Sunday, March 13, 2011

TSS: The Persephone Pilgrimage... Our Trip to London

We're back, unpacked, and finally caught up after a week in London. Now it's time to ease back into blogging.

Windsor Castle
The trip was all we'd hoped for. It was the perfect 25th anniversary celebration, with plenty of time to reconnect with our daughter studying abroad and see 'her' London. There were opportunities to meet with friends, old and new, see a show, and visit  historic sites and museums. Sure, there was a little rain and the natives kept apologizing for the cold weather, but it was wonderful to see daffodils, crocus, forsythia and flowering trees!

Hampton Court Palace
From the moment we checked into our hotel room with its beautiful view of Kensington Gardens, to the final day touring Winsdor Castle and Hampton Court Palace, I loved every moment! A highlight was meeting the lovely Claire from Paperback Reader at Primrose Bakery for cupcakes and tea. We recognized each other immediately. She was so friendly and easy to talk to, and we're still laughing about the Swiss tourists who took our picture because we were such 'typically English people drinking tea'! Wish I'd remembered to take a picture of my own....

This meeting tempered the previous day's disappointment of missing Verity in Oxford. Our group tour took us to Warwick Castle, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and finally to Oxford where we had less than 15 minutes of free time. Our tour guide did hustle us past her library though...

"Are you in there, Verity?"

Naturally, I made the pilgrimage to Persephone Books. The shop was just as cozy and charming as expected, and I came out with a dovegrey tote filled with six books and matching bookmarks.

From the bottom:
The Priory by Dorothy Whipple
They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
The Closed Door and Other Stories by Dorothy Whipple
Few Eggs and No Oranges:  The Diaries of Vera Hodgson 1940-45
Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski
Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

We also visited Waterstones, where a few more treasures were collected.

From the bottom:
The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt (I really dislike the US paperback cover)
A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

At this point, with mounting concern over luggage weight limits, my book browsing was curtailed.  There was nearly one final purchase at Heathrow Airport.... I needed a copy of South Riding, but my husband, already toting a carry-on loaded with 10 books, put his foot down.

So, did I read on the trip?
I listened to The Color Purple on the flight over (outstanding audio read by the author), got through a stack of New Yorker magazines, then finished Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller as our return flight landed.

Current reading
Ten exciting new books to choose from, but the last month of the TBR Dare and a post- Hampton Court "Tudor mood" lead me to start Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. As many bloggers have noted, unclear usage of the pronoun 'he' is annoying, but I'm quickly becoming engrossed in the story.

On audio, The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner has captured my imagination. Stegner's Crossing to Safety is an all-time favorite, and this 20 CD semi-autobiographical family saga has me totally hooked.

Have I missed anything important while away? Unfortunately, I had to press the 'mark all as read' button on my google reader. Let me know if there is something I should go back and read. It's good to be back...


  1. You bought EXACTLY the things I would have bought -- Persephones, Barbara Pym, South Riding (well, if your husband hadn't stopped you!) I hope you love Dorothy Whipple as much as I do -- I have three of her books unread on my shelf, I'm trying to ration them out.

    I'm not even going to say how jealous I am of your trip. It looks like you had an amazing time. Might be just the thing for my next big anniversary. . . . I'd better start dropping hints to my husband!

  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful time (other than missing Verity of course), and what lovely bookish acquisitions! I got Jane and Prudence myself the other day, from the library's discard shelves for a mere 10p. Gotta love the UK ;)

    It's great to have you back, JoAnn!

  3. Lovely post, JoAnn, and I adore that photo of your Persephone loot. It was such a joy to meet you and your family (half of them) and I look forward to another opportunity in the near future.

    Of course I recommend catching up on all of the posts from Persephone Reading Weekend - they should keep you occupied for some time!

    I enjoyed Wolf Hall and the unclear over-use of "he" didn't annoy me that much (if in doubt, assume it's Cromwell).

    I am looking forward to reading the copy of Crossing to Safety you gave me; thank you so much for thinking of me.

  4. Absolutely wonderful - I am drooling over that pile of Persephones! And how sweet of you to include the picture of the Bodleian - I'm sure I was behind those walls :)

  5. So delighted to enjoy London again, even if only vicariously. Oh Pym! You make me wish I could just stop time and read her all over again. Thanks for this lovely spot of cheer.

