Sunday, August 6, 2006

I venture out of London again this morning, this time to HamptonCourtPalacevia the South West trains at Waterloo station.  Just like the day before, no one comes around to collect my ticket.  How does this work?  Is it some kind of honor system?  A less honest person could save some real money here. 

Once there, I am relieved that I cancelled the full-day bus tour I had originally planned, combining WindsorCastle and Hampton Court.  Staying at Hampton Court for only two hours would be a travesty.  I wind up spending that in the gardens alone, to say nothing of the four audio tours of the Tutor kitchens and state apartments.  Like the audioguide at the National Portrait Gallery, these are very well done.  The hours tick by, and I hardly notice.  I love this place.

Somewhere along the way I stop for lunch at the Tiltyard Café where I discover, and fail to resist, my third piece of chocolate fridge cake.  See, it is fate.   

Before I leave Hampton Court, I try to find my way to the center of the Tutor maze.  Naturally, I get lost among the tall hedges and find that I keep meeting up with the same people, who are also lost.  About ten minutes in, I have a silly Harry Potter moment and decide to stay on the alert for blast-ended skrewts and giant spiders.  Where’s my wand?  I could send up red sparks!  I do not want to be a Muggle.  I want magic.  Now.  The built-in sound effects are egging me on.  I hear whispering and snatches of laughter.  A disembodied voice tells me I am getting closer.  I do not believe her.  Eventually by happenstance, I emerge into a clearing to join a dozen other dazed souls.  I take a picture of myself by the sign to prove that I was there, then take the short-cut out.  I am not heading back in there.  Mad-Eye Moody might be lurking in the shadows… 

I return to the hotel around 6:30 PM and rush through a quick sandwich from Tesco’s before heading to a promenade concert at Royal Albert Hall.  The hall itself is a lovely space, but the lack of air conditioning makes things quite stuffy and uncomfortable.  I can only imagine how much worse it is during a heat wave.  From my vantage point on the balcony it seems that people are sleeping on the floor of the arena in front of the stage, or perhaps they have collapsed from a lack of fresh air.  Either way, I hope none of them feel justified in buying the “Prommers do it standing up” T-shirts for sale in the lobby downstairs! 

The first piece of the evening is one newly commissioned by the BBC, titled “Heaven is Shy of Earth.”  The program says it is inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, but I just do not get it.  I have always thought of Dickinson as a melodic poet, but to my ears this is an atonal mess.  After the intermission, I much prefer Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe,” and am reminded midway through that Sarah Hughes used this music in her long program when she won the gold medal in ladies figure skating in 2002.  I think it must have been much cooler on the ice that night.

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