28 December, 2006

compleat tourists








































Let's see: it all started on Boxing Day with the Big Bus Company Sightseeing Tour of London! From there it degenerated (or was elevated, depending upon your perspective) into every tourist site in the greater London metropolitan area. It's like this: in New York, no self-respecting citizen would go to 1) the Empire State Building, 2) the Statue of Liberty, or 3) one of those tacky horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. Likewise, in London, no one who lives here does any of the touristy stuff. Suffice to say, if you have out of town visitors (especially who promise to make you matzoh ball soup), all such restrictions fly out the proverbial window.

As a consequence, although I have always wanted to do the tour bus thing, and my anti-tourist husband would not let me... Ah ha! Alyssa comes to town and I can do exactly what I please, because SHE wants to as well! So Tuesday morning found us shivering on top of the double-decker red bus, swanning our way through Mayfair, Fleet Street, across Tower Bridge (to the accompaniment of the tour guide who threw out such gems of wisdom as pointing out the shop who supplies knickers to the Queen, and the Angus Steakhouse, "who has got back some of its popularity since it put the missing "G" back in its name"). At the Tower we descended and thought we'd visit the Instruments of Torture and Doom, but the Tower was closed, since it was Boxing Day. So off to the boat half of the tour back to the Houses of Parliament. Periodically John, who had taken himself off to do other things, like stick hot needles in his eyeballs, called to get an update on all the cool things he had missed. Steve passed the time on the boat ride back by looking at the same map we were all looking at and saying OUT LOUD all the things we were passing. "That's Blackfriars Bridge," he'd announce, to which I could say only, "Oh, look, it's Blackfriars Bridge on my map too." This is the sort of brother-sisterly conversation that makes getting me and Steve together really annoying to everyone around us, but we don't seem to mind.

Then, let's see, I had to point out all the things Steve was pronouncing wrong, and making us look like tourists (oh, wait, we were tourists, but as Avery always says, we don't have to look like it). "If you say one more time how close your flat is to SOUTH-WARK Cathedral, I'm not making bolognese for you," I said severely, "say it three times quick, 'Suth-ick, suth-ick, suth-ick.'" At that point Steve said just "ick," so we moved on to annoying each other in some other way.

Then there was the visit to the actual Tower of London itself, which I remember visiting about three thousand times when we lived here 15 years ago, but since all my internal brain energy has since been replaced by an encyclopedic knowledge of picture books and recipes, was new to me. And terrible fish and chips! And sixty different kinds of beers! And the only, according to Annabelle and me, bad hot dog ever invented. But there you go. Tourist traps.

Meanwhile we've been watching the Christmas episode of our favorite show, "QI" with Stephen Fry. My favorite line? "When I was up at Oxford at Christmas we used to ring up Jesus College and ask, 'Is that Jesus?' and then sing, 'Happy Birthday to you...'"

And what else? The Changing of the Guard, where I nearly had to hire a chiropractor to help me recover from carrying Annabelle on my shoulders (John had Avery, to be fair). Why were they playing show tunes? I swear, not even show tunes, at one point the band was playing, "People who need people... are the luckiest people... in the world...." WHY? I finally decided that because the Queen was at Balmoral, all the Guards were just goofing off. From there we had lunch in Piccadilly, and then shopping at Fortnum and Mason, and then Steve and Alyssa went off to dinner by themselves and we hung out with Elliot. He is officially the funniest child I have ever met, with really an adult sense of humor. And no, Steve, by that I don't mean you have to produce a driver's license to think he's funny. He's just one of my favorite people, who happens to weigh 40 pounds. He can be read to for an infinite amount of time, and finally succumbed to "Santa Mouse" and was down for the count.

Today was a riding lesson for Fifi, finally. Annabelle came along to pickup and got to hear Avery's full-on English accent, from when she's been hanging with English chicks. "There was a leaf-blowing machine, and the ponies were scared, but Smokey was the best pony EVAH." Then home to feast on some of the Lincolnshire Poacher cheese Steve kindly brought to me from Neal's Yard Dairy, yum yum. Then we parted ways: John to haunt the neighborhood of the house he wants to buy, Steve and Elliot to the London Eye, and us girls to the Sixties Fashion Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert, where I got all nostalgic looking through the glass doors of the National Art Library where I did so much research, these 15 years ago. What fun that was.

Whew. I'm going to take a break, see what the children are up to, and then I'll tell you about the real reason for the entire Sadoff family visit: the Matzoh Ball Soup... I'd tell you I'm just kidding, but Alyssa knows the truth. Actually, here's some food (so to speak) for thought: the whole song, and concept, "Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold." What does that mean, exactly? Because in the taxi on the way to the V & A, we analyzed it. "Well, gold is more valuable, so..." but that didn't seem right, because there's no way a new friend like Becky or Anna is less valuable than an old friend like Alyssa or Annabelle. In the end, I think, like a jewelry box is more satisfying to open if you see both shiny gold and shiny silver... maybe that works? Who knows. I just feel extremely lucky to be able to show our old friends around London and see, around so many corners, happy memories that involve new friends. The best of both worlds. The glass-half-full approach. Because truthfully, in my dark Scandinavian heart of hearts, I'm glass-half-empty. Wherever I go, there's somebody to miss.

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