*I didn’t coin the word “naviguessing.” My cousin did, but he lets me use it.
I’m not very good with directions. In fact, I’m terrible with them. I only do well in New York because it is a numbered grid. London is made up more of twisting streets that might date back to the Middle Ages. I think The Mall is the only straight avenue here which is incidentally where I wound up yesterday.
Being an art history major, it didn’t take me long to get to the National Gallery. I along with every elementary school group in the city (Or, I guess, they call them primary schools?) went to the museum mid Monday morning. It was raining and windy and once my umbrella popped back I decided to put it away and arrived the charming rain-soaked American girl a few minutes later. I say “charming rain-soaked American girl” but the nice ladies at reception desk probably saw me as the silly tourist who doesn’t understand what to do when it rains.
The National Gallery is one of my favorites because it was the first major museum I ever visited. Renoir’s Umbrellas lives here which remains one of my favorite paintings today. Visiting the National Gallery (and Europe in general) spurred me to take that AP Art History class in high school which then led to majoring in art history which now means I’m looking at grad schools in art history. I’m not saying that my visiting the National Gallery when I was fourteen changed my life or anything, but it moved my academic career in a certain direction.
It’s nice revisiting works of art you already know. It’s like seeing old friends. I tell them how nice they’re looking with their latest restorations and wonder how they like the new acquisition hanging next to them. They tell me I look like a mess and really should have gotten a better umbrella but ask about school anyway. None of this is happening out loud. I mean, the British are polite, but I don’t think they would tolerate my chatting with a Van Gogh.
After the museum I had planned to go to Stanford’s Book Shop which is famous for its travel literature and guides. Long story short– I took a wrong turn somewhere. As I was standing to the side trying to figure out what to do, a British guy stopped and asked me directions. (So maybe I don’t stick out as badly as I thought I did.) I could have lied and made something up about how to get to the postoffice he was looking for, but he looked a little frazzled. And as soon as he heard my accent he knew I had no idea either.
Naviguessing skills being what they are, I decided that the book shop I was looking for was just on the either side of Buckingham Palace so why not walk down The Mall with all its trees in bloom to see the Queen (but apparently she’s out of town) on my way? Here’s the thing about British pollen: it’s no more polite than American pollen and might have been worse. I walked down The Mall under the those lovely trees with their British pollen and arrived at Buckingham Palace coughing with tears streaming down my face. With Hermione Granger (think first two films) frizzy hair. I was lookin’ good.
The whole time I had been moving farther away from Stanford’s thinking it was close to the St. James Tube stop. It’s not. It’s close to Covent Garden’s Tube stop which is several miles away. I almost decided to go back to the university, but decided to walk through St. James Park (more British pollen) to the Tube stop, taking the metro to Covent Garden and the book shop. The Covent Garden Tube stop is under construction so the escalators are unavailable. The wait for the elevators was endless so I decided to take the stairs. Not realizing that there were 193 steps to the top.
At 25 steps I complimented myself on taking the stairs (I’m so healthy!). At 50 steps my feet hurt. At 80 steps I realized I’d made a horrible mistake. At 125 I was regretting going for that jog in the morning (I should have conserved energy!). At 150 I wondered if the oxygen was starting to thin out. At 193 I was like, “That wasn’t so bad!”
Stanford’s is probably the coolest bookstore I’ve ever been to. Over the three floors, almost everything is divided by world regions and then into countries. Within the countries are guides books, maps, travel essays, and novels that relate to that country or cities within it. With great self-restraint, I didn’t buy anything. Instead I made a mental note to come back once I finish the Bill Bryson book I’m working on now so I can purchase without that un-read book guilt.
I took the most circuitous route back to school so I could go through King’s Cross. I didn’t find Platform 9 3/4 so now I must find some legitimate excuse to go through the station again and find it. The things you do for a photo op.