Friday, January 18, 2019

London: A Rainy Sunday

Sunday was our sixth day in London and I was still on two feet. They weren't pretty and they were pretty darned painful but still moving. Well, into each life some rain must fall -- and it fell hard that Sunday morning.

We decided we wanted to see St. Paul's, home of the Charles and Diana wedding so long ago and one of the most beautiful and famous of Christopher Wren's creations. So, we took the bus from our hotel to its nearest stop, walking the rest of the way, to attend the Matins or choral service.

It's quite impressive, this mammoth landmark, with its enormous dome and expansive entry.

In fact, when you are standing at the steps, you can barely see the dome!

To do that, you have to walk around to the side for a better look. And it's quite a look!

We ventured inside (security check) and found seats near the front and I enjoyed a rather interesting service with beautiful music and a short and well done homily that I wish I could remember now. And it was glorious inside.

Source: Wikipedia/St. Paul's Cathedral

I suspect I spent far more time gaping at the elaborate ceiling and mosaic floor than I did in any serious contemplation of faith.

Source: Wikipedia/St. Paul's Cathedral

(I will say, though, that the acoustics were wretched. It sounded like we were in an echo chamber and maybe where our seats were located, it was. That was quite a disappointment because I think the choir would have sounded lovely if I wasn't hearing them slightly out of synch like two televisions close together but off by a half second in dialogue!)

Source: Wikipedia/St. Paul's Cathedral

My other disappointment was that we couldn't take photos here. (I probably could have tried but it seemed a little wrong!) They had some handsome statues and monuments and I would have loved to record the stunning interior. This postcard will have to do.

After the service we both bought quite a few things in the gift shop and this past Christmas enjoyed carols sung by the choir (which actually sounded really good, no echo!). I bought this wee icon and Rick gave me this beautiful cross for my Christmas tree (which may not go away with the other ornaments. I love it too much!)

Then onward, past the statue of Queen Anne ("The Favourite") in front of the cathedral. One of her political opponents wrote that "it was fitting she was depicted with her rump to the church, gazing longingly into a wineshop!"

After church we walked across Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. We were wet. It was cold. I was in pain and I had a total meltdown. Rick said, "I'm getting a wheelchair."  And then I really broke because it felt so embarrassing to know you had to be pushed through a museum. I mean, going to museums is what I DO. On my own two feet. And I'm not THAT old. Yet. I will always be grateful to the kind volunteer who waited with me while he looked for the chair and just calmed me down. Yes, "kind." That is the word I'll always remember when I think of her.

The Tate Modern is -- well, modern. Very contemporary art. And that SO isn't my thing. I just don't get it. But I have to say, it was unique. We saw a movie which (we learned, after the first hour or so when we left) runs 24 hours and people are continually looking at clocks or their watches and the time is what the time really is. It's loads of clips and it made no sense but it was sort of intriguing and well edited. It was called -- wait for it -- "The Clock." Then there was this area, which seemed a waste of good space.

(However, it did have all sorts of cool sayings in plaques on the wall, many of which resonated!)

In Lansing we have an area near our home we call the Malfunction Junction because over about three square blocks we see at least one accident/almost accident/remnants from an accident once a week, without fail. So we renamed this sculpture "The Malfunction Junction."

And artist Julie Mehretu is also from our home town, so it was fun to see one of her big pieces here even if I didn't like it. (It was based on protests in Cairo.)

I have no idea what this was.

Or this.

But it isn't a bad thing to go out of your artistic comfort zone now and then. If nothing else, it can be good for grins. And one man's trash is another's treasure, they say. But it was no Klimt experience! As for me, my art will never be in the Tate -- modern or otherwise.

But I can work with that.

Travel Tips:

  • Visiting Churches -- If you want to see a beautiful church that charges a hefty admission (or even doesn't), skip the tour and hit a service. Choir services -- Matins and Evensong -- are particularly nice because you get some lovely entertainment with it. They do collect an optional offering, although I found it worth my gift for the lovely music in a beautiful venue.
  • Check out Concert/Recital Schedules -- If you enjoy music, don't hesitate to check out free or inexpensive afternoon and evening concerts or recitals. The recitals at St. James were by donation and while you won't hear Yo-Yo Ma performing, you will perhaps hear the Yo-Yo of tomorrow.
  • Ask for Help -- Don't be embarrassed to ask for help. I was. I am. I always will be. But they have wheelchairs in museums for a reason -- to help you enjoy the facility. To allow you to see what you wouldn't otherwise. And it gets easier as you do it more than once. When I say "don't be embarrassed" I mean not only embarrassed around the strangers but also to your traveling companion. I hated more than anything to slow Rick down. But he was OK with that. Even before he saw that plaque above that said, "It is in your self interest to be very tender," he was.
  • Always take your umbrella. (Get that small kind that fit in your purse or day bag.) 
  • Venture out of Your Comfort Zone -- You don't have to do it often if it makes you that uncomfortable, but you might learn something, see something that makes your think or, if nothing else, solidify your own opinion. I can't say I'd return to the Tate. Not my thing. But I'm glad I went. 
Sharing this week with:   Pink Saturday    

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

London: A Westminster Walk and a Southbank Symphony

Another of Rick's requests for our London trip was to see the London Philharmonic. Fortunately, they were scheduled to perform a piece I love, Carmina Burana, so we booked tickets for Saturday. After our Portobello Road visit, we took a break and then geared up for a trip to London's Southbank. We decided to take the bus!

I love the bus -- you actually get to see things and if you are in no hurry, the stops don't bother you. But when the bus stops and doesn't go anywhere, then you start to wonder. When ours let us out (across from Westminster Abbey) they explained there was a demonstration and roads were blocked off.

