Monday, January 9, 2012

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, a beautiful girl fell in love with a Prince and they got married and lived happily ever after. Okay, we all know that turned out to be a big lie but it happened during my impressionable childhood and I've never been able to shake her.
So yesterday, I had someplace to be. I read months ago that an exhibit for Princess Diana was coming to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. I read about it, told myself I had to go to it and then promptly forgot about it. Then my friend Lisa went and thankfully blogged about it and I remembered that I had to go. The only problem was that it closed in 2 weeks. Its not exactly easy for me to go 3 states away alone on short notice and I wasn't bringing my children to a casino.
By some miracle, Tim happened to be on vacation. He hardly ever gets a normal vacation and he had the whole week off. He told me I needed to take a day to myself and get down there. It's when he does things like that that my mother tells me what a good man I married and I have to agree with her. I got online and bought my ticket. I just had to figure out how to get there.
Embarrassing admission-I never drive myself anywhere far away and unfamiliar by myself and I have hardly ever driven a car outside of the state of Maine. You see, I could never pass my driving test in high school because I can't parallel park so I didn't even get my drivers license until I was 21. It just wasn't important to me and by 21, Tim was already driving us everywhere. He secretly prefers to drive because I can see how nervous he gets in the passenger seat. I never know the roads we are on or really pay attention on how we get from place to place on the interstate. This was important enough to me that I was willing to figure it out and drive myself.
Until I compared bus prices to gas prices. It would have cost me over $100 in gas vs. $37 for a bus ticket. So my non-driving streak continues and I bought myself a bus ticket. I got up at 5am on a Sunday to get on the 7:15am casino bus from Portland to Foxwoods. It was me and a lot of old couples who make trip weekly. The bus was pretty empty so I didn't have to sit next to anyone and I just sat back for the 3 1/2 hour bus ride.
I brought along a book so I could take advantage of some uninterrupted reading. I grabbed Betsy and The Great World because it was light to carry. In the book, Betsy takes a ocean liner alone in 1914 to tour Europe for a year. I was taking a bus to a casino. Travel has gotten a lot less glamorous in the last 100 years.
The bus pulled up right in front of the exhibit. Once I got off the bus, I was handed a free ticket to the all you can eat buffet and a $20 slots voucher. I decided to do both of those things to get them out of the way and then I would go see Diana. I didn't realize you can still smoke inside a casino and it was disgusting. I held onto $10 of the slots money and cashed out and got out of there. I made it to the buffet before the lines got too long. When I was younger, I never could have sat alone and eaten. Now I'm old and I just don't care and I would never see any of these people again anyway. I only filled my plate once and I would recommend the coconut cake.
The rest of the place was like a mall. I don't like the mall. I also felt sort of sad that her things were being shown at a casino. Sort of very tacky. I found this huge mural and realized I had found where I needed to be. So I took the escalator down...
...and discovered this line. This was the line for people who already had tickets like me. It looks short in this picture but just multiply it by 100. I stood in line to get in for over 2 hours. I couldn't believe there were this many people there and neither could the complaining husbands in line. That morning I thought I might make an effort with my appearance and I put on high heeled boots. I knew as I was putting them on that it was a bad idea but I did it anyway. My feet hurt so much I was hoping they would just go numb from the pain but no such luck. At least the exhibit was inside one of the hotels and it seemed a lot more museum like then if it was over by the slot machines. I felt better about the tackiness.
We were warned on our tickets, and again when we went in, that pictures were not allowed. But when I went in, I noticed there was no security around. Plus, they offered an audio tour as you walked along and people were listening to these phone things and were all off in their own worlds. I didn't need the audio tour. I could have given the audio tour. I decided I was using my IPhone to take some pictures. I hid it under some papers and I just slid it out when I needed it. I didn't care. I had waited too long for this not to document it somehow. I took a few pictures and now I regret not taking more when I had the chance. I was glad to get a good one of the wedding dress. They had the whole train laid out in full behind it and you could walk around the whole thing. I actually knelt down to get a closer look at it. I was struck by how small the dress seemed in person. In the videos of the wedding, the dress seemed huge and fluffy. Maybe it needed Diana inside it to fill it out. Her shoes were there too. I have always loved the shoes. She was smart enough to know she was going to have a long day and she wore flats.
Another room had her evening gowns and suits. They were all so familiar to me. It was a little more crowded in there and harder to sneak pictures. This black blur is the dress from her last public appearance.
You can make it out better in this picture of her wearing it. All the dresses were fabulous and you could really see her evolution from her early 80's fluffy lacy dresses to her 1990's Versace gowns and Chanel suits.
I was really moved by this one. It was just tan pants and a button down shirt she wore when she was drawing attention to the problem of land mines and it was on display right next to her gowns.
My long wait in line got me out right before my bus back to Maine was due. I finally was able to sit down. These are the offending boots. They are going back into my closet. Forever.

You don't think I left without hitting up the gift shop? The gift shop is my favorite part of most trips. The exhibit was put on by Dianas brother and Althrop House, their family estate. The selection of gifts was boring. It was probably the worst gift shop I've ever been in. That doesn't mean I didn't buy anything. I needed to have one of these Diana bags of course.
I got the exhibit guidebook, a tea towel and some breakfast tea plus the bag.
The book has pictures of everything that I had just seen so I wanted it. It was an overpriced $30 but I still wanted it so I could remember. See that purple dress third in from the left? She never wore it in public.
So now I am someone who has stood in the same room with Princess Dianas things. I could hardly take in that these were things I had seen in pictures all my life and they were right in front of me. The room dedicated to her funeral actually made me cry along with everyone else in there. Diana died a few weeks after my grandmother and their deaths have always been mixed in together for me. I didn't get to go to my grandmothers funeral because I was living in London and I didn't get to be a part of Dianas funeral crowds because I had returned home a few days before her death.
Now, I think the next step in my craziness is to somehow get back to England and visit Althorp for the full tour. Anyone want to come with me? I will be wearing slippers.


Heather said...

I have to confess that I have been obsessively checking your blog for a post about your little trip. As always, you didn't disappoint. I will totally go to Althorp with is on my bucket list. Maybe we can save enough to go but the time we are 45. :)

Jen Cantrell said...

There's a bus from Portland to Foxwoods for $37??? Oh my....that knowledge spells serious trouble for me!

Becky said...

I love everything about this post. I'm glad you were sneaky and took photos.

Lisa said...

I'm glad you got to go Kate. I can't believe you had to wait for TWO hours to get in - in heels no less - ouch! I couldn't watch the funeral - too sad. Did you find it strange that William and Henry were kind of left out?

DustiMc said...

I never achieved the fandom that Heather did but I did always admire Diana. To be so close you could touch her stuff (if you weren't afraid of being tackled by the security guards that would have come out of the woodwork) must have been very moving. I'm with Becky- I love that you got pictures.

timothyjlambert said...