Adventure is my middle name

I’m a shy person. I know there are tons of you out there who won’t believe me because I fake outgoing so well, or because I have a pretty congenial personality, but the truth is.. I’m tremendously shy, and not really brave to boot. If I’m travelling alone, this combination of shy and cowardly usually gets the better of me. I usually stick to the hotel rooms, nervous about venturing out, walking and eating alone. I worry about getting lost (turns out that fear is accurate and appropriate) and truth be told, things aren’t as much fun alone as they are with other people. I’m forever seeing things and wanting to share them, and when it’s just me, it’s like things lack resonance or permanence. It’s like they aren’t really happening. Yesterday, this feeling was cemented by the profound exhaustion, but I was determined to see London (and to stay up until at least 8pm) and I have so little time to do it that I had all sorts of plans not to let my instinct to stay safe and alone come between me and and adventure.

Yesterday after I posted, I set myself a mission. I would buy buttons, that would take me into London (and keep me moving so I didn’t fall asleep) and I would write about it so that it didn’t seem so lonely.

I bought a map, a notebook and a great pen, googled the button store closest to me, wrote the address on the top of the first page of the notebook in firm block letters and left the safety of the hotel. (I put £20 in my pocket before I went, just in case I had to bail out and take a cab back.) I walked along the street (keeping left. I can be taught) passing Greycoat Hospital school as I went, past Georgian row houses, very narrow and tall with wrought iron all over them, window boxes spilling bright petunias over old brick. (I bet it costs a million pounds to live in a row house at Greycoat Place. Maybe two.) I walked along Victoria street, past a pub that looked nice – but getting a pint ran counter to my goal. (Plus, drinking a pint alone in a pub is too far a stretch for someone just practising being Captain Adventure.) I passed Westminster Abbey with tourists swarming the place.


I wish now I’d gone in for evensong, there has been music in the Abbey every day for more than a thousand years.

At Parliament Square I stopped and admired Big Ben… or what I believe is Big Ben, if it’s not, don’t shatter the moment for me. It was grand.


I walked more, coming up on Trafalgar Square again, and now it was busy, not the empty place it had been at 8:00 that morning. There were people everywhere, climbing the lions, draped over fountains, all laughing, taking pictures – even the pigeons had turned up. I’d noted them conspicuously absent that morning – I think it’s part of why I didn’t recognize it right away. I passed through the square, stopping to take a picture for a German couple on their honeymoon, and I walked right up The Strand, looking for Bedford Street, and stopping every so often to peer in shop windows, people watch and breathe. I found Bedford and wandered up and down, looking for my button shop… and eventually it dawned on me.


The button shop at 43 Bedford is now an organic coffee shop. (It looks very good, fair trade and all that, but they didn’t have any buttons.) I heaved a sigh and did the only reasonable thing an Art History minor could do, were they in my place. I packed myself off the National Gallery and spend a glorious two hours knocking myself senseless with wonder. The things I saw. The things I stood near. In every room, something to tighten my chest with awe.

I saw Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, seeing for myself how he painted, a few dots here and there foreshadowing pointilism…Renoirs – at least four of them. I adored Van Gogh’s Sunflowers…standing inches from the canvas and looking at the thick impasto treatment, texture and height I know I’d read about, but truly never understood. There are shades of yellow in that painting that I didn’t ever think, when I thought yellow. I am changed forever. I breathed molecules in the same room as Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks, I saw chalk on paper works that make me understand that I’ve never really sketched anything.

Every room, something else to sit and wonder at. Every room, something I never thought would be as wonderful as it was. Dark Caravaggios, gauzy Turners that almost seem lit from within. Landscapes by Constable, Portraits by Van Eyck – although it turns out that the Arnolfini Portrait is much smaller than I thought. I wrote a whole essay on that, and I had no idea. It was wonderful. So wonderful that I actually asked a guard in the same room with Monet’s irises if they thought they had a wonderful job. (They did.) I left the place (after contributing to Yoko Ono’s new secret project #3) and walked through St. James Park on the way home… stopping to commune with some pigeons and ducks, to whom I spoke at some length about the heartbreak of my love for Albrecht Dürer.



It was wonderful, and a very great adventure, lack of buttons besides.

PS. I have to work all day, but should this uncharacteristic sense for adventure continue past 6pm, are there knitters to be found nearby?

PPS. I have now been to 4 places on the Monopoly Board. Strand, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Pall Mall. This pleases me in a ridiculous way that makes me feel about six years old.

250 thoughts on “Adventure is my middle name

  1. Unbelievable. I am in London, I know most of the knitting groups and thingies, I am at the top (right this second) of a great swathe of empty comment space… and I can’t think where you should go to find knitters on a Friday night. Tuesday to Thursday, sure, but Friday?
    I’m so sorry. (But you did have an amazing day.)

  2. If you’re interested, I think we’ll be at the Tate modern tonight for food and stuff (and it’s open until 10).
    You can email ysolda if you wanna meet up – she’s got one of them fancy iphone thingys!

  3. I love you loving London. I feel much the same and I work here. Liberty’s is your best shot for buttons centrally. You hit the English yarn lovers prob full on…that is all our knitterly goods are turning into other shops. Albeit I love coffee.
    You could always go to the church right on your left as you stand facing Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery behind you. They do candlelit evensong that is stunning, and gorgeous coffee and cake in the Cafe in the crypt below.

  4. Brave the tube and go to VV Rouleaux or the Button Queen (just off Oxford Street) – all your buttonny desires will be fulfilled.

  5. It sounds like you are having a great time! I was an art history major and truly appreciate how you must have been feeling in front of those masterpieces! I saw my first Van Gogh when visiting Chicago many years ago. So many other pieces remain as projected slides in my memory. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  6. Totally come out with us tonight – and if it helps to know, most of us have never met each other either! I think there will be about eight of us there and it should be fun!

  7. I wish I could help you out, but alas I’m stranded here in boring Canada living vicariously through your trip. It all sounds wonderful!

  8. I second Liberty and the Button Queen for your buttony needs. The Button Queen is on Marylebone Lane just near Bond Street Tube.
    I can never leave Liberty without buying something (whether I need it or not), it’s that kind of place.
    Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at I Knit!

  9. It’s so strange to see you post pictures of very familiar things!
    I am meeting my mother at Waterloo station at about 5:30 and, if there are knitters gathering at the Tate Modern this evening – then I might persuade her to take a stroll there along the South Bank – even if it is just for a glass of something and a bite to eat before we head home!

  10. I love seeing my city through the eyes of others. I agree with JanieB – Liberty has amazing buttons! The sunflowers, and the Arnolfini portrait – truly wonderful treasures, and you’re right, there is absolutely no substitute for seeing them in the flesh! The National Portrait Gallery next door is also pretty splendid!

  11. You must go to Liberty! Take the tube to Oxford Circus (Bakerloo or Victoria Line).
    If you’re stuck tonight, I live in Kingston and can travel into central or west London.

  12. What a lovely description of your day, and kudos to you for venturing out on your own. I find that sometimes, when I allow myself solitary exploration, I am able to appreciate wonderful things that would have slipped by completely unnoticed with the distraction of company. I look forward to reading about the rest of your trip!

  13. So glad to hear you ventured out. I so understand about being shy. My friends laugh at me when I say I’m shy because of my personality. This shyness left me hanging around in a London airport though I had plenty of time to venture out. Then when I boarded the plane to Italy I spoke to a women next to me who did venture out, hearing about her adventure made me wish I had. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  14. I am sorry, I must be pedantic. Big Ben is actually the bell inside the clock tower.
    Also, you would be lucky to find a flat (apartment) in Greycoat Place for £1m.
    I am however thrilled that you went to St James’s Park which is beautiful, did you chat to the pelicans about Durer?
    Looks like you saw lots of sights! I am sorry about the button shops – I actually started a thread on ravelry about how I was worried about the buttons, and then I thought I was being ridiculous … but no. It is true, buttons are in short supply. Definitely try Liberty or the Button Queen as everyone suggests. Liberty is open until 8 I think. It sounds like you are staying pretty centrally so if you don’t mind a walk you can head to either on foot, you will see lots on the way!
    Enjoy!! xx

  15. You are right about Big Ben. If I could only recommend 1 thing to you while you were in London, it would be to see an evensong service at Westminster Abbey. It was beyond beautiful.
    Your trip sounds absolutely lovely, and enjoy your time!

  16. It is so lovley having you here in London especially as I sit in my office I can see Big Ben too. Hope you find some knitting company and enjoy all your adventures. Still looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.
    ps You are being very brave!!

  17. I’m so glad you ventured out and found lovely places in London. My husband says if you are doing the monopoly board then don’t bother with The Old Kent Road. Theres a reason its the cheapest place in Monopoly!!
    Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.

  18. It’s so strange to see London on your blog. You are correct that Big Ben, only Big Ben is the HUGE bell that is in the tower and not the tower itself, you never know when you may need this info ina future game of trivial pursuit. Can’t wait for tomorrow, just hope I can get up in time.

  19. Button Queen is a must – take your knit with you to show the proprietor – he is an amazing guy with an excellent eye for a button and a huge stock of buttons both new and antique. He’ll be able to find you something, and maybe something that you might never have thought of…
    Don’t forget to ride on a double-decker red London bus while you’re there: the number 8 goes from Victoria up to Oxford Street. Alight at the top of Davies St, next to Bond St tube station, and it’s only a short walk to Marylebone Lane.

  20. I live just around the corner from Greycoats! If you fancy meeting in a local pub tonight for a knit and a beer, drop me an email. Or if you get lost and need a guide. I can’t tell you how strange it feels to see you writing about my local patch on your blog! Looking forward to the event tomorrow too.

