After our amazing week in Paris, Gabe and I headed to London on the Eurostar. What a great way to travel! The high-speed rail system makes the 300-mile journey across the French countryside and under the English Channel in two hours and 17 minutes. Because it leaves from the center of Paris and arrives in the center of London, it’s faster than flying. Thanks to the Eurostar, we had a leisurely morning in Paris, and still got to our London apartment in time for walking around and an early dinner. America?
Because we only had a couple of days in town, we didn’t see *everything,* but we saw a lot. We skipped the hop-on-hop-off buses because they didn’t enforce masking (London is Covid-careless) and it was too cold for the hours of walking we did in Paris. Fortunately, our Soho apartment was an easy trek to Covent Garden, the British Museum, and the National Gallery.
We loved the British Museum, especially the mummies, the Sutton Hoo ship, and the Greek sculptures. We were painfully aware that most of the museum’s treasures were pillaged by the UK in its empire days. It took me three visits over 30 years to really appreciate the significance of this, but Gabe got it immediately. Perhaps the most famous of the museum’s stolen treasures are the friezes from the Parthenon in Athens, which the museum used to call the “Elgin Marbles” after the British lord who stole them. (Imagine calling the Mona Lisa “The Peruggia Portrait” after the man who stole the painting from the Louvre in 1911). Some museums are returning stolen booty but, so far, not the British Museum.
Of course, we ate well, even if it was mostly take-out. London is known for its great Indian food and we enjoyed perfectly prepared curries at award-winning Dishoom. London also has a lot of great Middle Eastern Restaurants, including Michelin-rated Berenjak, just a few doors down from our apartment. It’s nothing fancy but the food was exceptional, grilled kebabs for Gabe and spicy eggplant for me. Gabe found a perfectly British fish and chips stand, and I got a Vietnamese vegan bun bowl a few doors down. We skipped drinking pints in pubs for safety reasons, but the local convenience store had a good selection of English beer.
The highlight of our London stay was seeing a performance of the Book of Mormon, which parodies organized religion and American exceptionalism, among other things. It was certainly one of the best productions I’ve ever seen, with layers of satire, great music, and references to other musicals, including Busby Berkeley choreography and a number that felt like something out of “The King and I.” I cringed at some of the arguably racist portrayals of Africans. Gabe thought they were ok because the play made a point to offend every one. And of course it did because the play is produced by the people who brought us “South Park.” At times, the performance felt so much like the cartoon, I expected one of the chunky main players to announce he was “big boned.”
On Thursday, Gabe boarded his flight home from Heathrow, half an hour before I got on my plane to Corfu, Greece. I miss him already…..
Yesterday, my sister Kathy sent me a note asking about London, and signed off with some relevant commentary:
The London rain is like the Republican Party. It’s in control and really there is nothing we can do about it but hope the weather will change.
Wise words, and one way or another, it will.