07 September 2017

Tall Buildings (London trip)

I was amazed by the many tall, glassy buildings that have become the skyscape of London. Many of the downtown streets were cordoned off for construction. Cranes were everywhere.

Everytime "tall buildings" comes to my mind, the song "In Tall Buildings" by John Hartford, sung by Gillian Welch comes to my mind. It begins:

Someday my baby, when I am a man,
and others have taught me
the best that they can
they'll sell me a suit
they’ll cut off my hair
and send me to work in tall buildings

So it's goodbye to the sunshine
goodbye to the dew
goodbye to the flowers
and goodbye to you
I'm off to the subway
I must not be late
I’m going to work in tall buildings












06 September 2017

London trip, day 8

May 10, Wednesday.

Our last full day in London. I wrote "A bit slow today!" in my trip notes. We take the Tube to Little Venice, and board a funky little canal boat that will take us to Campden and the markets there.

Inside the canal boat. (Only took my iPhone.)


View from boat.


Our canal boat "captain".


We went to Hyde Park and enjoyed the views.


Later we went back to our hotel and rested awhile. For dinner, we went back to our favorite local restaurant, the Tapas place.

Then to bed. Our last night in London.

On Thursday we packed up and made our way to the airport for our 2:40 pm flight. What a wonderful time we had in London!

05 September 2017

London trip, day 7

May 9, Tuesday.

Today we tubed to Westminster station and found a hop-on-off river cruise to Greenwich, about an hour long cruise. Why not?! We enjoyed the cruise and then we enjoyed Greenwich. (I left my camera at home, so today's photos are from my iPhone.)

The first thing we come to after we depart our cruise boat is this sailing ship.


We went inside the Royal Naval Museum. This painting is by David James!


Here is a navy uniform.


Next we walked across a big lively park and up to the Royal Observatory.


Just outside the observatory is the Meridian that marks Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT. This is the standard for world time: When the sun is at its highest point exactly above the Prime Meridian, it is 12:00 noon at Greenwich.

People around the gate leading to the meridiam.


My feet, one on each side of the meridian.


John, one foot on each side of the meridian.


We had lunch in Greenwich, then strolled around the area and went to the bazaar. The bazaar had tons and tons of little shops under a big cover. Too much stuff! Crowded! But interesting. Tired, we went back to catch the boat back to the subway and finally to our hotel. We ate dinner at Nandos again because we liked it a lot.

I took some photos of our room.





It was small, but plenty of room for us. It was clean and functional. No complaints!

05 September 2017

London trip, day 6

May 8, Monday.

We were sort of thinking of taking a train out to Brighton, then decided it was just too much work. Instead, we first headed out to the Churchill War Museum. It was fascinating. This is the bunker where Churchill headquartered during World War II. Just standing in that area was amazing.

On the way, we passed the building below. Our son should visit this place!


This is the enigma machine.


Churchill had many interests and hobbies, including painting.



"He certainly is a handful"! Reminds us of a certain grandson.


Another sign about Churchill's childhood.


At age 16, Churchill won a school prize for his poem "The Influenza".


At one point in the war museum, the alarm went off. A voice came on, repeating: "move directly to the exit". We all filed out, with John and I about at the end of the line. No explanation was given. When we were almost out, the alarm went off and we all filed back in. Again, no explanation. But later, when we left the museum, we found the road outside cordoned off, and lots of police. Traffic in the area was backed up because of closed roads. We walked to a pub to find a beer and found that we got around a lot better on foot than the cars were doing.

I liked this sign we saw along the way:


Our next destination was tthe Victoria and Albert Museum. We walked and walked, but had trouble finding it. Finally we found it! Tired, we went to a pub for lunch and wine. Then we toured the museum. It had lots of artwork collected from many ages and cultures. I didn't take any photos.

We went back to our hotel. For dinner, we went to a Chinese restaurant down the street.

19 August 2017

London trip, day 5

It's Sunday (May 7) and we decide to do the "City Walk" (recommended by Rick Steves) because the walk goes through the business district – crowded on weekdays. This is two mile walk on the same street, although the street's name changed: The Strand, Fleet Street, Cannon Street.

