Dona and Joe’s European Vacation, Episode 11: Dining Rules; Mourning Some of England’s Great Women

I think we’ve eaten more chips (fries) in three days visiting London than in the entire year previous.

That’s just one of the little adjustments we’ve had to make when it comes to dining out. In fact I don’t recall seeing a green vegetable even offered as part of the meal in Edinburgh or London. (Cabbage doesn’t count, nor does the lettuce leaf that served as foundation for the half cup of mayonnaise on my sandwich that I forgot to tell them to hold at lunch. They do offer baked beans at breakfast, but I mean, really.) Granted, we’ve been dining low end for the past few days to make sure we stay within our vacation budget, so maybe the nicer places have hoarded the green veg. Maybe we’ll splurge tomorrow night and find out.

And there are other differences. For example, we’ve noticed that you have to ask your waiter for the bill when you’re ready to leave—they never rush you to make room for the next party.

Today was Tower of London and Kensington Palace day. The famous tower, which holds the crown jewels, was also the site of a variety of incarcerations, tortures, and executions. Most people know the story of Anne Boleyn’s execution, but the Tower staff told of the even sadder tale of Lady Jane Grey, who at 16 years of age was queen for a mere nine days before being deposed and then executed during England’s religious conflicts. At Kensington Palace we visited an exhibition of Princess Diana’s fashions, worn both during and after her tenure as a royal—the British have certainly not forgotten her since her death in 1997. We also toured an exhibit titled “Queen Victoria Revealed,” which chronicled the life of the queen who is the subject of a popular BBC series, “Victoria.” Although the general details in the TV show are true, one of our guides says many of the show’s interpretations of events are “rubbish,” such as the episode in which Victoria showed great concern over the fate of the Irish during the famine of the 1840s. He said some Irish families still harbor bad feelings toward her over her inaction, even 170 years later. But the great love affair between Victoria and Prince Albert was real. They had nine children together in 21 years of marriage, and when the prince died Victoria mourned for the rest of her life, spending ten years in seclusion, and never again wearing any color other than black.