Now that we have settled in our flat, got a car, and found some bearing in our new home that is Muscat the next thing JG and I prepared for was a well deserved vacation. The week-long holiday of the celebration of Eid was the perfect opportunity to finally get away. I said the vacation was well-deserved mostly for JG’s case because he did actually deserve one after the whole Libyan crisis that he went through. And his immediate choice was to go to the small but great island of Britain, particularly London (he wanted to also stop by Ireland but there wasn’t any more time to do so).
JG has always wanted to go to London mainly because three of his favorite authors are from that side of the world, namely Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Grant Morrison who is from Glasgow. Also now would be the best time to go because next year’s 2012 Olympics which is to be held there, would probably make it difficult, even impossible for us to find a place to stay. So with JG’s obsessive compulsive planning and research, of to the UK we went.
And since, as I explained, that this was to be JG’s well-deserved vacation I did not press the fact that my dream that if I ever was to go to Britain I would most certainly do the Jane Austen tour, for I dearly love her works. Okay yes, I did press, even threw a bit of a tantrum when JG explained it was impossible to sneak in visiting her home and do a tour about her, but then again it would be a good reason to come back.
There were some highlights for me, aside of course from seeing the famous sites, like the Big Ben, The London Bridge (more accurately named Tower Bridge), Westminster Abbey, and The Queen’s palace. My most favorite part was visiting The National Gallery where the paintings of great artists were on display. The collection was very small compared to when we visited the Louvre, but I particularly wanted to see one of my most favorite paintings which like Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflower”. It was only second in my list following “Starry Night”, but to be able to see his work in person was really something much more exciting to me than say meeting a celebrity in person.
The museum was also currently holding a Da Vinci exhibit which they said to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing because the original portraits were displayed alongside their sketches, or Leonardo’s first drafts of the said paintings. This is a rare opportunity because such works are already too old and fragile to be constantly shipped and handled, which is why it would take a few more years before something like this were to happen again. However rare exhibits are also not held for free, thus for peasant tourists like us who travel on a budget, this was one once-in-a-lifetime thing that I had reluctantly but practically had to pass.
Number two highlight was to go shopping in Portabelo Road which is infamous for its flea market and great finds. I have to say that the dresses sold were really nice, although at 15 pounds were still a bit too pricey for me. Nevertheless the dresses were really a swag compared to buying the same styles in posh stores, plus it really is a great place to go and buy swanky coats of all kinds.
It was also pretty cool to be able to visit famous fictional locations like the actual 221B Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes was said to live in the famous detective novels, also going to Notting Hill and visit the actual Travel Bookshop that Hugh Grant owned and managed in the ever famous chick flick.
And of course visiting London was not complete without going to the theatre. I wanted to watch Wicked, so as to be able experience my generation’s most famous hit on Broadway, but beggars cannot be choosers and tickets were not sold with discounts as JG and I had hoped. Nevertheless JG insisted that we see Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, which I later learned as London’s longest running play, going on 59 years. The St. Martin’s Theatre was pretty old both in style and amenities but it was really nice to think that it has been there and running for over half a century. And the play was pretty good too, if you haven’t read Mousetrap, I promise you will not be able to guess who the killer is.
We have also been seeing a lot of Doctor Who lately and are big fans of the show, especially JG so we thought that it would be a great trip to see the actual Tardis, the really actual one is displayed in the BBC studios, but there’s a sort of Dr. Who Experience, a theme park 3D tour that lets you go on a journey a la the Doctor’s companion.
Like our German holiday the only downside for me was the weather. I am a tropical girl through and through and really doesn’t do well in cold climates, JG promised me it was only going to be at least 20 degrees Celsius, but it really did not feel like that to me. Plus the British weather can really be gloomy for someone who came from sunny Asia; there were some moments when the sun would come out but it was mostly damp, or cloudy, and at times both.
Nevertheless it was still a great trip all the same; JG put it best when he said that we shouldn’t just travel for pleasure but also to take the opportunity to educate yourself with such a culturally vibrant and historically rich city.