Okay, so this title is a bit misleading, since I’ve been unpacked (and back from my travels) for quite a while. But let’s go with the metaphorical version of this, since this is the week when I feel like I have an actual chance to mentally unpack. The week after returning from the UK adventure, I spent trying to figure out what timezone I was in and getting the garden and such in place so that we could enjoy a few days of my sister-in-law visiting. Which we did, and that was awesome, and it involved a trip to Denver for delicious food and the Real Pirates Exhibition at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Before I say anything else, let me say that if you’re anywhere remotely near Denver, you need to get yourself to that exhibit before it closes in August. It presents the story of Captain Sam Bellamy and the Whydah (as well as the recovery of the wreck of the Whydah), and it is a damn fine story. (Peter Jackson, would you please make the film adaptation of this?)

But. I have no photos of that. I do have a few photos from my UK extravaganza, though. (Operative word being “few”–I took almost 300 photos, but you don’t really need–or want–the minute-by-minute play-by-play. This post is by no means a catalog of everything I saw. It’s just a few representative of the things I liked.)

Death’s head marker at Greyfriar’s Kirk. Lots of Memento Mori goodness there.

Greyfriar’s Kirk is in Edinburgh, which was–and still is–my favorite place anywhere. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is, and the best guess that I can come up with is that Edinburgh was the place where I first was on my own in any substantial way. In 2003, between finishing my BA and starting my MA, I did a 3-week summer program at the University of Edinburgh, and it was the first time I’d flown by myself, my first time out of the country, my first time negotiating a real city on my own. It was also a place where I met many, many wonderful people, two of whom I had a chance to meet up with again on this trip. (And somehow I managed to neglect getting photos of either of them. I am significantly useless with a camera.) But one thing that I did do, after seeing one of those friends in Edinburgh and chatting rather late into the night, was walk across the city at midnight, under a light rain and strangely warm skies. And that was the greatest peace that I’ve felt in a very, very long time. Edinburgh feels like home. I’ve been there three times. Every time I love it more.

Meconopsis flowers at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. I adore these flowers. 

 It’s a fairly difficult to find truly blue anything in nature, and that’s perhaps why I am so fascinated by blue flowers. The Edinburgh Botanic Gardens were lovely in all ways, but most particularly for this blue flower. I fear Wyoming is rather dry for such a plant, but I can think happy blue thoughts about them, anyway.

The Brazen Head, Dublin. The oldest pub in Ireland (dating to 1198) where we saw storyteller Johnny Daly and had the best Irish stew ever. Apologies, Mr. Man, for taking your picture while you were trying to take a picture yourself.

One of the major highlights of the trip for me was this trip to The Brazen Head. It was a night of stories, music, and excellent food. If you’re in Dublin, check out Johnny Daly and Irish Folk Tours. You shan’t be disappointed.

For the fountain pen folks: in London, I found Penfriend, in the Burlington Arcade, which was a perfectly lovely little shop. The clerk was very friendly and kind to me, even though I clearly was not going to be the object of a large sale (or any sale at all, actually). Definitely worth a visit, particularly if one is interested in vintage pens. (They do have things for sale through the website, too.)

I had only one real disappointment on the trip, but it was a big one: Beowulf wasn’t on display. Despite what the British Library website said. It was off for conservation. I didn’t weep openly, but that was a very near thing. It was crushing enough to completely put me off my game, direction-wise, too, which also hurt my pride. I suppose that simply means I’ll have to go back. (Gawain and the Green Knight was also off. That’s two reasons.)

I did, however, see the Sutton Hoo hoard and the Franks Casket. Yeah, for medieval nerds, that’s like seeing Becks and Posh. You don’t even know how much hand-flapping there was in the British Museum (which, by the way, is completely overwhelming and brilliant and lovely).

I’m going to leave you with a Rodin sculpture that I couldn’t stop looking at. It’s housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum (which is a thousand times more awesome than any of the descriptive blurbs in travel guides make it sound). The sculpture is titled La France, and it is a likeness of his pupil/assistant/lover, Camille Claudette.

It doesn’t matter where you stand. She isn’t looking at you.

In future posts, perhaps, I’ll toss in another photo or two from this trip, as they seem relevant. Really, I’m no photographer. I take pictures to remind myself of the narrative of the trip, to remember structural details for research purposes, to please my inner Boswell. The best course of action, claro, is to see all of these things with one’s own eyes.

3 thoughts on “Unpacking

  1. Holly hand-flapping in the British Museum….just the image I need to keep me going on this dreary rumbly day. But BOO and also HISS about the Beowulf. Didn't they know you were coming, f'cry sake?


  2. walk across the city at midnight

    Goodness! You didn't walk across the Meadows, did you? /psuedo-alarmist sarcasm

    Edinburgh feels like home.

    Yes. I felt that almost immediately when I was there. It is one of the few cities I've been to that I would move to happily and excitedly and, I think, the only city I would consider making a permanent home.

    Also: things like hand-flapping in the British museum and referring to your inner Boswell are things what make you one of the best.


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