Brighton: Royal Pavilion, Beach, and Tiny Shops

Inexplicably, I found no daleks anywhere.
A thousand pardons; Wifi has been iffy in a few places recently, and I'm behind on life. Catchup time--Brighton! When I first got off the train, I walked past a BBC window and noticed this guy, Davros, watching the street:

But that's neither here nor there. People don't come to Brighton looking for aliens, they come for bachelorette parties, or "hen-dos." See, Bath used to be relaxation/party central, but a while back, starting about with Henry IV, Brighton usurped Bath as the tiny vice city vacation town of England. With Henry IV royal pavilion to oggle, the historical sea-bathing escape of Austen novels/that time period, Brighton continues to be a thriving beach community, with a massive LGBT population. In the city center, it's kind of like San Francisco or Asheville, but more posh. If you stay out closer to the beach, it gets a lot more like the Outer Banks.

Pause city talk. Let's talk about the palace, by which I mean The Royal Pavilion:

Henry IV's private pleasure palace; a postcolonial pastiche,
If you like decorative arts, you have to go inside of the castle. You can't take pictures inside, which makes it a horrible stop for a blog, but you owe it to yourself to look at the 16-foot chandeliers suspended from dragons.

The Pavilion was constructed to boost his ego shortly after the loss of the American colonies. Thus, to proclaim that England was still a rich colonial power, the place is infused with styles from India, as a reminder that they still had it going on, internationally speaking.  Meanwhile, the interior is a totally not-matching style mimicking China. The style is called "chinoiserie," because we need a French word for that.

Henry built this palace to chill out with his various long term committed mistresses. Evidently he didn't value any mistress's ability to take photos of the place; it's impossible to get a good angle anywhere.

You can't see the palace for the bushes.

Here is a photo of a postcard of the inside, which should give you an idea that there is more colour and life inside. It's overwhelmingly garish/beautiful/excessive.

This is the smaller chandelier without dragons.
On the bright side, it looks like it's on fire.

But let's backtrack. When you first get off the train from London, you can wind through the Lanes, which will transport you to what London must have looked like 200 years ago. While you have the option of sticking to the main street, you can also turn down narrow twisty alleyways to find Starbucks. Follow signs, since you will get lost, and wander into North Laine, which is a massive collection of independent shops. Among them, an Indian-Goth fusion store, and some other things that made less sense and were even more expensive.

Pedestrian mall: possibly only here because there is now way cars are fitting.

See, as evidenced by the tiny winding lanes and old buildings, they don't really build new things in Brighton. The emphasis on preservation makes it a good counterpoint to London, which, as I mentioned, is a blend of very old and rocketships.

A random backyard(?) Why not have it in the middle of shops!

Unfotunately, you can't get a good picture to demonstrate narrow winding streets when you are inside of them. Something about angles and visual blockades.

The streets: they were narrow. 

And when you get tired of shopping, you can go to the beach! And enjoy the nice weather!

Beautiful weather! Water is the opposite of warm! Beach! All without sand in sight!

By any definition of good, this is a beach. It's legitimately a nice place to sit by the sea and let the sea breezes cool you on a hot day (and this was taken in perfect beach weather). There's the pier with all the pier stuff, if you're into that sort of thing. Unfortunately, the above pic was taken while passing through. I was busy that day with all the tours and shops and things. I would leave the full day of beach enjoyment until tomorrow!

This was tomorrow.

On the whole, I like my beaches warmer. It was a nice place to walk around, if you wanted to wear a jacket and shoes and pants and then leave anyway because the wind was too cold.

Brighton: by all accounts a great place to live. But if you want to rent, you'd better have six months rent to pony up front. Not everyone does. Consequently, you will meet a lot of local residents in the hostels. Unless they get tired of having the same conversation, they are friendly and can give you good insight into viewing the city as a local. 

If you go hosteling in Brighton, stay at Kipps. Avoid the Smart Sea View, because it isn't. 

Franklin's House

In case you were curious, Franklin lived really close to Trafalgar Square. I assume he hung out at the British Museum all the time and never got into any trouble.

Unfortunately, I got there at 4:30, and the last tours are at 4:15. Thanks, unhelpful travel apps! 

The apartment is part of a row and unmarked and unremarkable, but they do have this fine plaque:

TS Eliot's old house doesn't get a plaque.
But BF does! Everyone loved big Ben!
Jolly old pump thunder!


Yr. hmbl. obed. srvt. &c. &c. 


Thursday: Scattered bits of a city-wide hike

The hottest new hostel in London is Arsenal Tavern Hostel. It's got everything! Attached dive-bar, triple-tall bunk beds, white bread and jam for breakfast, and literal mushrooms growing between the showers! 