  21. Aww, that’s a shame about the buttons – I go to that coffee shop all the time to buy their crispy bacon pretzel rolls (they’re delicious!). So I’m sorry about your buttons, but I do love The Garden!

  22. Google SnB London and email the Purl Princess herself. I’m sure she can point you in the direction of knitterly things happening in London tonight. And I think iKnit London has a few buttons.
    The first time I saw a Renoir I cried. Standing in the Phillips Gallery (no relation)in DC…crying like a baby at the beauty. Not my finest moment but one that is etched for ever on my mind.

  23. Sometimes I feel as though you have folded us all up in your pocket and taken us all with you on your adventures. We’re all peeping out of the top of the pocket, giddy as school children on a field trip. Adventure away!!!

  24. You *must* go to Liberty. You don’t have to buy anything, but it is the most beautiful shop I’ve ever seen – a fabulous building. The displays are quite nice, but the building itself is even better.

  25. It’s so awesome to hear (read!) you chat away about our city, and it’s also a revelation to see it through a tourist’s eyes IYSWIM? It’s a shame more of us UK’ers didn’t know you were here alone so to speak cos I’m sure we could have arranged some fun and frolics.

  26. I’m so with regarding the National Gallery and especially Seurat. I saw Monet’s waterlilys panels which had come from Paris when they came to the Gallery. Just one room and the 12 panels, I sat on the floor and cried. Nobody laughed and everyone understood, and apparently lots of others had done that too!
    You are a brilliant travel writer. I think a fantastic idea for a next book would be YH travels the world (with her helpers, Joe and the Girls) like a grown up gap year. What do you think?

  27. You really have done well, venturing as you did! It brought tears to my eyes hearing of your joy and remembering the awe of being in the presence of such amazing works (though I haven’t been to London, I’ve done some other major exhibitions). I hope you slept well and that you continue to have many brave and wonderful adventures in London! Thanks for taking us along…

  28. I lived in England when I was 10 & 11 y/o. We went in the Tower through an entrance by the Thames…I felt, actually felt, the fear of many in my own gut. Madame Tussad’s [sp?]
    I took my eldest to an art museum in Detroit, MI when she was about 4 y/o. I saw a Van Gogh and was so verbal with my awe that I turned around finally to tell her about Van Gogh and she had walked past me as if she did not know me!
    Keep the photos up! Wonderful, wonderful!

  29. Welcome to our side of the world, and just a heads-up about your flight back: No way you’ll get through security with knitting needles in your carry-on. It has little to do with the airlines and everything to do with the private companies running security. There’s not a European airport I know of that allows them, not since 9/11. Some airports even post a ball of yarn with 2 needles stuck through it on their signs, right beside all the other “forbiddens”, like explosives and pool cues and switchblades.
    I know it’ll come as a blow to you, what with that being a day-time flight and 6 hours to knit in, but (sigh) that’s the way it is. It has always amazed me that the country that reacted the most strongly to 9/11 & sharp items, the US, was the least worried about this. Meanwhile, Europe got totally wound up. Lots of knitting time lost — as a knitter myself, I find this a real frustration. However, London does have wonderful button shops, so hope you get lucky.

  30. Stephanie, for all your fears about venturing out alone in strange city (& I can totally relate), you are being very brave & having a wonderful adventure. Thank-you for sharing it with us all.
    Hope you find some knitters tonight. Wish I could be there but a couple of hundred km & the English Channel are in the way. Oh, plus my mother-in-law arriving from New Zealand tonight. I think I should be staying here for now…

  31. Your trip sounds just wonderful…I cant wait to get up in the morning to read about it…My husband has always been one of those people that worries about being lost….I always ask him…where are we??? when he says the name of the city we are in I say …then how lost are you? Never more than a question of a stranger away from knowing ..but I know thats a man thing…

  32. When I was 21 I took myself to Europe for a month. Nobody else I knew had both the time (I was a waitress; I figured if they fired me for a month away, I could get another job) and the money to go (two years earlier I’d gotten into a car accident and stuck the insurance settlement in the bank; it wasn’t a lot, but it was enough for a month in Europe). I figured just because nobody could come with me was no reason not to go. It was one of the bravest things I’d done up until that point, and I never regretted it. Sometimes I wish certain people were there to share with me, but on the other hand, I never had to miss out on something I wanted to do because a traveling companion didn’t want to do it. It’s incredibly liberating to feel that self-sufficient in a strange place.
    I was surprised by how small the Mona Lisa is.
    Oh, I’m so glad you’re seeing London and enjoying it!!

  33. I was in Portland, Maine last week and visited their fine arts museum. It is a very nice museum and they have some excellent pieces. At the time they were having a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit. The pictures are still running through my mind. It has inspired me to try something a little different in my own paintings.
    Thank you for sharing the world through your eyes!

  34. No knitting on the way home? Here is how I get away with it: Teeny bamboo DPs and big pockets. Then walk right through the metal detector. Works for me every time! Once you are past security you are golden ( alway has puzzled me why the guards never asked why I had a ball of yarn in my carry on 🙂

  35. do the tube- but mind the gap- oh to experience the city of my mother’s birth along with you; has been way to long since my last visit there- as quoted by Dr. Samuel Johnson, writer of the English dictionary, “when man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. continue on captain adventure

  36. It sounds like you are having a great time. I’m very shy, especially when it comes to being alone in new places. You have inspired me to be more adventurious. I hope the rest of your trip is good and maybe you will stumble upon a button shop. The museum sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

  37. I don’t want to be argumentative with an earlier poster, but I have never had any trouble getting on a plane at Heathrow with circular or wooden dp’s in my carry-on.

  38. I’m proud of you for venturing out! I travel a ton and am use to venturing on my own, but even for the extreme extrovert I am, it took a little push to get over the hump the first time.
    I hope you find some great knitters to hang with Friday evening! (Oh – venture onto the Tube and get your buttons! Sounds like there are some shops you will be kicking yourself for not exploring.)

  39. You’ve successfully made me want to travel alone abroad. 🙂 Or anywhere, really. Good luck on the rest of your adventure!

  40. One of the first things we did in London was to attend evensong at the Abbey.
    That site can help you to find a time to visit that will agree with your schedule.
    The Abbey was certainly was one of the highlights of our trip, and poets corner not to be missed. But the music in such a place was ambrosial to our jetlagged souls. The top flight choir composed of children, really. We adult professionals listening to their gifts, were amazed. It is fascinating place for commoner and Kings. St. Edward the Confessor’s shrine is there.
    We were also taken aback by all the history that everyday Londoner’s step over everyday. Roman ruins under carparks, spitits of historical figures among the business suited or modern day Goths!
    Soak up all the sites, sounds, tastes, and feel of that amazing place. You’ll be saying that word alot…Amazing!

  41. I now feel the need to visit London and the National Gallery. Your descriptions brought the paintings I’ve admired from afar to life, so I must see them myself.
    GOod luck on the button search, I know you’ll be successful.

  42. I, too, am that strange combination of shy and out-going. And, I am pretty fearful, too.
    But, when I have forced myself to go out and do things alone, I have had the best experiences. A certain shoe company has is right – just do it. It really is worth it. In fact, now I prefer to travel alone. You are only alone when travelling if you want to be.

  43. I’m so excited to get there tomorrow!!!!! I’m glad you’re having a fantastic time! Stinks that you have to work so much of your trip, though!

  44. Hi there, taking the plan in a couple of hours to London for the show tomorrow. Me and my knitting buddy Kitt. We’re both knitting freaks, I own a yarn shop in Geneva, Switzerland. The plan tonight is to find a nice pub in Soho, dreaming of Fish and Chips and a cold beer. I write you my mobile phone nr. in a message to your Ravelry account, the more the merrier, please join us, would be fun. Sinon we’ll hopefully meet you tomorrow but tonight sounds great.

  45. I love the National Gallery! I have to visit it every time I’m in London, the portrait gallery round the corner is also good.
    can’t wait to meet you tomorrow!

  46. Sorry for the comment-jack but what time are people meeting up at the Tate Modern? I’ve got a sock in progress in my bag, and the Tate’s on my way home. I haven’t managed to make it to an SnB or Iknit night for ages.
    Stephanie if you get homesick there is always The Maple Leaf Pub in Maiden Lane (Covent Garden). No prizes for guessing it’s theme 🙂
    Had no problems getting bamboo needles through Heathrow in June, I put them in a pencil case.

  47. I also love the “yellow” in Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. I am forever trying to recreate it. Glad you are having fun, and hope you find a nice knitting group to share your Friday night.

  48. Am I just crazy, or are *none* of those places you listed actually on a Monopoly board? Or has the Monopoly board changed in the 15 years since I was young enough to have a Monopoly board bought for me?

  49. Since you feel like a six year old, A MUST SEE in London is HAMLEY’S the greatest toy store in the world as far as I am concerned, it is on Regent Street. If I remember well, (was 20 the last time I went)3 stories, 1 basement, one floor dedicated to electric trains, If there is one rare toy they have it… I would not be surprized if they have knitting and buttons in their craft section…

  50. You’re probably fully booked on this tour – but a thought for another. Book a walking tour ahead of time. Some have amazing themes (rather like yarn crawls!). A great way to see a place, meet and talk with some people (to get past the shy and tentative) and learn about a new place and people. Also a great way to pick up hints about restaurants.
    When dining alone, ask for table near the middle of the room. Much better for people watching!!

  51. Hi, Stephanie –
    So pleased to know you’re enjoying your visit. Every few hours I remember that you’re over here now and I almost feel like a bad host – I read your blog almost every day so you feel like a friend. Then I remind myself that you have no idea who I am. Am looking forward to meeting you tomorrow. Don’t let the rain keep you from exploring either. I heard it’s a ‘month’s worth of rain’ today.
    Let us know what happened with knitting on the long haul flight. I’m really curious since I’ve always had trouble, even after begging the security people to let me take it on board. It hasn’t worked once!

