Day 3—Monday, MAY 14, 2012
Another profitable but exhausting day. We began a wet, chilly morning at Westminster Abbey. The line to get in what so long we collectively decided not to go inside and instead walked through Dean’s Yard to begin our Dalloway walk . School was in session and the yard was full of British boys of varying ages, playing soccer in white shirts, ties, and trousers; older boys strolled by discussing exams—a brief aural whiff of Hogwarts. We crossed the yard and plunged into the windy back streets of Westminster, picking which houses we would nominate as Clarissa’s. Crossing Victoria Street by the new Scotland Yard, we noticed a statue commemorating Henry Purcell, a woman with flowers exploding out of her head, which looked like it had been placed there to commemorate Mrs. Dalloway.
A few blocks later a Starbucks appeared, providing a more modern opportunity for some caffeine and warmth to fully wake everyone up. And a chance to check e-mail.
We continued on across St. James Park, noticing large clumps of tourists—all in yellow baseball caps etc. Making our way across the bridge, our view of Buckingham Palace was obscured by a huge scaffolding going up to hold spectators for the Jubilee. Head towards Piccadilly, we wound about until we ended up walking along the edge of Green park (Richard’s walk). At this point we heard martial music and realized they were changing the guard at Buckingham Palace—which explained why there had been so many groups in the park. One student began taking video, interviewing us about various sites.
Turning into Old Bond Street, we were overwhelmed by the atmosphere of serious money. Two Chanel stores in one block. Diamonds everywhere (my favorite was a tiny pink diamond pig with a black mask). We took plenty of pictures, planning a bewildering collage of images to fit into a video reproduction of Mrs. Dalloway‘s Walk.
Arriving at Oxford Street, we found the tide of people in full surge. Our student guide for the day, Caroline, had found a perfect lunch spot—an Italian restaurant a block off the main street which had reasonable prices and even served gluten free pasta. After lunch we broke briefly for shopping—I headed towards Liberty and the girls went for H&M and Topshop.
We met back at Oxford Circus and took the tube up to Regent’s Park. After becoming totally disoriented, going south rather than north and circling one restricted-entry garden, we finally righted ourselves and strolled into the Avenue gardens where the girls went a little crazy photographing flowers while I explained about Gertrude Jeykll’s color theories for garden design.
We next caught a bus to the British Library. Originally we had intended to only spend an hour and take a run down to some paper stores near Tottenham Court Rd., but we found a big new exhibition on “Writing Britain” about authors’ relationship to the landscape of UK. Since that is what the whole Woolf sequence is about,we decided it was a must-see. I had asked students to read “Street Haunting” the night before, and when they discovered that part of the exhibition was titled after Woolf’s essay and contained a (fine arts printed) copy of it,they were delighted. I told them that as English majors the BL was like their church. And indeed they became totally enthralled with seeing the actual handwriting of everyone from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to Woolf and Joyce, and finally, J.K. Rowling!