We started at the London Bridge. That's not the Tower of London Bridge, but the bridge where the London Bridge that was moved to Lake Havasu City in Arizona was originally located. The modern London Bridge is just that: modern. It is functional and barely even known as "London Bridge". We got off the tube, turned the wrong way, and got lost looking for the bridge. But in getting lost, we had interesting conversations with other people wandering around the streets.

Lots of photos today!

Here is a photo of the tube. Waits for a train were short.


This is the Shard. We could see this building from all around London. At first, we thought it was unfinished, as the top just juts up into the air. We could have spent 30 pounds each to ride an elevator up to buy champagne near the top, but decided not to.



Just past the Shard, looking east down the Thames.


Looking back towards the Tower bridge.


A photo taken on the current London Bridge.


The City Walk is a two-mile walk from London Bridge to Charing Cross Station. This walk parallels the Thames and is on the same main road that's been used for centuries. This is the start of our walk; we are coming off the London Bridge and will be turning towards the left (west).


Here is the tower bridge.


We came to Saint Pauls Cathedral, once the center of a one-square-mile walled town called Londinium. Beautiful building, lovely grounds. We spent some time resting on benches and enjoying the gardens and birds and people.



A photographer was taking photos of a wedding party.


John went into a phone booth:


We continued our walk. Here is the Royal Courts of Justice.



I love these old buildings.


The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court:



Toilet door sign:


View down the Thames:


The Eye and a bunch of cranes. London streets had construction everywhere!


More street/bridge views.



We came back to our hotel after about 4 hours of walking. Had dinner at Nando's, near our hotel. This restaurant serves grilled chicken, offered in a variety of peri-peri marinades. Kind of a casual, fast food restaurant, but they did serve wine and beer.

Another fun day.

06 July 2017

London trip, day 4

Today (Saturday) is the day we have a tour of the Parliament scheduled for early afternoon. We set out in the morning to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We got there early to get a good spot to watch.



It starts to get crowded, so we people-watch.




We climb up and find a higher spot to view the changing of the guard.


The view in the direction opposite to the Palace. We will soon walk down that way.


The statue in front of where we are sitting:


We wait for about 45 minutes. More people come, and we see some horses.




We got tired of waiting. So we walked away, down through St. James Park. John has read that a smaller ceremony will be held in a little while at a place a few blocks away. The park is lovely, but those chairs are for rent, by day or by season.



We walked through an area of very fancy shops, mostly for men's clothing and shoes. We also walked around a lot, looking for the next ceremony. A few people were gathering around the building below. But we never saw a ceremony!


Next we walked to Westminster and picked up our tickets for the House of Parliament tour. It was an hour or so away, so we walked (and walked and walked) looking for a place to eat. Nothing! Then I spotted an outdoor stand that sold sandwiches and sweets. Perfect! We split a panini and a cookie and rested in peaceful Victoria park, right next to the Thames and the Parliament building.

The House of Parliament tour was fascinating and the tour guide a bit quirky. Photos were not allowed inside, so I have none to share.

We took the tube to Earl's Court to look for a restaurant for dinner. We found a great place! Turns out it was a chain. We had ravioli and spaghetti, nice portions. We dressed our salads using the bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the table, then ground salt and squeezed a fresh lemon on top, and used a special grinder to add Parmesan cheese. Dessert of raspberry and chocolate was delicious. Merlot was the wine.

A perfect day!

04 July 2017

London trip, day 3, lunch and Freemason building

By about 12:30, we were looking for lunch. The area around the British Museum is very touristy, very crowded, has lots of traffic. But in general, we like this part of old London, as it has less construction and lots of shops and places to eat. After looking at many restaurants, we end up at the Manitoba Tigella on New Oxford Street. Like the Slug and Lettuce, this Italian restaurant offers "sharing boards". We chose the Tagliere Misto:


Parma ham (proscuitto), Felino salame (an Italian salame), and mortadella are Italian cured meats. Gnocco fritto and tigelle fritto are fried yeast doughs. The unpitted Italian olives were fresh, green, not really brined, and delicious – we had these throughout the trip and even John liked them. Sun-dried tomatoes and Parmigiano cheese we have in the US, but the versions in this restaurant were outstanding. Stracchino cheese is an Italian cows-milk cheese, eaten while the cheese is young; it is often used as a melting cheese, like on pizza.