  6. Welcome back JoAnn! It looks like you had a lovely trip. I'm quite jealous of your trip to Persephone!

  7. Sounds like a wonderful trip. The Persephone book shop sounds like just the sort of book store I love. Small and cozy and full of wonderful books.

    Hope you love Big Rock Candy Mountain as much as I did.

  8. I'm glad you enjoyed your time in my home town :)

    I had mixed feelings about Wolf Hall when I read it a while back. I didn't dislike it, but it was an effort to read it.

  9. Glad you had a wonderful time! *Sob* I miss London! And England in general! It sounds like you got around a fair bit too - Windsor, Oxford...all lovely places.

    You picked WONDERFUL Persephones - can't wait to hear your thoughts!

  10. How lovely to see you with all your new Persephones. I still have yet to visit the shop and I live in the UK! I am glad you had a lovely visit with Claire. I didn't realise you went to the Primrose Bakery. Very envious now. I had to laugh about your excessive book buying-I am just the same when I go away.

  11. What a great trip!

    Maybe we should have a Little Boy Lost read-along when the TBR Dare is over. It's on my shelves unread, but obviously would violate your dare. :-)

  12. Karen K. - The only Whipple I've read is Someone at a Distance. I loved it, but it's impossible to find her other books here. Now I'm set for a while ;-) I've always thought our reading tastes were similar... definitely start dropping hints for a trip of your own!

    Nymeth - It was hard to stop at just two Pym titles. Yes, I do love the UK!

    Paperback Reader - Oh, how could I possibly forget about all those Persephone weekend posts?! It was so good to meet you... maybe we'll get a chance to do it again in June!

    Verity - Can't wait to dig into the pile of Persephones... and hope to meet you next time around!

    Lynne - Will be back reading Pym again as soon as this TBR Dare is over! Glad you enjoyed our look at London.

    Victoria - Thank you. Hope you get a chance to visit Persephone yourself one day!

    C.B. James - The Big Rock Candy Mountain is so good! I'm wondering how much of it is autobiographical... need to research Stegner's life.

    Sam - This was my second trip to London and I'm already looking forward to third! Have barely started Wolf Hall... we'll see how it goes.

    Rachel - Since this was my second trip, I really wanted to get farther afield. Thought of you when we visited the V&A... way too much to take in in just a few hours!!

    Vivienne - I had the best lemon cupcake ever at The Primrose Bakery! My daughter has since been back with her friends, too. Yes, the book buying got out of hand, but my husband was good natured about it until the very end...really wanted South Riding, too!

  13. Amy - I'd love to read Little Boy Lost with you! The TBR Dare is almost over...

  14. We visited Windsor Castle two years ago in late May. The weather was perfect. I bet the grounds were beautiful for your visit. Thanks for sharing so much of your holiday. It's been nice travelling vicariously through you.

  15. Lovely to read about your time, and book buys in London. Glad you had a great time.

  16. What a wonderful trip. Hampton Court Palace was a highlight of my trip two years ago, and meeting Claire and visiting the Persephone shop was a highlight from the trip last year. You're making me wish I were going back this year, but alas it is not to be.

  17. great to see all your lovely pictures and to hear all the fun details. Love the books.

  18. Looks like you had such a wonderful time and your loot from Persephone Books is wonderful!!!

  19. Sounds like a wonderful trip all around. I hope you enjoy Wolf Hall!

  20. Welcome back! It is great to see that you had such a good time. I live about half way between Windsor and Hampton Court so I often visit them in the Summer - it is lovely to see pictures of them on your blog. Enjoy your new books :-)

  21. What a wonderful anniversary trip and visiting your daughter! If the English people knew the kind of weather you'd left behind! It's nice flowers were blooming in London.

    The Persephone books you bought look so nice stacked one on top of the other. I adore their bookmarks, too! I'm excited that you bought Little Boy Lost since I recently reviewed it & loved it. The other books look wonderful, too! I have the Barbara Pym books on my tbr list!

    It's so nice you were able to meet Claire and have tea together!

    Are you enjoying Big Rock Candy Mountain? I'm wondering how it is on audio. Stegner is one of my all time favorite authors.

    I think I've gone on long enough! Great to see you back, JoAnn :o)

  22. Such a lovely trip! You brought home an excellent stack of books and the visit with Claire would have been so much fun. Isn't it nice to see a friendly face so far from home! But now that you're back...your husband needs to stop at a bookshop and buy you a copy of South Riding!

