London

War Horse as Act of Remembrance

Winding up my Tour de France adventure, I enjoyed my last 24 hours in London. I stayed at the exquisite Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington. They sent me an email a few days before my arrival asking if there was anything they could do to enhance my experience. My friend suggested seeing the stage production of War Horse. The concierge efficiently fetched tickets and after an afternoon of fossicking around bookshops in South Kensington, I duly trundled off to New London Theatre on Drury Lane to see the play.

I tried to read to the book by Michael Marpurgo and got emotionally swamped. It is told in the horse Joey's point of view. And like Black Beauty it is gut wrenching. I may have seen about 5 minutes of the Steven Spielberg movie and could not stand the idea, again, of horses suffering even if make believe. Afterall, they did suffer cruelly in World War I, as did people. So I was a little nervous about seeing a stage production. I was also curious about how they would handle the staging and the horse characters. 

Wow. I mean WOW!!!!  Just the puppetry was worth the admission price to witness. It is amazing. I have since found an awesome Ted Talk that describes how they created Joey. Please watch.

The play beautifully illustrated the complete stupidity of World War I. While it is not unique among wars (all wars are stupid), it is the first where technology completely bamboozled strategists. I can understand sending the cavalry in once against machine guns. But again and again? Stupendously stupid. It was all the more poignant for me because of my Grandma Hazel Olson's beloved horse sold to the US Cavalry. I can only hope that he never made it to Europe--that maybe his high spirits made him too difficult to work with or too attractive to some officer who was on active duty at the Mexican border. 

It is a very moving production, even more thrilling seen in a smallish theater with actors running by right in front of our seats. I realize War Horse has been on stage and travelled the world already so I am not on the cutting edge of theatre. If you have not seen it, make the effort. You will be richly rewarded.

Researching and honoring my great uncle Frank Denham on Le Tour Adventure was worthwhile and added some emotional depth to my experience. I am not going to stop learning about the war either. My favorite conversation on the topic was with my cabbie who gave me a lift from the train station to the Ampersand. With his East End accent he held forth on a number of topics. I told him about my interest in World War I and he said the machine gun was invented by an American living in London, but the British officers did not want to use it (at first) because it "wasn't cricket." (meaning that as gentlemen it was not the proper way to conduct warfare). I responded, "But the Germans have never played cricket." We both shared a rueful laugh. 

All of this remembering while the conflict in Ukraine results in a civilian jet liner shot down, and Gaza rages on; it is a wonder to me that mankind has not wiped itself off the earth yet. Perhaps the reason we yet remain is found in the sparks of creativity that still ignite in puppeteers and writers and many others who choose to spend their energy creating beauty and celebrating truth rather than the dark arts of war. This is the path I choose.

Countdown to Adventure

With some sleep I was able to recover my enthusiasm for my Le Tour Adventure. I am getting ready to launch.  My stake is to enjoy a once in a lifetime adventue and meet amazing people.Tour de France 2014 route Several people have asked where I will be going. Below is my itinerary. Please provide suggestions for what I might want to see or do along the way.  I will not be taking my folding bike, so I will be moving by foot, train and cab/bus. I note the kilometers the Tour de France pros will be riding for each stage.

July 1 - Day One - Flying to London on Air New Zealand

July 2 - Day Two - Arriving in London and taking train to Cambridge; staying at Christ College and walking around town.

July 3 - Day Three - Train to Leeds; meeting up with Trek Travel group at Hotel by 3 p.m. (Now on "Trek Time")

July 4 - Day Four - Riding with Trek Travel; social events

July 5 - Day Five - Riding with Trek; viewing finish of Stage One, 190.5 km, Leeds to Harrogate

July 6 - Day Six - Riding with Trek; viewing race Stage Two, 201 km, York to Sheffield; travel to London

July 7 - Day Seven - Viewing the Stage Three finish in London; 155 km; Last night with Trek Travel

July 8 - Day Eight - Eurostar train to Lille, France for finish of Stage Four; 163.5 km

July 9 - Day Nine - Stage Five; 155.5 km; start in Ypres?? or finish in Arenberg Porte de Haunait??; lodging in Saint-Nicolas

July 10 - Day Ten - Stage Six; Arras to Reims; 194 km; Finish in Reims

July 11 - Day Eleven - Stage Seven; 234.5 km; Finish in Nancy

July 12 - Day Twelve - Stage Eight; 161 km; Start in Tomblaine?? Finish in Gerardmer?? meeting the WatLoves (Harriet Watson, Brian Lovell and girls) in Mulhouse!

July 13 - Day Thirteen - Stage Nine; 170 km; view finish in Mulhouse

July 14 - Day Fourteen - Stage Ten; 161.5 km; view start in Mulhouse; travel to Lyon

July 15 - Day Fifteen - Rest Day for Cyclists and me; meet up with Thomson Tours in Lyon for Alps spectator tour (from here to Paris I'm on "Thomson Time"); travel to Albertville

July 16 - Day Sixteen - Stage Eleven; 187.5 km; View finish in Oyonnax

July 17 - Day Seventeen - Stage Twelve; 185.5 km; Option to visit Chamonix or find Irish pub in Albertville to watch tour on tv and rest

July 18 - Day Eighteen - Stage Thirteen; 197.5 km; Viewing race from the "Col" (on the mountain)

July 19 - Day Nineteen - Stage Fourteen; 177 km; View the finish from the start in Grenoble

July 20 - Day Twenty - Stage Fifteen; 222 km; Travel to Lyon with Thomson Tours and on to St Lary-Soulan (watch on television)

July 21 - Day Twenty-one - Rest Day; Relax and write in St Lary-Soulan and meet Thomson Tours Pyrenees & Paris spectator tour participants

July 22 - Day Twenty-two - Stage Sixteen; 237 km; View finish in Bagneres de Luchon

July 23 - Day Twenty-three - Stage Seventeen; 124.5 km; view from St Lary-Soulan or take cable car to finish

July 24 - Day Twenty-four - Stage Eighteen; 145.5 km; View on mountain at Hautacam

July 25 - Day Twenty-five - Stage Nineteen; 208.5 km; View start in Maubourguet

July 26 - Day Twenty-six - Stage Twenty; 54 km; Watch time trial on television; travel to Paris

July 27 - Day Twenty-seven - Stage Twenty-one; 137.5 km; Watch finish on Champs-Elysees in Paris; dinner cruise on River Seine

July 28 - Day Twenty-eight - Rest day in Paris

July 29 - Day Twenty-nine - Travel to London on Eurostar; stay at Ampersand Hotel

July 30 - Day Thirty - Quick trip to Imperial War Museum to see new WW1 exhibit (if time permits) and then to Heathrow to fly home

I have ordered a new Rick Steve's roller bag/backpack and I am borrowing Tevis' backpack. I will try out both while shopping in Davis and decide which one to take. I bought two excellent Michelin maps in Washington DC. I will take up UK Sarah's offer to go over the logistics with me. (She speaks French!)

Looking forward to your pointers!

 

 

July 14 - Day Fourteen - Stage Ten; 161.5 km; Start in Mulhouse