Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Buckingham Palace on a Distinctly American Day

Teriann and I visited the staterooms of Buckingham Palace, and the date happened to be September 11. Seeing such a symbol of the political and social structure of England on a day so obviously pregnant with meaning for my homeland was an odd thing: up until then, it had been too easy to criticize America (and let's face it, there's a lot about which to criticize America), but I somehow considered the countries more objectively.

Buckingham Palace is the symbol of an extremely outmoded way of thinking. Power flows from God, and he (it?) gives divine power, wisdom, and most importantly justification to the sovereign. Well, two hundred and some years ago, some churlish bunch of colonists turned that model on its head, saying that power flows not from above, but from the people below, and lo, the country of my birth was created. Now, I don't know how much of a difference the Constitution and the Bill of Rights actually make in times such as these (after all, Congress has repeatedly affirmed that Dubya need not abide by either), but somehow I still think their presence is at least symbolically — and probably practically — important both to me and to America's identity. They form the fine line between 'citizen' and 'subject'.

On a lighter note, here are some photos from within the grounds of Buckingham Palace (which are strictly out-of-bounds for subjects 10 months of the year).

Here, Teriann adds a royal touch to the 'Photographing Wildlife' series.

The remainder of the day we spent at Westminster Abbey. It's a shame they do not allow photography inside — it is absolutely breathtaking. It is my favorite place in the world.

Week Two: Vacationing in London

Here’s where the fun really started. Having set up enough infrastructure to actually enjoy ourselves, we did so, spending a whole week on the typical touristy things of London.

Un-advertised sights on a bus tour included this restaurant on Trafalgar Square,

and this leaning, rather unflattering view of Tower Bridge.

Teriann reflects on this.

We also took a river cruise (which I highly recommend) and climbed the dome of St Paul's cathedral. Here's proof.

The next day was spent at the Tower of London, where highlights included this incredible eleventh-century (yes, I said eleventh) chapel,

and this!

For as fastidious as fusiliers must be, they certainly weren't very clean. And don't just take my word for it.

Teriann continued her 'Photographing Wildlife' series with these ravens,

including a pic of me with the ravens,

and I took a picture of... well, if you can't figure out what this is a picture of, you wouldn't find it funny if I told you.

We also got considerably better at taking couple pictures :)

Afterwards, we took the Tower Bridge tour, which I thought was the highlight of the day, but left Teriann nonplussed ("It's just a bridge!"). In support of my position, consider these photos. Compare these common views of the monument,

with these.

The main thing I got out of the day was the fascinating blend of old and new in London. Yes, we spent much of the day mucking around in a fortress originally completed by about 1080 (only four stories high, it was called the Tower because in 1080 that was unthinkably tall), but it's in one of the newest parts of town anywhere. It's the heart of the glass-faced financial district, and whether it's financial power or cultural offerings, London is still a vibrant and thriving city.

Week One: Trying to Vacation in London

Day 1, heading into the city to get cell phones (very successful), set up a bank account (partially successful), and in general get our bearings (not successful). Upon emerging from the tube, we find this:

Go figure.

Over the course of the day, we tried to see some sights,

but since they were sprinkled among chores, we only saw things from the outside, taking some good pictures,

and some awkward couple pictures.

Here, Teriann begins her ‘Photographing Wildlife’ series with a resident of St. James Park.

In general, that was the first week: chores and business sprinkled with a bit of fun.

Radio Silence... Broken!

At long last, I am able to update here. I haven’t been neglectful. I haven’t even really been lazy. I have, however, been without an internet connection. So, having taken much too long to get started, I think I’ll just start from the beginning and work my way from there. Don’t worry. I don’t want to write a long post any more than you want to read it, so I’ll break it up a bit as we go.

I was born on a Sunday afternoon in October... wait a minute. That’s too far back. What if we just start when Teriann and I moved to London? Splendid.

We landed on September 2 (although in crossing the Atlantic it became 2 September). Our landlady was nice enough to pick us up from the airport (how we would have carried four bags each on the tube, I have no idea), and when we pulled up in front of the house, it was raining -- I mention it because as of today, the 29th, in spite of or because we steadfastly carry our umbrellas everywhere with us, it hasn’t rained since.

The house is everything we could have asked it to be. In addition to the pics on the older post, here is a slightly different pic of the lounge.

I really like the beaming on the ceiling. It's in our room too and it adds a bit of character. Here's the staircase (from the entryway),

and the entryway from the staircase.

We originally said that we’d post pictures of the room when it was actually ours, but, since it’s the same furniture but a bit more messy, the old ones will have to suffice.

Our first day was, as one would expect, the most jarring. We didn’t go into the city, but our Irish housemate Ed took us down to the local grocery store to show us around. Ed’s a fantastically nice guy, but he walks and talks very fast, so after jogging to the store and asking him to repeat about half of what he said, we were almost too exhausted to notice that all the groceries were different. What is Weetabix? Coco Rocks? We stuck with fairly familiar stuff like Frosties (Frosted Flakes).

Our housemates are all really nice, and hopefully whoever is reading this will get to meet them. Perhaps a post about them is in order...