  52. Thank you for this wonderful walk through Westminster and Soho. I miss London like crazy now. My favorite place ever in the Natl Gallery is by Renoir’s Umbrellas, the same rooms you were in. I stop in whenever I’m in town, whether for 30 seconds or 30 minutes.

  53. Definitely go back to the Abbey for Evensong.
    You have found one of the joys of travelling alone – time to be lost in front of a wonderful painting (for me it was El Greco’s view of Toledo) and not have to keep up with the party or move along because the friend you are with finds it less enchanting. Wonderfully selfish!

  54. Oh I am SO envious…I’d love to see London! Enjoy every minute! And you know, I’ve found that I actually prefer traveling alone much of the time. As others pointed out, I do what I want to do, on my own schedule – and I always feel like such a “big girl”! LOL Keep going!

  55. looking forward to your speech tomorrow… Just not sure if I will be able to get my book signed and get you some Belgian beer. I’ll have to leave on time to catch the train back (it’s a bit of a distance walking back to Belgium)

  56. Get thee to Liberty of London….among many other delights they have great yarn and FABULOUS buttons. It’s on Great Marlborough St. between Regent and Argyll St (hey, no knitter should miss that!).
    Nearest tubes: Oxford Circus – Central, Bakerloo and Victoria lines; Piccadilly Circus – Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines. Bus Routes: No’s: 3, 6, 12, 13, 15, 23, 53, X53, 88, 94, 139, 159 and C2
    It’s a great, great city. Thanks for this lovely reminder.

  57. Oh my, the National Gallery. Yes, yes. I remember Van Gogh’s sunflowers. If I had been alone, I could have just sort of camped right there for a dozen minutes or so, but I was traveling with my future in-laws. London is such a … I was about to say beautiful, but really it’s gritty and historic and so alive. I can’t wait for the opportunity to go back.

  58. Just gotta say..
    I Love You.
    Shy/outgoing/fearful/brave; to travel far off and alone. London hasn’t been high on my ‘list’ of ‘must sees’, but now?
    ….Now, I want to go to England AND I think I should open a button shop, as they seem to be a dying breed! I have at least 3 lovely LYS and would not want to step on any of their toes by opening yet another one!
    Oh, the dreams I have…..
    Safe travels, Stephanie.
    p.s. I Love the sock in the Tube comment!

  59. Wow, great pictures. But I can’t see that Catherine Wheel without thinking of Doctor Who. “Now where could I find an enormous wheel they might be using as a transmitter….?” It was kind of a shock to see Big Ben intact as well.
    Any chance you could take a picture of Canary Wharf? There is a Google Map somewhere filled with Doctor Who and Torchwood sites to see. Channel your inner geek and don’t worry about the shyness!
    My British Rav-friends can’t wait to see you, pants and all. Have a great time!

  60. Congrats on breaking out from feeling safe. I was unable to do so when I was in Japan while my husband was working there. After we got back I cursed myself for the things I missed seeing. I now desperately want to go back to try again.

  61. Ah, haberdashers! Have you seen Yarnstorm’s recent post on a haberdashery store in London? And by the way, when I’m alone on a foreign town, I say to myself before going out to eat alone that people have better stuff to do than messing with me. That usually does the trick of getting me through and safe back to the hotel.

  62. I’m not the first person to notice it, but I have to say I’m delighted in your Monopoly board!
    I’m an American from the Northwest, who lives about halfway between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, B.C. Whenever I visit Vancouver, I love to look for little differences and wonder why they’re there.
    The American monopoly board has Atlantic City locations. (And I don’t know how many people know that. I think people think they’re just “monopoly locations”.) You got to buy London, instead? How cool is that!

  63. I’m glad you’re having fun and seeing the sites. If you ever have a chance go to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg (yes, in Russia). I was (swear to god) nose to glass with a Da Vinci Madonna for an hour. No one told me to move along, no one bothered me. It was glorious.

  64. I actually like traveling alone on occasion. You get to see and do things that you might not ever do… I traveled England and Scotland alone, and managed to meet more people from various countries than I would ever have gotten up the gumption to talk to if I had been with my normal companions. I could walk through castles and museums and stand and read any and all information I wanted, for as long as I felt like it. And sometimes, the ability to be alone in a crowd is comforting….

  65. I loved the National Gallery, too. I remember thinking all those same things–and I remember the Sunflowers most of all. That and a sketch that I will never forget that was in a room all it’s own. I bought a postcard of it later, but it could never be the same.
    I’m glad to hear you are shy, too. It makes me feel better about getting so tongue-tied when I met you at a book signing in Minnesota. You were very kind and I couldn’t think of a single interesting thing to say. 🙂

  66. What Monopoly board are you using? mine doesn’t have any of those places on it. I am very jealous though, my brother got to go to London too for his high school senior trip – he says to be sure to get to Abbey Road.

  67. I know what you mean about travelling and looking at things on your own but it seems you took the ‘lonely’ right out of that adventure. I enjoyed visiting the National Gallery with you.

  68. Did you plan a day alone?
    At least two knitters in the North of England are feeling bad that no-one was at the airport to give you a welcome hug and guide you in the direction of a good cuppa before you launched on your voyage of discovery.
    So consider yourself remotely hugged. Good to have you here.

  69. i was all alone in london when i was 20. on foot, and too afraid to have an adventure. i’m so glad that you are doing it!
    stephanie.. i really think, with the amount that you travel, that you ought to invest in a hand held gps. no matter where on the planet you are, you could always get back to ‘home’ (and as a bonus you could also geocache).

  70. your descriptions make me feel like i’m walking along with you, especially in the national gallery. so cool.
    bummer about the buttons, tho.

  71. I’m pretty sure that there are several stalls selling buttons at the show tomorrow. If you can’t face finding Liberty’s, you can always get some then!

  72. I so envy your trip (exhaustion and all). I’ve never really been outside the US (once to the Canadian side of Niagra – which by the way is far superior to the US side) and long to travel. Your descriptions and pics just feed my travel bug! Oh and – luv the sock! The colorway is gorgeous.

  73. I think our Monopoly boards are different, mine seems to be all about the East Coast of the U.S.A.:
    Boardwalk, Park Place, Marvin Gardens, etc.
    I, too, have traveled alone and you are tons braver than me. I have to force myself not to bring a book because then I would stay in my room and read. Since I took up knitting I have become much braver about going out while traveling, I love to knit in public and to look for LYS’s.

  74. Oh, you make me wish I was in London! I’ve been several times (from the US) and love it.
    Fabulous museums- if you have the chance, I think you’d like the National Portrait Gallery. It’s arranged chronologically so you get people who all knew each other together in the same room.
    Must put in a few words about restaurants: I’ll second the earlier recommendation for Pret a Manger for quick, fresh, tasty, reasonably priced and healthy food. And the West Cornwall Pasty Company is another good place for hearty quick food (and they do have vegetarian options)- there’s an outpost in Covent Garden and a couple of other places. Neal’s Yard Dairy is a good place for fabulous cheeses, and Friday and Saturday (today and tomorrow) are the retail days at the Borough Market – a superb market for specialty foods from all over Britain (lots of ready to eat stuff). Hmm. Mr.Jerk in the West End does excellent Caribbean food, and Hot Stuff in Lambeth (south of the river) is excellent for Indian (a bit off the beaten track, though.
    Gosh, I wish I were there! Have a fabulous trip!

  75. We went to London a few years ago. I did not find a lot of buttons or yarn, but we did find a wonderful food item called a “pasty.” They are truly yummy. You should slip into a shop and try one if you get the chance. I am still thinking about them 3 years later!!!

  76. Sounds like a lovely day. While I was overseas, I did not get the opportunity to go to England. I lived in southern Germany and attended the DOD (Dept. of Defense) school in Nurnberg. While there I saw the house of Albrecht Durer. His first etchings, engravings, paintings… This was part of the tour of Nurnberg I took. Perhaps you should know that I grew up in the army. That is to say that my father was in the army. However, when one parent is in the service, everyone is in the service.
    The knitters will come out. I recall spending hours in the park knitting or crocheting with my sister and all the ladies would come and look at what we were doing. Gave us a chance to practice our German (which sad to say, is not so good, then or now).
    I can only imagine that if you go to one of the pubs and knit on your sock (or one of the projects you brought) you will be surprised to find fellow knitters come out of the wood works. You are Capt. Adventure! Brave and true!

  77. Oh, I am so jealous. I was in London four and a half years ago, and I fell in love, the kind of love that leaves a deep and wonderful ache in your heart for the rest of your life. (With London, I mean. There was no whirlwind affair with a handsome young Englishman. My husband will be glad to hear that.)
    If you get another chance, go into Westminster Abbey. I’m not a good enough writer to describe the experience, so I order you to go live it. 🙂 I won’t tell you to have fun, because I can tell you already are. Oh, all right. Keep having fun!

  78. I hope your next book is a travel book – maybe “Sites my sock has seen” or something! Everytime you go somewhere, the way you describe it makes me want to go there to!

  79. Oh, Steph, so many people are saying the same thing (this is my second attempt) and you can’t hear us: THE BUTTON QUEEN. Marylebone Lane. Bond St tube. Near Liberty and John Lewis. Closes at 5 today and open Sat only 10-2. You cannot walk everywhere in London, so get on the tube. Who knew you would be alone? So many of us would have loved to pal around with you. (And take you to the Button Queen).