Of course we had wine so we strolled happily out of the restaurant and admittedly got a little lost looking for the War Museum and Covenant Garden. We came to this large and beautiful building, named "Freemasons Hall". I was ready to pass it by, but John is fascinated by architectural masterpieces, so we went inside. He went to the reception desk and asked what the building was all about, and the lady said "you are lucky, a tour is just starting!" What? Oh well, let's go.

What is a Freemason? Briefly, it is a member of a fraternal (men only) organization that began in the fourteenth century as a group that negotiated dealings of stone cutters (masons) with clients and authorities. The first Freemason Grand Lodge was created in 1717 in London. See Wikipedia for more; we had trouble getting what the lodge was all about from our tour guide. This CBS news article has a lot more information on the secrecies of the Freemasons. When I view the Freemasons symbol online, it seems to bring back memories of literature and discussions surrounding my maternal grandfather.

Here is the ceiling of the sanctuary:


The altar:


The top of the ceiling:


The throne:


Tiled floor:

It was a magnificent building. But the secrets of the Freemasons were not revealed in the tour, and had to be found later online.

After the Freemasons we used the tube and found our way "home". Later, we went out for a light dinner, looking for guacamole and chips and margaritas at a restaurant down the street. That turned out to be a busy fast food place, so we walked back towards our hotel. (It's a Friday night.) We ended up at Tapa's near our hotel. Although it was busy, it was great!! Stuffed into a table near the street, we ordered a couple tapas and Sangrias. We had Iberian pork, a delicacy from Spain that was grilled to rare and absolutely astounding. We got some kebabs that were served with harissa sause (I learned this sauce in one of my cooking classes). We ordered more tapas and I think more sangrias and had a great time. Delicious food.

Off to walk the few steps to our hotel! We love London.

15 June 2017

London trip, day 3, British Museum special show

When you walk into the British Museum, you are in a large structure done in white with a dome on top.





Look carefully at the last photo above. See the little dots on the glass of the dome? I zoomed in:



Those were window or "dome" washers, a couple guys on ropes washing the windows!

11 June 2017

London trip, day 3

May 5.

Great night sleep! This morning we are off to the British Museum. Although it opens at 9 a.m., we are not in a big hurry to leave, remembering the crowded Tube from the day before.

The British Museum is an amazing repository of British historical items, from Britain itself and all of its colonies. (In fact, there was a special "American Dream Exhibition" while we were there - we skipped that.) Here is the entry way:


I also like the view across the street:


We first walk into a long, long library filled with books on the walls. In the center are displays, like this of vases from the 1500s. One shows river gods in a landscape, one is signed for a famous ceramic workshop in Itally whose wares were hunted down by collectors.


John liked this microsculpture.


Sign for the above micro sculpture: "Around 1500, sculptors in the Northern Netherlands invented a new art form: microscopic sculptures carved in wood, which tell the Christian story and encourage the viewer to identify with its message. Made for private devotion and enjoyment, they are virtuoso masterpieces, which have always been treasured as objects of wonder and curiosity. The remarkable group in the Woddesdon Bequest are made of boxwood, a densely grained wood which can be carved in great detail. The altar shown here is one of the most splendid examples to survive. Dated 1511, the altar is carved with scenes from the life and Passion of Christ. Doors open to reveal the Crucifixion, with detailed figures set within a vaulted interior. The inside of the doors show Christ Carrying the Cross on the left, and the Resurrection on the right. Beneath is the Last Supper. The disciples sit with Jesus behind a table, with Judas, who will betray Jesus, isolated at the front. Beneath is a small label dated 1511. Flanking the scene are playful cherubs and lions holding shields, which would originally have identified the patron for whom this sculpture was made."

"The Knucklebone Player", below, is a marble Roman sculpture from the 1st-2nd century AD. "A young girl plays a game of knucklebones using animal ankle bones as four-sided dice."


"Hercules", below, is a Roman copy of an original by the Greek sculptor Lysippos of about 325-300 BC. Restored and set into a modern bust by the English sculptor Joseph Nolllekens, it is said to have been found at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.


