Tag Archives: london

the only acceptable wall is the London Wall

I am not sure what it says about the times we live in that even my ten year old associates the idea of a wall built to keep people out with our current presidential regime.  However, I doubt anything built by the government contractors salivating to get their modern-day Boss Tweed style contracts for the Mexican wall will last the two thousand years that the Roman built London wall has.

THAT is a WALL.  We visited the Museum of London today to explore the history of the people who built it, along with the other fifteen centuries of people who have lived and changed London.  It amazed me, the people who have come and gone and lived their lives here, each adding to and altering the city in their own ways.  This has been a process that seems to have accelerated in the last century, with mass communications and the amalgamation of the megalopolis, but the consistent ebb and flow of people in London, the shifts in trends and in the city government that alters how those people move and live in the city, it has changed and yet been consistent for all those millenia.  Roman London was likely a polyglot city, on a similar grid to modern London.  How many parallels do we have with our own history in these oldest of cities?

I’ve been here before, of course, in this city that reminds me so much of my own home.  Like all colonials coming back to the heart of Empire, it is culturally familiar to be here.  London is easy for me to exist in.  I could easily live here, even as an expat marked by my West Coast accent, because I understand the English culture, thanks to growing up in the British quadrant of a former colony.  I also now understand what it means to live in a massive global city, everything from moving in a crowded space to mastering a complicated subway system.  London feels like it could well be a home for me.

This is, however the first time I have brought my son, who is both very intrigued by London, and yet slightly dismissive of it in a way that only a citizen of another equally great city can be.

Ben has the extreme privilege of being able to compare London to New York, being able to compare the borough of Camden to his own of Brooklyn, our neighborhood of Hampstead and Belsize Park to Park Slope and Prospect Heights.  He can see the parallels between the great multicultural mosaics that both cities are, now, in the twenty-first century.  He can ride the Tube and admire that it is cleaner and more reliable than the NYC subway, but also note that New York has more people out and about on the streets at any given time.  Ben is a city child – all he knows is New York City – and so he is able to adapt to a city like London quickly and figure out how it works using parallels with his own home.  It’s a knowledge base and context I lacked when I first visited Europe, and a mental process that is interesting to watch.  Ben doesn’t have to adapt to being in a city in the first place; he just has to adapt to the specific place and culture of the city he’s in.

I had meant to write more about what we are actually doing while here, and even went so far as to take my Chromebook to the local laundrette to write while washing our filthy and stinky camp clothing, but got sidetracked into discussions on Brexit and Trump while there.  I blame the one glass of wine I had with dinner, as normally I wouldn’t decide polite arguing (it was quite respectful!) is more important than my own personal priority of writing.  I do not feel I gained from getting into a debate in a laundrette in London, because I do not need to learn more about opposing viewpoints: I know the opposing viewpoints and why the Left is still losing the critical thought arguments.  In this case though, I didn’t want to be rude and just shut down the conversation, which I feel is a uniquely female social obligation to be nice.  Which is a whole other blog post.  But due to that lost time, there will be no lengthy travelogue detailing our movements around London.  Yet.  It’s inevitable, of course, to post about our adventures here, but not tonight.

Instead, I leave you with the photo of my son on Hampstead Heath tonight, after he remarked “Mom, this looks so much like Prospect Park!  It looks like the Long Meadow,” and then went back to playing whatever stupid game he had on the Kindle and ignoring the scenery:


You can take the city kid to another city, but you can’t make him give up Smashy Road.

london calling (the third)

I’m taking my son to London this summer!

Of course I have been to London twice before: once in 2006 when I went and explored it on my own and once in 2010 when Paul and I went on our “honeymoon” (and spent a day at the Tower):


This is me at the White Tower in 2010.  Paul and I had not yet learned to take selfies.

This is the first time Ben will go to London though.  He’s been to Paris and Verona and Venice, to Basel and Zurich, but the closest he’s been to the British Isles is either visiting Victoria or the British pavilion at Disneyworld (both are equally fake-English – I actually felt quite at home in a fake Tudor cottage sweet shop in EPCOT)

I had been holding off on the UK because it’s easy to visit.  I like my world traveling to be more exploring and challenging.  Visiting Britain (or any of the British Isles) doesn’t require any language or cultural effort.  It’s actually comforting for me to visit Britain because it’s so much like home: growing up with an English parent, in a former colony, in a borough that boasted two separate tea rooms and an invisible “Tweed Curtain” separating it from the rest of Victoria, means that I totally get shows like Very British Problems.  I may have gone all-in on my mother’s family heritage of Brooklyn Jewish, but I also have British citizenship by descent, and I grew up in a country that was still governed by the British constitution until I was four.

But now, we’re going to Eurocamp!  A handful of us will be representing Brooklyn – and the USA based B-PSA groups – at the camp in Newbury.  And on the way back, we’re going to stop in London, see the city, stay at Pax Lodge,  and see two of Ben’s three namesakes: Big Ben and the Tate Museum (Unfortunately, while there is a PAUL chain of patisseries, there is no major “Boothe” attraction to check off Ben’s full name).


PAUL cubed.

We’ll go swimming at the ponds on Hampstead Heath.  We’ll ride the Eye.  We will go to the Museum of the City of London, and to the Tower and the Bridge; we’ll go to the War Rooms.  I will drag my son with me to shop at Camden Market  (Actually, I may leave him in the hostel room for that.) We will see what we can in the two and a half days we have, from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday morning.  It isn’t a lot of time, but I’m still excited to have it.

So we’re going to London.  And it’s a Mama-Ben adventure, like our trip to Switzerland, because Paul doesn’t have the days off to go with us.  I still look forward to it, even if I have to miss my husband (and Ben has to miss his father).  It will be a great adventure.  And while Ben is not as excited about it as I am, at least, after listening to Neverwhere, and getting over his suspicion of China Mieville to read Un Lun Dun, he’s somewhat interested in visiting the city that has inspired many, many fantasy versions of itself.  Or he could just be interested in riding the London Eye.  Who knows what goes on in the brain of an almost ten year old?



london calling (day zero)

I’m leaving for London in…nineteen hours! And being as all jet-setty as I am, I am flying Virgin Atlantic. Who have quite the list of amenities, even in economy.

I’m set to go to visit a couple goth events in London on Friday night, and I have a membership card waiting for me at the biggest goth club in Paris. I’m planning my attack strategy for getting through as much of the London museums as I can, because I am a ridiculous history nerd. I’ve realized that all the Futurama-in-French has paid off, and my French is way better than it was two months ago. And I’ve photocopied my passports and credit cards, sent out contact info, and prepared to be an International Traveller for the next ten days.

I think I’m ready to go. This is really it. I’m actually going to see two of the world’s greatest cities. It’s still unreal.

I’ll check in from the UK, unless I am delayed.

Protected: five days to go

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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!