Thursday I hiked around London. It was great fun, and quite a lot of walking.

I couldn't go into the museum, because it was NOT
redesigned to look like the true Sherlock's apartment.

Baker Street was nice, and of course necessitated a trip to Speedy's sandwich shop.

Then there was some shopping, and anyone who thinks British fashion is forward--be informed that this is for sale: 

This inadequate photo does not show you the glitter on the pug's medalion,
as well as the overall legs awkwardly rolled up to mid calf.

Shopping did not result in me actually buying anything, though I was really tempted at Camden Market. 

I feel like I've seen this picture before...

Big Ben is pretty cool. Does it look better at night?

Then V for Vendetta showed up...
kidding. JJ Abrams style lens flare for flair.


Like David Bowie, London has one blue Eye.

Though if you stand under the eye, you know exactly how ants feel right before you run over them with a bicycle.

They should make another wheel, then it will look like an underground bike
or Dr. Eckleburg turning into a hypnotic machine.

It is a very interesting city to walk around. Lots of the architecture is lovely, and sometimes you see things that just don't make sense--

Alien snowflake attack? 

It's a really interesting city, with the blend of very old and very modern architecture. There is scaffolding everywhere, and everything gives the impression of progress. Also, there are startlingly few homeless people panhandling at the tourist sites. 


Wednesday in London: Museum Mecca

The great thing about London is that so many museums are free. Wednesday, I devoted my time to seeing The British Museum, The National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.

The British Museum: They tell you to take the whole day to see it. Maybe, if you want to shoulder through everyone taking pictures to take the time to read the plaques. It is an exercise in photobombing every single person visiting London who thinks they need to take a picture of the Rosetta stone behind glass. And they do need to, because where else are they going to find that kind of translation aid, except on those plastic bags that tell you don't-use-it-as-a-toy-or-you'll-suffocate, very thoroughly in every language.

Rosetta Stone. All those languages,
and I couldn't read it at all!

It is also amazing as a record of British Imperial History. This is clear from the first room, which looks like they ripped huge chunks out of the set of The Mummy. I really enjoyed being there, at first, the whole place had me Indiana Jonesing for a treasure hunt. But the sheer volume of people to push through also kind of made the experience being stuck in the Tube at rush hour. #SummerTouristProblems

This head was huge. 

Maybe I should have photographed the tourists for contrast. But I was trying to pretend that they didn't exist, and that I was on the set of the Mummy.

You get a great sense that wall-carvings are really the way to tell the story of a civilization.
Too bad the civilizations lost their stories to a museum.

After a while, I started to imagine that Egypt was completely empty of old things--except for the pyramids, of course, because those are bolted down.

These girls will never get ahead in life.
They've been here since 1817.
Tourists! Taking pictures! The horror! It really did get tiring.

After all of that, I walked through the city until I got to The National Portrait Gallery and The National Gallery. It was kind of a lot of walking, but it was great to see paintings after all the cultural objects. There was a great display of contemporary artists who are really very good and whose names I instantly forgot.

Lion around Trafalgar Square.

Those museums have a no-photos policy, so I was able to look around in peace, and it was much more relaxing, and involved less people dodging. Highlights: I saw the famously horrible portrait of Kate Middleton, surrounded by people tsking at how awful the artist had made her look. Shortly afterwards I came across the ugly duchess, and decided that Kate's portrait could be worse.

The British Museum is right on Trafalgar Square.

I always used to get Trafalgar Square and Tienanmen Square confused...
Fun fact: the place where Ben Franklin used to live is very close,
also the place TS Eliot used to live, but he doesn't get a museum.


Historical Disneyland: The Tower of London!

Not London Bridge, Tower Bridge.
You can tell because it is made of towers, visible from the Tower of London,
and not,
in fact,
falling down.
Gee, RR Martin,
where do you get your inspirations?
 Went to the Tower of London today. Partly to see the room they'd ripped up and found 1500 executed bodies. Party to see the Beefeaters. Partly to see that punch bowl. (You couldn't take pictures, but obviously someone on the internet has). But mostly it was to stand where Moriarti stood before he smashed the window an stole the crown jewels.

The Tower of London also has ravens that live there. I am surprised that they have not carried off any gold/jewels. They have a magpie glint in their eyes.

ToL: Less a tower, more a bunch of buildings and walls.
 And outside the Tower of London was the above bridge that was painted for a Jubilee. Plus some great views of the Thames and stuff that people are actively constructing along the Thames.

Looking at these new/in progress buildings, I realized:

I totally get the future-London in Star Trek now.
Which of these is not like the others? 
So here's a question for you: which London do you like? 
a. Square Towers? 
b. Giant Faberge Rocket Ships?

Do the crows even have anywhere to land on the giant egg? Do they get confused and roost?


