October 30, 2011

Working Vacation!

i.e. He works, I vacation!

My hardworking husband had to fly to London to talk with company lawyers about an old project.  
I am the mother of a grown up child, and as such am no longer shackled to the public school system calendar.  

These two facts equal a sudden vacation in Jolly Olde England!  Whoopee!

If you want an account of the basics of London, see our previous trip in An American in Africa circa 2005- it has bonus stuff from England and Scotland too! 

This time, we were in full geek mode, and began our explorations in Greenwich because we wanted to stand on the Prime Meridian (which runs straight through Ghana, as a bonus Geekfact).  

If you are unfamiliar with the whole shootin' match, here is a quick explanation (just click it to make it bigger):

and most importantly, here are our two pairs of Nerd feet straddling the line between Eastern and Western Hemispheres...

We were way too pleased with this outing.  :-)  

So next time someone tells you that it's XX o'clock GMT, this is the clock they are using:

You probably aren't as excited by this as we are, but you should be.  

After this, we got a little less nerdy and headed out to Brighton (kind of disappointing) and Hastings (actually a pretty nice place) and Dover- of the white cliffs fame.  They also have Dover castle so for us it was a must-see destination.  

This is actually a really cool place to walk, although windy and truly scary if you think too hard about the fall and what's at the bottom. 

Here's my scale model showing you how not to fall off the cliffs of Dover. 

...and Dover Castle.  Really pretty, but oh what a damp and dreary place this must have been in 1100.  

From there it was on to Canterbury, just because it's Canterbury!  The town is the usual English mix of old and new, and on the whole it was a pretty interesting place...

...and we had to find the cathedral where Becket met his end...

Not my favorite cathedral...too lacy by half, but it has some really great carvings of saints on its face.

The shocking thing was its condition.  

The stones are crumbling and the work to preserve it has only just begun.  

I would have thought that Canterbury Cathedral would be considered pretty darned important to history and have been better looked after... now it will cost Britain 16 million pounds to restore it, which is just a freaking lot of money.

In any case, we returned to London, and one of us went back to work while the other watched a fascinating "news" story about Travellers being evicted in a place called Dale Farm that was being covered wall to wall by Sky news like it was really important.  I love Sky News. 

Finally on our last day in London, in true Nerd Tradition, we went to the British Library.  

Really gorgeous building - only about 10 years old.  

Inside we saw another of the four extant copies of the Magna Carta (we have also dragged Cooper to see the one in Salisbury Cathedral), a manuscript copy of Beowulf, and an illuminated copy of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  

On that day I realized why I have never bothered with a Bucket List... because on it would be ridiculously impossible things like being able to hold that copy of Chaucer and turn just two pages of it.  

So I contented myself with standing there, staring at it, trying to notice every single detail and imagine what it must feel like to hold a beautiful, illuminated, hand written 600 year old book.

Maybe my first tattoo should be "Book Nerd". 

Also, Crazy King George III's library has been enshrined in a four story glass room inside the library.  We ate a sandwich sitting next to it, looking up at all those books...

It was a good week, and we had a good time.  One of us more than the other, although the other enjoyed my recounting of the Dale Farm antics for the two days that it lasted before it was blasted out of the news cycle by actual events.

My parting shot for this trip is a great sign we found.  

We have absolutely no idea what it means, which is bad, since we were driving at the time and probably should have been aware of the caution, but we were laughing so hard we didn't care what it meant anyway.