London & Paris & My Elbow

Years and years ago I went to London & Paris on a weeklong vacation. I had no excuse for not going except for those irritating thoughts that pop into your head when traveling out of the country the first couple times: I’ll be alone in a foreign county or I’ll be a woman traveling alone and a might be a target. I decided all of those excuses were BS. And they totally were. They still are. In fact, they will always be BS. (If you think those things, stop it. Book a damn ticket!) The reasons to go FAAAAAR outweigh the BS excuses not to go.

One question I always ask myself is: When I’m 90 years old will I say, “I really wish I hadn’t gone to London & Paris.” NO! Who the heck says that? Trick question: No one! So off I went.

On my second to last day in London I went to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. It’s kitschy and touristy, but it is known for its literary history (Dickens, Twain, Tennyson, Doyle…), and there has been a pub on that site since 1538. If you know me at all, you know that this is right in my wheelhouse. In fact, my wheelhouse is made of stuff like this.

Another widely known feature of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is its lack of natural lighting, creating a gloomy and shadowy and moody interior. I had a little Point & Shoot camera and was trying to capture the charm of this little candle lit anteroom I wandered into soon after entering the pub. I didn’t have my mini-tripod with me so I was trying to compensate by using my elbows to make a stability triangle on a table top. While composing the shot, I kept getting lower and lower, the stability triangle wider and wider. My right elbow felt hot. I was bent over at the waist, leaning over a table in a half squat. Didn’t seem that odd really.

Then my right elbow felt really hot, hotter than an elbow could/should logically feel. I looked over at my elbow and, yes, it was on fire. Like, real fire. I had rested my elbow right next to a charming little tea candle and now my elbow was on fire. I stood up crazy quick and began smacking the hell out of my fiery elbow like a lunatic. I was alone in that little room. Thank god.

I was wearing a down coat. The smell of burnt feathers covered in burnt nylon…is…distinct. With a slightly elevated heart rate and a blurry picture firmly planted in the SD card, I decided it was time for a freaking beer. I wafted towards the bar and ordered. The bartender took my order with a smile, delivered my pint with a Cheers. Then a look came over his face like, “What on earth is that smell and who did it?” I pointed to my holy elbow and said, “I just caught myself on fire. I think that’s me you’re smelling.” He just looked at me and moved away.

Later that day, I made my way over to the British Museum. I saw the Code of Hammurabi! I saw the Rosetta Stone!! THE. ROSETTA. STONE. I was walking ‘round and ‘round the Rosetta Stone, feeling those feelings you feel when you see something so ancient, so important, so huge… and running into the little bits of feathers that were floating out of my elbow. Classic.

Later that night I went back to the Lime Tree Hotel – which is awesome – to plan my last hours in London and check on my travel plans to Paris (The Chunnel.) I asked the Innkeeper if he happened to have some tape on hand. You know that “Huh?” look when you ask someone for something kind of out of the blue and completely out of context. Well, he had it. So…up came the elbow and out came the story. I laughed, he laughed and then he offered me some package tape. The brown kind that’s shiny and crinkly. On the plus side, it sort of matched my coat. On the down side, it didn’t stick very well and would peel off with the slightest movement. For 5 minutes it became a trap for wayward feathers. Then was just full of feathers, no longer sticky and flap, flap, flap noisy.

The next day I enjoyed an amazing cappuccino and lemon pasty at the café down the corner and set off for Paris via the Chunnel. I hopped off the Chunnel and onto the Paris Metro. It was busy so I stood and held onto a handrail. Every time the train doors opened, a rush of air would flap, flap, flap the crinkle tape hanging off of my elbow. An older French woman sitting in front of me stared at the tape, then stared at me and then rolled her eyes every single time that door opened. Yeah, like she had never caught her elbow on fire in a pub in London before. Please.

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