  80. What you’re lacking is a tour guide and/or a knitting companion.
    Next time you need to find a place, check with the concierge at the hotel before you go out for information that might be more current than what you would find on Google.
    Stay safe and enjoy your trip.

  81. Ah Stephanie…you have no idea how much I totally love you right now or how much you brighten my days. Please please please have a REAL pint of Guinness for me in a pub, and then have more wonderful, good, adventures. Keep sharing with us. It allows me to step outside of my life for a few minutes, and I so enjoy it.

  82. How wonderful for you to see all of those beautiful things and to muster up teh courage to be adventurous! I know now I have to go to London one day.
    Good luck on the button front! I’m sure you will find some wonderful ones. I see in the comments before mine that folks are steering you to The Button Queen — sounds like a great place to me. Hope you check it out (and report back!).

  83. Yah for your adventure. It sounds like you did a great job navigating your way around. Sorry to hear about the button shop no longer being there. As for the Nat’l Gallery – I visited my first time in London in 2006 and had just taken an art history class that got me really interested in art.

  84. How’s the jet-lag? I really sympathise. We often visit family in SWest US, and that’s an eleven hour journey for us, slightly less going back. It’s always worse coming east, back to London, especially if, like me, you don’t sleep on the plane so you can move around and do foot exercises to avoid DVT. I don’t trust myself driving for several days when I get back, and the same goes for being a pedestrian in London, as you’ve found! Just when you think you have cracked jet-lag, it comes back in waves; I often find day 3 is really bad; whoops, that’s Saturday………Sorry to hear about your fruitless button hunt; it makes me wild to find so much outdated information on the net. As everyone says, try Button Queen, Marylebone Lane, or John Lewis, Oxford St. Sorry too about the abysmal weather, cold and rainy. We hate to think of you alone and wandering in the rain. Where was your welcoming-party-and-guide-to-London-while-jet-lagged?! If we had known we would have come to the airport with balloons and beer! On second thoughts, though, wandering and making discoveries on your own is a very good way to come to terms with an unknown city. Even with jet-lag. And then there was your National Gallery experience; that was lovely, made me cry to read it. Yes, the Arnolfini marriage portrait is so small, isn’t it, but contains a world of detail and symbolism. I love it too.
    See you tomorrow, bearing beer.

  85. Stephanie, you adventuress, you. Reminds me of when I wandered around London alone, a Yank who had been an English major. I surely didn’t feel like I was in America, but I did feel like I was home.
    That church in Trafalgar Square is St. Martin in the Fields and is renowned for its choir and concerts. I found info on their website: “St Martin-in-the-Fields is at the northeast corner of Trafalgar Square and is easily accessible by public transport. Underground: Charing Cross, Leicester Square, Embankment. Train: Charing Cross: Bus: 3, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 24, 29, 77a, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176, 453. Cycle: There are cycle stands on St Martin’s Place and Adelaide Street.” Lots more info at
    If you feel you must go to the Abbey for the sake of history, don’t miss Poet’s Corner. I stood there TALKING to the greats like a loon. (And yes, I’ve cried in the Metropolian Museum of Art, the Orangerie, even the Museum of Folk Art in Santa Fe. Amazing I haven’t been locked up yet.)

  86. I have travelled through Heathrow many many many times with wooden knitting needles – DPNs, straights and circulars. This goes for both short haul and long haul flights. I’m from NZ and would go completely insane if I couldn’t knit for the 24+ hours it takes to fly there.
    Avoid metal needles & I think you’ll be fine. If you want to try & conceal your them, put them amongst a few pens & pencils and they’ll look very innocent if spotted in the scanner.

  87. Regarding security, two words: wooden circulars. They don’t seem to count as knitting needles from a security standpoint, so you should be okay.
    What sort of Monopoly are you playing? My (American) board doesn’t have those squares.

  88. Wow, I had no idea that the Canadian and US Monopoly board were different! Learn something new every day!
    Steph, I get you on the shy-but-can-fake-outgoing thing. I spent a month in Ireland when I was 21 and I traveled everywhere but mostly to find quiet spots for reading (ok, I did do some sightseeing and all, and I got my nose pierced). When I got back, people thought I was nuts for not doing more, which I felt was a bit insulting because it was my vacation and I did the things I wanted to do. I could never figure why they just couldn’t be happy that I enjoyed myself quite thoroughly.

  89. So happy to hear you are enjoying your visit! Pretty much everyone calls it Big Ben but you were really looking at St Stephen’s Tower – the bell inside is Big Ben. Enjoy the rest of your day and we’ll see you tomorrow!

  90. I am filling out my passport application TODAY! Maybe by this time next year I’ll actually have one and can go to London. Only if I stop buying yarn for the rest of they year though. It’s a fair trade.
    IMO, if you don’t cry in the presence of great art or music (or even figure skating) you have no soul.
    BTW, here in the States we have a Waterlilies of our own in the Dayton (Ohio) Art Institue, which is a fabulous Italian building overlooking the city. It’s probably the coolest thing about Dayton.

  91. No, no, no! Drinking a pint alone in a pub is a great thing to do to experience another place. As a shy person myself, I love being the only foreigner in a little neighborhood pub. Especially if you don’t know local ordering customs, people will start talking to you. The regulars adopt me and we talk and talk and it’s tons of fun. You can go in and be someone’s adopted Canadian friend, and get all the benefits of random pub chat, and you won’t even have to answer for George Bush like we Americans do! Do it, do it!

  92. Well, congratulations to you for going out and facing your shyness! I know what you mean. I’m going to be in Paris in November — all month — mostly alone – ! – and am terrified that I’ll just sit in my room all day instead of going out. I am firmly telling myself that will not be the case. And you’re setting a marvelous example, so thank you.
    Did you find knitters for the evening??

  93. Oh I love London. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in England (split between the country and the city)… and one really good art spot is the Dali exhibit… that is if it’s still around.
    Thanks for bringing back so many fond memories.

  94. Durer’s self portraits make me go weak in the knees. I always add a couple to my 16th century lectures in art history….

  95. Oh, I do hope you find some friendly knitters to meet up with! I wish I could have been/be your tour guide – we could have been shy together (I’m not a crazy stalker kind, honest – well, maybe not quite normal by the majority standard…) You do seem to be finding the best stuff pretty well all on your own! I love the National Gallery, and feel so lucky to live in a country where such wonderful museums are free. If you have any more free time, I second recommendations for the V&A (even if you just see the Chihuly chandelier hung in the entrance hall) and the British Museum (the mummies creep me out – or, more accuarately, the people having their photos taken with them make me feel very odd – but there is so much fab stuff that you can just wander for hours).
    If you do find somebody to have a pint with, I’ve gleaned beer recommendations from my other half – Fullers is a good brewery, as is Meantime (who are pretty local to London, being in Greenwich). And apparently any pub with beers listed on a blackboard has a better than average chance of serving you good stuff.
    Have a fabulous time at IKnit – I’m gutted I can’t go myself, but I’m sure that every yarn lover there will make you feel as welcome as I want too!
    (Gosh wasn’t that gushing…but I meant it all sincerely, even if it did sound slightly sickly!)

  96. Ditto on the bamboo DP’s. However, I was so freaked out that I’d successfully smuggled knitting contraband onboard, that I was too terrified to actually knit!

  97. My parents lived in England for 2 years after they were married, which I think is what led to us owning a British Monopoly set. And explains why I didn’t think it strange you referred to having been to 4 places on the board 🙂 I think I would be equally pleased. Enjoy London!

  98. Oh – I completely understand the whole shy, scared and alone thing, and I am so pleased to read that you are overcoming and adventuring! When we were planning our first trip overseas a few years ago (to London, of course!) I had never been out of the country before and was so scared and overwhelmed by the whole thing, I kept thinking “this will never happen, something will go wrong”…then someone gave me a little blank book with this quote on it: “She bravely resolved not to turn back – Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz'”. So I did what Dorothy did, and we went and (despite being scared the whole time) we had a great adventure – which I recorded in the little blank book! I think the most important thing to do (besides bravely resolving not to turn back) is to decide not to have any regrets on the way home. If there is a question, and bravery is involved, say – “Will I regret it if I don’t do this?” and then do it! Then tell us all about it, with pictures, and we can all share in it with you. Yea!

  99. Wow, London thanks for the pics it is great to travel vicariously through you. Like the person above I also frequently look here to cheer myself up on a crummy day. Have fun and thanks for the bright spot!

  100. About 15 years ago, I saw a Monet exhibit in Denmark and was transformed. They glow. breathtaking. Infused me with the awe I feel when seeing a natural wonder. Never throught twice about getting a reproduction of one of his paintings again – they are as far from the original as I am from the moon.
    Glad you’re having a good time.

  101. what a wonderful day. you are in my favorite city in the world, and enjoying so many things…how fantastic! have a great time during the rest of your stay, and try to pop in somewhere for a pint, i know it’s adventurous, but you’ll find that people in pubs are very friendly indeed. 🙂

  102. I loved reading your post. I suffer major anxiety when traveling by myself to a foreign country. I have called my husband in tears from Paris wanting to return home immediately. I am all at once transported to that 11 year old, homesick at camp. But I am a painting restorer and the only that gets me past it–going to the museum and doing just what you did. (Well, now I try to travel with a few tranquilizers as well. I’m usually fine after the first day or two.) There is nothing like seeing the works in person, is there? I was the painting restorer for the Barnes Foundation for may years. I consider those paintings my babies in some ways. I have been on the scaffolding examining the Seurat there from inches away. I have set down flakes of paint on Seurat. Incredible. (by the way, look it up Trois Posseurs–it is my favorite Seurat) The best thing about being a painting restorer–being able to touch the art! I am so jealous–Arnofini, Durer, Van Gogh, Reubens, Chardin…they are so different in person that you wonder that you thought you knew anything about them before. Enjoy!

