I was up at 5:45 this morning, repacking all my stuff. I have to really, really work at getting it all to fit into the luggage I brought with me—and I had no other choice as I’d be traveling by train today.
But first, Richard took Adrienne and me into London, where we caught the tube to King’s Cross and I found a place to leave my two heaviest bags. Then we headed off on foot for the British Library. You see, both the Wren Library and the Pepys Library in Cambridge were closed during my visit. So Adrienne had the BRILLIANT idea of taking me to see the British Library, which I gather is the equivalent of our Library of Congress.
The stacks are not open, so the only way to look at a book is to sign up for a reading card, which you can use to request the books you want to see, and they are then sent to the reading room of your choice (there are several). So Adrienne and I went through the rather lengthy process of getting our cards.
Best souvenir ever! And for the next year I can go to the British Library whenever I want and request a book! (LOL) So anyway, Adrienne requested a book but the wait time on delivery was 70 minutes, so we went down to take a look at the “Treasures of the British Library” exhibition.
Little did we know what wonders lay in store. It might just as accurately be called “Treasures of World Civilization.” I think the very first thing I saw was a sketchbook of Michelangelo’s. And one by Durer. And music handwritten by Bach, Handel, and Mozart. A Shakespeare First Folio. One of the Lindisfarne manuscripts. The original handwritten lyrics for the Beatles’ song, “Yesterday.” A notebook full of the miniscule manuscript of Charlotte Brontë. Lyrics and librettos handwritten by Gilbert and Sullivan. Handwritten letters from Gandhi, Oliver Cromwell, and Queen Victoria.
I confess, I choked up. “Treasures” seems like an understatement for what they have in that room. By the time we had seen it all, our time was up but we didn’t even care that we never got to go to a reading room. It was more than worth it to spend our time with the treasures. To be honest, that was one of the more intense experiences of my life. I still can’t believe I saw all those original works!
After tearing ourselves away from the library, we had to walk back to get my luggage and then retrace our steps and go another couple of blocks to get to Euston Station, which is where I’d be leaving from. We got some water and a place to sit and catch our breath while we waited for the board to show what platform I’d be leaving from.
Again, we packed a lot into my visit but it still seemed too short. Adrienne was able to walk me to my train and even help me haul my luggage up into the car. It was so hard to say goodbye. In just a couple of days I’ve become very attached to her and her family.
Once on the train, my very polite seatmate was kind enough to hoist my very heavy suitcase onto the overhead shelf for me. Over the next four hours he drank a large amount of wine but remained quiet and polite. I napped for the first couple of hours but then was able to enjoy the beautiful countryside rolling past the window.
I arrived at my (undisclosed) location and after walking a long way for nothing, finally got a taxi which was driven by a very gregarious and talkative man who does not hold with modern inventions such as “computers” and “the internet” and “credit cards.” He gave me some tips on things to see and used the words “nowt” and “bonny” quite liberally.
I am in a perfectly peaceful place tonight—the one night on this trip I won’t be staying with a friend. I have deeply personal reasons for being here, which I may or may not have time to write about tomorrow. I am looking forward to getting a great night’s sleep.
Two ladies who have just been thunderstruck by the treasures of the British Library.