Icons of London

As I travel away from London I feel like a wrap up post of London iconic images might be fun. Of course one of the most iconic is the phone booth, amazingly still in use.

Then there is the mailbox. This one surprised me since I thought that ‘franking’ went out in the early 20th century.

Staying with the red theme, the double decker bus must be included, although some are now shrinkwrapped with advertising as we see all over America.

And of course, the Beefeater guard.

Abandoning the red theme, Big Ben immediately comes to mind.

and of course Westminster Abbey.

and speaking of religious edifices, don’t forget St Paul’s cathedral

and then the Globe theater

There are so many sites, I could keep this up endlessly but I think that I will wrap this up with one image that reflects the London of yore and a final image that reflects London of today. you may have to look closely at the contemporary image to catch it.

The old ( tower of London)

And the new ( from Trafalgar square)

Hint — the traffic signals.

Oh yes, my favorite beer from the trip was BrewDog Punk IPA

My last day in London

I’ve really enjoyed my 2 weeks here even if I do miss my pooch. I set out today with a mood of melancholy but totally enjoyed myself. It was one of my favorite days as it was all about serendipity and leisure. 

I spent the first part of the morning repacking for my travels tomorrow, thus making. my wanders guilt free. I decided to take the #94 bus instead of the Underground not wanting to miss a moment of London on my last day. I had thought to go to Picadilly Circus on it but jumped off a bit earlier to take a peek at Hamley’s toy store.

It was all that they claimed. 5, or was it 6, floors of playthings. Baby toys, arts and crafts, board games, a whole floor of pink toys, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and legos, legos legos. The Royal family made from legos.

I think parents that bring their children in there and escape without going broke are very fortunate indeed. I wandered along and As I looked to the side I discovered that I was again near China Town. 

That didn’t quite fit my mood for the day so I wandered on. There was a whole store of legos across the street but I felt that Hamley’s had filled my interest for that day.  Having skipped breakfast, my eye was caught by the display in the window of the Caffe Concerto. Checking the menu on display, I saw the word omelette and knew I had found my lunch spot. A spinach and gruyere omelette, served with salad and toast and a cup of coffee were just what I needed.

Impossible to leave a cafe like this without desert I rounded my meal with Belgian chocolate gelato. I was now good to go.

My wanders took me through this delightful pocket park with a statue of Shakespeare. The current temperature was quite cool, but I could easily imagine a warm day with children darting and squealing in the water.

I continued to stroll, heading down whatever street took my interest. I peered into windows of antique sellers. This small area had shops with first editions of both old and new books, old coins and military medals. I paused to look through stacks of old prints of the illustrations from Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the pooh.

Further wandering led me to see a church that I felt was very familiar but took me a bit to place…. St Martins in the Fields. For lovers of classical music this name should be quite familiar. They have quite a few recordings.

A sign out front indicated a cafe and shop in the crypt of the church. I went in to explore.  It definitely had a crypt like feel to it except pleasant. The museum shop was filled with beautiful items to explore.

The church faces out onto Trafalgar square so I next spent some time there looking on chalk drawings and watching street performers. Even though it was a Monday, not a weekend, there was plenty to enjoy. I loved the relaxed feel of it all and it wasn’t overly crowded which was a blessing to me.

I sadly decided that it was time to point my feet at least vaguely back in the direction of Hyde Park and my hotel. I came upon the Parade Grounds where a hand had been rehearsing in preparation for the Queen’s birthday. I watched them march away partially entranced by the sound of all of those marching feet. Of course there were policemen condoning off the area but once the performers were gone, I watched one of them reward his police dog with a bit of play time.

Awwwww – I do miss my Kelly-girl.

From here I walked up to Hyde Park Corner and said my farewells to the park by taking the path along the Serpentine from end to end.

Dinner at a pub on BaysWater near Lancaster Gate called the Swan rounded out my last day in London.

Sunday is Museum Day – take 2

Its once again Sunday, so time to pick a museum. This time I chose the Victoria and Albert museum.

I looked at the map when I went in and saw reference to several rooms labeled “Cast Court”.  What the neck??? I went into the first of these and my mouth hung open… look at all these sculptures….

All these fakes… They were rooms full of casts of sculptures from all over the world. No need to go to Rome to see Michaelangelo’s Moses, a cast of it is right here. Michaelangelo’s David? Also here.

Of course, there were many real sculptures there as well, but not from the classical era. This is a bust of Albert Einstein from 1933 when he was living in a refugee camp in Britain having just escaped from Nazi Germany.

 There were textile exhibits, furniture, China and artifacts from many countries mostly dating from the years of the British Empire.

oh yes and some very modern exhibits

The rest of the day I spent idling about.

