Back in the U.S. of A

Kristine here, back in the land of television shows in English and computer keyboards with all the keys where they should be. I did try to post while in France, but honestly, it was too frustrating. As Vicky has posted, once she is also back in the States we’ll be posting blogs and pics of our trip, but for now I’ll give you the highlights of the Wellington tour once Vicky and I parted ways. Vicky and Ed left us on Sunday morning, Battle of Waterloo day, in order to make their cruise connection. Brooke and I went on with the tour to the re-enactment site.

When we’d visited the day before to see the military camps, La Belle Alliance and Hougemount, someone had asked me if I were going to walk to the top of the Lion’s Mound, the great man-made hill erected to commemorate the Battle and I responded, emphatically, no. It’s an almost verticle hill with many, many steps to the top. Well, dear reader, never say never. It turns out that there were so many visitors to the battle that if you’d stayed on the ground, you’d never see a thing, being five or six deep in a crowd of spectators. It was absolutely freezing on the day, and had rained the day before so Brooke and I bought commemorative Waterloo blankets (not kidding) and began the long climb up the mound. We got about half way there and found ourselves spots from which to view the action. Once you left the stairs, you had to crouch down in order to walk to your place, the slope is so steep. Also, it’s covered in slippery grass, with no footholds to speak of. Talk about harrowing. Brooke later told me that she’d never before actually seen terror in anyone’s eyes as she had when she was helping me to our place. The fact that people above us kept losing their personal items – cameras, umbrellas and such – and that these kept rolling down the hill past us did not offer us much comfort. At last we found purchase, digging our heels and butts into the hillside in order to gain a bit of purchase, and settled in for the show. . .

And what a show it was. It was absolutely thrilling to be in the thick of the Battle, so to speak. The  formations, the cannons going off, the rifles being fired, the smoke enveloping the field as mounted calvary cantered across the field, all of it was fabulous. And to add to the authenticity of the thing, it began to bucket down rain. So now I’m precariously perched on the side of the Mound, watching the battle, holding an umbrella over us and trying to film the Battle. It was at this point that Brooke told me she wasn’t into Wellington as much as I was and this was all more of a sacrifice than she was prepared to make and that she was going down the pub to wait for me in the dry, with a drink. Thank God one of fellow tour members, an exceedingly nice man who was a retired police detective from Surrey, was with us and able to help me back down the Mound at the end or I’d still be sitting at the Battlefield.

Vicky and I took masses of photos all along the way and we promise to post them soon – shots of the military camps, the battle sites and lots of re-enactors in various uniforms. I also took much video – including footage of “Wellington” on horseback, galloping between regiments – and if I can figure out how to edit these, I’ll be posting them in the near future. It’s grand to be back and we look forward to sharing our trip via our posts here soon.

A London Whirlwind

Kristine here – No doubt this post will read as though I’ve been doing crack for the past week, but I’ve so much to tell you that I’m just going to go for it and spit it out, disjointed or no. Apsley House was our first stop – Yippeee! From there on, there’s so much that’s happened that it’s all running together. Walked down Picadilly to St. James’s Street (paid hommage to White’s Club), went to a veddy British concert in St. Martin’s in the Fields, strode past the Horse Guards and discovered that Wellington’s Office, still preserved, is not generally open to the public, so I’ll have to write in advance for admittance next time I come over. Sunday was our garden walk day, which we fit in between going to the National Army Museum (saw the saw used to amputate Angelsey’s leg, and the surgeon’s bloody glove), went to the Grenadier Pub for dinner with Carrie Bebris and her dad. Yes, ladies, I went back into the mews where the ghosts were previously seen, but it being light here till about 10 p.m., saw none.

On Monday we went to Cecil Court and Charing Cross Road for bookshopping Saw a lovely Staffordshire figure of the Duke in an antique store, but shop wasn’t yet open. Bought gorgeous color print of the Duke and then we walked to Grosvenor Prints in Seven Dials and Vicky bought two fashion prints, while I bought an invitation issued by the Duke from Aspley House. On to Gray’s Antiques market, where I found another color print of the Duke sitting on a bench with another man, whom I don’t recognize and which will require further research. Went to Lansdowne Club for drinks then on to dinner at Just St. James, in St. James’s Street.

Tuesday to Windsor to see Hester Davenport, who asked us as we left the station if we wanted to see the Queen – as if there’s a really a question. Of course we said yes, so at 1:30 we went over to the long drive and watched their cars leaving the Castle – saw the Queen, Phillip, Andrew and I was waved to by Camilla. NO sight of Chuck – rats. Had a fabulous day with Hester, who took us back to her home for tea and showed us the original Vauxhall prints she has on her walls. Gorgeous.

