Sunday, December 29, 2013


So, I woke up around 5:15 this morning.  I can't blame this on jet-lag or the bedroom being cold.  I woke up because I was thirsty, which would require getting out of the warm bed into the cold room.  I delayed the process by checking my email, and discovered a message from the apartment owner, as to the location of the fuse box (right up there near the ceiling) and the location of the step-ladder to get to it.  While part of me thought it was probably not a good idea to get on a ladder in the (relative) dark of 5:15 in the morning, my curiosity as to whether I could actually solve the overhead light issue by flicking a switch was enough to get me out of bed.

And, indeed, I could solve the issue by flicking a switch.  Let there be light!

Went back to sleep to a more reasonable hour (about 8:30) and (after another quick email to the flat owner re: hey, is there a thermostat in the bedroom I'm missing?) I got a start on the morning.  It was a bit of a slower start than I'd intended -- mostly because I'd forgotten how long it takes to blow dry my hair (I usually just let it air dry in L.A., but that's not an option when it's, like, 40 degrees and I'm walking around outside), and because I couldn't decide exactly what to carry for my adventures for the day.  See, I was going to do a lot of walking, but I also was going to have a lot of down time, so I wanted to bring a book.  And while I'm in the middle of an awesome book ("S." -- which, once I finish it, will warrant a whole post on its own), said awesome book happens to be hardcover, a bit weighty, and too big to fit in my purse.  So I considered carrying my backpack today -- only to carry the book, mind -- but it's pretty heavy and after lugging the damn thing around all through airports and train stations the other day, my shoulders were killing me.  So, no backpack, no book.  Onward!

With a decent day of weather, I decided to go out to Hampton Court Palace and play tourist.  I'm not entirely certain if I've been to Hampton Court before -- if I did, it was back in the '90s, and I've forgotten it completely.  (I was supposed to go kayaking out there this past summer, but I pulled something in my back the night before, so that was totally out.)  So, boring bookless train ride out to Hampton Court.

(Note to future travellers:  You can buy your admission ticket to Hampton Court when you buy your train ticket.  This turned out to be a really smart move -- not only for the few pound discount, but because it enabled me to skip what turned out to be a very long ticket-buying line at Hampton Court.)

Hampton Court is associated with several British rulers, but probably most strongly with Henry VIII.  (He of "divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived" fame.)  So, of all the tours you can take at Hampton Court, I cranked up the audio guide to "Henry VIII Royal Apartments," and went for a wander.

I saw the Great Hall where he had dinner parties (and where the walls still hold tapestries which were there 500 years ago!), and the waiting room for folks who hoped for an audience with him.  I saw the Royal Pew (sort of a private box at church) and a recreation of his crown.  I saw a bunch of portraits (in which he really wasn't all that attractive, and, hey, when is "Dracula" coming back on TV?) and the room where the visitors used the toilet (if there's no one around, go for it -- if people are within earshot, the rule was to cough to cover the sound).  It was all very interesting, but I damn near missed the best room of all.

The best room of all is a little room off to the side, with royal blue curtains, in which sit two concentric circles of chairs (with one very big one at the best spot) -- this was the Privy Council chamber, wherein the Privy Council (memorably described by one of my law school professors as "The King and his cronies") sat around and generally made the decisions that ran the country.  And while every other room I went into at Hampton Court felt historical and educational and all that, this room felt like POWER.  You could still feel it.  Shit happened in this room, is what I'm saying.

After I finished the rest of the tour, I went back (against the tide of everyone else going the other way) to stand in there a bit longer and just, y'know, feel it.  (Because it isn't often that I get any sort of emotional vibe from a historical site, so I wanted to enjoy it a bit more.)  At which time some tourist was plopping her son in the seat o' power (the reproduction seat o' power) and taking a picture of him posing regally.  I couldn't stop myself from glaring disapprovingly, even though it was (apparently) totally permissible.  It made me think that every stupid photo like that sucked one tiny bit of the remaining power out of the room.  (It also made me think that there must have been a hell of a lot of power in there for decades of tourists not to have depleted it completely.)

After the tour, I found myself at the back of the palace, where the gardens are.  Perfectly manicured, and gorgeously sunny -- like, palpably warmer than the other side of the palace, where the guests entered.  I actually murmured aloud, "It's good to be King."  I had a stroll around the gardens, found the maze (which is the UK's Oldest Surviving Hedge Maze), found my way through the maze (with a little bonus help from kids yelling out directions to their lost father), and then headed back to London.

Because I had reservations for tea.  (I had originally thought to schedule tea on New Year's Day, but that wasn't to be.  I was, however, able to make a reservation at a spiffy hotel for tea this afternoon.  Really nice place for tea -- I'd been there with my parents this past summer, and thought I'd return, especially now that I knew the right way to find the door in.)  Here's the thing about having tea by yourself:  you want to bring a book, as the experience calls for a certain amount of lingering.  As previously noted, I was bookless.

I had upwards of an hour and a half to kill, so initially thought I'd go back to the flat and pick up my book.  While on the train, I had the rather better idea of going to the Forbidden Planet Megastore (aka Geek Central) to just buy some (paperback) reading material.  This was clearly a better idea, as I go there every trip to pick up geeky stuff.  And the place was packed.  As always, I enjoyed listening to the variety of foreign languages saying "[something foreign, something foreign, something foreign] Doctor Who [something foreign]."  I bought myself a couple of small Doctor Who related items myself, and a book in the delightful subgenre of British Comic Sci-Fi.

Went to tea (actually hit the door about 5 minutes before my reservation, which is remarkable, as I'm rarely that accurate in my own city), ate myself silly, and chuckled my way through the first section of the book.  The folks at the tea place actually told me to stay as long as I wanted (dude said he wasn't off duty until 11:00 at night), so I hung out for two hours, until I had safely assured myself that, "no, there is no way I can eat any more food tonight, no matter how long I sit here."  (And they had free wi-fi.)

And that's it.  Came back to the flat (the internet assures me that underfloor heating takes, like, an hour to crank up a single degree, so I confess I left the system on all day so I'd come home to a warm place).  Bedroom is still on the cold side.  If I happen to pass a cheap space heater in my travels tomorrow, I may pick one up -- it would save the flat owner a ton of money in wasted underfloor heat, and (rather more importantly) it would make me much more comfortable.  Then again, it's supposed to rain tomorrow, so I'm not sure how likely I am to shlep a portable heater back to the flat in the rain.

Two plays tomorrow.  YAY!

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