A foggy day in London Town
Had me low and had me down
I viewed the morning with alarm
The British Museum had lost its charm
I took my first jazz piano lessons this past spring, and one of the first pieces I worked on was called “A Foggy Day in London Town”. (If you haven’t heard it, there’s an awesome version with Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald you can find here.) The song seemed fitting as Courtney and I prepared for our trip to London, but it turned out to be misleading. It was sunny all three days and I didn’t see a single wisp of fog. And the British Museum had not lost its charm. Just its air conditioning.
Neither Rodin’s The Thinker (which was considerably smaller than I expected—big muscles, tiny thoughts) nor the Rosetta Stone (which was also smaller than expected—bring your reading glasses) seemed to mind the stuffiness. And the mummies were so used to being hot that they didn’t lift a finger, for which we were grateful.
The other museum we visited was the National Gallery, which is called the National Portrait Gallery by the locals. We only got a short while there, but to compensate we jammed it full of as much Van Gogh, Monet, Vermeer, Manet, Degas, and Seurat as we could. The highlight was definitely Van Gogh’s painting of sunflowers in a pot. Another spot of sun in our sunny day.
Really, the entirety of London looked like a moving postcard. Although Big Ben was, as I had heard, under construction and buried in scaffolding, the nearby Westminster Abbey was busy as ever. Westminster is where Prince William married Kate the commoner—I don’t think she had a title yet—back in 2011. She’s Princess Kate now.
I have to take a minute here to admit that up until I was standing in front of the building, reading the sign out front, I had never attentively read the name Westminster Abbey. My whole life, I have believed that it is called Westminister Abbey. I mean, it makes sense: abbey, church, minister. But no, it is Westminster. And man, is it something.
A priestess was leading communion while we were there taking the self-guided tour. The ceiling was amazing, as were all the statues of kings. I learned that, even though I’ve heard the names of most the kings, I have no idea when they lived or what they did. Most amazing of all were the huge rose windows near the entrance and exit of the abbey. Now I know why Brandon Sanderson felt like he had to put rose windows in the ballrooms of the great houses in the Mistborn series.
We walked across several bridges in London and none of them fell down. I was worried that the guy on the first bridge we crossed who was doing balancing tricks on the railing of the bridge with his bike might fall down, though. I couldn’t watch. Of the myriad bridges across the Thames (remember, rhymes with yams) the Tower Bridge was most impressive. I ran into a Latvian family from Chicago crossing the Tower Bridge who stopped me to take their picture because I was wearing my Lithuania t-shirt. And, because some of you are going to ask, no, I did not meet any Lithuanians while I was there. I did pass two guys speaking Lithuanian on our way home one evening, but the words I caught were “smoking grass” (which is slang for smoking marijuana), so I didn’t stop to say hello.
Buckingham Palace, which is the traditional home base for the Queen or King in London, was splendid. The guards in their fluffy hats and red suits were out front of the palace, well inside of the gates, standing stiffly in the sun. We went back to see the changing of the guard later, but there were so many people we couldn’t see much. We did hear the guard band play “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles we were there. All the lonely people (crammed into the square in front of the palace), where do they all come from?
I don’t know where the people come from, but I think I’m starting to know why they come.
For, suddenly, I saw you there
And through foggy London Town
The sun was shining everywhere.