This is the last post about Kevin’s trip out here, so if you haven’t read something about Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, two days in London, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Leeds Castle, or Maidstone, you missed something! Wow that list makes it seem like quite the whirlwind trip, which I guess is pretty accurate. But this morning my dear brother and I took a train into London where he went on his way back to Los Angeles via Heathrow and I traipsed around London alone trying to take pictures for the book some family friends bought me this summer.
I have to say that the trip was amazing, and that Kevin and I travelled pretty well together. We may have become a teensy bit exasperated with each other at times, and there were some times that we were both really quiet, but for two young adults who have grown up together all that is to be expected. The fact that our parents still have two children is enough to impress most of the people who know Kevin and me and how we acted as kids. I am so thankful that I had this week to spend with him; I really think it brought us closer and we had some…interesting conversations to say the least.
After leaving Kevin at Victoria Station, I proceeded to walk around like crazy (as fast as I liked!) to a predetermined list on London landmarks without getting lost thanks to the A to Z I picked up the other day. My umbrella had been broken at Stonehenge, so my only protection from the slight rain that began as I was walking through St. James’s Park was my hood and the knowledge that I was almost at the National Gallery. It appeared that everyone had the same idea I did as the Gallery was PACKED. I had to wait around the coat check counter for someone to leave and take their bags because I was already in pain from carting my book bag read temporary suitcase around 4 miles of London. It was making me rethink those new jam and lemon curd I picked up at Leeds Castle. I then ran into the same problem with crowds as I was trying to find a seat to eat lunch at. I ended up sitting at a counter crowded in with a bunch of other people, huddling over my new book on the Princes in the Tower. Did I mention that I don’t like crowds, especially around food?
The Gallery itself became one of those places that I am very glad I went to once, but unless they are having an incredible temporary exhibit, I see no need to go again. I am so unbelievably picky when it comes to which art I enjoy staring at for hours on end, and unfortunately the Gallery was lacking in a large collection of the Impressionists and Tudor portraits. It did have some truly amazing Monet garden paintings and a Degas pastel that I had never seen before; it also introduced me to a new type of art I like, Dutch flower still lifes. They were so realistic that I had to crowd one of the paintings and squint to prove to myself that they weren’t photographs. The other really cool exhibit there was one on DaVinci with the main showpiece being The Last Supper, but you needed a ticket for that and I was not in a spending money mood having just blown all my Christmas cash. I did find a book on Degas alone and on the symbolism and purpose of gardens in paintings, so I splurged and picked those up. I figure that since about 75% of my favorite paintings revolve around gardens I may as well learn more about them.
The audio guide at the National Gallery is probably the best audio guide I have ever come across in an art gallery. Nearly every painting has an audio commentary, so you can either do their recommended 60 minute highlight tour or just walk around like I did and do the audio guide for the paintings that catch your eye. The woman at the tour desk said that it is impossible to listen to every painting’s commentary in one day as there is over 50 hours of recordings!
By the time I left the gallery and snapped a few more pictures for my book and was walking down towards the Oxford Tube stop, I was finding bruises on my shoulders and wrists from the bag. It almost sent me running for the underground, but it was still such a nice day out (the rain had stopped) and as we’ve established, I really like walking. My weary stroll was rewarded, too, in a way that only Mom and me would consider worthwhile. I was heading towards Victoria Station, walking along the path of St. James Park towards Buckingham Palace, when I saw him. Outside of the Rubens Hotel, the hotel Mom and I stayed at in London back in 2009. I recognized him instantly; he didn’t look any different, though I suppose two and a half years is not enough to age someone beyond recognition. But there he was…Nathan! The super awesome doorman who helped Mom and me out so much when we stayed there, he was still working for them! Like I said, only Mom and I would find that exciting, and I’m sure she just laughed or smiled at the vary least while she read that I saw one of our favorite Brits of all time. Just seeing him revitalized me enough to get my last picture and finish my walk to the coach station.
Physically, yeah I was pretty tired, but I had no idea just how bad it was until I was at the Subway near my apartment picking up dinner (yes Subway as in the sandwich chain, nothing else was open!). I ended up getting really confused over the whole mustard situation and panicking and nearly crying because I felt like such an idiot and was holding up the line. Not my proudest moment. I tried playing the sorry my brain must have turned off card, which didn’t help, and then the confused traveling American card, which also didn’t help. I still nearly cried in a Subway over mustard. Needless to say I have never run out of a Subway faster nor more humiliated in my life.
Over mustard. Seriously Jenna?
I did enjoy having a night to myself for the first time in a month. I haven’t had much if any measurable amount of time completely alone, especially without a definitive end time to the solitude, so I almost didn’t know what to do with myself other than relish in quiet and open spaces.
Thanks to Kevin for a great trip and to Mom and Dad for all their help with it 🙂