S.G. Browne

A Day And A Half In London

Okay, back from being more or less disconnected for 12 days. Which, I have to admit, was refreshingly freeing. However, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to share in the moment during my trip to London and Paris and the World Horror Convention, but circumstances dictated otherwise. So here’s my travel blog in flashback form, starting with my first leg in London…

Since most, if not all, of the time you spend at a World Horror Convention is in the hotel attending panels, readings or (truth be told) in the bar, I opted to take advantage of a little time in London before heading down to Brighton, England, to attend the annual World Horror Convention and Bram Stoker Awards banquet, both held outside of North America for the first time.

And yes, that was all one sentence.

While there’s not a whole lot of London you can see in just 1 ½ days, I did manage to get in a lot of walking through neighborhoods and past a lot of the iconic sights. Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Soho, and of course, the Tower of London.

One of the things I enjoy most when I visit another city is just walking around. Taking in the sights and sounds of someplace foreign. Appreciating the architecture. Listening to the language. And since I only had the 1 ½ days, I didn’t want to spend all of it inside. So I chose only a couple of attractions to visit: The Tower of London and the Van Gogh exhibit, The Real Van Gogh, at the Royal Academy of Art.

The Tower of London was a no-brainer. I haven’t been to London since 1997 and the Tower, along with the Jack the Ripper tour, were my favorite memories. So I paid my £17, walked through the Bloody Tower and along the walls, listened to the Beefeater tell his story of Guy Fawkes being drawn and quartered (which includes being disemboweled and having your intestines set on fire while you’re still conscious), and imagined what it must have been like to live under the 39 year reign of Henry VIII. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have been Guy Fawkes. Or Anne Boleyn. For any number of reasons.

But my favorite part of my stay was the two hours I spent at the Royal Academy of Art wandering through seven rooms filled with the art and personal letters of Vincent Van Gogh. While the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam is still the best place to enjoy his 10-year career as an artist, this exhibit portrayed a side of Van Gogh most people never get to see. Displayed alongside pieces of art I’d never seen were corresponding letters to his brother Theo, Paul Gauguin, and several other artists and friends. It’s amazing enough to think he decided to become an artist at 27 and was self taught and produced such an incredible and extensive body of work in just 10 years, but the exhibit showed through his letters how eloquent and poetic and thoughtful Van Gogh was about his craft.

Although Van Gogh’s letters were written in Dutch and French, the exhibit had a reading room with computer that allowed you to read his letters in any language. I didn’t have time to read them all, so I read the last one, written five days before he killed himself. The actual letter, written to his brother, was in the last room, along with a first draft of the same letter never mailed, which was found, blood stained, in his coat pocket after he shot himself.

Seeing the blood stains on the letter and listening to his final written words read on the audio tour, surrounded by some of the pieces he painted during his final year, was extraordinarily moving and the highlight of my brief stay in London.

(Next, the World Horror Convention in Brighton)

Filed under: Conventions,Travel — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:49 pm