I traveled to the U.K. in June 2008 on a combination work/vacation trip. I posted about it on my old group blog Population Five. Now that I am writing more about traveling at Goth Panda, I am reposting these here for thematic unity, and also because reading them reminds me of the trip. I want to go back! Anyway, that explains some of the dated references.
After a week in England, I was very nearly assimilated. Although I didn’t have the accent, I had adjusted completely to the time difference. I could distinguish between the many coins with ease. I was comfortable ordering at pubs and deciphering train timetables. But two things continued to mark me as an American: I always asked for ice with my soda and I could not correctly pronounce Stratford-Upon-Avon. I didn’t pronounce Avon like the American cosmetics company, but I did tend to give equal weight to both syllables, and it is correctly pronounced by stressing the first.
Thanks to the train and the Underground announcements, I also learned how to pronounce other mysterious things like “Madame Toussards” (strangely, Two-Swords), “Marylebone” (Marry-libin), and “Tottenham Court Road” (Tot-nam).
I also picked up the British habit of saying “Pardon?” when I wanted someone to repeat something to me that I couldn’t understand. Sometimes this was due to their accent and sometimes due to cultural differences. A nice Frenchwoman asked Mike and I if she could borrow our Helpy (? some kind of cell phone ?) at the Tower of London. We were flummoxed until we told her we were American, which seemed to let us off the hook.
So, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Apparently some guy named Shakespeare was born there.
And if there is anything in Stratford-Upon-Avon that did not have to do with him or with catering to the tourists who came because of him, I didn’t see it.
After we arrived by train, we went over to another tea shop for lunch, but I have forgotten the name of this one. All I remember is that it was on High Street in a half-timbered building, and they served me a lovely vegetable quiche.
It wasn’t baked in an open pie crust, but was instead enclosed in crust like a handheld pie. And it was delicious! The other choices were not bad, either. Here is Mike’s tea, with a lemon curd bun, a scone, and a tuna sandwich.
After that we walked down to the Courtyard Theater, where we had matinee tickets for a Royal Shakespeare Company understudy performance of The Merchant of Venice. This is where I was reprimanded for taking pictures during the performance. The pictures weren’t turning out great, anyway.
Then we headed to Holy Trinity Church. Guess what? Shakespeare’s buried there! I kind of made me feel sorry for the other church a few blocks away. It looked like a perfectly nice church, but did anyone ever visit it?
In front of each chair was a cushion for kneeling. They all had different religious sayings, and they all looked like perhaps they had been here when Shakespeare was alive
We had to wait a little while to get close to his grave, since there were plenty of other after-show tourists with us.
Yup, he’s dead
Afterwards, we walked back along the river to his birthplace, where we passed Shakespeare-themed boats available for rent.
I was in the middle of taking some photo of scenic scenery, when Mike said, “Turn around.” And look at what I saw.
That’s right, people. David Tennant (and Patrick Stewart) in Hamlet this fall. Do I have enough money to go back to England?
We found Shakespeare’ birthplace, surrounding by upscale shopping…
…but we didn’t go in. We caught the train back to London, where we were unfortunately seated behind the most annoying group of American teenage girls on the planet. After they tired of playing MASH (and they were older teenagers, college-aged), they took up playing Kill, Fuck, or Marry, engaging in such politically-insensitive rounds as “Saddam Hussein, Osama bin-Laden, or Robert Mugabe?,” “Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?,” “Scottish, English, or Irish?,” and “Barack Obama, George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton?” For that last one, they overwhelming decided to marry Obama, fuck Bush, and kill Clinton. Since they were from a Red state (Colorado), maybe there is hope for Obama in the general election.
In the meantime, our group refrained from talking so they wouldn’t realize we were American, too.