Avery, Lacock and Bath

Hurrah for Rabbies! I learned to enjoy their small group tours in Scotland and this one was made to order for me…. standing stones, quaint village and Roman ruins. I made it to the meeting point on time (in fact,way early) to meet my guide James and Hugo, the only other person on the tour. One of the nice thing about Rabbies is that the tour goes on even if you are the only one on it. He provided lots of intersting facts about London as we wended our way out of the city…. the Duke of Westminster owns over 300 acres within London, you may buy a house on his property but you still will pay him a lease for the land. One of my favorite entertaining bits was as we passed a pub called the 3 Kings with a painting of said kings above the door. He challenged us to name the 3…. I guessed that one was Henry VIII, but really we passed the pub too fast to really study the picture. Anyway, it turned out the one painted. the middle of the sign was Elvis! I got a better look on the return trip and was able to see the likeness. Another nice thing about Rabbie’s tours is that the 16 passenger buses are small enough to take the smaller roads, so it wasn’t too long before we did just that. 

we started to see houses with thatched roofs and James explained about how they were made. surprisingly ( to me at least ) a properly maintained thatch roof might last 60 years!

Our first photo op was the White Horse of Cherhill.

 The image is made by scraping down to a layer of chalk under the grass. In the foreground of the picture that is a field of rapeseed in bloom, also called canola. After another photo stop for a good view we arrived in Avery. 

Avery is a small village surrounded by a large circle of standing stones. These stones were from local sandstone so are much more eroded than those at Stonehenge and some are now quite small. Some are also missing altogether, most probably used in the building of the village itself. Unlike Stonehenge you can walk through the fields and touch the stones. Many of the missing stones have been replaced with markers.

After walking through the fields, we got back on the bus and headed for Lacock. Lacock is a quaint village that has been used in Jane Austen films and the inside of the Abbey was used to film some of the corridor scenes in Harry Potter. We did not have a lot of time here so I wandered the village instead of the Abbey.

I did get an outside photo of the abbey.

Then it was time to move on to Bath and the Roman baths at the sacred spring.

This is probably the view most folks associate with the baths … if, in fact, they associate anything at all. The Roman buildings and baths were buried for many centuries until they were rediscoverd in the 18th century and then heralded as a healing spa. In addition to the baths, of which there are many within the structure, there was also a temple to Sulis Minerva. The below is from the roof of the temple with a video overlay showing what is believed to be missing.

The baths were supplied by a natural hot spring and there were some rooms meant for swimming and others for soaking. There was also a cold plunge bath as well.

I really enjoy Roman ruins so I spent a lot of time here. when I finally did exit, I set out to find the Jane Austen centre. I checked a map but still managed to take the long way around. I finally arrived at this corner and discovered I was within a few blocks. 

I enjoyed my walk and the surroundings but found that getting sidetracked has not left me with enough time for the guided tour at the center and they did not permit self guided. I started walking back and came across this likely site:

A bar specializing in local Bath Ales. I did have time for that. Some more interesting views and then it was time to return to London.

Many thanks to our Rabbies driver and my touring companion, Hugo. I had a great time and the 3 of us enjoyed interesting conversation during the drive in addition to all the interesting facts and stories provided by James.

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Rabbies tours … http://www.rabbies.com

Greenwich

After getting lost, again, I carefully checked out the tube map and decided that Greenwich was the next stop for me. I do love maritime museums and old clipper ships.

The Cutty Sark. The old ship in dry dock and elevated 3 meters has a museum built around its keel. I paid my fee and went inside to see the hold. Boy, could it hold a boatload….. I mean, boy could it hold a lot of tea! There were lots of hands on displays meant for children and of course I played with most. I did bypass the rocking seats designed to share the shipboard motion since I have had occasion to experience a tad of mal de mer. As interesting as the belowdecks were, its the deck that alwaysholds the most interest.

From there I explored the grounds of the Royal Naval College.

Before heading over to the maritime museum. The British did have a rather large maritime impact (understatement!) so they had some fascinating history to explore. I stayed there until closing at 5. I could not return to home base until I had hiked up the hill to see the display around the Prime Meridian. 

Oh no, the gates closed at 5!!! Surely they have a marker outside of the museum area! sigh…. they did. It was in a small gated enclosure but it was not locked.

My right foot is east of the prime meridian my left is west. – towards home.

Also on display were the standards for various old English measures of distance8

I didn’t make it to the deer park but after getting lost yesterday, I wasn’t anxious to repeat the performance. Besides I need to be up early tomorrow for my trip to Bath.