  103. The National Gallery is a treat. One place you really should see, though, as a fiber person, is the British Museum. They have a section of clothing that is out of this world. The details of the embroidery and fabric just stole my breath away. Even better is a room where there are drawers full of lace and tapestries and, if I remember right, I think knitted items. You could pull out the drawers (at least back when I was there) and put your nose down close and really study the immense detail of the things. For me, the British Museum was where I found the soul of those who had inhabited the British Isles ages past.

  104. You must climb into the fountain at Trafalger Square and have someone take a picture for you! It’s the best experience I ever had. London is such a beautiful place, reading your blog makes me relive the time I was there years ago. Be brave and explore!

  105. I would recommend a visit to the Victoria and Albert. They have great textiles and a textile study collection to die for. It’s not knitting, but…

  106. I know everybody is suggesting the Tate Modern and understandably loving the National Gallery, but I have to stand up for Tate Britain.
    I walked around there for hours by myself and couldn’t have been happier. They have several amazing Turners and there is this one painting on loan from a museum in Puerto Rico. Oy. It’s fabulous. It’s by Sir Edward Coley and it’s a massive painting of King Arthur as a sleeping king. A very English painting (only type in Tate Britain) and so beautiful.
    I miss London so much. Can you hug it tightly for me?

  107. Totally with you on the fear of travelling alone thing. I was in Montreal recently and spent the evenings in my hostel as I didn’t know what to do with myself. Then on my last day I visited yarn stores, and got chatting to a lovely woman in a bookstore and suddenly the scary city became friendly.
    I’ve lived in London for a year, and fairly close to London my whole life, and reading your last couple of posts has completely reinvigorated my love of this city and wish to discover more of it! There’s nothing like being a tourist in your home town to open your eyes.
    Looking forward to IKnit tomorrow!! (oh and if you can, definitely go along to Tate Modern – the view from the 6th floor cafe is worth the trip in itself!)

  108. I do hope you will have time to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum. You MUST see all the knitted objects that date back centuries!! The most intricate socks etc. I hope you don’t miss it!

  109. You’ve been to NY. Haven’t you ever been to the MOMA? There are some great Seurat, Van Gogh, and Renoir paintings there. I spent 3 hours on the post-impressionist floor of the MOMA in May… I think it’s the 5th floor. I know the feeling you’re talking about. =) There’s also the Met in NY, and the National Gallery in D.C. Glad you’re enjoying your trip.

  110. Good on you for touring London alone! Trust me, the more you do it, the more you will love it. I understand the feeling that it may be all in your head if there is nobody to remember it with you. I think you can turn this to your advantage and feel like you are doing something special JUST FOR YOURSELF, because you deserve it. (Besides, people watching is so much easier alone)
    Good luck with the button hunt!

  111. Hi, Just a quick note… You seem to have linked Da Vinci twice, instead of the Arnolfini portrait. I’m no Art History minor, so it took me a minute to figure out!

  112. You’re only alone physically. In spirit, there are thousands of knitters right there with you, saying, “OMFG! That’s kick-ass!”
    I know, it’s not the same. Still, thanks for taking us along with you.

  113. Glad you are getting out! London is an amazing place. I remember being in the National Gallery and walking into the room with Monet’s “Waterlilies”. It felt just like being punched in the chest– they knocked the wind right out of me!! Art in a book and art in real life, they don’t even compare. Keep on adventuring!

  114. I’m really sorry you’ve had to do stuff on your own .. I kind of figured you would be well looked after and “hosted” from the moment you arrived. Sounds like you’ve got some options for tonight though, and there are kazillions of us looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. (Have you seen how BIG the Lindley Hall is?!)

  115. I just flew out of 3 European airports in August — from Amsterdam to Vienna, and then from Vienna to Frankfurt, and then Frankfurt back to the US. On all three flights I had 2 pairs of KnitPicks circulars (the metal ones) in my carry ons, and NONE of the airport security guards took a second look at me OR my bags. Maybe circulars are not as threatening as DPNs???

  116. You’re not going mad – all four of those places ARE on the London Monopoly board. Strand and Trafalgar Square are on the red and yellow side, and the other two are the pinks. And I’ve been playing Monopoly for 31 years, and I don’t think it’s changed in that time. There are different versions for different countries, but I’m assuming the other posters here knew that ? Paris has one, Yorkshire, Star Wars etc.

  117. Wait, those four places are on your Monopoly board? I know it’s been a long time since I played, but I don’t think those are on mine. Could it be possible?? Is there a US version and a CA version? Egads!

  118. There are now Monopoly boards for almost every major city. There are also themed Monopoly boards like Star Wars, the NFL, etc.

  119. Thank you for taking me, one reader, along on your adventurous quest for buttons in London. Beautifully carried off, IMHO.
    I know just what you mean about being shy but not being perceived as shy. I am just that way, and I know exactly what you mean. I have this strange mix of adventurous spirit and shy quiet person that is me, and have over the years learned how to experience the adventurous spirit part without causing heart failure to the shy quiet part (pretty much).
    Your adventure sounds wonderful and beautiful. Hope it continues and gets even better for you!

  120. If you have time for more adventures, consider the Victoria & Albert [design specialty museum]. It took me a few trips to discover it, but now I go every time. There are interesting knitting ideas to be had in the ironwork wing!

  121. You tugged at my Art History strings. I majored in Art History in college so I am green with envy about all the wonderful works you talked about. How absolutely lovely. Sounds like you are having a marvelous time.
    Keep on enjoying. And sharing.
    BTW – When I grow up I really want to be you!

  122. Isn’t amazing how *different* art is when you see it in person as opposed to in a book? I’ll never forget when I walked into a gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago and was confronted by Toulouse-Lautrec’s “At the Moulin Rouge.” I had studied that painting, but I’d never liked it–I thought it was just plain weird. In person? A totally different experience. The colors jump off the canvas and you realize that’s exactly what the inside of that bar really looked liked.
    And now on a moment of totally shameless self-promotion, I want to pass along to you, Stephanie, and all other art-loving readers of this blog the news about my new book, _Secret Lives of Great Artists: What Your Teachers Never Told You about Master Painters and Sculptors_. It’s got all kinds of fun stories about these great artists, like how van Gogh was poisoned by all that paint and how Caravaggio was convicted of murder. It’s on sale now at Amazon–check it out! (I’m not used to this self-promotion stuff, but hey, I don’t earn royalties unless they sell a whole bucket of them!)

  123. Did you know in that shot of Big Ben you also caught another famous London landmark (of sorts)? A CCTV camera. I have never ever been somewhere with so many CCTV cameras as London. I read once that in one day the average person in the UK is on camera 300 times! Wow.
    Enjoy your trip! Wonderful city.

  124. I’m so glad you’re having a wonderful time! And this reader, who is frantically trying to finish a dissertation so she can finally get her PhD in art history, is thrilled you had such a wonderful experience at the National Gallery!

  125. Thank you oh so much for taking us along on your getting lost and found walks. As others have noted, bravo on getting out of the alone and stuck zone. You saw the Trafalgar Lions…fabulous! I look forward to seeing pix of the evening – bet the crowd will be just absolutely wild at having you with them in person!!

  126. Oh, a city to explore! My daughter has lived in Paris for 26 years, and in addition to many 2 to 3 week visits, I’ve also spent 2 complete summers there. I “had to” volunteer as the house-sitter for her apartment whilst she taught in the US, a professor of music at a university in Vermont. I wandered the city every day, bus pass and current Michelin #11 and lunch and knitting and water and a small book tucked into my bag. I’m known amongst her friends as the “Bus Lady” – most of them tell me I know Paris better than they do. What a treat to discover the nooks and crannies of a city on your own, no matter your pleasure at the crazy little things that make you happy. I wouldn’t trade those many days for anything. I never once felt lonely, although I do tend to be a watcher rather than a participant, at times.
    But I always take a deep breath and go out to the streets – buying groceries at street markets, riding the bus or Metro, trying my simple French, people-watching, visiting favorite yarn and BUTTON and art supply and stationery shops and the more obscure museums (I’ve not yet been to the Louvre, despite many, many opportunities), sitting in a charming park, trying to avoid any embarrassing “Ugly Americans”…..and standing near or within a place where so much history has taken place. I’m usually taken for a German tourist, so I don’t have to apologize for Bush. I love London, too, but don’t know it as well yet.
    Venture on! Nobody ever really notices someone who seems to have a purpose in their wanderings.
    BTW, as you probably know, there are many different versions of Monopoly. What fun to play with them!
    Bon journee, and safe travels back to Canada.

  127. I was a studio art major in college and my junior year a group of us went to Paris. I had been there with my family when I was 13 or 14 and loved all of the museums, especially the Musee d’Orsey (that may not be spelled right), so I was looking forward to going back with my art history knowledge and all that. It was still quite amazing and the Orsey was still my favorite museum. One evening I went back there by myself and just sat in front of the Degas sculpture case and sketched for well over an hour. People would stop and look at what I was doing. I don’t know if I have ever felt more like an artist than I did then.
    I love museums–shopping at fancy shops does nothing for me, but set me in front of Degas, Monet, Van Gogh (we also went to Auvers (where he died and he and his brother Theo are buried) and that was extremely special), and any number of other amazing artists and I am totally enthralled.

  128. Stephanie, you really need to write a travel book. I’ve felt like I was in London, too, reading this. I know what you mean about the National Gallery. I’ve visited the National Art Gallery in Washington, DC. I wondered from room to room with my mouth hanging open, totally awe struck.

