2 Feb 2011

A Royal oops (instert scone photo here)

Has this ever happened to you? You visit a tourist attraction and the thing that remains burned into your memory is the very thing you neglected to photograph when you had the chance.

For example, imagine being chilled to the bone, your fingers raw and aching. Just as your mood is about to tip towards grumpy, you enter a blissfully warm room and sit down to the most splendid cup of tea with a fresh, perfectly fluffy scone with jam and clotted cream. It is the best scone/cream/jam/tea combination you have ever experienced. Ever. And the moment you finish your last sip you suddenly rouse from your blissful state to realize your camera is still in the bag.

This happened to me when I visited the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is permanently moored in Ocean Terminal in Leith in Edinburgh.

The yacht is an Edinburgh must-see for anyone with a fascination with the Royal Family. You get to wander the entire ship, from the deck to the crew’s quarters and the polished-to-a-shine engine room. It’s a strange combination of rooms that feel frozen in time and areas which are just holding still between corporate dinner parties.

I enjoyed the small flourishes best, such as the portholes, the gleaming drinks cabinet and the single button from Admiral Nelson’s coat in the Wardroom. Also, the recording I listened to as I walked from room to room informed me that one small area near the kitchen had once been the place there the “Royal children’s jellies were stored.”
The era of Britannia is long past, a jigsaw piece permanently separated from the rest of the puzzle which is the Royal Family.

There are paintings of the yacht at sea, surrounded by lively waves. Now it is frozen, a funny-shaped apartment just kissing the water. The captain’s quarters harks back to the 1950s. Charles and Diana honeymooned on board, their early life together now broken off and sewn hastily into history. For me this leant a slight eeriness to the experience.

As I mentioned, my favourite place is the café. Even though Britannia is permanently stuck to the wharf, the café can only be accessed once you have paid for your tour.

Perhaps it was that feeling of exclusivity, or perhaps it was the idea that I was eating something so quintessentially English while aboard a Royal vessel. Maybe I was just plain cold and so relieved to be warm again. But it really was the most splendid scone and cup of tea. I would happily skip the tour just so I could eat there again. I want another scone!
In some ways the memory serves me better than a photo could. It has allowed me to mythologise this small meal in a way I never would have otherwise.

Has anyone else had this experience? Forgotten to take a photo of what would become the most important element of the holiday?

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