Sunday, April 9, 2006

Brit Bits

So the false alarm regarding the potential shutdown of NYU Home prevented me from posting a timely update of my trip to England last month. So I shall try to encapsulate the week thusly:

Despite my fears that York wouldn't be all that exciting, it is a very lovely medieval city with what a travel guide might call a vibrant young university-oriented population. It has a lot of nice pedestrian malls as well on the ground floors of those medieval houses. The old fortress walls still surround the city, and the whole quaint cityscape is dominated by the huge York Minster. If you're into history, it's a goldmine. Their viking heritage is preserved in a museum built atop an excavated village, and you tour the site via an Epcotesque chair ride that takes you through some cheesy/enjoyable tableaux of viking life -- complete with authentic 11th century smells!
York is also Richard III central. A very small museum is devoted to clearing his name in the accusation that he killed his two nephews, and what it lacks in presentation savvy it makes up for in heartfelt affection for its subject. It looks a lot like a very well-done 7t grade project. They are still wicked pissed at Shakespeare for the mean things he said. I appreciate their sincerity, but Dickie 3 totally did that shit.

Edinburgh, Scotland is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Last time I was there we had 45 minutes to tour the Castle there and precious little time for anything else. This time we killed a day touring the Castle properly (it took a few hours), and walking along the Royal Mile and touring the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Palace is the Edinburgh base for QE2 and fam, and is also the Ripley's Believe it or Not of royal residences. Not only do you see the standard-issue extravagant bedrooms and parlors and art galleries, but several rooms are full of stuff like Mary Queen of Scots' hair and a cast of Robert the Bruce's skull. Excellent. I also had chicken stuffed with haggis and bacon in a whisky cream sauce. Yum.

Visiting London in 2 days is exhausting. We visited all of our old favorites -- British Museum, National Gallery, NYU London HQ, Oxford Street and the site of the old dorm, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace -- all in the first day. We also saw the Princess of Wales memorial, which looks for all the world like a drainage ditch. Google it. You'll see what I mean. We spent the next day at the Tower, walking the Thames, and rushing to Harrod's just in time for it to close. We gatecrashed an evensong service at Westminster Abbey since it was closed for touring, and we wanted to see us some famous dead folks, consarn it. Each day was closed by getting engrossed in British TV at the hotel, including the British Apprentice. I have no idea who the Trump equivalent is, but he sure is more intimidating than the Donald.

So it was not a leisurely visit, to be sure. And my poor knees hurt something awful after all that walking and stair-climbing. But it was very worth it to see Christine again and have a little adventure.