Yesterday I went to the Museum of London, and to Hampstead to see Kenwood House and the portrait of the Brummell brothers. Back to London to walk and shop in Oxford Street. Then off to Leicester Square and China Town for duck. On the way, we again passed Cecil Court and this time the only shop that was still open happened to be the one with the Wellington figure in the window. In we went . . . Oh, boy, was I a bad girl. Once the proprietors learned of my interest in the Duke we were given brandy and fags and had a good chin wag about other Wellington collectors they know, including the present D of W, who had just been in the shop on the Saturday. Yes, the Duke collects Artie-Facts, too! As if he hasn’t enough already. Well, I’m on my way to catching up with him – bought a brass wall plaque, the Duke’s profile, a quite sizeable memorial coin, a pot and pot lid depicting the Duke riding at Stratfield Saye and . . . the really very large Staffordshire figurine of the Duke I’d seen in the window. It’s going to look smashing on my mantle. I hate to think what my husband will say when all these packages begin arriving at home . . . . Oh, well, the Wellington Museum collection is growing.

No concrete plans for today except walking London with Brooke and perhaps lunch at the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo pub (it’s near Waterloo tube station). Waterloo is still ahead for us and we’re all chomping at the bit to get there. I do hope there are as many flower sellers in Brussells as there are in London, so that I can buy a bouquet to leave at the Battlefield.

Vicky and I have lots of photos to post when we get home, and video of the Queen’s procession, and we’ve been thinking of you all at every turn. More in-depth posts on what’s already been briefly touched upon when we return. Cheers!

The London and Waterloo Tour – Musée Carnavalet

As I’ve said in a previous blog, I have very few concrete plans for my time in Paris, other than a champagne cruise down the Seine and a Paris Walks tour of the Montmartre district. At our leisure, I’d like to stroll the streets of Paris, do some shopping, see Notre Dame and the Île de la Cité and the Île St-Louis and visit the iconic book and print seller’s stalls along the River. Otherwise, I’d like to show my duaghter the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and I’d like to see the Musée Carnavalet.

Nestled within the Marais district of Paris, the Musée Carnavalet chronicles the history of the capital from its origins to the present. Opened in 1880, this museum is devoted to the history of Paris and occupies two adjoining mansions- the hôtels Carnavalet and le Peletier de Saint-FargeauIts. 100 rooms are housed in two mansions built in the 11th and 17th centuries, with a gallery now leading from one to the other. The Hôtel Carnavalet, after which the museum is named, was once the home of Madame de Sévigné, who wrote a series of famous letters to her daughter. It now hosts the museum’s collections from pre-historic times to the reign of Louis XVI, while the Hôtel Le Peletier Saint-Fargeau contains pieces dating from the French Revolution to the present day.

The museum contains fascinating displays, with each room decorated to reflect a particular historical period through the paneling and furniture, evoking a different feeling with each exhibit.

Many wings of the museum are less like museums than the stately homes they once were. There are rooms dedicated to Chinoiserie, others starkly medieval, with enormous fireplaces occupying most of one wall, and yet more reflecting the tastes of the nobility during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. There is also a reconstruction of Marcel Proust’s bedroom.

The displays include memorabilia from the French Revolution, paintings, sculpture, furniture and ‘objets d’art that recreate the atmosphere of private residences from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The orangery at the hotel le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau was built at the end of the 17th century and renovated in 2000. The small courtyard at the entrance of the Musée Carnavalet is home to a sculpture of Louis XIV and the manicured gardens follow the classic 18th century French style.

Do You Know About The Royle Family?

The BAFTA award winning Royle Family is more Seinfeld than Seinfeld – it really is a show about nothing. And it’s a scream. All of the episodes take place in the Royle’s middle class Manchester home, usually in the shabby and hardly chic living room. As each episode opens, you’ll find Jim and Barbara on the sofa in front of the telly, Jim having lots of time for telly watching, as he’s on the dole. His wife, the scatter brained and chain smoking Barb occasionally works in a bakery. Speaking of smoking, the ashtray on the coffee table is almost a character in itself, as close shots of it appear regularly, showing it fill with the butts produced by Barb and her lazy, self indulgent daughter, Denise. Who is married to henpecked Dave. Poor Dave. Each night, Dave and Denise make an appearance at the Royle home, plopping themselves down on the couch in order to report to Barbara on what they had for tea. Or what Denise did that day (typically nothing). Details are exchanged as all eyes are glued to the telly in the Royle living room.

And then there’s the family’s teenaged son, Antony, who is by turns amused and disgusted by his kin and who is regularly dispatched either to the kitchen to make tea or to the store for “sweeties.” Next door neighbors, the Carrolls, occasionally drop by, or Barb will call Mary on the phone, prompting a tirade from Jim on the waste of using the phone when she could speak to her just as well through the window. But perhaps the best loved character is Barb’s mother, Norma, or Nana, as the Royle’s call her.