  129. You were only planning to visit one button store? What if they only had ungly or boring buttons? Next time jot down a back-up store.
    P.S. Where you are, the knitters will come.
    P.P.S. Does Canada have different Monopoly squares? I don’t remember any of those you mentioned.

  130. I’m jealous – one day maybe I’ll get to London. Your reaction to the National Gallery reminds me of my son in law’s reaction to the Art Institute (of Chicago). We’ve been members for many, many years & I’ve been going since I was a young teenager & my girls since they were even younger (could that have something to do with the older one being an Art History major?). But my son in law grew up in rural Mississippi & actually, Chicago museums may be the closest excellent quality ones. The first time he came to visit us, we naturally took him to the Art Institute. Like me, he is a big fan of the Impressionists (& AIC has one of the best collections of them around). He just couldn’t believe that we could stand mere inches away from artworks that he had long admired – close enough to see the brush strokes & myriad of colors – of course with the impressionists you also have to stand further back to get the full impact. It made me think about the importance of museums; when you grow up with so many nice ones nearby, you don’t appreciate them – they are like air.

  131. I cried a bit as I read that post. St. James Park was my spot to read and I have a heartbreaking love for Durer as well. He really woodprints my soul…
    P.S. I found the Mona Lisa positively tiny in comparison to what I had believed it to be. I wasn’t necessarily let down, but I will say that I was taken quite aback.

  132. Being a bit thick, and shyish myself, it hadn’t occured to me that you didn’t have a gazillion people to play out with in London. If you haven’t already found something lovely to do this evening, go and introduce yourself to the ladies in the yarn department in Liberty (it’s also haberdashery so they have buttons), or email me back, I can come and help you find beer and possibly knitters:)
    I was in the National Gallery today at the Radical Light exhibition – the loveliness!

  133. Whoops, Stephanie..I was wrong. It wasn’t the British Museum that had the great Textile collection, it was the Victoria and Albert museum as one of the other posters mentioned. Well, it was a lot of years since I was there. But it really is worth a look-see. Just awesome.

  134. I think its amazing when you actually get to see a painting or a sculpture in real life that you once studied. Photos in a book are good, but can never capture the life of the artwork.
    The Tate Modern is really interesting and I’m a HUGE fan of the British Museum, but I majored in archaeology so I’m biased. 😀
    I have no doubt you’ll find your knitters. Have fun!

  135. The Wikipedia article on Monopoly has a picture of the “original” board–all the streets are from Atlantic City or near-by. That’s what most U.S.A. players are used to. I love all the variations, too–so clever. A local library (where I work) did a huge version for an Adult summer reading program a few years age and all the properties were streets or locations in the village (50th anniversary). It was our most successful ASRP ever; patrons loved to play the game.
    We are fortunate here in Illinois to have the Art Institute and to get to see so many famous paintings “in person”. However, when we were in Paris almost ten years ago, it was still amazingly impressive to see numerous paintings by favorite artists like Van Gogh at the Musee d’Orsay. You are so right about the impact of seeing the texture of the paint and the vivid colors up close. Photos just can’t replicate the actual live experience.

  136. If you are ever hesitating to head out on your own.. remember ‘NO REGRETS’ Don’t wind up back home saying to yourself.. “I wish I had….” Life is too short for regrets.. I learned that from a VERY wise woman…

  137. My husband (then boyfriend) and I lived in London for 10 months our second year of University. That was 16 years ago and I have longed every year since then to return. Your visit coincides with a co-workers visit and between your pictures and hers I am utterly dying with envy and nostalgia. When we lived there we were so poor we could hardly eat, so instead of doing lots of tourist things we just walked and walked around the city which to date is the best way to explore London. Seeing all these familiar places and objects in your posts has me in tears. I love your discovery of “look left”! That was one of the first things we learned when we arrived in London and it never ceased to crack me up. Ah the Thames, we spent so much time around it. And I swear I recognize at least two of those pigeons. Health hazard and a nuisance they may be labeled but I loved them.
    I know your schedule probably won’t allow for it, but if there is any chance at all, go to Kew Gardens. It was my favorite spot, an absolute fair land. I have a locket with a chip of bark from my favorite tree which I still intend to go hug again some day. Go explore the green houses but don’t forget to wander aimlessly among the parkland. Just don’t trust those swans. ^__<

  138. What? Who knew the Monopoly squares were different in different countries. Aside from art, family life, all things knitting and travel wise, I learn this from the Harlot. It’s my daily dose of wonderment!

  139. Sounds like you had a great day – makes me want to go back to the National Gallery again, haven’t been there for years. Do you think they will ever guess that the increase in vistor numbers they are about to experience is all down to you and, ultimately, to knitting?
    Hope you have a good evening too – and that you find your buttons.
    Knitters of Britain, can we let Stephanie go home without them?

  140. go to Hyde Park! It’s amazing and you’ll love it! There are swans and ducks and signs that warn you not to let your dogs upset the other wildlife. Not to mention the serpentine gallery, the Italian fountains and Kensington palace. It’s my favorite place in the entire city. So if you feel the need for a walk, take the tube to hyde park corner and you’re right there!
    Enjoy london!

  141. Don’t know if they’ll have buttons, but go take a walk through Harrold’s. It’s an experience.
    P.S. I agree w/Samantha on the size of the Mona Lisa. And from my vantage point (waaaaay in the back of the crowd) ‘she’ was postage stamp sized. But I was so sick at the time, all I wanted to look for was the restroom sign.

  142. Hi Stephanie,
    Sounds like you are having a fabulous time in London.
    I would like to mail you a sample of a DPN holder that I created to sell on Etsy. I think you will find them quite humorous. If you are interested send me a mailing address and I will get it on its way to you. You can pick one from the Etsy site if you like.
    Thank you,
    Donna W

  143. Must add more thanks for
    (a) bravely adventuring forth and sharing it all with us – even the links to some of the paintings! (I am sitting on the tropical-storm-battered southeastern US coast right now — well, fortunately, inside a sturdy building — and glad to see another part of the world)
    and (b) educating us (at least the US crowd) that not ALL Monopoly boards have US locations on them. (Hm, might there be larger global political implications?)
    Hope you found buttons and knitters!!

  144. OK now I REALLY have to get my passport. I was in London in 1985, but let the passport lapse. I did not get to the National Gallery but sooo loved the British Museum!! Turning the corner of a gallery and almost walking in to the Rosetta Stone. Amazing! Then seeing manuscripts in Mozart’s handwriting, and The Elgin Marbles. Sigh!! I hope you get time to see The Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum. They were a big thrill also.

  145. I spent 3 months in in London after my college graduation in the states, working in a pub (The Spread Eagle in Camden Town off of Albert Rd.). I was all alone and it was the best experience of my life! London will always hold a special place in my heart your pictures and your chats with pigeons make me long for the tube (mind the gap), the tea, the smells, and the sights of London. Thank you for transporting all of us with you, it has been a grand excursion for those of us stuck in an office cubicle living vicariously through you!!

  146. Art History major? Well, next time you are in Ann Arbor, take an hour or two and visit the Detroit Institute of Art. One of the truly wonderful art museums in the US.

  147. Dusk here on the SW edge of London, and still raining; it may never stop, according to the weather forcast. What a soggy lot you will encounter tomorrow! Did you find some knitters? Are they looking after you?

  148. Sounds as if you went to the long-deceased Button Box, which was a wonderful store at the address now filled with a coffee shop. Liberty’s is a must for any crafters visiting London, but try not to take credit cards with you or you’ll come out considerably poorer.
    Enjoy my old home town. The museums are soul-nourishing and the pubs can be wonderful. I’ll read of your exploits from here in Connecticut (nice, but no London).

  149. Hope you found knitters at Tate Modern! I’ve just got home from work in London (even more frustrated that you walked past my office at least twice yesterday!) and read this… There has to be a whack of knitters somewhere in London this evening – a lot of people are making a weekend of it…

  150. Liberty and John Lewis good for buttons and also for yarn! I am wishing you a wonderful day and a good rest. I can’t wait to see your talk tomorrow. I am bringing 5 English friends with me, they are newbies. Wishing you a wonderful trip.

  151. See? That’s what happens when you get out there and become adventurous! You get art galleries, giant clock towers, and you must listen to the music at the abbey. It’s amazing. Brilliant acoustics.

  152. I remember seeing incredible textiles in Westiminister Abbey. It was a cape of some sort and extremely old. I apologize for not knowing the right name for the cape or the right name for the part of the Abbey (near the outdoor covered walkway??) It was an awesome place, as was everywhere I went. The Inner Temple was incredible, too, but I understand it is now quite crowded.
    The Tate? St. Pauls? Just about everywhere! I wish I was there, too. Back to work.

  153. I love hearing about you in London! I loved poking around there when I was a sophomore in college, many years ago. I also remember being blown away by the minute size of the Arnolfi portrait (which I’d also studied). It is all the more incredible for its size. See if you can go to some theater too…

  154. Oh if you were around longer we could’ve arranged the whole Monopoly game! What fun! Glad you had a nice day out. And I hope you’ve found some knitters – Ysolda and Laura are in your neck of the woods even – I can’t imagine they’ve left you abandoned to enjoy a pint (or two) on your own.

  155. I guess I’m not the only one wondering if your Monopoly board is a Canadian thing…because those places aren’t on the game I grew up with.
    Good for you for getting out of your box and checking out London!

  156. Ah, the Arnolfini Portrait. I came around the corner and there is was. Knocking the stuffing out of me, while, at the same time, shocking me by its smallness.
    A friend of a friend, whose father was the director of the Cleveland Instiute of Art, said she once got to hold that painting. I wouldn’t have been able to breathe.

  157. no one ever believes I’m shy either. But tonight when I go to that party I feel so anxious about I’m gonna think of the yarn harlot in jolly old london and try really hard to just have fun. great photos btw. wish you could tell me about Yoko’s secret project….

