Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend in London

We got up in plenty of time to get to the train station. I packed my backpack for the weekend, ate two pieces of toast and set out with Tabitha. As we approached the bottom of the hill we saw the #120 driving past. No worries…another one will be by soon. So when we boarded the next bus we still had adequate time. As we disembarked I saw a clock (we have no timepieces except Tab’s iPhone) and realized it was 10:15 and it left at 10:27. No worries…we had prebooked the ticket and just had to pick it up at the kiosk, and it’s a small station. But of course, the kiosk wouldn’t work with our credit cards (we are both having a lot of trouble with that) and we had to wait for an attendant. Thankfully, there was another train that left at 10:35, and we made that one instead.

I sat across from a young guy with a red/blue rep tie and very polished black oxforda who was talking quietly to himself. I pegged him for a lawyer going to London for a case. It turns out he was a lawyer who was going to London for a job interview, and he was going through his answers. We talked for awhile and he got his jitters out. Before long he was on his way to his interview, and Tab and I were hitting London.
We picked up an Oyster card for the public transit, and went to a hotel-finding service. After haggling with Ivalyo of Bulgaria for awhile over the price, and after he threw in breakfast, we settled on the Rockmont as inexpensive enough by London standards, but not sketchy. It was near Victoria station, and Tabitha liked its proximity to the Queen. With me navigating we made one wrong turn, but realized it fairly quickly, and before too long we arrived.
Tabs and I split up for the rest of the day. She went to the Tower of London for the afternoon, and I went to the Tate museums. Although I enjoyed the pre-Raphaelites and the Turners, I was underwhelmed. It seemed like the collection was small in the kinds of works I really wanted to see. I had seen more pre-Raphaelites in Washington, and more large Turners in Paris. So after awhile I headed for the Westminster tube stop in order to get the subway to the Tate Modern. However, while at Westminster, I decided to wander around a little and get a few shots of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. As I approached Westminster Abbey (closed to visitors) I noticed a that it was almost time for Evensong. So I decided to stay for the service. I got to listen to those lovely choir voices, heard at the Royal Wedding, fill Westminster. The acoustics were phenomenal. It was such a treat.
I made my way over to the Tate Modern. I really just wanted to see it, housed in a a converted electrical building. I’m not a huge modern art person, but I did see several big names in the modern art movement…. May Ray, Gerhardt Richter, Mark Rothko, Picasso, etc. But only rarely does modern art move me (especially countered against the choir voices at Westminster), and so I didn’t stay long.
Tabitha and I met up at the hotel room for dinner. We just walked down the street to a Cyprian restaurant and it was fabulous. We shared a plate of delicious Yogurtlu Tavuklu Beyti and called it an early night.
Saturday we enjoyed a fabulous breakfast, where we sat next to a nice Australian couple from the Gold Coast. Of course, since Grayson lived in Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast, we had an immediate connection and visited for a long while. After breakfast we tried to make some travel arrangements but without much success. So then we left for the day and went to Buckingham Palace and saw the changing of the guard. From there we walked up the red road to the Wellington Arch, and to the Houses of Parliament. After lunch, we walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, to Notting Hill. Tab’s knee had been getting increasingly more painful for her over the day, and I feared she wasn’t going to make it to Portobello Road. Obviously the bargains and shopping there got the best of her, and she forgot her knee momentarily. After an unremarkable dinner, we thought we’d go out on the town. However, with little entertainment budget, we wandered around Carnaby Street and people watched. In the subway station, we were going down the escalator while a woman (who otherwise looked sane) was trying desperately to go up the down stairs. Not sure how that ended up working for her but we heard her clomping up the risers until we boarded the train. We got a good chuckle out of it.

Sunday, we had another great breakfast and decided to hit a museum. I had never been to the Victoria & Albert, and Tabitha didn’t care. (She had seen Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. She was satisfied.) Some of the V&A was tedious (really? An entire wing of ‘Ironwork’?) but there were some really great aspects. One was the amazing jewelry collection. The other were the two exhibitions going on. Tabitha went to Yohji Yamamoto’s fashion exhibition, and came away inspired to pull out the sewing machine and sign up for Project Runway. I went to The Cult of Beauty, a magnificent exhibition of the pre-Raphaelites. Lots of my faves were there: Burne-Jones, Alma-Tadema, Rosetti, Whistler, Leighton, William Morris, Julia Cameron, etc. It more than made up for the dearth at the Tate (and maybe that's where the Tate ones were hiding!)

We visited over lunch with an elderly London couple; she remarked that she had an American Army boyfriend during the war and I asked, “His name wasn’t Herb, was it?” Her husband laughed and said, “No, and it’s a good thing. Then I wouldn’t like you so much!” We enjoyed Victoria’s own recipe for sponge cake with strawberry/cream filling, and it was to die for. We left the museum thinking that since it was such a lovely day we should head to a garden and walk. We went to the Chelsea Physic Garden, and on the way passed the Chelsea Flower Show. I would have loved to have had tickets to that! (I bet they let Obama go on Tuesday when he gets there, but for me, they were sold out!) So I can honestly say I went TO the Chelsea Flower Show, but not that I actually went in. ☺ From the Garden we caught the bus back to Victoria Station for our subway to St. Pancras and ‘home’ to Sheffield.

I decided that yes, I could live in London, for 2-3 years but not forever, if I lived in Chelsea or Notting Hill or somewhere like that (high on the quaint factor). So if anyone out there on the internet has a great job opening in London, for an American, I’m all ears!

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