Actually let’s finish up Scotland. Because when you and I last spoke, my son and I hadn’t yet departed. Guess what happened when we tried to check in at the Edinburgh airport? Cancelled plane. Minxish conveyances!
We had had tickets to Gatwick, final destination Brighton. Due to “an incident on the Gatwick runway,” and resultant shutdown of afternoon flights, British Airways had rebooked us to Heathrow. It’s only an hour from Gatwick to Brighton but Heathrow meant an hour+ ride into London and then another hour+ down to Brighton. Sigh.
My son did an excellent job of talking me down. As did the Xanax I take to cope with fear of flying. We got where we were going.
Hint: Travel with calming people and substances.
Why Brighton, you might ask? Why not Bath, for more Georgian townhouses? Or Stonehenge, for the ultimate standing stones? I’ve got online buddies in Brighton and was dying to meet their children and understand where they lived.
So, Tuesday morning we woke up here, at an airbnb in Brighton’s “Lanes” neighborhood. Alleys, cobblestones, and walled gardens. With palms.
The house was wonderful, and the host a real gem (who even subsequently mailed me the clothes I left there, no fuss no muss). Loud nocturnal seagulls were our only complaint, but, earplugs were provided in a basket next to the bed. Very considerate.
Then my son and I walked down to the sea. I had visited Brighton once as an 11-year old, only to accuse my parents of lying to me by calling the seaside slope of rocks a “beach.” Brighton then was populated by English pensioners, now it reminds me of some Californian coastal towns. The pensioners remain, but they’ve joined forces with London commuters, artists, and flocks of European high-schoolers on summer courses.
Resulting in, for example, a guy dressed in a zebra costume playing the keyboard to throngs of unbothered passers-by.
Hint: Visit your online friends where they live and let them show you the sights.
Fortuitously, the district is full of small jewelry stores. We bought my son an earring. The one he wore had been giving him trouble, and what with my own metal allergies I was determined to find him something in high-carat gold or platinum. We wandered in and out of small stores until we met a jeweler with loose stones he would set to order. My son chose an oval garnet to set in white gold, the slight discord of a brown-red stone against the setting perfect for him. One of those moments where you believe that the universe knows and cares.
Hint: Shop in Brighton instead of London, you may find more original goods.
And then we met Laura, and my other friend Cate, and their families, for dinner. While we have a long time online friendship absolutely real in its own way, there’s no denying that real life meetings deepen connection..
All those cute children. Sigh.
Wednesday morning my son and I took a train up to London, botching our our first attempt because in our plane-cancelled fog we’d bought incorrect return tickets. Minxes.
We walked the streets the day we arrived because, London. Some places familiar,
and some new, at least to me. I can’t believe I’d never been to London’s Chinatown before.
But in the end, the real joy of this visit to London was our Museum Thursday.
I confess, I don’t really like museums. I know. I find all that walking and stopping uncomfortable –my sister coined the term “Museum back” – and I’m prone to visual overload. But my son is a huge fan. So I spent Wednesday evening in our hotel reviewing exhibitions and researching places mentioned on social media.
Thursday morning we ate a no-fuss breakfast at the hotel’s club lounge, and set off. On foot. First stop, the Tate Britain.
I found it moving, almost painful, to be reminded of how dangerous LBGT life used to be, and not so long ago. My son, I think, experienced the exhibition more immediately, enjoying the journals and sketchbooks, the intimate look at people across a century. Either way, it was a beautiful show and much recommended.
Mr. Sargent participated.
via The Upcoming
My son is a scent hobbyist, not so much in the wearing or the making, but in enjoyment. Fortuitously, again, thank you universe, Somerset House had put on a really well-done interactive exhibition of various scents through history. From a display of classic perfume bottles,
to smell and ponder stations. That little white triangle is full of a perfume – unnamed. You sniff, and look,
then fill out a card like this. Ten stations in all. Fascinating.
I remembered that Reggie and Boy Darling had visited Sir John’s place in 2016, and wanted to take a look.
Sir John actually lived here. Whoa nelly. Curiosities ‘R Us. Perfect in contrast to what came next.
Finally, almost as a matter of course, we headed to the National Gallery. On arrival, we found this tapestry. Designed by Chris Ofili, who happens to be one of my son’s favorite artists, and woven in Edinburgh by a studio my friend Cara knows.
If you’ve got a minute, watch this short video on the process of creation.
But really, the piece needs to be seen in person. It’s enormous; for context, here you see it hanging on a double height wall.
Made me want to sing.
Hint: Feel no shame if you decide to dash in and out of the world’s great museums, seeing only what you choose.
And that was that. Back to New York the next morning, this time our Delta flight a Virgin Airlines Upper Class. I will only say that we declined the option to have “my driver” drop us off at a private entrance, taking Uber to the standard entrance instead. The Upper Class lounge is fantastic – again, look for those companion-fly-free-or-half-price business fares, they come with a lot of perks.
The New And The Familiar
I’ve been thinking since we returned.
While we experienced the best of New Place Travel in Scotland – an eyes-wide reaction to the never seen before – our trip to London reminded me there’s joy in the familiar. In new places, we travel broadly, watching new patterns assemble themselves out of raw experience. In the familiar, we travel deeply, instinctually, trenching the details of patterns we knew but not so well.
Lodging and Mealing
- Justin’s Alley House in Brighton (my airbnb link). I cannot imagine a better location or a nicer host.
- Le Meridien Piccadilly in London. Despite the mediocre reviews on Trip Advisor, I found the hotel very attractive, as my mother would say, and extremely comfortable.
- The Clarence pub, upstairs Tin Belly Dining Room. This was the only notable restaurant we ate in in London, even though we tried several other well-recommended places.
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