  158. Wow, what a post and what a trip. And if I may respond to a small part of it, Albrecht Dürer? Another Albrecht Dürer fan! (My father is an art dealer…)

  159. Are you having fun yet? Jetlagged with no hotel room (=shower) didn’t sound much like fun to me. I am sure that there are no end of people who would have been only too pleased to take you out and show you the sights if they’d known that was what you would have liked to do (I was going to say “and show you a good time” but that has a whole different meaning)
    I want you to have a fantastic time so that in future if the prospect of a European tour comes up you are mad keen to come again. I’m just hoping you get your evening’s knitting and some buttons to die for.

  160. I think you have a different Monopoly board than I do, because those places aren’t on mine. Is there a difference between US and Canadian Monopoly boards? I guess it might make sense to be different, because half of our properties are named after US states. Hmmm…..

  161. In 2006 I spent three weeks in Enland and Scotland. My sister lives near Bury St. Edmunds. Public transportation from there to London was challenging. I only made it to London once with my brother-in-law. But you will what we attended:
    A Beer Fest!!
    I would have like to be at the V & A.

  162. London is absolutely the best place to have adventures! Absolutely! And you can go anywhere pretty much in the whole damn contry with a combination of tube, bus or train. What’s not to love?

  163. The best places to buy buttons in London is
    The Button Queen,
    19 Marylebone Lane
    London W1U 2NF
    The last time I was there there were some theatrical dressmakers in there choosing buttons for theatre costumes. It had every button you want and more.
    Very old fashioned shop with buttons from the past still sewn onto cardboard.

  164. I, too have the most heart wrenching love for Albrecht Durer! I thought I was the only one! Nice to know. Have fun!

  165. Thank you for your blog Stephanie. You reminded me of being breathless in front of great paintings that I had studied. WOW.
    Good on you for being brave – you end up getting out what you put in.

  166. LOL – your time in Westminster sounds like mine – I was jetlagged and just wandering around – the horse guards! Hey isn’t that Old Scotland Yard? Isn’t that the place where the Sweeney came belting out of? And Downing St! And parliament! And Big Ben and oh Westminster Cathedral! Golly Buckingham Palace! I walked past all of them in one day, saw the Thames. Truly amazing. At least I didn’t have to worry about looking the wrong way to cross the road but I do now!
    How’s your left and right? (Even more) Confused yet? 😀
    (PS Albrecht Durer Roolz! And also if you see Mrspao/Sam, say hi from me! LOL But you have enough to do anyway…)

  167. If you get a chance, go visit the national portrait gallery, it’s around the corner from the National Gallery. The collection of Tudor portraits are worth the time alone.
    As an Art History major I have loved London museums passionately for as long as I can remember. I have loved London for as long as I can remember. It’s only been a year since I was last there, but your post has whetted my appetite — theatre, museums, bookshops, Liberty’s of London, good beer and cider, real cider! I think I may abandon all rational behavior and head to the airport, there are a couple of late flights from Philly that I may still be able to make…

  168. I was in London back in 1980 and though I went with my (then) husband, because he was there to take a course, I essentially did it alone. What an experience. I’m glad you did the National Gallery and be sure to do the Tate if you have time. I was in London for an entire month and I don’t think I saw everything. Do see as much as you can.

  169. I asked my only friend in London and she said that maybe Spitalfields Market, but wasn’t too sure.
    I thought the same thing about the Arnolfini portrait. 😉
    What amazed me about the museums, as much as the art, is that they allow you to knit in them. At home they’d have a heart attack contemplating a pointy stick near a painting.
    You’re making me miss London more than you know. So glad you are venturing out. Drinking a pint alone in a pub isn’t so bad – there are plenty of things to watch out the windows.

  170. This is one of my favorite of your posts. Definitely rang my bell (NOT Big Ben). And as a sort of Art History Major, I am so happy for you that you “made do” with the National Gallery. I totally get your shock about the van Eyck. I did a lonnnnnng paper on P. Brueghel as a college senior and surely had neither the painter’s training nor political seasoning to understand what he was about. Just knew I was entranced. And I get the breathtaking awe of being in the presence of magnificent renderings even when they’re “only” chalk.
    Hope you find happy companions that DON’T wear you out, find perfect buttons, have manageable-sized adventures, and that you keep telling us about your thoughts, feelings and “aha’s.”

  171. this may be one your best postings
    art changes so many lives
    i live not far from ringling
    art museum in sarasota always a joy
    another way to look did my long ago
    family walk these halls can the paintings
    show me how they lived -how they lived
    in other countries-is this the ship
    that brought them to america
    i am from new jersey usa
    and atlantic city is my space

  172. The National Gallery is what turned me into an Art History Major. I have a deep and abiding love for the National Gallery. I highly recommend taking advantage of their print-on-demand system, if you’ve a deep and abiding love for a painting or five in their collection.

  173. Sounds like a nice bit of adventure. Walking and art and watching.
    Sometimes I notice I’m shy, which I find amusing considering my job is talking to strangers. Nothing unusual in that – I think a lot of us work with strangers. I can easily believe you’re shy. You’ve just got this great joy to share with people. (and knitters aren’t really strangers, once you start talking to them, even if there are a whole stinking lot at once)

  174. I so get the breath-taking feel of standing in front of art that you know so well – yet it takes your breath away in reality as you stand in front of it. I can take my husband and 19 yr-old son anywhere if it includes art galleries…lovely…would like to be standing there with you…j

  175. Just delurking to say oh my god I’m a knitting nerd. I don’t live in London and haven’t been there for years and I’m way down in the west country (where the cider comes from) and I’m still excited that you’re just here on UK soil. Find me a snugly-fitting jacket with extra-long sleeves, please, someone?

  176. It is so wonderful to re-live my trips to London through your eyes–I took a travel study trip there last summer where I took British Modernism and the second part of British History. I was tickled that you were familiar with Brideshead Revisited–I got to visit Castle Howard (where it was filmed) last summer and it was MIND BLOWINGLY AMAZING. OMG the garden! Makes me want to find a Lord to marry… The National Portriat Gallery is a wonderful place to visit–I enjoyed it fully as much as the Portriat. The Tudor portraits in particular were amazing. If you get a chance you should go into Westminster Abbey–it is one of my favorite places in London. Enjoy the rest of your trip! Good luck on your quest for knitters and buttons!

  177. The museum sounds dreamy. I can’t imagine being inches away from the actual paintings. I hope to go to London some day . . . keep your fingers crossed for me.

  178. The whole thing sounds amazing! Especially the artwork – next time you are in Chicago, if you’ve time and you’ve never been, the Art Institute is amazing and it’s worth going just to see “Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”
    I want to know about the great pen!! details please
    Pen Ho

  179. Seeing Sunflowers in person is an adventure unto itself. There is no substitute for seeing van Gogh’s works in person. And if you have the chance to see his sketches you can see how he really thought out and planned that paint! It’s amazing! Cannot be adequetly described!

  180. I will echo everyone else and say that it’s so exciting to have you here – and that I wish we had known you were at a loose end sooner – there are loads of us who would have loved to show you just how fantastic a city this is! And to the person earlier in the posts who talked about ordinary Londoners just walking over all the history every day – some of us do know how wonderful it is and how lucky we are to live here!
    Very much looking forward to tomorrow!

  181. This is why you carry a camera. You *can* share, even with people who are not there at the time……
    I love travelling with someone, but I also love travelling alone………

  182. Thank you. You reminded me of my favorite city in the world (and of a glorious solo walk through what had been the Elizabethan theater districts, from a spot where Christopher Marlowe was arrested through Southwark to the Clink), and you also reminded me, as you often do, of why art – and craft – matters.
    As someone else said, I wept – but for all the right reasons. Again, thank you. I needed that.

  183. Hello Stephanie. I am from London,live in the states now.My wife is always banging on about how funny and interesting you are. Well she may be
    Someone mentioned the St. Martin in the field church next to the national gallery,the choir there is perhaps the best on earth. Not kidding.I don’t even like church music,but the pure joy of the sound there is truly amazing.
    The national gallery has a massive series of paintings on rafts in the basement. All hidden away because they are not signed or cannot be provenanced. They have some amazing stuff down there.
    Don’t worry about getting lost,it is part of the fun. You will see things that will astonish you that are not mentioned in any guide book. But do go and see some of the sights too. Remember it has been a city for a couple thousand years. So you can’t see it all in a short amount of time.
    If you need anything, ask. My family all still live there. So if you need a tour this weekend………
    Good luck.

  184. It sounds like you had a wonderful day! Some of my best travel experiences happened when I just wandered about on my own, and London is a fabulous city for wandering about!

  185. Can’t believe Chicago is so silent. Soak in London, bless it, and when you’re home and healed, get Franklin to sneak you into the Chicago Art Institute. “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand Jatte,”… and then turn you back and look at the Lautrec to the left of the door. (And where does that Lautrec portrait OF Van Gogh live when it’s at home?) Frighteningly amazing collection.
    (Drink more water.)

  186. great post–you’ve brought back so many memories of my trip to London three years ago (2mos pregnant = loads of sore feet). Although I was staying with friends outside London, I bravely (for me) ventured into the unknown BIG CITY. London is fabulous–if you get a chance go to the British Museum, I think I could spend weeks in there. Have lots of fun! and a pint or two!

  187. re the anon comment about knitting needles in your carry on…I didn’t have a problem with that when I came thru heathrow last august, but only with the number of items being carried on…so I would recommend using your cheapest needles( just in case you have a sec.guard with a serious case of hitleritis, and burying them deep.
    Enjoy the rest of your stay. and don’t forget there’s more to the UK than just London!!