The Rosetta Stone! This is the artifact that I wanted to see the most at the British Museum. The text on the Rosetta Stone is the same "decree" in three scripts, two Egyptian and one Ancient Greek, and thus is the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was made in 196 BC and found in 1799 AD. (See Wikipedia.)

Unfortunately, everyone else in the museum apparently wanted to see the Rosetta Stone too. I tried to get my camera focused on it, but there was so much people-movement and reflections off the glass that this is the best image I got:


I did get a better view with my own eyes, luckily. The Rosetta Stone fascinates me.

We next went to the Egyptian area, with statues as old as 1800 BC. A head:


A big fist and a lot of museum visitors:


Note the "Please do not touch" on this next one (!), the Statue of Rehuankh, about 1800 BC:




King Amenhotep III as a lion. "The statue and its pair guarded a temple at Soleb, Upper Nubia." (About 1390 BC.)


Our JHF Poly High class name (1967) was "Assyrians":


Mummies! This is one of my favorite rooms in the British Museum.


The above is: "Cleopatra: the mummy of a young woman. The mummy and coffin of Cleopatra, daughter of Candace, from the Soter family burial." She was 17 years old.



This one shows an X-ray of the above mummy:


"The mummy of this young woman illustrates the mathod of wrapping employed in the 25th Dynasty. The outer shroud was originally dyed a salmon-pink colour. It is held in place by transverse bands and vertical strips (originally light brown and dark purple respectively). Over this is laid a network of tubular faience beads and a winged scarab beetle of mosaic beadwork. (Mummy of Takhebkhenem, about 700-680 BC, from Thebes.)


The mummy of Katebet, about 1300 BC, Thebes:



The photo below is one of me and was designed and shot by John. He was looking at a gold neck adornment, and noted that an image of it was projected onto a passerby. So he set me up, took the photo, and here I am "wearing" this golden adornment:


Enough! We are getting tired and hungry and head out of the museum.

29 May 2017

London trip, day 2, continued

We left the London Tower in search of lunch. Walking north (not across the bridge), we found ourselves in a maze of construction and traffic. A temporary wall around the construction advertised restaurants, but we couldn't find a way to get to them. So we continued north. The area did not look promising for restaurants. John talked to a construction worker, and the guy didn't know of any restaurants, but he thought there were some back by the river. So back we went. Along the way, I saw a door in a big building, and thinking that that building might house a bar or restaurant, I went in. I smelled food! Turns out all I smelled was a small vending machine area, but . . . I looked ahead through the next door, and we passed through, and lo and behold, a wharf area with lots of eateries!

"The Slug and the Lettuce" was the first one we came to. I liked the catchy name and we liked the menu. But, we continued on past about ten restaurants and reading more menus. We ended up back at the Slug and Lettuce.


This eatery is big, airy, and has some areas with comfy couches. The menu was contempory, much as we'd find in Boulder. But one big difference that I rarely see in the US – it offered "sharing boards". We often share meals, to keep the amount of food down. Well, the Slug and Lettuce was all set up for people like us! We decided on a board with a selection of Asian small plates, like egg rolls, shrimp on a stick, and a couple other tasty treats that I forget. But it was delicious. And we had wine. And then we ordered a "board" of mini desserts. So good. Our waitress was quirky and seemed to be on her first work of week there, as the other waitress seemed to be at odds with her now and then.

When we got back to the US, I looked up "Slug and Lettuce" to try to find the menu and exactly what we had to eat. I found out that the Slug and Lettuce is a "chain of bars" throughout the UK. It even has a wikipedia entry. This chain is "contemporary" and aimed at youthful clientele and women as well as men. This is the one we were at, "St. Mary Axe.

We next walked across the Tower Bridge.


Here is the view from the bridge:


Across the bridge we find a lot of new buildings all with glass walls and of all sort of shapes. I'll show more in another post, but here is one:


We walked past a children's play area:


We walked to Westminster, and gazed on the Parliament building, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben.





We Tubed back to our room. An oasis after all the noise and walking crowded streets! For a light dinner, we went next door to the Plough and Harrow. (Love the gin and tonics, especially the tonic, but have to keep fighting for more ice.) Ordered a "sharing plate" again, but this one was all fried and we decide not to do that again.

What a fun day.