A Travellerspoint blog

London

Day 3: Shopping, or not; National Gallery and Much Ado About Nothing

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Wow, that was a full day. I awoke and did all the usual- cereal, coffee, etc., and then started my day. First on the list was Somerset House, a nearby museum. Unfortunately I arrived too early and since they didn't open for another hour, I decided to do some window shopping and general sight seeing. I ended up at Covent Garden Market which is a collection of shops and stalls, sort of a cross between a mall and the Saturday Market. I grabbed second breakfast (I'm finding my Hobbit roots, I suppose) of a boiled egg, coffee and a scone, both of which were quite good.

When the shops opened I browsed around. One place made handmade bathrobes which were stunning. Thick terrycloth robes that looked like nothing so much as wizards' robes. But alas, they were too dear and I left without purchasing one. In fact that was how the rest of my day went, as well: find something cool; don't buy it.

From there I wandered a bit taking pictures of interesting architecture. I found a tidy little lane tucked nearby that could have served as inspiration for Diagon Alley. Every store sold books or prints or artwork, coins, and so forth. There was even a bookstore dedicated to magic and the occult. I ambled through, admired some Rackham prints at one of the shops and finally continued on without buying.

It was the same drill when I found a store that specialized in hats and caps. I looked splendid in the bowler, dashing in a topper jaunty in a boater, and suave in a fedora, but I could not find a way to justify the expense.  When I win the lottery though…Top hats and monocles all around!

Eventually I made my way to the National Gallery and proceeded to overload my senses. There is now probably no painter who lived before the twentieth century that I have not seen a major work from. I think I have seen every artist mentioned in all my art history classes, save for modern and contemporary ones. And much of what I saw were the paintings that I've seen slides of. Botticelli, Bellini, Carravagio, da Vinci, Holbein, Rembrandt, Kranz, Titian, Tintoretto, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Seurat, van Eyck and van Gogh. It was all so amazing, I was practically drooling by the time I left.

Today I head for Edinburgh Scotland by train. Tonight, a new city to explore.
I left the museum with enough time to catch supper prior to the show, so I stopped at a pub near the theater. I tried the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding Wraps, which sounds weird but was excellent. Basically the Yorkshire pudding was wrapped like a tortilla around sliced roast beef, into a British Burrito. Weird but good. Really.

Finally it was time to see Much Ado About Nothing. Normally I am not a fan of modernizing Shakespeare, but this play really worked. It was set during the Falklands war, so the prince, count and so forth were all dressed as naval officers. Hero came off initially as a ditzy blond while Beatrice was her sensible, acerbic cousin.

It. Was. Hilarious. 

When David tenant made his entrance as Benedict, driving a mini golf cart emblazoned with British flags and a custom horn tune, I just about died. The banter between he and Beatrice was spot on. Every time Tenant or Catherine Tate spoke, the audience was in stitches, not just because of the text, but because the sub text and delivery were so good. Often it was an expression or a gesture that entirely changed the meaning of the words, so kudos must go out to the director as well.

At the end they received a standing ovation, and had to take four curtain calls before the audience would let them go. 

An excellent end to an excellent day.
 

Posted by philobermarck 23:09 Archived in England Tagged shopping museum david theater exploring tenant Comments (0)

London

Day 2 - British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery

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View 2011 University Expedition on philobermarck's travel map.

I awoke, a I mentioned previously, early this morning and broke my fast with the continental breakfast included with my lodgings: cereal, coffees, juice and toast. Around 8:30 I headed out and stopped en route to pick up a sausage roll, a little bit of pork heaven wrapped in a tasty pastry shell. I hate to think of what my arteries think of me.

I spent most of the morning just gadding about the area, through Holburn and Soho and finally found my way to the British Museum.

It. Is. Immense.

And it is filled with historical treasures that cover millennia. The Elgin Marbles? Seen them. Sutton Hoo hoarde? Yep, that too. More mummies than an embalmers convention? Lewis chessmen? Egyptian cats? Pictish bulls? Roman reproductions of Greek statues? They're all there, too. From kouros to clocks, weapons to arms, obelisks to object d'art, the British Museum is your one stop shop for world history. I was simply amazed at the number of pieces I had seen only in art books that were there in front of me. I loved it!

After the British Museum, I spent a bunch of times wandering again. I had lunch, steak and ale pie, at a lovely little pub called the Princess Louise, after one of Victoria's daughters. No kidney, just steak and an ale gravy tucked into a pieshell. Yum!

