Monday was the National Gallery. Here is one of the greatest collections of paintings in Europe (which means: the world). They were showing a collection of Renoir Landscapes, but at $24/pp we decided to skip it. And just as well, because the free exhibit, “Manet to Picasso: A Redisplay of Modern Masters”, was just great. In fact, it was incredible. Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ was so vibrant, although we both felt that his ‘Two Crabs’ was one of the best paintings ever created.
We took the train at Marylebone Station to Stratford-Upon-Avon and could not take our eyes off of the countryside. It was so gorgeous, what with it being late spring. We saw lambs and calves and fields of some golden flower that we could not figure out the purpose of at all. So many of the towns we passed through had townhouses, each with a garden and a washing line. And so many older building — we saw castles flashing in the distance, and manor houses surrounded by estates that (clearly) had been working since the middle ages. Over the two+ hours of our journey, people got on and off the train at nearly every stop — this was clearly a popular route.
Today we went to the Tate Museums — the British and the Modern. We arrived deliberately early (before the TB opened) so that we could have a leisurely breakfast in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, there were only two cafes that we found, both side by side, and one was completely empty. A very bad sign. The one that was doing business, however, was pretty good. I’ve never had a latte lacking in foam, but their grilled cheese and ham was a tasty way to start the day.
After such a late night, we slept in until after 10am. Today was the day when we were to meet the woman who was selling her King Lear tickets to us, so we decided to have brunch near where we were to meet her. We had yummy ham and cheese croissants at a French cafe in Embankment — an odd little area with modern art stuck up on very modern glass/steel buildings, all along cobblestones streets. Serious juxtapositioning.
This was our special treat day. My lovely sister, C. had recommended a visit to watch a session of Parliament as a particularly fun thing to do. So we went over to check it out. Its a bit of a odd moment when you realize that,yes, that nice young man at the gates is indeed holding an Uzi. Hordes of tourists were wandering around, but we managed to find our way into the Visitor’s entrance. A lovely young thing (the equivalent to an American Congressional aide) guided us into the building and told us to ‘queue up.’ She also warned us that since the PM would be taking questions, we were unlikely to be able to watch — everyone wants to see those sessions. We were very excited — to see Blair doing something that makes intelligent Americans WISH we had a similar setup in our government is a wonderful event. (We’d watched the PMs Questions on CSPAN on a couple of occasions at home.)
We got a good night’s sleep, barely managing to make it to the hotel breakfast before the 9am close. Breakfast was plain: three kinds of cereal, a variety of juice, toast (white bread), and coffee. We only ate there once, mostly because it was an incredibly noisy way to spend the day, and we preferred to sleep later. ==> note: I actually slept past 9am every day we were there, even with going to bed at 10pm or so. Clearly, I was exhausted each day. < === The day was overcast, but warm — 65 degrees or so.
With this post I’ll begin a series of day-by-day recollections of our trip to London. I’ve posted an album (actually, almost 20) at Yahoo and friends and family are invited to view the relevant pictures as I write. 🙂
Ecumenicon was great! It is a small gathering (approx. 100 people) but a very active and close-knit community. Charles Butler is a dear, smart man; his sister Georgina is an absolute delight.
The Best Western was the setting, and the layout was excellent. (Much better than some places where classes are separated only by cloth ‘walls’.) Our opening ritual was elaborate, but mostly unscripted — an interesting balance to maintain. It worked VERY well.Â Good energy was created and spread out.
What an amazing trip. We got home yesterday afternoon (20+ hours of travel) and started doing the laundry. (I’m proud of us — we came home with one pair of unused socks and that’s it. :-))
I’m sorting through the 100s of photos, I’ll either upload them or burn CDs.
Watching the “PM’s questions” in the House of Commons, the British Musuem, Van Gogh’s work (in the National Gallery), having an authentic moment with a drunk Irishman in a pub (did you know Hoover was the who ordered Kennedy’s assassination?), and seeing Sir Ian McKellan as King Lear, with the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) _at_ Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Things I’d rather forget: the incredible NOISE of, the phenomenal amount of DIRT in the air in , and discovering that bacon is nothing like what we think of here in the US.
Things we missed: Blake’s works (they were not on display because the Tate was prepping them for a new enxhibition), the RSC doing Macbeth, the -interior- of, most of the ‘famous houses’ and such landmarks, and the rooks of the Tower of London.
We’ll just have to go back. (But not until we’ve done a few more of the Continent’s cities.)