After an all-night trip in the very back of a 777 with a huge man’s head reclined in Nancy's lap, we finally touched down in London’s Heathrow airport at 11:00 am.
We went through customs, got a weekly tube pass, called David and Lynda's son, Andy, and caught the tube to Paddington Station. We met Andy at the information booth. He looked great - white shirt, tie and a lovely overcoat (cashmere, I’m sure). He walked us to David and Lynda’s flat in Bayswater and then returned to work. David and Lynda were at their flat earlier in the morning patching, cleaning up the mess left over from the plumbing / remodeling project. After all their efforts, the place looked great.
We unpacked, and then went to Leister Square to check out the half price theater tickets. We brought tickets for "125th Street" for $30 each. All we knew is that "125th Street" is a musical about the Apollo theatre in Harlem that took place in the 1969.
It was raining hard all day - what a mess. We had lunch - or was it dinner? (changing time zones is always problematic). Found a nice place, the Stock Pot, near the theatre section of town. Cozy little inexpensive place - we had mussaca, cooked cabbage and carrots plus French fries and minestrone soup. Not bad and a good time to dry out.
We went back to the flat to shower and rest for the show tonite. We bought some milk, cereal, bread and juice for tomorrow’s breakfast.
We found our way back to the Shaftesbury Theater for a thoroughly wonderful show. We loved it. We got back to the flat around 11 pm. We were hungry, so had some cereal and toast and then went to bed - EXHAUSTED, but happy!
Up at 8:30, we ate breakfast, and then went to Paddington Station. There was some tie-up with the Circle Line, so we didn’t arrive at the Victoria and Albert museum until 10:46, missing the 10:30 guided tour.
We went through the photography exhibit, and then made the 11:30 guided tour. A delightful, proper English lady gave us a good overview of the huge museum. We saw:
- An original Victorian museum room with rose-colored walls, trimmed in green plus beautifully carved display cases given to Victoria and Albert after the World Exhibition held in the 1850’s.
- Plaster casts of Italian columns, doors, Michael Angelo’s David, and other great masterpieces -- all plaster imitations.
- Garden sculpture of the Sun god (named for Sunday) the Thunder god (named for Thursday).
- Open courtyards that were once a giant green house called the Crystal Palace. (It has since burned down, but there’s one like it in Disney World.)
- Rafael’s watercolors (cartoons) intended for use in tapestry designs for the Sistine Chapel.
- Islam rugs (no human figures, only geometric shapes).
- Christian Robes (human figures used to tell stories to illiterate audiences.
- Fakes and forgeries of some of the great masterpieces.
- Dresses, corsets and other fashions of the day.
After our visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, we got lost in Kensington looking for what the travel guide said was an inexpensive lunch at Admiral Codrington. Finally found it - the pub section was smoky and crowded, so we decided to go to the restaurant section. The place was really yuppie. I had risotto with wild mushrooms. Bill had linguini with sun dried tomatoes. We had to beg for extra bread. The food was good, but pricey (about $20 - $25 with no drinks) and took away precious London viewing time.
After lunch, we got back on the tube and went to the Imperial War Museum. There were about 100 - 200 protestors on their bikes carrying signs: "Pedal for Peace." Bill said we must be "Walking for War."
The Imperial War Museum was great. The first floor was just tanks, jeeps, airplanes, torpedoes, and submarines. One of the subs was a two-seater driven by two Italians.
The 1940’s house was built in 1932 and was restored exactly like it was in 1940. The BBC aired a program with the house as a backdrop. They auditioned over 300 families to select one family to live in the house for 9 weeks, turning the clock back to wartime conditions (rations, gardens, etc.). The two young sons really missed ordering out for pizza. (NOTE: A few days after returning from our trip, we saw the 1940’s house program on KPBS.)
We saw some WWI trenches. Great display - even smelled like gunpowder and dirt. We did a tour of all the wars (and boy are there a lot!). We heard Churchill’s voice declaring war against Germany. We saw the awful stuff our neighbors, Nadia and Max, had to endure in the Ukraine (USSR). One exhibit took you into an underground shelter. In the dark, you could hear the bombs exploding above ground and then the seats shook. Then you were lead out of the underground to a devastated neighborhood with fire and explosions everywhere.
