To start out with, airport selfie:

On Monday the 19th I flew nonstop from Denver to London Heathrow, and since the flight took off at 1740 and came in at about 240 (940 in England), which was offset my normal sleep schedule by no more than three hours, jet-lag was not a problem.

I was not able to see the ocean during the flight out, since it was dark the entire time we were over it, but that’s OK. Man, trying to sleep on airplanes sucks XD

On Tuesday I found my way to the Charlotte Guest House in West Hampstead to wait for Zombie Girl. CGH = highly recommended by me. If you need a very clean, comfortable, and inexpensive place to stay in London with a tube station half a block away, I doubt you’ll find much better than this.

I did wander around a bit while waiting for her, and took a picture of this to document that they do actually call it the “fire brigade:”

ZG eventually arrived, and there was hugging and squealing. Then we had dinner at a Thai restaurant and went to Harrod’s. Oh, man, that statue. Such tacky. So Diana boobs. Wow. We did buy a couple of chocolate truffles at the candyworld part of Harrod’s, and those were delicious. Anyway, back to the CGH. Brits are obsessed with fire response, and I thought this sign on the door of our room was pretty funny:

I had Ani’s Fire Door stuck in my head most days, by the way, thanks to all the damn fire doors around. Here is the view from out our room’s window in the CGH. I thought it looked so delightfully trashy:

On Wednesday we took a train to Bath. In the train station I discovered that there is a little cafe company called “Eat.” That made me think of Lesta and Squeaky, and I laughed.

Also the word “pot” is far more in vogue in Britain than it is here in the States. EAT POT.

In Bath, this incomprehensible ad needed a picture taken of it:

We got onto a tour bus and headed out into the countryside!!!!! It was a very misty day, so the hill figures we should have been able to see from the bus were completely invisible — sad day. But then we got to Stonehenge, which made up for EVERYTHING BAD THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED.

OK, so, I have to admit that I had previously believed Stonehenge to be 2-3 times as large as it is, and I realized that was probably because I’d never seen pictures of people next to it for scale. So you can just imagine what I thought of the neolithic people for their efforts when I believed the stones 2-3 times as huge as they actually are!

I loved Stonehenge so damn much. We could have stayed there all day if it hadn’t been SO FREAKING COLD. As it was, we were there for maybe an hour, and spent about the same amount of time at the museum and gift shop nearby.

Look at me getting closer and closer to the camera there. Creepy! This whole vacation had me really wishing for a selfie stick. Anyway, I was moved by the site such that I felt the need to draw a thing, so I sketched one of the triliths:

That night, we stayed at the Old Mill Hotel, which is far away from anything interesting in Bath. We agreed that if we had it to do over, we would book something more central even if it was more expensive, because it couldn’t be as expensive as the taxi rides. In any case, it was a decent hotel.

The next day, there was Bath-wandering. ZG and I had a proper English breakfast (though I missed the beans because I didn’t notice them in their tureen off to the side there), then split up since she had no interest in the Jane Austen Centre.

The Jane Austen Centre doesn’t have much to work with, given the limited known biography of and almost nonexistent collection of personal items owned by Jane Austen, but it was interesting enough to be worth £6. The problem was that, since we were leaving Bath that evening and hotel checkout was at 1100, I had to drag my suitcase everywhere with me. Ugh so annoying. Anyway. Then I walked around.

ZG vouchsafed that she found the bath stone very ugly, but I was quite pleased with it. Also, I found this hilarious sale:

And this:

Readers of La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré may realize why this interested me enough to take a picture, and which gentleman it reminded me of. And then?

And a point of interest on the Bath tourist map:

You’ll notice that Barton becomes Gay after the Wood. Tragically, I didn’t find Quatre; he was undoubtedly in some part of town I didn’t visit. (Either that or the cell phones counted for him too.) But there was this:

You can’t see for sure in that picture, but “Justice” is all it says, and there’s nothing on the building to give it any context. Aaaanyway. Bath Abbey:

I found the plaques on this pulpit very amusing:

The sentence continues on other faces of the octagonal structure, but at a glance it sure looks like someone forgot what they were about and wandered off to do something else.