Well, I was in college in the '70s. I appreciate a good demonstration so we went in search of it. But first, a look at the exterior of the Abbey. (We had attended Evensong here in 2012 so just wandered around the exterior a bit.)

Then we crossed into the park, looking for the demonstration. All we saw was this.

Oh well. But there were some lovely statues.

I particularly liked this one. I think about it every time I turn on the news. (Commenter Maryanne in SC just weighed in on the statue. It's of Dame Millicent Fawcett, a suffragist, not a suffragette. The words are not synonyms. An online source from the UK explains "The suffragists believed in peaceful campaigning, whereas the suffragettes believed in direct action (violence and militancy). The suffragists was a national organisation, the suffragettes was a smaller organisation with 2000 members at its peak in 1914. The suffragists allowed men to join, the suffragettes did not." Thanks, Maryanne!)

So, we walked to the Southbank, and it was quite lovely. Unfortunately, the Houses of Parliament are under restoration (at least I think that's what that is -- I couldn't tell because of the scaffolding!)...

....and so was Big Ben.

But at least we could tell the time!

And there were marvelous views of the Thames and the side of Parliament that wasn't covered...

...along with the London Eye.

(The adventurous part of me would like to go on this. The part that gets vertigo when I stand on a two-step stool in my own house was happy to give it a pass.)

Still, looks fun. And dramatic!

We headed over to Royal Festival Hall to get tickets, then off to have a bite to eat.

A good burger, a couple of beers.  It was delicious! (We became very fond of Frontier beer while we were in England!)

To the hall! A wonderful exhibit in the lobby on the Festival of Britain of 1951.

The displays helped us pass the time till we were able to be seated.

And what a splendid and unobstructed view.

Well, till this in front of me.

And in front of Rick.

So, at intermission we took a walk on the bridge to enjoy the view...

...and it was quite a view!

When we returned, we moved up a few seats! Much better!

I leave you with another look at London's skyline...

...and through the zoom, St. Paul's -- where we will head in the morning (and next time!)

And if Mike or Jenny or any other of my London friends can tell me what this building is...(you can see it from Southbank and Festival Hall but on the other side of the river.) This just in: Commenter Julie from Liverpool says the below is Charing Cross Railroad Station! Thanks, Julie!

I will be most grateful!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

London: Notting Hill and Portobello Road -- Whew!

Long before I saw the film "Notting Hill" I knew about Portobello Road and its market. I'd read about it in any number of books (because my favorite books are set in England!) and I knew about antiques and secondhand things. I knew I had to go.

But I wasn't sure how Rick would take to it! After all, shopping isn't always his thing and I wasn't sure that this was his shopping. But what the heck? We're in London!

So, on a very warm, 70-degree-plus, mid-October day, we took the bus outside to Notting Hill Gate and were on our way. It was one of my favorite days!

Why? Well, first of all, it was gorgeous. And second, there was all that wonderful shopping!

Plus, it was a mass of people. Now, I'm not great in crowds and yet this didn't bother me. Not a bit.

Everyone was having a good time, moving along at whatever pace they chose.

When we first got off the bus, most of what we saw was trash and trinkets and I was a little worried! But as we went deeper into what seemed like a mile-long market area, it really developed! There were shops with sidewalk bins. Linens, antiques, china, silver.

You name it, it was there. I bought a small spoon at this vendor who had some lovely miniatures.

Rick spent some time looking at vintage maps.

Personally, I think Rick was a little bummed about the haggling at this booth. He loves to haggle.

I didn't get this. But wish I had.

I could have spent a bit here too -- I'm not sure how much was sterling, plate or just shiny but it all looked pretty!

I loved the modern day version of the costermonger carts.

This one had every olive, garlic and pepper known to humankind, I think!

People were buying all sorts of things -- fruits, veggies and herbs...

...fresh fish...


...and antique toys.

I think we heard every language under the sun, the least of which was English!

And the food! Well, the market had the food court to end all food courts. Food from Afghanistan? Sure! Poland? Of course! Crepes? Oui! Tacos? Si!

There was Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern. We enjoyed a delicious paella.

Then on to more looking.

Even the streets and buildings were lovely and their bright colors added to the ambience.

But always present was the ghost of Grenfell Towers, the apartment building not far that had suffered terrible loss in a fire on June 14, 2017.

It was clear that this was a neighborhood that supported its community.

Of course, if you're a "Notting Hill" movie fan, you can't be in this neighborhood and not recall the famous "Blue Door" of William's house. It was quite the photo op. (Rick actually spotted it because of people taking photos by it!)

For me, too!

And this building was his pal's restaurant in the film. It's now a gift shop.

There's loads of street entertainment too. Musicians, of course, but I liked these marionettes.

We even saw the Queen! OK, not quite. But close!

All in all, I'd recommend Portobello Road if this is your thing and crowds don't totally freak you out. It was one of my favorite times in England and I'd go back in a heartbeat!


Travel Tips

  • It's easy to access Portobello Road market from the bus or tube. Be prepared to walk.
  • Wear comfy shoes. If you do the whole thing, it's a long haul.
  • Bring cash. This is not a credit card venue, although the shops along the road do accept cards.
  • Make a plan to know where your travel partner is -- either a meeting spot or at least clothing recognition so if you are separated you can find each other in the crowd.
  • Be adventurous! The food court was great. Try something new. (I sort of wish I'd tried this fruit drink!)

Next time? I'll take you somewhere a tad more cerebral!

Sharing this week with:  Let's Add Sprinkles    /       Pink Saturday  

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