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Anne, Joanne, Sarah, & Ada

After my November post "Charles, Claude, Henry, and Hugh," I promised to write another blog about London experiences defined by exceptional women. I've had fun on recent London visits pursuing variations on this theme.

I begin with the Women in Science tour at the Natural History Museum. This free hourlong program is offered on Tuesdays and is given by some delightful volunteers. Our two guides highlighted several women, both historic and modern (including two currently working at the museum). Many of the scientists are described on the museum's website also.

I especially loved learning about Anne Innis Dagg, the first Western scientist to study giraffes in the wild. In 1956, at age 23, she made a solo trip to South Africa, using only her first initial A in correspondence with her sponsor, so he wouldn't know she was a woman. It worked, and despite the gender barrier, eventually she became an author, professor, and the world's leading giraffe expert. She died just last month at 91. The New York Times wrote a terrific obit and I'm going to watch the documentary on her very soon.

My next category is literature, and these days "Harry Potter" novelist Joanne (J.K.) Rowling tops the list. With a net worth of $1.1 billion, she is the richest author in the word. I've only dabbled in the Harry Potter books and movies, enjoying #1 in the series but never really getting into them. But we'd walked by the London theatre showing "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" so many times, I decided I wanted to see it.

Mistake. I thought it was a musical but it wasn't! Just a very long sequel play about Harry Potter's children, and I was clearly out of the loop not having read the 7-book series. Feeling bored, I left at Intermission and instead of going back for the evening's Part 2, I met up with Robin and we got last-minute tickets to "Les Mis." Now THAT is a show! It was as exquisite and moving as the last time we saw it 10+ years ago.

But back to Rowling, who has become controversial lately for her negative comments on transgender inclusivity. (Didn't life seem better before Twitter and X?) I don't agree with Rowling's views, but I still appreciate her literary accomplishments. Robin and I have become fans of her suspenseful Cormoran Strike detective novels (written under the pen name Robert Galbraith). As we've traveled around England this spring, we've been entertained on our car trips by listening to Book 7 in the series, "The Running Grave." At 34 hours, it's kept us going and going! We'll finish it soon and will miss it. She's an engaging writer to say the least.

By the way, if you're a fan of English authors Agatha Christie or Jane Austen, you can spend hours in London visiting sites they frequented or wrote about. I tried to see Jane Austen's writing desk on display at the British Library - but it was out on loan for a traveling exhibit!

My next not-so-successful venture was a special exhibit on "Women in Revolution" at the Tate Britain. I'm beginning to see that museums don't mind throwing together a jumble of loosely-related stuff, labeling them with a popular theme, and selling extra-cost tickets. Even though I had purchased a timed entry, the crowd on that day was so thick (think 5 people shoulder to shoulder in front of everything), it was hard to me to make sense of it.

Perhaps I'd have more luck with notable women-led eateries. Honey Pie Bakery, owned by Valérie Janicki, has been a favorite of mine at Farmers Markets. But the day I went back to the excellent market on Pimlico Road to ask to take her photo, her stall wasn't there! Such is life, Valérie probably had taken a well-deserved break and there were no treats for me that day!

Meanwhile, an online search turns up several lists of highly-praised women-led restaurants and bars in London. Mexican food isn't very common here, but I got to try Cavita, owned by Adriana Cavita. It was nothing like any Mexican food I've eaten back home, but it was inventive! On another day we tried the vegan restaurant Mallow, after reading about head chef and cookbook author Sarah Wasserman: "With over 26 years experience as a chef and recipe developer, primarily in plant-based food, Sarah is the brains behind [London restaurants] Mildreds and Mallow. Ask any vegan in your life, they’ve probably heard of Mallow –  and it’s a favorite for both the plant-based and omnivores among us." We hadn't heard of Sarah before, but really enjoyed the delicious food at Mallow.

Next, London's Blue Plaques single out many pioneering women. With these markers, the group English Heritage commemorates historic figures and the sites associated with them all over England. As a computer scientist, Robin has mentioned Ada Lovelace, a 19th-century mathematician and computer pioneer. When I went to take a picture of her plaque in St. James Square, lo and behold there was another next door, for Nancy Astor, the first woman in Parliament. London abounds with historic statues and monuments, of course, including one I encountered in Whitehall for women in WWII.

Finally, back in the entertainment category, I booked a ticket to see a a show described as a "one-woman clown act" starring Julia Masli. My friend Sally had sent an article describing her as the big hit of last year's Edinburgh Art Festival, and she was performing one night at a hipster venue in London. She was avant-garde to say the least! Her humor, heavily dependent on audience participation, was not my cup of tea. I still enjoyed the novelty and the scene of it all.

We still have a substantial to-do list for future visits to London (which sadly will be dwindling as our sabbatical runs out, and we set off on our upcoming road trips). But we hope to get back to my favorite city before August ends.

🇬🇧 💂‍♀️ 🫖

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May 21

Thank you for your honesty about what actually happens at some events … not everything comes up to our expectations - even my bridge game!


May 19

Very enjoyable, Kim! Will look at Robert Galbraith books.


May 19

Enjoyed reading about your experiences! You’ve packed quite a bit in!

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