Still celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Texas but maybe next year in London!


Crone and Son 1995

Crone and Son in London, May 5, 1995

Twenty years ago Husband, Son and I spent Cinco de May in London

and celebrated at the Texas Embassy Cantina with margaritas and mariachis.

Since then every Cinco de Mayo I say, “Next year in London!”

Alas, another year has passed without returning to London.

In 2012 I wrote a post about celebrating Cinco de May in London.

Here is the link for those who missed it and may be interested. https://coastalcrone.com/2012/04/15/next-year-in-london/

Unfortunately, as far as I know the Texas Embassy Cantina  is closed, but I would settle for another trip to London.

Advertisements

WOULD YOU TRAVEL WITH YOUR AUNT?


scan0001

Cover of “Travels With My Aunt,” by Graham Greene,The Folio Society edition with introduction by John Mortimer

Henry Pulling, the main character in Graham Greene’s 1969 novel, “Travels With My Aunt,” chose to travel to Paris with his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta.  The book begins in London at the funeral/cremation of Henry’s mother, Aunt Augusta’s sister.  He had not seen her since he was a child. Graham Greene, author of darker novels – “The Power and the Glory” for example – actually had a lighter side to him as displayed in this funny novel.  Check out two of my posts, Graham Greene and the Anglo-Texan Society  and Next Year in London!

Henry, who never married, had retired early from a bank due to bank take-over and spent  his days quietly cultivating dahlias.  When Aunt Augusta invites him to travel with her first to Brighton and then to Paris and Istanbul via the Orient Express, he accepts.  Henry is rather shocked at his aunt’s frank attitude toward sex at her age and is not sure if what she carries across borders in her luggage is legal.  Travel on the Orient Express awakens Henry’s passion when he meets an unconventional young woman.

Oh, yes, before they set out on their travels, the police take away the urn containing the ashes of Henry’s mother because they suspect it may contain a strong mixture of cannabis. The adventures end in Paraguay.  It is pure entertainment all the way!

Illustration by John Holder

Henry, Aunt Augusta and Wordsworth -Book illustration by John Holder

Next Year in London!


“There’s the Texas Embassy!  And they’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo,” I blurted out from the back of the classic black London cab.  My fellow passengers, husband and son, looked at me as if I had drank one too many pints of ale with my lunch.

It had been an American Express moment.  Husband had lost his wallet on our second day in London, and we were retracing our steps back to a shop near Trafalgar Square.  Fortunately, a salesperson had found the wallet where it had been left behind when he was paying for some items.  Counting out those pounds and unfamiliar coins was still new to us, tourists that we were.  Once the financial crisis was over I explained that the embassy was actually a restaurant called Texas Embassy Cantina, and because it was May 5, they were celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

When Texas was an independent country, from 1836 to 1845, an embassy was established in 1842 in London in the offices of Berry Brothers wine store at #3 James Street.  With Ashbel Smith as the new country’s Minister to the Court of St. James, diplomatic relations were friendly between the outspoken Texans and the reserved British.  Texas joined the Union in 1845 and the embassy was closed.  Today a small plaque marks the location:

TEXAS LEGATION

 In this building was
The legation for the
Ministers from the
Republic of Texas
to the
Court of Saint James
1842 – 1845

Erected by
The Anglo-Texan Society

     British novelist Graham Greene founded the Anglo-Texas Society in 1953 and served as its first president.  The group’s    main objective was to foster closer social and cultural ties between Britain and Texas.  Greene’s biographer, Norman Sherry, recounts the more light-hearted origins of the society and relations between the stiff British and the  rowdy Texans in his book, The Life of Graham Greene, Volume II.   In 1976 the Anglo-Texan Society was offically dissolved.

