- I’m bilingual. I’m fluent in Italian and English.
- I was born on a Thursday, January 8, just like David Bowie.
- I drink every beverage with a straw, and yes, this also includes hot tea and coffee. (Method to my madness, drinking from straws lowers your chances of damaging your teeth and staining them).
- I studied piano for close to ten years. I had a love/hate relationship with it, as I love music and loved playing it, but hated the long practice time (over an hour every single day) of it and being forced to study Bach by my teachers (when I preferred Beethoven, I actually decided to learn to play the piano because I was obsessed with his music).
- If you only know me through blogging, then you may not know that I’m a writer, and have several books up for sale on Amazon including a paranormal urban fantasy: CUT HERE, a collection of short stories: DOLL PARTS – Tales of Twisted Love, and an anthology I edited: MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE – Women In Horror Anthology.
- My first celebrity crush was Leonard Nimoy who played Spock on Star Trek when I was two, and yes, I did prefer him because of his quirky ears and thus began my path of crushing on odd dark-haired men.
- My favourite city in the whole world is London, England. I love it so much that I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to it.
- My love for lipstick started at the tender age of three when I begged my aunt to leave me one of her lipstick tubes. I haven’t stopped wearing lipstick since.
- The historical figure I’ve been obsessed with since I was three is the last French Queen Marie Antoinette. Watching the anime Lady Oscar – The Rose of Versailles for the majority of my childhood did have a hand in that.
- My four favourite novels are novels I’ve read more than once (which I often don’t re-read novels as I have a good memory and find it hard to reread something I already know everything that’s going to happen) are: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde), Interview With the Vampire (Anne Rice), 1984 (George Orwell), and A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens). Did you enjoy what you just read? If yes, then FOLLOW THE BLOG, give the post a like, or leave a comment! New posts are up every Tuesday & Thursday!
My last day in London was a whirlwind. It felt like a ticking clock had been set, counting down my final hours. One must truly allow for at least a week to even begin to enjoy everything that amazing city has to offer. So I pared down my wish list to The British Museum and a special visit to Kensington Park.
The British Museum. Wow. I think I spent close to six hours there and barely scratched the surface of all the exhibits. Stuff I’d only read about in school books was now just a pane of glass away. History from every culture was on display. Even the main lobby is a place to stop and admire for a few moments. The cavernous ceiling is a geometric arch of glass, allowing natural sunlight to illuminate the grand space. Snow piled up the sides of its sloped surface but I dare say it was colder inside the museum than out. Heated blowers were placed in the larger exhibit rooms but unless you were standing directly in front of one, the best way to keep warm was to keep moving.
The famous Rosetta Stone sits close to the main exhibit entrance, luring patrons in and sparking the passion of their inner archeologist. Honestly, it’s difficult to squeeze through the masses just to read the plaque description or snap a picture. But when you do get a glimpse of that massive stone it is terribly impressive. It was a decree issued by King Ptolemy V of Egypt written in 196 BC, once in Egyptian hieroglyphic script, again in Demotic script (the preferred form of Egyptian writing for legal and administrative purposes) and again in Ancient Greek. Before its most recent discovery in 1799, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were a complete mystery. Finding the Rosetta Stone was like finding the Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring but for, like, the most advanced civilization of the ancient world. To have been a fly on the wall of that discovery… And if it weren’t for that stone, a film like Stargatemay never have been made and that’s just not a world I want to imagine living in. (Judge my taste in science fiction/fantasy all you want. It is a permanent part of my DVD collection.)
Nearby are the exhibits direct from Ancient Egypt. A seven-ton granite bust of Pharaoh Ramesses II towers over the vast room of antiquities. Surrounding him sits plaques inscribed with mythological scenes, statues of Egyptian deities, and royal sarcophagi. In 1817, it was announced that the bust of Ramesses would be acquired by The British Museum and it most likely served as the inspiration for Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet Ozymandias. (Ozymandias is the Greek name for Pharaoh Ramesses II). In high school, my classmates and I were required to recite Shelley’s poem and I can still hear the lifeless drone of our voices repeating each line over and over until it was branded into the wrinkles of our brains. As much as I didn’t appreciate the poem then, standing before the giant bust of Ozymandias himself I understood now what Shelley meant. There is lovely anguish when looking at the ruins of something so great. Time is, ultimately, the equalizer of all humanity.
On and on the rooms of history stretch. Each exhibit is worth a half day’s appreciation if you have the luxury of that much time on your hands. Great stone reliefs of ancient battles and wild lion hunts run down entire lengths of display rooms long enough to have a vanishing point. The famous human-headed winged bulls, or Lamassus, from the palace gate of King Ashurnasirpal II (yeah, don’t ask me how to pronounce that) stand on either side of the entrance to ancient Assyrian exhibit room. My heart broke to discover that these fourteen ton stone deities had to be cut into pieces in order to transport them to the museum. They are expertly assembled but the seams are apparent nonetheless. It boggles my mind that the original creators of these statues fashioned and placed them at the palace in one piece. A fun little fact: the bulls are carved with five legs—seen standing on four legs from the front and a fifth leg which, when viewed from the side, gives the appearance of the bull mid-stride.
