Ancient Ruminations on London

I have been slowly going through the old posts on my ancient LiveJournal, deleting most and saving some as pdf. There are a few, the rarest of posts, that are worth preserving, so I’ve been adapting or revising them to bring forward to this blog.

One such post was my answer to a question-meme, “If you won a trip to anywhere, where would you go, and why?” While I travel quite often now, that was not so when I wrote this on LiveJournal. This particular LJ post was written before I had ever been to Europe.

Anyone who’s known me for more than a week knows that I want to go to England more than any other destination; <lj user=’raptorgirl’> even gave me a London travel book a few years back as a birthday gift, The Irrevent Guide To London. I just need a travel buddy and a little lead time to put together the money and the vacation request.

It’s true, I used to go on and on about London. By the time I lived overseas, the money and vacation time was no longer a hindrance to going, and I realized pretty quickly that if I kept waiting for a travel buddy, I would never make it anywhere. So, I started traveling alone. And before long, I took that first trip to London- the first of many. By the time I finally made it to the UK, “The Irreverent Guide To London” was wildly out of date, but it was still a fun read. (And for those who aren’t hip to the LJ lingo, raptorgirl is the LiveJournal username of Vanessa, a dear friend here in Orlando. I met her originally when we were both students at the University of Central Florida, and it feels really weird that we’ve known each other now for more than two decades.)

I want to ride the London Eye. I want to see Stonehenge. I want to visit Stratford-on-Avon. I want to see that giant odd looking tower in Cardiff that figures so heavily in the early seasons of Torchwood. I want to see a show in Picadilly. I want to get drunk and lie in a field in Cambridge. I want to ride the Tube and mind the gap. I want to visit a very particular grave in Highgate Cemetary in London. Years of watching British television and reading British authors have given me a laundry list of things to do and see.

I’ve actually decided that I’m going to get there before I turn forty- that gives me just over a year and a half to get my shit together.

I’d like to see other parts of the world too, but that can all wait. London first.

All in all, I did pretty well on this list- In my first trip to London, I managed to ride the London Eye. (And again on a subsequent trip.). I took a day trip from Paddington Station to Salisbury to see Stonehenge. I went to Cardiff with one of my best friends on a subsequent trip to see Roald Dahl Plass, which was used for establishing shots as the Torchwood Hub. (Today is that friend’s birthday, actually- Happy birthday, Lorrie!) We went to the Doctor Who Experience on the same trip- alas, the. DWE has since closed. I’ve watched three different shows in Picadilly. I went to that grave in Highgate. I rode the Tube and minded the Gap. And I did so, so much more.

I didn’t get to go lie in a field in Cambridge, but maybe I’ll manage to do that after this pandemic wraps up. And while I still haven’t made it to Stratford-on-Avon, I did tour the Globe Theater in London, so maybe that’s close enough?

While I was wrong about the sequence – I was living in Germany before I ever made it to London- I did manage to see London before the deadline. Just barely. My first trip there was the summer before I turned forty. I’ve been back a couple of times since though, and there’s always more to see.

After seeing 28 different countries away from home, London is still my favorite place to visit in all the world. I miss it. I hope I can get back there sometime soon.

If you won a trip to anywhere, where would you go, and why?

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[Ancient Repost] It’s bloody Brigadoon!

I’ve been clearing out an ancient LiveJournal in preparation for deleting the account. While most of the stuff there is utter fluff, a tiny portion of the posts are worth preserving. What follows is one such post.  Although I have updated this post with new material, some sections were originally written in May of 2005.

In the late 1990s,  I took a trip to Orlando with a friend to see another friend. I grabbed a hotel out of some guidebook or other, and based on the fact that it was listed as being “near Disney,” I just made a reservation blindly. I was at a place called the Sheraton Lakeside Inn, and it was on Highway 192 not far from I-4. The aforementioned friend and I stayed in that hotel for a few days, and when the trip was done, I mostly forgot about it all.

Flash forward to May of 2005.  I was traveling to Orlando again, this time for an Erasure concert, and I realized that I had forgotten to make a reservation for a hotel.  The place that I normally used for Orlando visits was booked solid, so I turned to Priceline.com. I told it to find me something near Disney, since the concert was at House of Blues.

Can you see where this is going? I didn’t. At least not right away.

I got a result at a La Quinta Lakeside, for $25 a night. Fine. Drove up, pulled in, got my room. Thought to myself, this looks a little familiar. Wonder why.

Drove around to my room after checking in, and found even more familiar looking stuff. The stairs looked familiar. The doors looked familiar.

Then I wandered around the hotel and really looked. At the restaurant, the general store, the pool, the mini-golf, the lake…

It was the same fucking hotel. The exact same one. I was even in the same building I stayed in when it was still a Sheraton. For all I know, it might have been the same room.  Crazy, right?

I was amazed and confused. It’s a little creepy to wander around and see the exact same things more than a decade later. The same, yet different. Wild.

Then it happened again.

Another ten years later, in September of 2015, Amelie and I were going to Orlando for some theme park time.   Once again, I used Priceline.com to nab a room, and once more, I got a place for $25 a night.   This time, it was called the Maingate Lakeside Resort, but I still didn’t catch the “Lakeside” part of the name.

This time, I realized what had happened as soon as we arrived-  the hotel still looks exactly the same, despite changing from a Sheraton to a La Quinta to a no-brand hotel over the span of more than twenty years.  They even still had the little mini-golf course.

I guess I’ll be back in 2025.