The most dramatic part of the museum was the floor dedicated to the Holocaust - brought out such emotion. Throughout the exhibit were videotapes of about 6 adults recalling their experiences before, during and after their world turned upset down. The stories were so sad and they still wept while sharing their experiences. In one room was a model of Auschwitz, the deadliest place for Jewish people. Voices described their experiences - families separated into lines determining who lived, who died. Children were told to say they were 18 so they would be put on a work crew instead of going to the gas chamber. Three photographs of the main villains who led this terror were displayed. In another room, the walls were covered with Hitler’s Org Chart - who was in charge of what killing machine in what place. It was clear Hitler's goal was to institutionalize his extermination policies. There were so many horrible stories - the little boy who lived in his piano teacher’s cabinet during the occupation and ended up being deformed. Another story was of a group of Jewish people who hid in the sewers. A mother had to suffocate her newborn baby to stop the crying so the group would not be discovered. There were also so many images of Hitler prancing about with his propaganda. The museum closed at 6, so we had to leave, weakened from the terrible information.
To help us forget, we shopped for a Paddington Bear for Zi - but only saw expensive ones. We came back to the flat, split a beer and read a little. We had dinner at Spices, the neighborhood Indian restaurant just around the corner. Food was good as usual - had chicken curry and lamb korma.
It was Halloween night and there were some decorations in London. I asked a grocery store guy if he knew what "Trick or Treat" meant. When he didn’t seem to know, I said that it meant I got free candy when I said "Trick or Treat". He just looked at me like "who are you, lady?" Hope little Zi is having fun trick or treating in her lion suit.
We came back to the flat. I wrote in my journal and then went to sleep.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
Plaster Casts of Great Masterpieces
Imperial War Museum
Bill woke up early - inadvertently reset the clock! Since we were ready to go an hour early, we decided to try and track down a distant ancestor of mine. After breakfast, we took the tube to Notting Hill. We walked up Portobello Road as the street market was just setting up. It’s a gypsy-like place - Amy and Brian would love it. We asked directions to the Kensal Green Cemetery where Anthony Trollope (the famous relative) is buried. My grandmother (Susan Trollope) was allegedly related to him. We walked for miles until we found the cemetery. Then we bought a map from the cemetery guy for a pound. When I asked him what was the best way to get back to London, he said how did you get here. We told him from Notting Hall. He replied, "You two must be fit!" I said, "Yeah, we’re from California." After another long walk in the cemetery, we found Anthony Trollope’s grave. Bill doesn’t think we’re related. He can’t imagine anyone famous in our sad sack lot. I was excited when I saw the grave of James Joyce and quickly snapped a photo, only to discover that it wasn’t James Joyce at all, just a man named James married to a woman named Joyce. Oh well, it looks impressive.
After the cemetery adventure, we walked another long distance to Queen’s Park to catch the tube to the British Library. It was raining as we entered the library, so I didn’t take any photos of the weird statue of Sir Isaac Newton in the nude measuring the world. The outside of the library is strange and not very attractive, but the inside has unbelievable treasures. The first display was illustrations from children’s books - very delightful. We bought Zi one of the books on display, "No More Kissing," featuring a family of kissing monkeys.
The Exhibition room contained all the treasures - but got hungry, so had lunch at the Library Café - yummy soup and sandwiches. Then we went back to view the treasures in the Exhibition room - amazing things like the Guttenberg Bible, maps from medieval times (Netherlands was in the shape of a lion), early Buddhist stuff, original manuscripts from Chaucer, Dickens, Jane Austen ("Sense and Sensibility"); music compositions from Handel, Mozart, Beatles (no notes, just words scribbled on pieces of scrap paper), a love letter from Lord Nelson to his lover Lady Jane written right before his death at the Battle of Trafalgar. So much to fill the eyes and senses. A little room off the Exhibition room contained interactive computers where you could actually turn the pages of many of the great books. It was cold in the room, so it was a little difficult o get the pages to turn with cold thumbs.
After the library, we got back on the tube to go to the Somerset House (near St. Paul’s). It once was the place that issued and housed all the records -- birth certificates, marriage, death, etc. We crossed through a huge courtyard that had about 100 fountains that were supposed to shoot up periodically. We missed the water show, but had plenty of water from the rain! We paid 10 pounds to visit the Courtauld Gallery to see the impressionism collections (Renoir, Gaugahn, Picasso, Degas, Monet, Manet, Van Gough(with one ear), and others. Russian Impressionistic art was also included. (NOTE: All other major museums are free here - We’re spoiled and not accustomed to paying a 10 pound fee.)