A small bronze casting of Rodin’s The Thinker sits on a pedestal in the center of the main hallway, quietly splitting the gregarious current of passing tourists. I like to think he’s got the answer to the meaning in life in that metal cranium, smiling inwardly as we all shuffle from space to space, blissfully unaware and too wrapped up in our smartphones to stop and ask, “Well? What is it?”
By the time late afternoon rolled around, there was still half the museum still left to explore but I had to force myself to leave. There was one place left that I had just enough time to see before I enjoying a final dinner: a little gem in Kensington Park. On my way, I passed by Westminster and Big Ben. Sadly, the clock tower was silent and shrouded by scaffolding. Big Ben toned his last hour on August 21, 2017, in anticipation of a four-year renovation project. Exploring a ‘silent’ London felt a little incomplete but it only strengthened my resolve to return when ol’ Benny boy is put back into commission.
When I entered the park gates it was growing close to nightfall. The sky was completely coated in thick snow clouds making it feel much later than it was and I picked up my pace a bit. This was my last chance to see it in the daylight until I returned. Kensington Park stretches on for as far as the eye can see. I could get lost in it quite easily since many of the trails were snowed over and the crowds at that time of day were growing sparse. I wandered through the Italian Gardens, an ornamental water garden full of manicured pools and fountains, and Renaissance-like sculptures. I stopped at the Tazza Fountain which, today, resembled more of a dangerous, spiky ice flower than an inviting water feature. I trekked down the path a bit further. Then, tucked into a garden alcove, my heart gave a leap. I stopped. There it was.
The Peter Pan Statue by Sir George Frampton. JM Barrie, creator of the Peter Pan stories and initially inspired by Kensington Gardens for those literary adventures, had commissioned the bronze statue and erected it in 1912 without any publicity…or permission. The ‘unveiling’ was meant to be a magical surprise as if it had appeared overnight through the work of the fairies themselves. It depicts Peter playing his flute atop a base surrounded by rabbits, squirrels, and fairies. When I saw it, I was nearly moved to tears.
When my sister and I were young we’d watch movies together during the long summers. We’d each take turns choosing a movie but my choice nearly every time was Steven Spielberg’s Hook. I even attempted at times to coerce my sister’s choice in order to have an extra opportunity to watch it. It was the ultimate ‘what if’ story of Peter Pan who left Neverland and (gasp!) grew up. It was the perfect blend of adventure and humor, one of Robin Williams’ finest roles, in my humble opinion. I’d hum the soundtrack. I’d quote entire scenes. Heck, give me 136 minutes and I’d reenact the whole film for you. It was a defining aspect of my childhood (and my sister’s whether she liked it or not) and from that film on, Robin Williams had become something of a hero of mine. Not just in the heroic role he played as Peter Pan but his enthusiasm for life, his personality, his ability to make so many people laugh.
The 90’s were the best time to be a kid if you were a Robin Williams fan. Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji. He entertained and spoon-flung food for the imaginations of youth everywhere—and genuinely enjoyed doing it. It was a passion, an essence that came through the screen. Like a supernatural ability, Robin was able to take anyone watching his film right by their hand, bust that rapid-fire laugh and say, “Come with me, we’re gonna have a great time.” Near the end of Hook, (spoiler alert) Robin Williams has returned from his final adventures in Neverland and wakes up under the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Park. His passion for life and his family has been renewed. And the final line of the film is one I’ve heard Robin say a thousand times and it’s never lost its magic: “To live will be an awfully big adventure.”
Since losing him in 2014, there’s been a hollow in my heart and a yearning to reconnect with him in some small way. I still think on his passing with the emotion of having lost a dear family member. He was part of the family. But the positivity, hope, and laughter he brought to the world console me. If I could replicate a small fraction of the joy he generated in his time here on earth I would consider it the greatest accomplishment of my life. So here we were. Me and Peter. The boy who wouldn’t grow up. This was the Robin I knew and loved.
I sent a picture of it to my sister that evening who texted back, “This is so amazing I want to cry!”
I knew just how she felt.
By: Erica Ruhe
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It was day two of my London adventure. Crossing Vauxhall Bridge east, I stopped to admire the ominous SIS building looming dead ahead. It is the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service headquarters, or MI6 Counter Terrorism Command. Recognizing it from so many James Bond films, a jolt of excitement hit me and I became a little more aware of my surroundings. Just standing in its shadow makes one feel like actually being in a spy movie. Surely I was walking beside agents at that moment! Maybe that woman in the blue suit over there. Or that guy waiting near the bus stop. Ooh, I bet the bloke walking a step behind me, chowing down on his jelly croissant is at least an informant. Trying not to look suspicious for no reason, I continued on to the Vauxhall St. George Wharf Pier.