This poetic epitaph interested me greatly:

It’s got those damned tall s’s that look like f’s, but only sometimes, which makes it a bit of a headache to read, but here is the transcription:

Here lyes the body of Mary, third daughter of Richard Frampton, of Moreton in Dorsetshire, esq; and of Jane his wife, sole daughter of Sir Francis Cottington, of Founthill in Wilts; who was born January the 1st, 1676-7, and dyed (after seven weeks sickness) on the 6th of September 1698. This monument was erected by Catherine Frampton, her second sister and executress, in testimony of her grief, affection, and gratitude. Epitaph.

Beneath this Marble Monument is layd
All that Heaven wants of this Celestial maid
Preserve, O Sacred Tomb, thy trust Consigned
The Mould was made on purpose for the mind
And she wou’d loose, if at the latter day
One Atom cou’d be mix’d of other Clay.
Such were the features of her Heavenly Face
Her Limbs were formed with such Harmonious grace
So faultless was the Frame, as if the Whole
Had been an Emanation of the Soul;
Which her own inward symmetry revealed
And like a picture shone, in Glass annealed;
Or like the sun Ecclips’d, with shaded light;
Too piercing els, to be sustained by sight
Each thought was visible, that rould within
As through a Crystal Case the figured hours are seen
And Heav’n did this transparent veil provide
Becaus She had no guilty thought to hide
All White, a virgin Saint, She sought the skys
For Marriage, though it sullys not it dyes
High though her wit, yet Humble was her Mind
As if she cou’d not, or she wou’d not find
How much her worth transcended all her kind
Yet she had learned so much of Heav’n below,
That when arriv’d she scarce had more to know
But onely to refresh the former hint;
And read her Maker in a fairer print.
So pious, as she had no time to spare
For humane thoughts, but seemed Confin’d to prayer
Yet in such Charities she pass’d the day,
‘Twas wondrous how she found an hour to pray
A Soul so calm, it knew not Ebbs or Flows;
Which passion cou’d but Curl, not discompose
A Female softness, with a Manly mind
A Daughter duteous, and a Sister Kind
In sickness patient, and in death resignd.

By Mr. Dryden

Outside the abbey, I heard operatic singing from around the corner. There are plenty of street performers in British cities, but this was particularly delightful and piquant. I hastened to where the lady was singing, and sat down to listen to her until she was done. I am very fond of opera, and this lady was excellent. She had a small speaker broadcasting her accompaniment, and her voice was spectacular.

When she was finished singing and packing up, I was drawn further along by the sound of guitars from a few streets over. One guy had an electric guitar and one had an acoustic (though they were both plugged in to some fine speakers), and they too were quite good. So I stood and listened to all of their songs.

When they stopped and announced that they would take a break and then do another set, I heard what sounded like a flute from another nearby street, so I went that direction. There I found the most miserable-looking gentleman playing a recorder, seated against a wall with a wretched scarf spread out in front of him for the small change people were willing to give him. He didn’t even know any songs; he just played a pointless pattern of five or six notes over and over again.

Retreating to the guitarists, I found that I could see both them and the possibly homeless beggar at the same time from where I stood, and that the juxtaposition was fascinating and touching. After many attempts I did manage to get a picture:

My back was against a wall, so this was the widest shot I could get, but you can see the man with the recorder on the left and the well equipped guitarists on the right.

After this, I went to meet Zombie Girl back at the Roman Baths, where we commenced our tour. We had maybe a third as much time as would have been ideal for the self-motivated walk through the museum, which was sad. Then we discovered, when we reached the guided part, that we were the only two people that had booked this tour on this day, so we had the tour guide all to ourselves and could ask all the questions we pleased.

The Roman Baths were AWESOME. Maybe not quite as fantastic as Stonehenge, but probably a close second. I was so interested to learn that the “bath” Jane Austen would have entered was actually a sacred pool originally dedicated to a goddess and not meant for bathing at all. I wonder if she knew that!

We tasted the water, of course. Yuck. Much more delicious was the dinner that came with the tour package, where I had duck for the first time. Super cool. Then we got on a train back to London.