Top three things I learned from Flying: Gullible Travels

I love airplanes. They're fun to jump out of, provided you have a parachute/someone who knows what they are doing. Right now, fully realizing the true meaning of jet lag, I kind of hate them. Last night was DC to Iceland to London.

This was my first time doing international plane travel. It seemed much the same as domestic, except that everything was said in Icelandic.

Lesson 1: stand your ground!
It looks like a circuit board!

If you picked your seat, don't agree to swap with anyone for any reason.

An adorable family asked to switch their son's seat with mine. They said he had a window seat a few forward. This was true, but the windows aren't aligned, so my visibility was halved! (I would care a lot if I was missing more than circuit boards and black sky.) It also seemed to be the loudest seat on the plane. Earplugs and headphones are my new favorite things.

Lesson 2: don't think too hard

#thatawkwardmomentwhen you realize you have no idea
if this is Iceland or clouds. Spoiler: clouds.
Clouds are weird. Deal with it.

Lesson 3: London is tiny
Not really, but when the plane brings you in, down into Heathrow, you enter at just the right distance for the entire city to look like it's made of miniatures. The architecture and cars also work very well to make them look like they are toys.

It is quite possible that I was also suffering increasingly from the effects of sleep deprivation when I was most convinced we were flying very low over a miniature city.

This isn't what I'm talking about. I couldn't take pictures
for the thing I was talking about or else the electronic radiation
would've made a terrible movie plot.

Also everything is culture shock; Taylor Swift was the first thing I saw on tv.


On Travel Writing

There are many kinds of travel writing. I can say this with authority, because I took a class on it one time in college. I was so looking forward to learning exactly how to do travel writing, and I had such high hopes that everything would be interesting and then--

It was a terrible class.

Boring. boring. boring! Everything we read was boring. Dry, melancholic authors who were so jaded by the travel experience that they could not string two sentences together without interrupting them with a jaded modernist sigh. Needless to say, I learned nothing.

This is not going to be that sort of travel writing. You won't find any cynicism here. This is a blog, by Django! Expect pictures. Fun facts. I will even throw in all caps when I SEE THE BEST THINGS EVAR!

ahem. Well, I am a little allergic to all-capsing (sometimes it threatens to capsize a blog post), but if John Adams can do it, by Vanderkemp, so can I!

To keep up to date with my travels, you should do one of the following:

1. Subscribe to blog. You can do this if you have blogger.
2. Click on links I post on facebook. And you can comment either on facebook or on blog. Let's be real, I exist in both places at once.
3. Email me soliloquies about how much you miss me; I will read them, reply a little, and throw a blog link at you, because I believe in efficiency of typing.

I wish I could give you a regular schedule to look forward to, but wifi is not guaranteed in all places at all times.


Setting Historical Presidents

Breaking news!
Everything old is new again and now it's free online!
Never again will you have to reel in the microfilm. (Unless you think you might want to investigate this outdated technology. Spoiler: you don't.)

These primary sources have never been so easy to browse. There are now 119,000 letters of the founding fathers online. This is big. I'm talking text-searchable, fully immersible, easy-to-read transcriptions. Now available to everyone! For the low low price of free! And there will be more to come. People are hard at work belting letters to each other as we speak.

If you've ever wondered what the early presidents and founders had to say before they were famous and, by osmosis, became dense historical tomes--look no further than Founders Online. This is a great unbowdlerized way to investigate the early presidents. You can read what they said about slavery. Learn what people wore. Learn what culturally-sensitive rumors are being tossed about:
"Commodore Porter says that the Turks & other people on the Barbary Coast believe that every Jew who dies turns into a Jack ass, & that the Christians Mount & ride them instantly, & directly, to the Devil."*
Learn early American modes of expression, and that every letter ever written has a closer of "your loyal & obedt. servt."

This is your first stop for papers of George Washington, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin. And if you want Monroe, the fifth and forgotten founding father, a search tells me he authored 719 letters in the collection, and received 552. (Let me tell you, his handwriting did not make those 719 letters easy).

Disclaimers & Tips
  • Some of them are not authoritative final versions, but by golly, no one can proofread these things but fully trained handwriting experts and archaic orthography experts. 
  • If you are searching terms for frequency of use for linguistic research, be aware that editorial footnotes are also text-searchable, so you cannot infer directly without investigating the results.  
Example: This is an early access document. You can see the disclaimers around the doc and on the sidebar. 

This is a project I've been lucky enough to work with for the past year. I don't know how many hundreds of people have contributed to this massive massive endeavor, but many hours of many people's lives have made this a text-searchable, author-searchable reality.

* Citation: “To James Madison from James Monroe, 22 April 1815,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-4292, ver. 2013-06-10). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.