Singular Sensation

During the summer before my 10th grade year, my father and my brothers and I all climbed into dad’s 1986 Honda Accord, and hauled ourselves up the interstate highway into New York.  We stopped briefly to see dad’s cousin in Hyde Park, to visit dad’s cousin near the FDR Estate.  My flawed thirty-years-ago memory insists that dad’s cousin was a care-taker of the FDR estate, but I may not be remembering that correctly.

Ultimately, this trip took us into the city of New York.  We walked through central park more than once, due to mild lost-ness, and we also took in a show.  We took in this show:

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This was the original run of A Chorus Line, which started on July 25, 1975, and was still going strong in 1987 when my brothers and I saw it in 1987.  I’m pretty sure dad was behind the camera on this one, because he was definitely with us.

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A Chorus Line on Broadway ran until April 28, 1990.  When it ended its nearly fifteen year run, the Schubert theater had held more than 6,000 showings.  It held the honor of being the longest running show on Broadway, until Cats took the new record seven years later.  (Cats has since lost the title to the Phantom of the Opera.  There’s always something bigger.)

On the last day that A Chorus Line was running on Broadway, another much smaller production was doing its second to last day: Santaluces Community High School, in Lantana, Florida.

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In this production, a certain seventeen-year-old future blogger was cast in the role of Gregory Gardner.  Wikipedia hilariously describes the role as, “a sassy Jewish gay man who divulges his first experience with a woman.”

When I was a senior in high school, I didn’t know anything about gay people, so I had no idea that playing a gay person on a high school stage in 1990 was a big deal until years later.  What I did know was that I’m a mediocre tap dancer at best, and that I looked damn good in gold lamé.

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I’ve been able to keep track of a few of the cast and crew members over the years, mostly through the evil web of Facebook.  A precious few of the folks in this photograph have been excellent friends to me for the entirety of the twenty-six years since the show (and high school) ended for me.  If you know where to look, my good friend, fellow blogger, and Huffington Post overnight editor Jade Walker is in the cast photo below.

As for me, I’m in the front row, fifth from the left.  And I still think I look good in gold lamé.

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What was the first musical you saw on stage?  If you were in drama in school, what was the first show in which you took the stage?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

Lost Photo Post: Vaduz, Liechtenstein

It is once again time to add to my series of photo posts where I took a bunch of photographs, intending to make a blog post out of them, and then never got around to actually writing the post.

On April 24th of this year, I joined two colleagues from our German office for a car ride from Regensburg Germany to Zurich Switzerland to attend some meetings.   The gentlemen in the car with me were kind enough to allow me to persuade them to detour very slightly, around lunch-time, into my 28th country visited: Liechtenstein.

The Principality of Liechtenstein is a tiny landlocked country that sits between Austria on the northeast and Switzerland on the southwest.  The entire country is roughly 62 square miles in size, with an estimated population of about 37,000 people.  That’s one-eleventh the population of Miami, Florida!

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The fact that Vaduz wasn’t a very lengthy detour helped me to persuade my colleagues.  Also beneficial to my request for a detour is the fact that both of them are fond of a good restaurant.  We set out to Vaduz to dine.  The choice was between Vaduz and neighboring Schaan, and I pushed for Vaduz.   The food at Restaurant Adler was just ok, but the decorations were fascinating.

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I preferred Vaduz to Schaan because Vaduz is the capital city. In this case, the city is less than seven square miles in size, with a population of a little more than 5,000 people.

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Liechtenstein is a very wealthy city, and while walking through the city center, we saw several banks, a Superdry store, and this Botero sculpture:

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Lest you think it was all ritz and culture, there was also this giant Weber grill.

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Liechtenstein is also a constitutional monarchy, and the most prominent landmark in Vaduz is Vaduz Castle, home of the current reigning prince.  The castle is sitting on a steep hill overlooking Vaduz, and you can see it from just about anywhere in the city.

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Here’s a slightly more zoomed photo of Vaduz Castle, taken after lunch and just before we continued our drive into Switzerland.

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Have you ever been to Liechtenstein?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

Fear is the worst reason not to travel.

My employer is sending me to Europe for some meetings at the end of April, and I shared my excitement to Facebook after I received my booking confirmation.  “Airfare for Germany: Booked. Bazinga!”   Most of the comments were the usual sort.  People want to know when and why I’m going.  A while after the initial post, one of my old buddies said this:

“Are you sure you wanna travel there right now?”

My initial response was flippant- “Germany and Switzerland are fine.  It’s not as if I have a business meeting in Syria.”    The more I thought about it though, the more I wonder how many of my friends truly think that the world is that scary right now.       This response, one of trepidation, is almost certainly because the Brussels bombings have been in the news for the last few days.  Before that, it was Charlie Hebdo.  Or the Boston bombing.  Or any number of attacks in various places that seem like they should be safe.  If you believe the news, everything is terrible and we’re all going to die any minute now.

If you watch the news in the US, it’s all fear, all the time. But that’s not the reality.  It’s no more dangerous to go abroad right now in most of Europe than it is to walk alone at night in a major city in the US.   Be aware of your surroundings.  Travel with common sense about your personal security.  And stop worrying about the statistical unlikelihood that you might meet a terrorist.

I’ve never felt uncomfortable or nervous anywhere I’ve been in Europe.  In Germany, I worked side by side with Muslims and I never felt like they were doing anything more objectionable due to their faith than abstaining from the wonderful German beer that was all around us.   Since 2011, I’ve traveled to more than two dozen countries.   The only time I’ve ever felt uncomfortable was in Cairo, and that was mostly because of the terrible terrible drivers.    And the pushy people along the Nile who want to sell you stuff.

Fear is the worst reason to stay at home.   There are so many wonderful things to see out there, and if you let the news give you nightmares, you’ll miss all of it.

Have you ever felt nervous in an unfamiliar city?