Royalty and Lost Again

Although I have wandered through Kensington gardens several times this trip, I realized that I had yet to visit the Palace and the Palace Gardens. There was no entrance fee to the gardens so I started there. As you can see from the photo, they are gorgeous. Unfortunately for me the public was restricted to the upper walkway around the edge . There was a plaque indicating that this had been a favorite spot of Princess Diana which set me to wondering how often did she actually get to enjoy the gardens and how unlikely she would have been able to visit them on the south of the moment like I had just done. It would have to have been planned with guards to clear the space and so on.

After rounding the corner I found myself at the beginning of a walkway that was edged with 6 foot high hedges. I was compelled to follow it. At the end I was near to the Orangery. While I debated whether to go in there or to return to the Palace entrance, a helicopter with a royal seal came in to land in the adjacent field.

 Folks were running over and lining a railing next to the field, so what could I do but join them. Several cars drove out onto the field and 6 guards on motorcycles covered the area while Princess Anne and hubby, Vice Admiral Laurence loaded there luggage and took off.  So nice of them to grant me a view of Royalty for my visit even if she is only 12th in line. 

After that excitement, I went ahead and bought my tickets for the Palace and enjoyed several hours of wandering state rooms and the special exhibit of many of Princess Diana’s wardrobe. According to a plaque, when she first met Prince Charles she only had 1 change of clothes and was always borrowing from her friends. She apparently worked closely with a number of designers to develop a style suited to herself and her position.

After leaving the Palace, I realized that the entrance from Kensington gardens is actually the back side, so I walked around to the front side. Not only were there a million “no photo” signs, the fence surrounding the front is covered with a black mesh that cannot be seen through. Huge mansions lined the other side of the street – also with “no photo” signs. These turned out to be more embassies. I followed along the street until I got to the BaysWater entrance where I discovered that the roadway in to that neighborhood was gated and guarded. I felt a tad intimidated but glad I had the chance to view it. Since I was back on Bayswater, I did grab a photo of the gate and guardhouse.

Lunch was definitely in order by this time so I continued walking west and then turned down a likely street and ended up at the Mall Tavern. I gave in to the urge for a burger and beer. The waiter brought me a sampling of 3 beers and once we worked through that process I had a very satisfying meal while I perused my guide book for my next adventures.

My guide book was no help as it contained nothing west of Kensington Park. I did have a map that my hotel had provided me so I opened it up and perused the area North and West of my current location. aha! Portobello Road. Isn’t that where Paddington bear spent his days? I now had a destination.  I headed off enjoying the day and my walk turning down streets of interest but keeping my heading north and west. I reached the Portobello without mishap and gazed down the street of antique and tea shops thinking fondly of the Paddington bear stories.

I wandered in and out of little shops feeling a bit bohemian and thoroughly enjoying myself until it was time to leave. At this point my luck ran out. I was sure I was on the correct street going the correct way so I enjoyed my walk and the kids being let out from school when I realized that I had no idea where I was and had not seen a handy corner map in a very long while and no underground stops. I finally found a bus stop with a map and saw it had a stop with a label to change there for the Underground. The bus ride went forever! I eventually found the Underground and had a pretty long ride to get back to my home base but arrive I did with just enough time for a quick wash and back into the city as I had a ticket to see An American in Paris. The musical was wonderful. When I got back to the hotel much later I pulled out my map and realized my mistake on my travels, and oh if only I had boarded that bus on the other side of the street….!

This, that & Westminster Abbey

A true rainy day. I started out on a run to Victoria Station. I’m going on a tour to Bath on Saturday and needed to see where I needed to be to catch my bus. True to this visit, I exited Victoria Station on the exact opposite side from the one that I needed but the spot that I needed was less than three blocks away from the station. Now if only I get up on time. I have never adjusted to UK time …. I have been staying up late and sleeping late daily.

I was on Buckingham Palace road so I followed it along until I reached the more familiar area close to the Palace. I thought that I might go to the House Guards museum but it was closed due to a special event. Further wandering left me facing Westminster Abbey. It was cold and misty but it looked like the line was moving along so I joined in.

It was incredible! So very, very many tombs with vast monuments, effigies and stone memorials. Kings and Queens of yore and even Oliver Cromwell was buried there for 2 years; before they dug him up so he could be beheaded for treason. Photogrophy was not allowed so I cannot share the beauty and of course it is very difficult to convey the sense of age that looking at the tomb of Richard III gave me. I spent several hours here before realizing I had not yet eaten today and it was mid afternoon so I went in search of food.

After eating at a pub near Westminister station, I aborted my plans for meandering as it was pouring down rain so I went to the station and headed for home base. It was not raining there so I wandered shops and then made an early day of it.