Sunday, March 16, 2008

Our first visitor

We had our first visitor last week! Elise, who is my oldest friend (we've been friends for about 17 years), came over for a few days during her spring break. We learned several things:
1. It is possible to host a guest, even in our tiny flat. We'll soon find out about the viability of hosting two guests, when Robert and Diane arrive in May.
2. Andrew and I already know London well enough to play tour guide and show people around, complete with humorous anecdotes.
3. Never, ever, ever fly US Airways. Elise was meant to leave New Haven last Saturday and arrive here Sunday morning. Because of weather, maintenance, and personnel glitches, she didn't get here until nearly midnight on Monday night! And her flight back was delayed by hours, too. Poor Elise.

But, even though her trip was cut short, we all had a fabulous time. We spent lots of quality time hanging around the flat, drinking tea and playing games. We also got to do some sightseeing. On Tuesday, which was my birthday, I had the day off, so Elise and I went into the city. We went to the Tate Britain museum, which I had seen once before, but many years ago. It's all British art, and the museum has particular strengths in William Blake, JMW Turner, and the Preraphaelites. There were some stunning Elizabethan portraits, too.

After our art fix, we walked through Pimlico to Westminster and toured Westminster Abbey. I had never been inside the abbey before because it's pretty expensive, but it was absolutely worth the cost of admission. I'm really glad I got to go with Elise, too. She and I have so many shared interests, and so much shared historical and cultural knowledge, that we make good museum buddies. We were both in awe at the abbey, partly because of the beauty of the architecture and the overwhelming weight of the building's historical significance, but mostly because of all the dead people. Poets corner was as moving as I'd hoped it would be. There we saw the tombs, or at least memorial plaques, of all the heavy hitters of English literature and drama. Elise nearly fainted when she saw Chaucer's tomb. The most fascinating tomb, though, for both of us, was Elizabeth I. We were lucky to be there on a Tuesday afternoon, because we had the room to ourselves for about ten minutes. We couldn't believe we were standing so close to her; it was almost a religious experience. Elizabeth is such a legendary character, but one who actually existed; it was like being able to see the tomb of Frodo Baggins or something. Well, I guess Frodo wouldn't actually have a tomb because he sailed away to the undying lands, but you know what I mean. It was special.

After the abbey, we walked along the river all the way down to Borough Market, where we met Andrew, Amy, and Don for a fantastic tapas meal. Andrew and I had tried to eat there before, but there was a two-and-a-half-hour wait. On my birthday, we got there early and snagged a great table. Andrew kept ordering food and wine for us, and we all had a great time. The food was phenomenal, too. We had thin slices of chorizo and iberico ham, fried goats cheese with honey, shrimp cooked in garlic butter, a nice, peppery green salad, lots of tasty bread, almonds, and olives. For dessert, we had creme catalan, which is basically creme brulee, but with cinnamon, rice pudding, and a sort of flan. How do you say delicious in Spanish?

The rest of Elise's trip was fun, too. Andrew and I had to work, so Elise did some sightseeing on her own: the Tower, the British Museum, the National Gallery. In the evenings, we did some tasty cooking, showed Elise our grocery store, and had some much-needed heart-to-heart conversations. Sometimes you just need to talk to an old friend to figure things out. She left on Friday morning, and Andrew and I have been resting this weekend. You don't get a lot of sleep when Elise is around!

So, for anyone who is considering coming to visit us: we're all ready for you! But make your reservations early, because after such success, I'm sure we'll be filling up soon :-)

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