The guest house we used this time, in West Kensington, informed us that our room had three beds but we could just ignore the third one. But if that makes you think, as it rather made us think for about two minutes, that we had a fairly large room, THINK AGAIN. This room was so hilariously small I can’t even. The bathroom, all a single piece of plastic, reminded me very much of an airplane lavatory if airplane lavatories had showers. I took some pictures to try to give an idea, but it’s hard to show how small a place is because you can’t back up far enough to get a good shot of the room XD

Outside, there was this sign:

Oh, the British. So. On Friday we went to the British Museum. We ate at the restaurant inside, since we were too hungry to go looking for some other place. It was quite expensive, but also quite delicious.

I had to agree with Emerson about the arrangement of the Egyptian section in the British Museum: it was a jumble with no real coherent arrangement in most places. Still quite interesting, though. I spent most of my time in that part, of course, but I did wander through some of the other sections.

And I saw this in the gift shop:

Bet you never knew the Olympics were so cheap.

Let me take this moment to say that I FUCKING LOVE THE UNDERGROUND. Perhaps it’s because my own city has such incredibly shit mass transit available — it’s been a while, I think, but I know I’ve mentioned before that the closest bus stop to my house is two miles away — perhaps it’s because hearing that cultured voice say, “This is a Piccadilly line service to Cockfosters,” had me in stitches every time; I just fell in love with the efficiency and convenience of the London Underground.

Every Underground train we rode had walls with doors between the cars, except one. It was so cool, in that one, to look all the way down the train:

It’s not as clear as I would like, but that’s the best I could do.

Saturday was another day for dragging luggage around after we checked out of our hotel -__- But we did see this cool rug on display through the window of a closed shop on the way to the tube:

We were headed for the Tate Britain, but we stopped and saw some other touristy stuff on the way.

So I really liked this clock. Far more than I expected to become attached to… a giant clock. You can see by the picture that we arrived right at 1100, so we got to hear Big Ben, and that was pretty great.

And here’s a weird thing: the freaking clock is all covered with gold up at the top. ZG and I were both more or less astonished to discover this. Even in full-color pictures such as the one of me in front of it there, you can barely tell there’s gold, and if you’re not already aware of the fact, it’s really easy to miss. It kinda blends in with the dirty stone, but when you’re there in person, the light hits it such that it glows. Before this, though, neither of us had ever had any idea. I don’t think we’re over it to this day.

We didn’t go into Westminster Abbey, because it’s, like, £17 to enter! Seriously! But we did walk around the outside a bit:

Then we went to the Tate. Thank Poe, it had a place to safely stow luggage, so we didn’t have to haul suitcases and duffel bags through the entire museum.

Inside one of the bathrooms, on the inner face of the door of the stall, I saw this:

Apart from the general charming nature of this pseudo-graffiti, I loved that this whole thing was above the level of my head — meaning no child perpetuated this act of cuteness; this was a grown woman rearranging letters to make this adorable phrase.

Look, I saw the real, actual original here:

I’ve always thought that, in addition to appearing tragic, she looks a bit taken aback by her fate. “I have to what, now?” she wonders. “Because why, now?” In any case, it’s always incredibly cool to see the original of a famous work of art.

We ate lunch at the Tate restaurant, and there I had fish and chips with mushy peas. The fish and chips were quite good, and the mushy peas were… weird. Not bad, exactly, but I’m curious as to why the Brits think baby food is a good choice for a side dish here.

As we were walking through London thereafter, I found the most hilarious acronym evar:

Oh, the British. Then we went to Baker Street:

So if you can see the blue circle up above the railing above the door… they put those up at the homes of famous people that lived in London at some point… except that most of the time, it’s for real people, not fictional characters. That totally made me cry.

We didn’t have time to go into the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which is very sad, but we did step into the gift shop, where I got a delightful little pin:

Then we got onto a train to Stockport, which is where Zombie Gal lives. In Stockport, we went grocery shopping, and did I mention Britain’s unusual use of the word “pot?”

Sunday was a day for recovering from all the walking and luggage-dragging we’d done. ZG playtested SBA for me, and mostly we just hung around. And then Monday was CASTLE TIME!!!!