museums that Kate and I went to was the British Museum. It was almost an afterthought. I knew it was full of treasure but we’d been to a lot of great “stuff in jars” museums and had eaten a lot of food and were feeling pretty pleased with everything but we were done with the Wellcome’s amazing reading room and Forensics Exhibit (it’s like they’d known we were coming) and had some extra time. And speaking of time, the little brochure that you get when you enter the museum suggests some places you can go to chill out if the museum is crowdy and a little suffocating, places that are … less popular. One of these places was the clock and time exhibit. Which … what? It was the best thing! There is something about being in a room full of timepieces that just makes me all shivery and delighted.
So that was the end of the trip. The beginning was the Club Class upgrade as I’d mentioned. In-between we kept a little list of places we’d been. Here is that list with some annotations. Here is a set of 90 photos of the trip, somewhat representative, except for most of the museums.
- TESCO – the place we were staying was right near a giant supermarket. We went there often.
- Bloomsbury (Lamb Pub) – met up with my friend Deb and her friends as they were on their way to a conference in Manchester.
- St Paul’s Cathedral – accidentally walked in right before an evening choral recital, lovely
- Crystal Palace – no palace is there anymore but it’s a great post-apocalyptic seeming big empty space in the middle of London.
- Crystal Palace Dinosaurs – worth it! Thanks TimeOut London for the suggestion
- Tube – love it
- Overground – love it
- Horniman Museum & Gardens – sort of a fusty old “things in glass cases” place but had a wonderful garden area and we enjoyed looking at bad taxidermy
- Hunterian Museum at RCS – very best things in jars museum. I am so sorry there were no photos allowed
- RCS Library – lovely, did not look super busy.
- Canada Water Library – this was right near us and a good place to get internet before we got our phones hooked up
- Soane’s Museum – everyone suggested this, it was a good suggestion
- Operating Theater Museum and Herb Garrett – possibly the only museum we paid for, but totally worth it for being weird and quirky (and photos allowed!)
- Southwark Park – WE SAW A WILD FOX AND IT WASN’T SICK OR ANYTHING
- Victoria and Albert Museum (& Cafe) – Very nice museum, very nice cafe.
- Spitalfields (Water Poet) – funky neighborhood with crazy packed bar to start off the MeFi Meetup
- Shoreditch – where we wound up for dinner at an Indian place that was terrific
- Art Gallery thing – Jan ran into a friend in the street wo had just come out of a gallery and told us to pop in. We did, it was … interesting.
- British Museum (& Cafe) – more museums! More cafes! More clocks!
- Wellcome Collection & Forensic Exhibit – totally up Kate’s alley and I enjoyed it as well. It’s nice to go to an exhibit that you feel like you know something about “Hey, the body farm!”
- Wellcome Reading Room – the best reading room I’ve been in, hands down, ever.
- Emirates Air Line (Gondola) – a much better deal than the London Eye and with a view that was pretty excellent
- Picadilly Circus – wandered in here by accident one evening after dinner and showed up just in time to see Critical Mass ride through, totally charming
I’m still a bit laid out with sinus crud but very happy to have been away and very happy to be home.
I haven’t left the continent in quite a while now and I have the fidgets. One of the great side effects of not having a regular sort-of-full-time job is that I can say yes to some opportunities that I’d been missing out on. Backstory: I am on the Advisory Board to the Wikimedia Foundation. Just one of the service-type things that I do. Mostly we just answer questions if asked, it’s not a high commitment thing, but I enjoy being involved because I believe in the Wikimedia/Wikipedia vision, imperfect as it may be. So one of the things available to the Advisory Board members is travel to the annual Wikimania Conference. This year it is in London. I have always wanted to go to London. It’s a little weird to me that for all my international travel I’ve never been to any of Western Europe. So I’m leaving tomorrow and today is getting all my ducks in a row, including writing some stuff in this slightly slow-motion blog.
An odd side effect of not having an internet job (mostly, the Open Library gig is super part time) is that emails languish in my inbox and my blogs are a little unattended. So I’ve been spending a lot of time since mid-June down in Westport (with a trip back up for July 4th and now again) and doing a variety of things. A partial list. Links usually go to photos or talks.
So, now that you are caught up, I am leaving to go to London for Wikimania where I will be volunteering in the Press Office and trying to go see a bunch of talks and get my phone working correctly. Don’t call me. I won’t answer. I have some library tours and maybe a Meetup scheduled. I’m trying to play the rest of it by ear other than making sure I have enough reading material to last me through a six hour plane ride there and back (seriously, this and sleeping are my largest travel concerns) and the right clothes to wear.
Despite this list, I feel like I’ve been able to have a lot of lazy downtime, more than usual. This may be because I’m just calmer inside than I’ve been for the past few years, or it may be that for the first time in a really long time, I’m doing summer right (for me).