December, 1996 – England and Wales


December 6, 1996

9:15 a.m.


Yesterday we arrived in London.  The flight was long.  10 hours.  But it didn’t seem as bad as I figured it would.  Even though I stayed wide awake the entire time due to my fear of flying.  I guess the fact that I was going to end up in England was enough to keep the flight from seeming too tedious.  As soon as we had gone through customs and picked up our bags, we checked into our hotel and went off to this little skating shop called “Shack Attack”.  That was an eye-opener.  The tiny section of figure skating things they had was in the very back of the shop and hidden behind a pile of cardboard boxes.  I guess hockey is more popular than figure skating here.  After Shack Attack, we went to The National Gallery.  We only wanted to see two paintings – the Arnolfini Marriage, my Dad’s favorite painting, and a painting with skaters in it.  What little I saw out of the corner of my eye while racing through the mazes of rooms was very impressive.  At least in the amount of work contained here.  After the National Gallery, we planned to go to Harrods, but I got sidetracked by books.  Eventually we did end up in Harrods.  After spending a moment at the hotel, we set out to find somewhere for dinner.  Much easier said than done.  We ended up walking a mile and half down Oxford Street in the freezing cold while we were starving.  It was great. 


December 7, 1996

5:25 p.m.


Two trips have passed since I last wrote in this journal, so I guess I’ve been slacking, but in my defense, I’ve been kept busy shopping.  Yesterday I went to the place where I’ve decided to live as soon as I can afford it.  Glastonbury Abbey is absolutely incredible.  The Abbey is in ruin but the parts that are standing are almost magical looking.  The pieces are cut off at such weird angles.  There are halves of arches and bottoms of doorways.  If the look the place isn’t enough, legend also has it that King Arthur was found here (buried, of course) in the late 10th century, along with Guinevere.  The entire town has the same mystical atmosphere and the clothes shops sell the kind of princess clothes I love.  I bought this gorgeous velvet shirt that I hope I have the guts to wear.  I passed up a silver embroidered velvet and chiffon shirt that I loved because I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing it.  Of course, if I wore that sort of thing all the time, I would be fine.  But jeans one day and princess clothes the next would cause me to develop multiple personalities, I’m sure.  Having said that, I also have to say that if I could afford to redo my wardrobe, all of my clothes would be princess, hippie, London things. 


We had dinner in Bath at this little restaurant, Sally Lunn’s in the oldest building in Bath.  Definitely all around good experience. 



Today we went to Stratford Upon Avon.  We saw Anne Hathaway’s cottage.  I thought I was in a dream.  Everything was tilted and wavy.  We went to shop in the city of Stratford.  Total purchases as of today:  1. Velvet shirt; 2. black shirt; 3. two wool sweaters; 4. Dr. Martens; 5. Presents for teachers, Genie’s Birthday, people at work, Tara and Genie and me, bracelets; 6. Lots of makeup and perfume; 7. Continuing button collection. 


December 9, 1996

11:09 p.m.


Yesterday I fell in love with Wales.  Cardiff was absolutely beautiful.  Everything was perfect.  As we were riding up in the train, I looked out the window and spotted, of all things, an ice rink.  That alone could have made my day.  But it didn’t need to.  The rest of Wales was so incredible.  Cardiff Castle was beautiful.  Of course, it was – it’s a castle.  But Caerphilly was just stunning.  Words cannot describe the awe I felt the first time I set eyes on it.  I was looking through the fog and up on a hill surrounded by the littlest toy buildings below was this monster of a castle.  Just breathtaking.  It is a semi-ruined state, all the more perfect.  I was just in shock. I will go back to Wales soon.


Today we went to York.  If Caerphilly is the Queen Monster of all castles, then York Minster is the Queen Mother of all cathedrals.  I’ve seen York before, so the town was charming, of course, but not as adorable as the first time.  The first time I was like “Places like this really exist?”  Living in L.A. you don’t see to many things that could be labeled a “giant”.  The Minster, though, just colossal, almost knocks you over.


December 11, 1996

10:45 p.m.


Yesterday we went to Chester.  There is this medieval building(s) turned into a shopping mall called “The Rows” – incredibly cool. 


Today was London day.  We went to Kensington High Street to shop.  Rather disappointing.  Prices are obnoxiously high, although I did pick up a pair of affordable Docs with pictures of London all over them.  Westminster Abbey was colossal as expected.  Carnaby Street was a bust.  Everything was closed for one, and from the looks of it, it’s turned into an alley of overpriced headshops.  Pure craziness.  I did see the Richmond campus of Richmond College.  Not my style – too isolated.  I’m going for the 3 week AIF’s for sure!


December 16, 1996

3:55 a.m.


Oh, I guess this means I’m back.  On the last day, we went to Bodiam Castle, which I am absolutely convinced is haunted.  There were all these little winding staircases and big empty rooms with tiny little doors leading to darkness.  From the outside, though, it was beautiful.  It looked a bit like Leeds being complete surrounded by water.  The plane ride home wasn’t as scary as I expected, or as long.  That was a relief.


I’ve gone through reverse culture shock.  I don’t recognize things the way I should but it was the same way when I first got back to London, so I guess it’s to be expected.