One thing I especially love about London is that there are so many ways to get to the same place. I decided to travel by River Bus, the ferry service that runs along the Thames. If your point of interest is anywhere within a few minutes walk of the riverside, it seems a shame to miss out on the parade of architecture and history you’ll see passing right by your window. Palace of Westminster and Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, London’s Eye, London Bridge, Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Today’s agenda was clearly marked for one destination: Longitude 0°. Greenwich Park is where the invisible boundary of east meets west lives; Greenwich Mean Time – the place where time ‘starts’. There’s something intriguing about the intangible and being able to place my feet on the unseen line of tomorrow excited me. The park is also home to the Royal Observatory, the Maritime Museum, and the Cutty Sark. So many historical sights to explore in just walking distance from each other. Due to construction at the Greenwich pier though, I had to disembark early and catch a red bus the rest of the way. This turned out to be just as interesting a journey, traveling deeper through the city streets and neighborhoods. Eventually, the buildings thinned and the surroundings thickened to treed hills.
Greenwich is a massive park. The walk to the Royal Observatory is a bit of a hike itself but well worth the time. In the spring or summer, I should imagine it’s beautiful with all the trees in full leaf and the grounds covered in grass. At the moment, another duvet of snowflakes left trees balancing sleeves of snow along their branches. School had been canceled and families with young children along with packs of teenagers made the most of the conditions. It was a gray, cloudy sky but the atmosphere was nothing short of festive. When I crested the hill at the observatory I found out why. The length of the lawn sloping down toward the Queen’s House (now a historic mansion and gallery) was littered with youth on makeshift sleds speeding down the hill with unbridled delight. Hoots and laughter warmed up the frosty late morning air, one girl, in particular, hollering the whole way down – which was probably a good two and a half minute ride. At the bottom, snowball throwers were engaged in full battle. It was like seeing the happy crowd at a town carnival except for all the rides and food stalls had already packed up and moved out without the people noticing.
I explored the Royal Observatory, catching a show at the planetarium, then trekked down the pathway to the Maritime Museum. Upon entering my eyes scanned for entrance fee at the visitor information desk but there was nothing. I wasn’t about to just waltz in without paying, not with there being so many possible unlikely looking MI6 agents around. I inquired.
“Entry to all the museums is free,” the museum attendant said.
Entry to all the museums is free. Because the British government thinks public accessibility to educational and cultural attractions is a priority. Huh. I try not to get political, but as an American today, it’s confusing to consider the terms ‘government’ and ‘cultural appreciation’ in the same sentence. I wonder how much public opinions would change if many American museums were free too.
Full sunshine had returned, warming up the late afternoon. After passing one of the fastest clipper ships in nineteenth-century British history, the Cutty Sark, I took the foot tunnel under the Thames to the Isle of Dogs on the north bank. The tunnel was opened in 1902 and served as a bomb shelter during WWII (although hiding under a giant river would most certainly not give me the warm and fuzzies). Large domed buildings marked the entrance and housed the large corkscrew stairwell that takes you down fifty feet below the surface. As you step down, you’ll feel as though you’re stepping right back into Victorian age London, if only for the duration of your journey. When I emerged on the other side I looked back across the river at Greenwich and what I saw made me pause. Allow me a moment to digress…
When I was young, I never aspired to be a meteorologist but was utterly fascinated by unpredictable weather. In the Florida summer sky, afternoon thunderstorms billowed up like bleach-white castles within a few short hours. You could watch one form right before your eyes; bulbous peaks expanding and building, like a slow-motion explosion, until they hit the ceiling of the troposphere and flattened into an anvil head. The dark gray underbelly would let loose a curtain of heavy rain, transforming it into a theatrical backdrop for spectacular lightning strikes and booms of thunder strong enough to shake the window panes.
The awe I’d felt all those years ago bubbled up when I watched pinkish gray clouds roll and tumble over each other, swirling across the late afternoon sun. Then the sky was again sealed in a dark blanket, snowfall threatening on the horizon. Any trace of a bright warm sun that had filled the city was now completely gone. All this had transpired in only a few minutes. The weather in London changes so fast. I hadn’t really believed it until I saw it for myself. Being an island and the fact that England sits under the meeting grounds for five potential competing air masses at any given time, it’s no wonder that the area is a hub for such wide meteorological swings. I guess it explains why the ever-adaptable British are such a resilient people, keeping calm and carrying on and such.
Heading back, I topped off the day with dinner at the Pimlico Tandoori restaurant just a stone’s throw from the B&B. Vegetable curry with basmati rice put me into a satisfied stupor as I prepared my itinerary for tomorrow, my last day in London.
By: Erica Ruhe