  188. Glad to see you are sticking to the middle of the Monopoly board. No low rent district or Mayfair for you! The purples and the reds are my favorite properties of all. Whether they are Pall Mall, Whitehall, Strand and Trafalgar Square or (as they always will be in my mind’s eye) St. Charles, States, Kentucky and Illinois. We have so many versions of this game at my house that if I could dig to the bottom of the pile I could tell you what they are called in Middle Earth as well.
    Glad to see you flexing your adventure muscles. It’s my favorite thing to do in a new city. Hope you found a group to knit with and follow the sun all the way home with no bad weather.

  189. Your words about being in the Gallery perfectly express the way I feel whenever I have the good fortune to be able to visit a museum with great works. I’m so glad you were able to experience it (though I have not. yet.)

  190. Thank you so much for sharing all the wonderful details of your visit! I would love to visit London some day!
    I know exactly what you mean about Van Gogh’s paintings! I stood in awe at the Met in NYC with my mouth agape just staring at his paintings when I saw them. I’m so jealous that you got to see Sunflowers. It’s one of my absolute favorite paintings.
    Good luck on your button hunt. You’ll have to be sure to let us know when you find the perfect buttons 🙂 Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip!

  191. Do they have a different Monopoly board in Canada? Because in the US, we have streets that ar ein Atlantic City, NJ, not Trafalgar Square!

  192. Do they have a different Monopoly board in Canada? Because in the US, we have streets that are in Atlantic City, NJ, not Trafalgar Square!

  193. FWIW, I think you may very well get home with your DPNs intact. I live in the US and have traveled to see relatives in Europe at least three times since 9/11, and only had trouble with my DPNs once, when a flight attendant on a KLM flight asked me to put them away.
    I am glad you are enjoying London. I feel as if I am too!

  194. A fellow art historian knitter! I thought I was the only one 😉 Apparently the Monopoly board is different in Canada — no Park Place? no Reading Railroad? No Atlantic Avenue?

  195. London is such a wonderful city–I’m glad you’re getting out into it. The more you see, the more you’ll love it. Seeing art in person, as opposed to a reproduction in a book, is always a revelation, and I think this is especially true of Van Gogh. I never liked the Sunflowers until I saw the original, and then it took my breath away.

  196. Oh, man. You just described, almost word-for-word, the very first day of my very first trip to London. Except the Queen Mum had just died, and I didn’t realize it until I stepped out of the Tube station to thronging hordes of people queued up for her viewing in Westminster Abbey, and newspaper boys shrieking “QUEEN MUM DEAD!” and thrusting papers in my face. That was a little surreal.
    So I went to the National Gallery instead, and got a nice, healthy dose of perspective. And awe. Forever the awe. Ah, Dürer, how I love thee.
    Hey, if you have a chance to visit the British Museum before you go, try to get upstairs to the Prints and Drawings collection. Not the gallery, but the archives, which are behind a closed door. All you have to do is go there, show some ID to prove you haven’t escaped from an institution, and ask to see the drawings, and they’ll let you sit down while a nice, handsome archivist comes up and says, “Who would you like to see today?” Ask to see Dürer. They’ll show you the real, no-kidding pieces in person, one at a time, for as long as you like. Heaven.

  197. Firstly, I must tell you that I read your blog on a regular basis, enjoy it immensely, and routinely laugh out loud. You have quite the gift of the gab, my dear.
    I didn’t realize you were in LONDON. I thought you were going to London. As in Ontario. My. Enjoy yourself. It’s a great place to roam around in on your own.
    Me? I do ‘alone’ very well. Perhaps too well. I’m 47 and still single.
    Note to self: “Must work on that.”

  198. Your writing takes my breath away. I ,too, love the artists you mention, and yeah, there aint nothin like the real thing.

  199. Oh why did I not think to go to the National Gallery? (I minored in art history too.) I’ll just have to go back to London some time. 😀
    Any desire to go on the Eye of London? It’s rather frightening, yet fascinating at the same time.

  200. I thought I was the only person in the world with a heartbreaking love for Albrecht Durer… now I don’t feel so lonely about it. 🙂

  201. Make sure you stroll on the south bank as well and try some of the open air markets. I am still so envious. Wish I was there….

  202. So glad you’re having a good time.
    For the record, we don’t put ‘look left’ on all the crossings around the country, but in London it seems like a good idea. The place is full of jet-lagged, addled tourists from right-driving places. (Also, if you get the ferry across from France, there are huge signs as you drive off the boat saying “DRIVE ON THE LEFT!” and vice versa)

  203. As a fellow shy person, I’m really proud of you for venturing out by yourself. You go girl. Ah, such memories you’ll have!

  204. I am so happy for you! How I would love to go back to England. I am a complete Anglophile. Have a wonderful time and thank you for sharing your trip with us. You are amazing. I don’t drink beer and actually like to be alone, but I really feel like we are true sisters in spirit. Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with all of us.

  205. Monopoly places… that seems so bizarre.
    Surely you could find buttons in a big… erm… yarn shop there? hehehe.

  206. Sorry you had a fruitless search for buttons. On your last blog entry I left you an address of a button shop just off Oxford Street. Was that the one that has gone AWOL?

  207. Good Luck! Good Luck! Good Luck! And the sun is (sort of) shining. Saturday at last, and I’m actually going to see the person whose blog and books are so sane and life-enhancing. Yipee!

  208. I’m so glad you were ravished by the National Gallery! It’s been pretty much my favourite place in London since I was about 8. Sorry about the crappy weather, though… Hope you have a ball today – I can’t be there (have to pack for going on holiday tomorrow, plus my 6 month old decided he hates trains, plus…um, I forgot to book until it was TOO LATE!) but my mother is going, and bearing beer on my behalf!
    (SO envious of your Northern Lights experience!)

  209. I went to England by myself and was alone for the first time in my life in 1980. I still have the map and little diary I wrote in and now glad that I bought it as I have forgotten some events…..
    You aren’t use to being alone, it takes practice, and really you know you aren’t alone there are 30000 of us watching your every move! I loved the London Museum, lots of local history. Having heard all my life about war time England from the parents it was really interesting to SEE what I had heard about for years. Getting lost is part of the adventure! Have a cuppa for me while you are there…….

  210. I met you at the Chapters Night in Kingston this year and I totally get that you are a shy person but you have compensated brilliantly. I remember as I walked up to have you sign my book I thought what can I say other than the mundane “I love you, I love your books” and came up with something more relevant. You see I as well am shy and conversation doesn’t always just flow out of my mouth so I must plan these things somewhat.
    Glad to hear that you actually got out and enjoyed the sights. I don’t mind sightseeing by myself but I really hate dining alone. I’ve had to do that alone when I’ve travelled for work. It’s just not enjoyable and I never know where to look.

  211. So nice to be there with you on this trip – thanks for the ride! And break a leg at iknit 🙂 …those seats do look intimidating when they’re empty; just need smiling faces looking back at you and the sock.

  212. Albrecht Dürer, really? You took me back to my Art History days…And I wrote my final paper on him…one of his self portraits as compared to a modern day self-portrait…gah, it’s been more than a decade now…eep.
    I know what you mean about playing the outgoing person really well. It’s a good survival instinct to have.

  213. I’m surprised and yet I shouldn’t be. Doesn’t it always turn out that we are more alike than we thought at first blush. Kudos for pushing out of your comfort zone and exploring London! I know well how tough that can be.

  214. I hate to do this since you did specifically ask that I don’t but actually that’s not Big Ben. That’s Small Steve. A little known London fact but in 1876 Big Ben was decomissioned and buried in full military regalia at sea by the Queen’s navy. A retinue of mourners and dignitaries (including several members of the royal family) were in attendance at the ceremony. He was carried out to deepest point of the Thames estuary by the HMS Belfast and laid to rest admist all the pomp and circumstance befitting his station. Small Steve, completed in 1878 and originally built out of clapboard, brick, and plaster, was refurbished in 1972 and is built entirely out of plastic, MDF, and fibreglass and contains no actual bells. A recording of the original Ben’s chimes is broadcast from a speaker behind Steve’s clock face every hour. Unfortunately for Small Steve his frame is not robust enough to withstand the constant battering of the winds that roar up the Thames corridor from the sea. There is no large windbreak in his vicinity and as such he is at constant risk of fracture and even collapse. Parliament is currently debating whether to replace him with a newer model (to be called Tiny Tim)or if they should comission a new landmark altogther. Damien Hirst has put in a bid for a giant squid with diamonds at the end of its tentacles to be preserved in formeldyhyde and suspended in a Perspex tank onto which the local time will be projected from a nearby platform. Instead of a bell to chime the hour a selection of 23 local musicians, orchestras, and choirs covering a variety of genres and communities will be asked to record a different piece for each hour.
    Hmm.. I can’t believe I actually dedicated the last 20 minutes to writing such a complete lie.
    If you really want to know a cool fact about Big Ben it is this: The name “Big Ben” actually refers to the big bell inside the tower (the one that goes “bong, bong” to mark the hour) and the name of what everyone (including all Londoners) call Big Ben is something incredibly boring like “The Clock Tower” or “The Parliament Clock” or something. I learned this from Stephen Fry on QI. He never lies.
    (Also, did you know the Americans play with a completely different Monopoly board? I know because I’m an American. I’m afraid I prefer the English version. Don’t tell.)

  215. Oh, this post brought tears to my eyes! I used to travel a bit (not as much as you, you globetrotter) for work before I went back to teaching…and I used to spend so much time dithering about being out on my own, or getting lost, that I would end up in the hotel room eating bad room service. It took a while to gain the confidence to try going out alone, and even longer to enjoy it! I miss that.

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