After the Somerset House, we took the tube back to the British Museum so Bill could finally see the real Rosetta stone. (This stone cracked the code of ancient hieroglyphics in 1822 because the stone contained e same story written in three different languages.) We visited the reading room in the new section. I can imagine it’s wonderful during the day when the light streams down into the main entry. We stayed until closing time, then discovered we missed the special exhibition entitled "Behind the Lines," art from Vietnam during the American War years.
We had dinner at Wagamama, a very interesting noodles place located in a basement. There are three in London. Busy, fun, great place -- probably would do well in San Diego. The waiters were very gay. Good food and very filling.
We took the tube back to the flat, ate Bill’s Magnum ice cream bar, showered and prepared for David and Lynda’s arrival.
David and Lynda came about 9:30. Lynda went through the place organizing and checking things out. She’s amazing. Then we talked until midnight. It was good to see them. They looked happy and well, as usual.
Undertaker in Motorcycle Hearst Kensal Green Cemetary
David made breakfast for us - cereal, coffee, toast. Very sweet of him.
We went to the National Portrait Museum. They added a new entrance with a wonderful open space with a huge escalator leading to the top floor. David loved the new design. (He’s into that architecture stuff.) In fact most of London’s museums and public places have been remodeled for the Queen’s Jubilee and the millennium. London looks great (and most places have eliminated their entrance fees).
The top floor of the National Portrait Museum was rather boring - featuring the Tudors, Windsors, etc. Lots of Henry VIII and wives. Henry VIII had syphilis and therefore couldn’t produce children, but kept doing away with his wives because they didn’t bear him children. I got a little tired of viewing the portraits of the royal families. Most of them were rather ugly and many of them were imprisoned or executed. Life was tough at the top.
I preferred the portraits of people who achieved greatness in their own right - Isaac Newton, Shakespeare, Dr. Johnson (wrote the Oxford English Dictionary and suffered from depression), a guy who invited pi (as in pi r squared), etc. We skipped the next floor - the Victorian years. Sorry I missed it. Maybe I’ll catch it on the virtual tour on the Internet.
The next floor down had wonderful photographs and paintings of famous folks in our lifetime, such as Paul McCartney, Twiggy, Germaine Greer, even one of Princess Di and Fergy. There was an entire room dedicated to the Queen to honor her 50 years of queendom (A.K.A. Jubilee). I really liked the portrait of the official royal family with their dogs in front, Queen Mother seated in the center, surrounded by the Queen, serious Prince William, laughing Prince Harry, big eared Charles and Prince Phillip tucked way in the back.
We had lunch at the National Portrait Café, which was once a courtyard, but now is enclosed with a glass ceiling. We could see the rain pouring down. It rained all day - but the lunch was tasty - soup and sandwiches. We spent some time in the National Portrait bookstore on that wonderful rainy London afternoon.
We then went to Leister Square to check out the half price tickets for "Stomp." David and Bill stood in line in the rain while Lynda and I found shelter.
David and Lynda took us to Covent Gardens to shop. It was raining and a mess. Everything was expensive, Paddington Bear and a couple boxes of candy to take back to the U.S. There was an opera singer entertaining the crowds and there were a lot of crowds seeking cover from the constant rain.
Then we followed David down the streets to the Royal Opera House. Beautiful, also recently remodeled. We had beer / tea upstairs in the Royal Opera bar - so swanky.
We arrived at the theater for "Stomp" a bit early. David and Lynda had bad outside aisle seats so we agreed to switch at the intermission. However, there was no intermission, so we felt badly that we had the good seats. (You have to watch those Americans.) "Stomp" was fun and lively and we all enjoyed it very much.
After the theatre, we tried to find a pub with a table for 4 - impossible, so trudged through the rain to the restaurant. We arrived at Incognico’s dripping wet. (Nico is the name of the chef.) Lynda and I went to the loo to try and dry off. The dinner was wonderful. The service was superb, except for the poor waitress who shattered a wine glass next to us. She felt awful. Bill and I had fish (on the prix fixed menu) and David and Lynda had liver and onions. Food was wonderful and we had a great time.
We took a cab back to the flat and topped the evening off with some camomile tea to help us sleep.
Our Sweet British Pals
Riding the Tube
Riding the Tube
Breakfast by David again. Looking good -- a bright, sunny day.