Episodes center on the mundane – Antony starting a band, Dave working as a DJ, Denise thinking that the never seen, but often maligned, Beverly has again been coming on to Dave, Nana’s cataract surgery, Denise’s pregnancy . . . I promise you, there’s not a bit of high drama or action to be found but somehow spending a half hour every now and then with the Royles manages to endear them to you, warts and all. And there are lot’s of warts. And farts and bad attitude and impatience and all the other foibles involved in family life. But through it all, even at their individual worst, the Royle’s become as dear and endearing as our very own family members.

There’s no laugh track and the show was shot on 16mm film, the resulting grain adding to the real life atmosphere. Not only that, but the show seems to take place in real time. The series ran from 1998 to 2000, with periodic holiday specials having been made thereafter. Loyal fans can’t get enough of the show and regularly write in to the powers that be urging them to bring the show back. The most recent special, ‘The Golden Eggcup’, was aired on 25 December 2009 at 9pm on BBC One and was the most watched show on TV on Christmas Day and for the entire week ending December 26, 2009, attracting an audience of 11.74 million viewers to become the highest rated episode of The Royle Family ever.

You can watch clips from episodes here, here and here. This last link will bring you to the Royle Family YouTube page, where you can watch to your heart’s content – pass the fags and someone put the kettle on!

P.S. Actress Sue Johnston received an OBE from Queen Elizabeth in 2009 – could Her Majesty be a fan of The Royle Family?!

Bon Voyage!

From Kristine: As you read this, Victoria will have arrived in London and I’ll be heading for New York in order to rendezvous with my daughter before our flight out to Heathrow late tomorrow night. There will be just a few changes to the blog while we’re away, one being that the blog may look a bit different since we won’t be able to shorten up the previous day’s posts as consistently as we do now. Also, while we’re away we’ve scheduled posts to run every other day, instead of every day as usual. Of course, we’ll also be randomly logging in via internet cafes to report on our progress and doings during our trip. Really, I don’t know what I’ll do without blogging everyday . . . . . .

We’ve made a few adjustments to our itinerary. For instance, we are now having dinner at the Grenadier Pub on Sunday evening and are going to be joined by Carrie Bebris, author of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series.  Carrie is doing some last minute research on her next book, which will be based on the characters from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and we are eager to hear about her visit to Lyme Regis, below.

From Victoria: Carrie now lives in Ohio, but we are long-time friends from her days in Wisconsin where we collaborated on projects for the Wisconsin Romance Writers and the Jane Austen Society Wisconsin branch.  We were roommates last October in Philadelphia at the JASNA-AGM.

Above is the French translation of Carrie’s book Intrigue at Highbury.  After her dalliance in France, Kristine might try to read this version.  How about it, Kristine????  
Our dinner will be at the Grenadier Pub. We hope we get in a lot of chatting before the ghosts arrive to divert us.  You can read Kristine’s account of her previous visit to the Pub here
We’ll also be meeting author/actor Ian Kelly at the London Library, where he’s been working on his next  project, the bio of, as Ian told us, “another Georgian bad boy.” We’ll then be going on to tea together, so you can bet we’ll be trying to pin Ian down on the subject of his next book. If we’re not sworn to secrecy, we’ll tell you all about it.
If all goes according to Plan, I will have completed two days in London by now, the first spent at the British Library and the second spent at the Hertfordshire Archives in Hertford, a short train ride north of the City. I have reserved materials at both places and at the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum, left.
Among the other wonderful places Kristine and I intend to drop by is Hatchards Bookstore, in place at 187 Piccadilly since 1797.  Just breathing the air here is a delight. Not to mention the many antiquarian book shops and print sellers we will haunt. We promise to share all the details with you eventually.
Here’s a picture I took of a display window in Fortnum and Mason, nearby on Piccadilly in May 2009 when my husband and I were staying just half a block away at the Cavendish Hotel, corner of Jermyn and Duke Streets.  Though the Cavendish is a high rise hotel, it sits on the site of the 19th Century hotel run by Rosa Lewis. She is famous as the fictionalized Louisa Trotter (played by Gemma Jones) in the BBC-PBS series The Duchess of Duke Street, one of my favorites from Masterpiece Theatre. Below is the statue of Beau Brummell, fashion arbiter, which stands near the Cavendish on Jermyn Street, home of many gentleman’s haberdasheries.
Below, another sculpture on the pavement, this one of FDR and Sir Winston Churchill having a conversation on Bond Street. It was unveiled in 1995 by Princess Margaret; the sculptor is Lawrence Holofcener. The statue commemorates 50 years of peace since WWII ended. (Well, shall we say, relative peace?)  Note the shiny arms and knees on the inside halves of the figures — the result of so many people sitting between the two leaders to have their picture taken. This was one of the intentions of the sculpture and it has worked a treat.
  
 
Both Kristine and I are eager to find all sorts of new experiences as well as to savor again some of our old favorites. Bon Voyage indeed!