    Your daughter must be having the time of her life, lucky girl!

  23. Lee - The grounds at Windsor Castle were beautiful... just coming to life in the spring. So glad you enjoyed our trip :-)

    Joan Hunter Dunn - It was an absolutely perfect week. Can't wait to begin planning the next visit!

    Teresa - I wish we'd had the whole day at Hampton Court Palace. Would love to go back when the garden is in full bloom - it must be spectacular!

    Diane - I just can't wait to dig into that pile of books. Only 18 days left of the tbr dare.

    Staci - Being able to finally visit Persephone was amazing. Will have to make those books last until the next trip ;-)

    Gavin - Just finished Part 1 of Wolf Hall and enjoying it so far.

    Jackie - I was in awe of the gardens at Hampton Court.... would love to see a picture if you are there when the roses are blooming.

    Amy - I had to laugh when Londoners apologized for the weather. They obviously had no idea what we left behind! Yours was one of the reviews I had in mind when I selected Little Boy Lost - really looking forward to that one. Big Rock Candy Mountain is great on audio. Mark Bramhall is an excellent reader. I love Stegner, too!

    Darlene - It was a perfect trip...from meeting Claire to all the wonderful places we visited. I can't wait to go back again. Was looking for South Riding, but it doesn't seem to be available here. Think I'll need to start an order at the Book Depository!

  24. So happy for you in your trip and collection of treasures! Brief sigh of envy... ;)

  25. It is good to have you back, JoAnn! It's a marvelous thing when children are so thoughtful as to study abroad in places that Mom & Dad wish to visit ;)
    I'm so glad you enjoyed London and its environs. I note we have similar taste in "souvenirs."

  26. What a wonderful trip! Glad you had some free time to pick up some books. I guess you didn't have time to drop into one of the many second hand book stores in Oxford either?

    I love Windsor Castle! Isn't it just as a castle should be?

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

  27. What gorgeous pictures! Thanks for sharing all that with us!

  28. I don't think I could ever press the mark all as read button. You are braver than me. I think I have read four of your six Persephones and I can tell you that you have lots of good reading ahead of you. Am also so glad you got Some Tame Gazelle. My favorite Pym so far.

  29. It sounds like a fabulous trip! And it cracks me up that the English are so polite that they even apologize for the weather!

  30. I'm so glad you had such a good time. It sounds like you packed all the important things into one lovely week. I'm savoring the picture of your Persephone books. They all look wonderful in their plain gray covers. It's what's inside that's so special.

  31. Looks like it was a great trip.

  32. Bellezza - Thank you. It was the perfect anniversary celebration.

    DS - We were so pleased when she got assigned to the London program... our planning started almost immediately!

    Leeswammes - No, no shopping at all in Oxford... don't think we'd use that tour company again. Windsor Castle was absolutely perfect!

    Rhapsodyinbooks - You're welcome ;-)

    Thomas - Pressing the 'mark all as read' button is killing me...haven't done that before. Can't wait to start on the new stack when the tbr dare is over.

    Softdrink - They'd never apologize if they could see our snowbanks ;-)

    Margot - Since this was my second trip to London (hubby has been countless times), we had most of the touristy highlights out of the way and could go a little farther afield. I loved all the history in Hampton Court, Stratford-Upon-Avon, etc.

    Carolsnotebook - Oh, it was!!

  33. It all sounds so divine! What a great anniversary. The books are beautiful!

  34. Georgia Girls - The best anniversary yet :-)

  35. What an amazing trip, JoAnn! And to meet Claire and visit Persephone bookstore and cupcakes and tea and spending time with your daughter--oh my! Glad you could share a bit with us.

    And The Color Purple read by Alice Walker?? Love the book--will have to seek out the audio!

  36. Trish - I think The Color Purple is one of those books that listening gives a whole different dimension. I literally got goosebumps every time I heard "Dear God". Hope to get a review written soon - I'm so far behind.

  37. What a great trip - there is even a lot of sunshine in your photos - not always a sure thing in London!

    I always bring home lots of books when I travel to the UK - glad to see I am not alone!

  38. Booksnyc - I could easily have brought home twice as many books... am beginning to think I might have a problem ;-)


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