london

dates: march 19 to march 28 2009
mode of travel: qantas airways (A380) sydney to london via bangkok
stayed at: crescent hotel, cartwright gardens, bloomsbury/sandringham hotel, st mary st, cardiff

conference: international nursing research conference, RCN UK, cardiff.

paper presented: workshop: nurse education –  a dying art?

the purpose of this trip was to run a workshop at a nursing conference in cardiff, but i managed to squeeze in a few days in london first. in some ways, london was the easiest of the overseas trips so far. obviously the english helps, although its not an issue in italy either really. but it was more the cultural familiarity, the customs, habits, things we take for granted – so much we have inherited. i looked at home, i felt at home. it was easy to get around, and easy to ask for help. but it was totally and completely exhausting. i have never been so tired on a trip before. i dont know whether the jet lag got to me or whether it was the endless walking (sometimes in the wrong direction!) but i spent a lot of time sitting in cafes looking for decent coffee or trying to re-energise with fresh squeezed juice in pret-a-manger. probably the main thing was how much i tried to fit in. it goes like this:

i arrived very early sunday morning at heathrow. is it because we’re just from the colonies that we still get the crappy terminal? anyway, got my oyster card (um hello sydney transport, have you seen these things?) and my first train trip into kings cross.

it was still early, and cool when i got out and dragged my suitcase down to cartwright gardens.

of course i coudnt check in but i parked my stuff and headed off to find the british museum. i walked for quite some time before i realised i was going in the completely opposite direction. i was quite dazzled by the fact of being in bloomsbury, and wondered if the little shops around the corner had been shops when virginia lived here.

i thought id been going south towards the museum by walking AWAY from the sun. then i remembered i was in the northern hemisphere. it took me a while to get used to this slight disorientation. but find the brit i did and what a glorious sight.

even for a sunday morning, it was busy, and i spent most of the day in here,

totally overwhelmed by the breadth of treasures and the depth of imperial plunder. yes it made me very uneasy, but it was fabulous all the same. on the way back to the hotel i walked through gordon square and saw virigina’s house.

i found a fancy new mall near russell square tube station and had some dinner and a not very good coffee before dragging my suitcase up 4 flights of stairs to the attic and collapsing as soon as the sun went down.

monday was a very busy day. i knew i needed to do things, go to the tate modern, and to the yarn store, iknit, in waterloo, so it was a southside day. i started with a very yummy breakfast of poached eggs and a quick google chat back home in search of a decent coffee shop. i ended up walking all the way to oxford st,

stopping for sustenance at a pret

and then wandering through soho looking for this place:

finally, a good coffee, and its run by aussies (thanks shelley for that one!). this gave me strength then to grab the tube and head over to southwark, where the tate modern blew. my. mind.

i had peppermint tea in the cafe,contemplating the fact that i had just seen a real live rothko, then spent a bit of money in the shop

before wandering along the river

politely bypassing the globe on the way. there are some dreams i would like to leave unsullied thanks.

i paused at southwark cathedral,

and in retrospect wish i’d gone in but i was getting tired and i needed to get to waterloo

and a certain yarn store

which i must confess was a bit disappointing (the people were great tho). they were in between a lot of seasonal stock and didnt have much that i fancied, and i had a long list of things to get for others, wensleydale for helen, quiviut for jane, books for george. they had a great range of books but not the ones that george had picked from their website, which was a pain, but i picked up some kollage square needles for myself and sat and chatted about my merino clapotis, which was recognised as soon as i walked in. on the way out it started to rain, so i had a cup of tea in a cafe and then headed back to bloomsbury for postcard writing, dinner and sleep.

tuesday morning started with another second breakfast at pret near kings cross and then decided to pop into the british library for a while.

there was a long single file queue out the front.

i wondered if this was some protocol i wasnt aware of, like you had to queue to get your bags checked, or to get a readers ticket, but no, it was just people queueing waiting for the doors to open. the british: a nation of queuers and shop keepers. anyway, the library itself was amazing, obviously there was a whole heap of procedures for aquiring a desk and looking at actual books, so i just wandered through the treasures gallery and shed some tears at the sight of viriginia woolf’s and jane austen’s hand writing. loaded up with souvenirs from the gift shop, i headed off to kings cross where i stood for a minute looking for platform nine and three quarters:

(apparently i needed a ticket) before heading underground to south kensington and the victoria and albert museum.

this totally outclassed the british museum. obviously it depends what youre into, but this was a museum of everyday life: the history of fashion, the changing nature of shoes:

endless corridors of wrought iron and galleries of stone and textiles:

and the study rooms to look at tapestry and sheets of silk and tiny little knitting:

i got very happily lost in here and was sad to come out, but i had more shopping to do, including a pork roll in the food court at harrods (yummO!) and death by rowan in liberty and john lewis.

by now, i was sure that the best thing about london was the tube. what an invention. why isnt there one of these systems EVERYWHERE! i know its crowded and all that, but really londoners, you have it so good with that thing. by now, i was starting to feel at home in london, to work out where things were, to realise how much more there was to see, to stop being overwhelmed by the noise and the people and the endlessness of it. to jog my memory for this post, i have been reading the notebook i kept while there. on tuesday march 24 i wrote ” it is sunny this morning but the wind is freezing. no one here wears sunglasses.” weird and wonderful london. i left her early wednesday morning via cab to paddington

and the train across the west country

and into wales.

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