Thoughts from Places Spotlight: London As Seen Through 13 Little Blue Envelopes

Thursday, March 24, 2016

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(Please beware: this post contains 13LBE Spoilers)

Standing in front of Harrods
My beloved copy of 13LBE opened to the
Harrods chapter!
As long time readers of my blog will know, Maureen Johnson's 2005 novel 13 Little Blue Envelopes inspired me to travel. One of the most important places that the main character, Ginny goes to is London. There she follows the directions in envelopes 2 and 3. The entire adventure her Aunt Peg leads Ginny on comes to an end in London as well.

When I went to London I knew that I had to try and see some of the places that Ginny went to. First on the list was Harrods. Harrods is where Ginny's uncle Richard works and where Aunt Peg ultimately led Ginny to find her paintings. When Ginny first gets to London Richard takes her to Harrods. So of course I wanted to make sure that one of the first things I did was head to this huge department store. I underestimated it's size. This place is almost too big. I don't think I seen even a quarter of it because it was getting very late and my mom and I were exhausted. Originally, I was planning on finding Mo's Diner, where Richard and Ginny eat in the novel. I didn't though. Honestly, I'm not 100% positive it existed. I could have been searching for a fiction, but I didn't mind.  
Ginny "looked left" but in front of Harrods
you must look right! These were very
helpful in London.
The Egyptian Escalator
I also wanted to find the chocolate counter that Ginny went to so often in the novel to have the woman working there page Richard for her. I found it and was extremely pleased with myself. I didn't buy any chocolate there though because I had already bought a bar from another shop just in case the counter was a fiction too. The chocolate bar I bought even had a picture of Harrods on the wrapper (which I saved and pasted into my copy of 13LBE). I was amazed by the sheer size and weirdness of Harrods, just like Ginny was. They really do have a escalator that looks like it was ripped out of stereotypical ancient Egypt. I was so astounded by this that I stopped dead in my tracks and some guy bumped into me! Harrods was a strange, sort of wonderful place and I could see why Aunt Peg liked it so much!

Envelope #3 instructs Ginny to “become a mysterious benefactor.” Aunt Peg tells her to give an artist she likes £500. I do not have that kinda cash so I settled on a fiver. 
Alex and Jim!
I wasn't kidding about all
the sheep!
Richard tells Ginny she should check out Covent Garden and while Ginny didn't find her artist there I did. Jim and Alex performers who haunt the Garden regularly. They were fantastically entertaining and I wished I had more to give them. They did everything from juggling to unicycles. I really liked how they asked a young boy from the audience to help. I encourage you to go on youtube to look those two up. Covent Garden itself was a strange place though. It is an indoor/outdoor market type place where a lot of artists busk for a living. Among Jim and Alex there was also a man playing this crazy multi-piece instrument, a man who could make a creepily accurate sculpture of you in a half hour, and for some very odd reason a hundred or so Shaun the Sheeps. I could have stayed there for hours just watching all the people perform.

Standing in front of Aunt Peg's favorite painting.
My small tour of Ginny's London also took me to the Courtald Gallery where they have in their collection a very important painting to Aunt Peg, Manet's The Bar at the Folies-Bergere. Aunt Peg loved this painting so much she had a print of it on her wall where ever she lived. She also hid the key to the cupboard that held all her paintings under the left top corner, directly under the famous green slippers. I needed to see this painting for myself and so very early on our last morning in London I made my mom go to the museum when it opened. I was a girl on a mission! I was here to see Peg's favorite painting (also to see Van Gogh's Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear but that is another story). I am so glad that I went to see this painting in person. I never really understood why Peg loved this painting until I went to London. You stand looking at it like you are the artist, facing the bar. It portrays a young woman who looks terribly bored despite all the action that is happening in front of her (we see what is happening behind us through the mirror behind the woman). All of this excitement is happening and yet the girl is not enjoying it. That was sort of me in London at times. I was doing exactly what I had always wanted but I wasn't enjoying it, more like checking it off a list. However, here in this gallery with only my mom, the guard, and this painting I was finally seeing. I was seeing Peg's love of this painting and my own love of London.
My copy opened to the page the painting is first mentioned.
I pasted in a print of the painting ages ago. MJ herself took
a picture of this page when she saw what I did to it.

13 Little Blue Envelopes came alive for me in London. This year I plan to follow more of the envelopes as I backpack across Europe almost like Ginny does in the novel. I encourage you to read this amazing book if you haven't already. You can read my semi-incoherent-because-I-was-too-excited review of the book here, and my post about meeting the book's author, Maureen Johnson here.

More to come soon,