Judy and I have begun travels in the UK and France. Our first stop is London. It’s a place we have been to many times and we are staying in Bloomsbury, which after several stays feels quite familiar and comfortable. It is nice to be in a place like this. We know how to get around and don’t feel pressure to see the sites. We can move at a leisurely pace, going back to favorite spots and exploring new places and restaurants. A bucket list has it’s place, but so does returning to a city we enjoy.
London has changed a lot since we first visited. I was first here in 1967 and Judy was here in the early 70s. England was fairly poor then, at least most ordinary people were. In B&B’s, you had to put a shilling into a heater to get some heat and hot water was at a premium. There was still rubble in places bombed during the war and many of the great buildings like Westminster Abbey were coated with a century of grime. The only relief from the drab food was an Italian restaurant, though they were usually not on the Europe on $5 a day list.
Now London is a lively, exciting, international city, with, of course, a wonderful heritage. One major difference is how many people of different nationalities and races are here now. Just like closed minded people in the US, there are many people here who resent immigrants, but like the US, immigrants bring energy, intellect and innovation. We have eaten in two wonderful restaurants on this trip so far, one Asian Fusion, Wagamama, and the other Mediterranean, Moro. On all our recent visits, the hotel and restaurant staff have been international, mostly from other EU countries, but sometimes from further away. They have been cheerful and helpful. And like in the US, immigrants have gone into many different professions and occupations. There’s bound to be a loss to the vitality and variety of London when the UK leaves the EU, just as there will be in the US as we close our doors to the world.
Something we had not done on previous trips here was to attend a play at the Globe Theatre, the re-creation of the theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. Appropriately, we saw Hamlet. It was very special to see a play in that setting. This was a very contemporary Hamlet, with gender not taken into account in casting. Hamlet was played by a woman, as were some of the other male characters in the play. Ophelia was played by a man. Nonetheless, the play had the same power. That’s what makes London fun for us, a mix of old and new. One piece of advice if you go to the Globe—the wooden seats are hard, even with the cushions you can rent when you buy tickets.
On the rest of our journey, we will re-visit three places we have been before—Yorkshire to visit with friends Murna and Chris (and for me to give two talks), Exeter to visit our friend Linda, and Paris, where we plan to continue our search for the best croissants and eclairs. We will also travel to Lyon for the first time. It’s a mix of old and new.