you went off swinging London and forgot to come back

(Magnetic Fields, “Swinging London”, holiday. Magnetic Fields are a Pandora.com discovered band, one that the site pushed through when it figured out I like New Wave. That, and Frausdots. I’m very happy with both discoveries)

I bought my ticket to Europe last week! I caught a Gridskipper post about a $472 special on Virgin Air, from LAX to London, nonstop. I immediately jumped on it. I’d been planning to buy a $906 roundtrip ticket, LAX to Paris, with a weekend stopover in London, on British Airways. But it’ll be about $250 cheaper to take the Virgin flight and catch the Eurostar to Paris after four days in London. And I get to fly on Virgin! They hand out sleep masks, and edible food, and have screens in the back of every seat to watch TV and play video games on. It will make my 11 hour flight far more palatable, and it just sounds cooler to talk about flying an airline as sexy as Virgin, instead of boring old British Airways.

I’m more excited about Paris, but I’m still psyched for London. Despite being a British citizen (same way I got my US citizenship, citizen born abroad), I’ve never been to England. My parents both love London though, especially for the theater, and, in my mother’s case, for the literature and art. My father loves London because, “you can step out the door, just to go around the corner, and the next thing you know, you’ll be halfway across the city. There’s always something to see on every block.”

I’m not looking for Swinging London though, or for the rave scene that was its 90s counterpart. I might go looking for the London goth scene, especially since that’s where goth came from thirty years ago, when it was still a spinoff of punk. But most of my interest in London is history-related, and really, I’m looking for London as it was in Neverwhere. I’m looking for those layers of history and culture, the city that goes back two thousand years. I want to stand on the edge of the Thames and imagine my Briton ancestors defending the fort that would become Londinium from the Romans. I want to look for pieces of ancient buildings in the city. Paris has been better kept intact, but London is layers and layers of history all mixed up and piled on top of each other, and I know I’m going to be fascinated with it.

As for where to sleep while I’m there, unless a long lost cousin turns up (Dad’s working on it – there may be a family connection somewhere who would be delighted to host a cousin from L.A.), I was thinking about staying in the Edward Lear Hotel Edward Lear was the nonsense poet who wrote, “The Owl And The Pussycat”. This is one of those British kiddie lit poems I used to know by heart, because my dad used to recite it to me as a bedtime story. The owl and the pussycat, went to sea, in a beautiful pea-green boat. They took some honey, and plenty of money, wrapped up in a five pound note.”

However, after running some pound-to-USD conversions, I think I may stay at a hostel instead, and save my hotel budget for Paris. Hostels would, after all, give me the added advantage of meeting other travellers. And while I’m going to be with friends in Paris, I won’t know anyone in London. Therefore, after much online research, I’ve located a Lonely Planet endorsed hostel that’s within walking distance of what seems to be the goth epicenter of London in Islington and Camden Town. If I’m going to be on my own in London for that long, it may as well be within range of the London version of Bar Sinister.

I’ve also been reading Lonely Planet London so I can plan a method of attack – and there is going to be too much to do in the three full days I have there. The City of London museum, of course, is a high priority, because it tells the tale of London from the Ice Ages to the present day. The British Museum is an entire day, with its stolen history from around the world – and the Egyptian paintings that my father swears my mother resembles. I will, of course, visit my namesake gallery, especially since the Tate has an exhibit on Gothic Nightmares right now.

This is going to be such an exciting trip! I’m disappointed I won’t be able to visit Stonehenge, and I’m sad that I won’t have time to go up North, to the villages and towns in Cumbria that my father’s family came from. But I know I’ll get to those places someday. I live in Los Angeles, my mother’s city, but my childhood and half my genetics owe more to Britain. And having the airfare just makes it real – I’m finally going to Europe!

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