     Over 150 years later Texans visiting the city can feel right at home the moment they walk into the Texas Embassy Cantina at No. 1 Cockspur Street, only a short distance from the original embassy.  Located in the impressive and historic Oceanic House with the Lone Star flying proudly outside, it could be mistaken for a real embassy – this is London after all.  Not far away are Buckingham Palace, No. 10 Downing Street, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery.  The building itself has historical links to America as it formerly housed the White Star shipping line that owned the Titanic.  After the Titanic sank on its way to New York, relatives and friends came to the building to check the list of survivors.

tx-cantina

The inspiration for the restaurant in the heart of London came from Texas oilman Russell J. Ramsland, Jr. and attorney A. Hardcastle, both of Dallas, who missed Tex-Mex food when they traveled.  With a successful Dallas restaurateur, Gene Street, and a former Lord Mayor of London, Sir Alan Traill, the group planned for three years.  Dallasite Thom Jackson is the general manager today.

The decor is typical Tex-Mex restaurant style found in many Texas cities and towns – fiesta lights, border town atmosphere, weathered doors and windows, faux plaster walls, serapes and the mandatory tortilla factory.  Upstairs an 1880s saloon has been recreated with a 29-foot bar and the obligatory nude painting hanging above it.  Texas icons and flags complete the illusion of being in the Lone Star State.  One could easily imagine a couple of tall, tough, Texas Rangers swaggering in at any moment, the jangle of spurs, the scrape of a boot on a bare wooden floor, the scent of liquor and dusty heat.  Or maybe Chuck Norris.

Dishes on the menu will satisfy the cuisine cravings of most any homesick Texan, from chips and salsa to fajitas and flan, Mexican beer and margaritas with familiar sounding names like Hill Country Peach and Padre Island.  Yet the food has a certain English twist that one can’t quite explain.  I suppose it is to pacify the local and international palates also. But for Texans far from home and tired of ale and plowman’s lunch, it is a haven.

Texas Embassy Cantina

Crone and Son in London, May 1995

Returning to the restaurant that night for dinner and the celebration of Cinco de Mayo, we did feel at home as we enjoyed Tex-Mex cuisine served with London panache. Mariachis dressed in authentic black attire and sombreros, appearing suspiciously British, sang “El Rancho Grande” upon our request as they strolled among the tables.

Despite the differences of the past, the people of Texas and Mexico continue to share more than just the Rio Grande.  Today Cinco de Mayo is celebrated across America in many cities by those of Hispanic descent and other U.S. citizens who support freedom and liberty for all people.  Relations continued strong between America and Britain when Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush, the former governor of Texas, met and agreed on many issues.

Now each Cinco de Mayo I vow, “Next year in London!”

A Diamond for the Queen


H.M. Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne at  the young age of 25 on February 6, 1952 after the death of her father, King George  VI.  Her coronation took place June 2, 1953.   This year she will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee – 60 years as queen.  London will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee June 2-5 with activities all over the city.  CNN puts it this way: 

The Diamond Julibee will be marked with a special four-day holiday weekend in the UK…packed with enough pomp and spectacle to rival Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s royal wedding.”

One spectular event will be a parade of up to a 1,000 boats, ships and steamers lead by the Queen’s Royal Barge down a seven mile stretch of the Thames.  In past centuries the river was often used for royal celebrations but less so in modern times.  Surely Handel’s “Water Music” will be played! 

Many other events are planned including a concert at Buckingham Palace, lighting of beacons across the Commonwealths and a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

Her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, the longest reigning British monarch and longest reigning female monarch, was on the throne for sixty-three years and seven months.  Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert died twenty-one years into their marriage and left her with forty years of widowhood.  Queen Elizabeth, who will be 86 this April 21, has enjoyed good health and the continued companionship of her husband, Prince Phillip, 90.

I admire the Queen as she has aged gracefully through the years.  She continues to carry out her duties dressed appropriately as always in her coordinated coat dresses and hats whether entertaining a United States president, addressing Parliment or greeting her subjects.  Her royal status has not shielded her from the usual ups and downs of ordinary family life.  Whatever the royal family does – good or bad – is fair foddar for the British tabloids.

Queen Elizabeth deserves a magnificent Diamond Jubilee!  I wish I could be back in London June 2-5 to celebrate.  Long live the Queen!

Related articles and sites

http://culture.gov.uk/news/news_stories/8028.aspx 
 http://www.2012queensdiamondjubilee.com/
http://www.royal.gov.uk/
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/world/europe/education-minister-suggests-a-yacht-for-queen-elizabeth-ii.html?_r=1