First stop - Paddington Station for a photo by the Paddington Bear statue. Next, we took the tube to Embankment and then walked along the Thames. We stopped at the Needle of Cleopatra. Bill took a photo of Lynda and me on the lion statue next to the Needle and then the camera died. We thought the camera was broken, when, in fact, it was only out of film. The rest of the day (which was very sunny), I grieved the loss of my camera. The sun was perfect for a shot of St. Paul’s, so I just implanted the images in my brain. We crossed the Millennium Bridge (cool pedestrian bridge) to the Tate Modern Gallery. The Tate Modern is amazing, a reconverted oil-fired power plant. The entrance display area is about twice the size of a football field. The current exhibit is some sort of red canvas stretched from one end to the other shaped into a double trumpet. Very strange and a waste of space and energy in my opinion.
We went to the top floor and took a guided tour of Nudes and Naked people. We saw one of Picasso’s girlfriends / models with the usual boobs in the middle of the chest. The most powerful was a self portrait of a male artist with a limp penis looking down at his cold second wife (also nude, but not interested). We learned about the short-lived COBRA movement - CO=Copenhagen, BR=Brussels and A=Amsterdam. When the guided tour was ending, the fire alarm went off and we had to leave the building. All went very orderly and dignified. We stood outside waiting for the gallery to reopen. After 15 minutes, we walked down to the Thames to a nice pub right on the water and had lunch. I had a chicken and lettuce and tomato sandwich and Bill had a ham sandwich - very good.
We returned to the Tate Modern and learned that the alarm was triggered by a guy who was smoking illegally. He’s in big trouble now. We explored the rest of the exhibits independently. They had some good stuff and some really weird stuff -- an upside down grand piano hanging from the ceiling would play a few bars, then fall apart and pull itself together again. There were some strange videos. Clay-mation of two heads. A toothbrush came out of the first head’s mouth. The second head responded with toothpaste. Then toast came out of the first head’s mouth with the second responding with butter. This went on and on with complimentary items and then all the items got mixed up. The toast was buttered by the toothpaste, etc. Intriguing. The weirdest video was a nude male boxer jumping around shadow boxing and then stopping periodically to rub ketchup on his private parts. After our heads were filled with goofy visuals, we made a pass through the gift shop, then walked back over the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s. Lynda bought some sugared peanuts from a street vendor and shared them with us. Boy were they good!
We went into St. Paul’s - but timed it poorly. We were there during their Sunday evening service and access to the church was blocked. Although we couldn’t see much, the music was nice.
We went down into the crypt to the Crypt Café to have a snack. Bill and I had an ice cream. Then we walked back to the tube. We had to say our "Good-bye’s" to David and Lynda on the tube. They were headed for home. We were going back to the British Museum to see the Vietnam "Behind the Lines" art exhibit we missed.
I enjoyed the "Behind the Lines" drawings from Vietnam; but I think Bill was a little disappointed. Then we aw the Lindow man - a Celtic man found from the first century, very well preserved. When he was about 25 years old, he was killed by two blows to his head and a slit throat. They found a drink made from mistletoe in his tummy. Speculation is that he was a Druid religious sacrifice. (A mistletoe drink is a dead give-away -- no pun intended.)
We came back to the flat, then went out to a very nice Italian place near the flat called ASK. After dinner and a long day, we came home and went to bed.
P.S. Bill figured out that my camera wasn’t broken after all - bummer.
Nancy and Paddington Bear
Zi's Paddington Bear
With Statue in Paddington Station
Nancy and Bill
With Statue in Paddington Station
Breakfast at the flat and another sunny day. We hopped on the subway to Greenwich. Arrived at 9:30 AM. With nothing open, we walked down to the harbor to the Cutty Sark and around the Royal College and heard opera singing coming from the Music Building. I made the comment to Bill that the place looked just like a little New England town to which he replied, "It’s a little Old England town." A very deep thinker.
At 10 am, we went to the National Maritime Museum (also free). Nicely done - but maybe a little too much show. We were distracted by the background sounds. We learned about the early explorers. Then we heard an announcement about a guided tour. The tour ended up being at the Queen’s House next door.
The Queen’s house was mostly just room after room of official portraits of the Royal Naval Officers. I went cross-eyed after a few rooms. Each guy was holding a telescope and all had ships in the background. One of the Officers was the ancestor of Camilla Boyles (Charles’ lover).
