My second rule is to blow that baby to smithereens. And that's exactly what we did on our second day on our own in London! (You'll see weather forecasts in red on the itinerary -- these were from before we left for the month-ahead predictions, U.S. Farenheit scale. It was only partially accurate!)
I had it planned. We were going to go to Harrods, then hit the Victoria and Albert Museum and check out what might be playing in the West End and line up some theatre tickets. All good!
But then we ended up swapping out Monday's day (more or less) for that Friday and moving those other things along -- and once we did that, all bets were off. Things were added, things were crossed off. Some things were done twice. And it was just fine! (Or, as Seth Kugel writes in the New York Times, "The itinerary is just the rough draft for your journey.)
One of Rick's "musts" was to visit the Guitar Studio on Duke Street, just off Oxford. It was on our list for a different day but why not? So off we went.
He was in hog heaven trying out guitars! And he sounded pretty good.
Well, for as long as I listened. But as we were walking up to the shop, I noticed we were a block from Selfridges. Yeah. I was out of there soon and into this store I'd long wondered about and remembered from the popular "Mr. Selfridge" series on PBS.
It has a long history and if one looks hard, they can see things more or less as they were back "in the day," like the beautiful facade.
But for the most part, it was modernized, as one would expect. But there were still plenty of original touches.
I especially loved the clocks...
...and art nouveau style in the exterior.
We would return to shop later! (And Marks and Spencer, too. Although I did do a quick run through and especially enjoyed their holiday shop, along with others we saw on our trip. You can check that post out here if you missed it.)
While Rick was playing guitar, he learned that there were recitals taking place from a music conservatory in St. James Church, Piccadilly. Well, that was on our Monday list, too for a very different reason. So off we went.
For me, St. James was one reason I wanted to come to England. My great grandmother had been christened there and her parents married in this Christopher Wren church. I longed to see it.
Back in the 1600s when St. James was built, Piccadilly was (as it remains) one of London's fashionable spots with a great deal of history attached to it, and quite near St. James Palace. In fact, in 1772, one traveler complained that to get a seat for a church service cost as much as a theatre ticket! I suspect it was the parish church for my family's district, for I'm thinking my bootmaker second great-grandfather was probably not buying a seat for the key services! In fact, during the 1800s, they built seats specifically for the poor.
St. James isn't one of Wren's more imposing facades -- in fact, that was a criticism of its architecture at the time. It was no St. Paul's in terms of impact. But it is a gem -- and a well-restored one. It was badly damaged in World War II.
Thoughts of both World Wars I and II are present everywhere one visits in England. Many churches either have war memorial plaques or indications of restoration. I applaud those who in less than a century could repair what was done centuries before.
At St. James, four thousand books of gold leaf were used to gild the ceiling in its restoration.
The baptismal font is original and by Grinling Gibbons, depicting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is located in the back of the church and while I'm not sure if that's its original location within the church, I like to imagine Stephen and Elizabeth Grainger baptizing their twin children there on a cold December day.
The beautiful altar work in wood is also by Gibbons, the master carver of the period.
He also did the limewood carving around the altar.
Light and airy, the church has some beautiful architectural details and a handsome altar.
It also has some interesting plaques and the one below particularly caught my eye. While visiting Kensington Palace, we learned that Victoria came to the throne because the rightful heir, Princess Charlotte (daughter of George, the Prince Regent and his wife Caroline) and her offspring, died after childbirth. Princess Charlotte had been attended by Sir Richard Croft. She was put on a poor diet and bled liberally to encounter "morbid excess of animal spirits." Charlotte's child was stillborn and soon after, she, too, died. With a ruined reputation, Croft (who had treated a woman with similar symptoms after Charlotte's death who also died) shot himself. Many years after Croft's death, after the manner of suicide was somewhat forgotten (bodies of suicide were not allowed burial on holy ground) a memorial was placed, recognizing him.
While Rick was enjoying the concert, I checked out the church, then the rather delightful market outside.
And, with my guidebook and maps, settled down to enjoy a snack in the lovely attached Southwood Garden.
It featured a rather lovely sculptural display and the whole area was a delightful haven.
There would be more music to come in our trip. Much more.
But this day -- this unexpected, out-of-itinerary day -- ended with knowing we'd done just the right thing!
And that's the best! (Next time we'll check out some of the historic area around St. James and some of the fun shopping!)
- Window shopping is a ball. I loved seeing things I wouldn't buy in a zillion years because it told me what the neighborhood was like (or catered to). And you can usually find something low priced somewhere if you need a souvenir.
- Holiday Cards -- St. James had quite a selection of holiday cards for sale (I'm probably talking over 100 different designs) at very reasonable prices, all of which had profits going to any one of a variety of charities. I was delighted with some I chose and for 4 pounds, it was a fun souvenir. We were there in October, but you can often find holiday cards any time of year in a major tourist destination.
- Free Recitals -- I'll say this again -- check out churches for free, inexpensively priced or "offering based" classical recitals. We saw several and all were excellent (and a good break for the feet!)
- Eating on the Cheap -- That little street market at St. James offered some delicious food. You don't have to break the budget for a snack. A spot like this -- or the chain Pret a Manger -- offers reasonably priced food.