Did you hear what I heard? It’s the call of the Siren, luring hubby D and me to cross the Atlantic one more time, hopefully not our last. Instead of traveling by sea and risking a nasty encounter with those nasty Sirens, we’d better opt for the usual overhead route. Ouch, just the thought of 2014 airfares makes me cringe but not enough to totally deter me from thinking about our next really big vacation, as in abroad. Italy, you bet; but a few days in France and England would go a long way in making this trip truly zing with enough memories to hold us for a few more years.
Although D and I have been to the South of France and to the Mount Blanc region of the French Alps, he really needs to see the Paris I’ve been fortunate enough to experience on several occasions, business trips in which I found time to squeeze in a bit of pleasure. As in guilty pleasure … well, there was that one rather naughty review. I’m sure some things have changed since my last Parisian visit but surely not the Champs-Élysées or The Louvre or the historic Les Deux Magots café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. Touristy, yes, and for that I make no apologies because there’s no way we could pass for locals. And if the Parisians are as nice as they were on my last visit, D and I will get along just fine. Memo to self: a few key phrases will go a long way—must resurrect my little French translation books.
As for England, forget the translation books. The Brits are quite forgiving to what we Americans have done to the Queen’s language. They are also most accommodating when it comes to directing dazed and confused tourists to their next destination. Mustn’t forget my interaction with The Tube, England’s super efficient subway system. After navigating through a few Tube transfers, I had other tourists asking me how to get around.
Fish and chips, by all means—I want D to sample those newspaper-wrapped goodies in the British way, with vinegar. Which I know he won’t like, if for no other reason than because I do. Also milk in our hot tea, it’s so British too.
Hopefully, D can tolerate the Victoria and Albert Museum because during my last visit I spent hours mesmerized by its then current exhibit, decades and decades of fashion—sigh, whatever happened to style. Oh, yeah, now I remember—comfort. This time with Victoria and Albert I’ll cut back to a manageable one or two hours, provided there’s an exhibit we’ll both enjoy.
For sure D will find the Tower of London fascinating, especially those Beefeaters in all their splendid regalia, talking about the good old days in merry old England. I was there on a damp October day, walked right in without the usual long line during the high season. There I stood, awed by the greenery while listening to my Beefeater guide explain how poor Anne Bolyn lost her head, and centuries later how her skeletal remains were discovered in a mass grave, along with others who had defied whatever ruler happened to be in power. As much as I enjoy history and its many lessons, I’m relieved not to be living in the era of the ultimate capital punishment: that of being hung, drawn, and quartered. I almost included torture and beheading but, unfortunately, those atrocities still occur in some parts of the world, as do other unspeakable acts against mankind.
Of course, while touring the Tower, I couldn’t miss the crown jewels, which I mistakenly thought would be jewelry, as in earrings, necklaces, broaches, finger rings, pendants, and bracelets. Only to learn these jewels of England were encased in sturdier objects such as swords, scepters, vestments, and yes, rings and crowns.
Although I love the idea of returning to places I visited years ago, I have to add new places as well. I’m thinking a side trip to Ascot where we have friends, more like extended family—in-laws to D’s uncle. Is there a term for that kind of relationship? Perhaps in France, but none that I know of in America.
Hm-m, and while we’re in England, we really should consider a tour of Masterpiece Theater’s Downton Abbey, actually Highclere Castle. Yes, a real castle located in the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire. With any luck and given my modest upbringing and current life style, I’ll probably wind up downstairs with the loyal staff. That’s all I need, the story of my life, from scullery maid to main housekeeper. Move over, Mrs. Hughes. On second thought, stay right where you are. I’m working my way upstairs to hobnob with Lord and Lady Grantham. If Shirley Maclaine can look like she belongs, I can too, that is, with the right corset, dowager clothing, pompadour, my eyes at half-mast and my nose lifted ever so slightly.
Now I really am getting pumped up about this 2014 trip and I haven’t even thought about Italy, especially what we should do there that we haven’t done before. We’ve never been south of Rome but going there would cut into our time up north, with family in those charming Piemonte villages. Plenty to time to resolve those issues but that’s what makes the planning so much fun. After all, half the fun of traveling is about the anticipation, isn’t it? ###