The Queen’s house was built 400 years ago as a retreat for the queen (Denmark Mary, I believe). A woman was scrubbing the original checkered floors in the main entrance. The floors held up nicely for 400 years. The place later became a Naval school for boys, then an asylum and then a hospital for pensioners (retired navy guys) and now restored back to the Queen’s House.
The Real Old England Town
Retreat for Mary of Denmark
After the tour, we returned to National Maritime Museum to have a sandwich and then continue our visit. I learned about knots (rope with knots tied in it to measure distances), Shackleton and crew’s misery in the North Pole, Captain Cook and his three expeditions and entourage of biologists, botanists, etc. Also learned that the Needle of Cleopatra that we saw the day before had a heck of a time getting to London. There were terrible storms and the custom-made boat to retrieve the Needle broke apart, leaving the Needle floating at sea for three days. We learned about the first cruise liners, the slave trade, battles (and lots of them).
After our heads were stuffed with maritime information, we walked up the hill through Greenwich Park to the Royal Observatory where the Prime Meridian Line is located. We took pictures of each other holding Zi’s Paddington Bear on the meridian.
Bill with Paddington
On the Prime Meridian Line
Nancy with Paddington
On the Prime Meridian Line
Next we toured the Old Royal Observatory (also free - everything’s free). Great museum. The first head of the Observatory was a guy named Feedham. He had to teach to get enough funds for his real love (astronomy). The next head was Halley of Halley’s Comet. There is even a head of the Royal Observatory today.
The Old Royal Observatory
There were some cool exhibits in the Old Royal Observatory Museum. One featured the contest to figure out a way to calculate longitude on a ship. The ultimate winner was John Harrison who developed a timepiece, called H-4, that could keep precise time in a boat. (Knowing the time enabled the navigator calculate the longitude.) One entry had something to do with a barking dog when he sensed a knife that injured him - weird.
We walked back to the harbor and the Cutty Sark, then saw the Gypsy Moth - a little sailboat that made the first solo circumnavigation of the world in 1964.
The Boat, not the Booze
Went Around the World in 1964
Then we walked back to the little town of Greenwich - took a few pictures of the church (now that my camera works!). About 4, we caught the subway back to the flat.
Arrived at the flat, had a beer, rested a little, then walked to an Iranian restaurant a mile or so away (Aknanouk?) on Westbourne Grove. Great little neighborhood and good little restaurant. We had chicken kebob and a lamb dish on saffron rice. The guy showed us how he made the bread (naan-like bread) by sticking it on top of a rounded open oven, then peeling it off when ready. A couple with a little boy about Zi’s age sat next to us. He was good.
We walked back to the flat, packed and prepared for tomorrow’s long trip home. Then we watched a program on Ankor Wat. Not much information - slept through a lot of it.
Our last breakfast at the flat. We watched BBC’s coverage of American Election analysis. Little did we know that things would turn out so bad.
We cleaned the flat, then went to Paddington Station and checked our bags. We took photos of Zi’s Paddington Bear around the station and then waited and waited for the Central Line to Earl’s Court to change to the Piccadilly line to Heathrow. Finally, the train came and boy were we packed in. I think a fat black woman tried to pickpocket me on the tube. I felt movement around my purse, then saw that the clasp and zipper was undone, but the wallet was still safe inside.
We arrived at Heathrow and looked for Amy and Brian’s present - but our plane was called early, so got a box of candy and headed for the gate. Going through security, Bill’s pocketknife was confiscated. He was not happy.
We were dreading the 11-hour flight home, when fate stepped in. The guy handling our boarding passes said we had a seat change - to BUSINESS CLASS. That really lifted our spirits.
We lived like kings in Business Class. Fillet Minion, prawns, cashews (no peanuts in sight), drinks, candy - YUM YUM.
I saw four movies - Signs (bad), The Kid Stays in the Picture (Good), Who is Clevis Tout (Great), and The Bourne Identify (Pretty Good).
Amy and Zi picked us up at the airport. So good to see them. I played with Zi while Amy gathered materials (music / folders) for band practice tonite. Zi helped unpack and sat in my suitcase. She loves her book, "No More Kissing," but is not as wild about Paddington Bear. She’ll get to know him - I have faith.
Little Zi with Her Paddington
There's No Place Like Home!