After lunch, I stopped at Corneliessen and Son, the coolest little art supply shop you've ever seen. I was tempted to buy a bunch of goodies, but common sense convinced me that it was impractical to carry this stuff around the UK for the next two weeks, so I only bout a couple of small things: a holder for pencil stubs so I can wear them down to the nubbins, and a cap for pencils to keep the lead from breaking.

Other things I saw today- a shop that specialized in umbrellas, which sadly was not open when I first passed it. It rained steadily this morning and I was soaked by the time I reached the British Museum. I considered buying a British Museum umbrella, but decided against it. Later I passed by again and they were open. Very nice, high class brollies, as well as canes, sword canes and shillelaghs.

I stopped at the half price ticket sellers and enquirer whether they had any tickets for Much Ado About Nothing, but alas, there was nothing to be had. So I stopped by the Wyndham Theater box office and found they did have one comp ticket returned, for tomorrow, down in the stalls (that's the front part of the theater to non-Brits). After some deliberation I decided to pay the price and I now have a ticket to see David Tenant and Catherine Tate in Much Ado. Really, can I ask for more? I think not.

On my way. Back to my hotel, I discovered that the National Portrait Gallery was open late tonight, so I spent a couple hours perusing the faces of the famous down the centuries. They had some Sargents (Jonathan Singer, that is), which were amazing, as well of a ton of artists I had never heard of. After seeing these, it makes me want to do some serious oil painting again. Now that I can see what the greats did, I want to try myself.

Finally I made it home and had dinner at the Indian restaurant in the hotel. Now this place has been running continuously since the 1940s as a haven for Indians visiting London, so it was supposed to be good. It was fantastic. I had Lamb Curry Madras which was flavorful, moist and HOT. The Nan was great and made a wonderful counterpoint to the spiciness of the curry.

At dinner I met two gents who owned their own business, archiving film and video onto disk. The work they do is specifically for high end archival use and they were there celebrating a contract they had just secured. We got to talking and ended up sharing a bottle of red in the bar afterward.

Now, the evening Is over and I should head up to bed. After I upload some photos.

EDIT: decided to go with Facebook for photos, imperfect as it is, since the upload system here is not compatible with iOS and no apps are available.

TTFN

Posted by philobermarck 15:18 Archived in England Tagged london gallery museum national british Comments (0)

London

Day 1

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I am writing this at 5:30am local time. Apparently I was not able to completely adjust my internal clock and it is running a couple of hours fast. It thinks it got up at 7:00.

Yesterday, after interminable flights and layovers, I finally arrived. I took te Gatwick Express train to St. Pancreas station, then the Tube to Covent Garden where my hotel is only a short walk away. I checked in to my brief home-away-from-home the Hotel Strand Continental and dropped my bag in the room. Contrary to the name, this is more like a hostel than a hotel. I am Shari g a three bed dorm room with two other guys. One of my roommates was already there, sacked out on the non-bunk bed, leaving me to choose either the top or bottom of the bunk bed. I chose the lower one for convenience sake.

The room is a sixth floor walkup with shared shower and wc. It is also tiny. But cheap, and overall, the place seems nice enough. There is a lounge and a restaurant onsite which I have not yet tried.

Afterarriving, I went out to check things out and get dinner. I discovered I had not eaten a real meal since Boston, and that was only a salad, hours before the flight left. By now it was getting on towards six, so it truly was dinnertime. I walked up and down the Strand, marveling at the number of people and gawking at the architecure. Two and three hundred year old buildings with copper domes and sculpted decorations just seem to litter the area.

After living in Anchorage for these past years, I have been fooled into thinking that it is a city. Not necessarily a Big City, but at least a bustling metropolis. Nope. London bustles. There were more people on the street than I have seen in a long time, each with his own destination in mind, dinner, a pub, theater, home, work, wherever. Busy place.

After walking for a while, I decided to try a place called Smolenskis Grill. The pubs around here all seem to be real touristy and crowded so I gave this place a try. Not a bad choice, but not great. I had the bangers and mash, which ar sausages and mashed potatoes with onion gravy. They sprinkled parsley on top so you got a vegetable too. Very tasty.

After that, I returned to the hotel and sank into slumber.

Posted by philobermarck 21:44 Archived in England Tagged london Comments (0)

On my way

Another 17 hours of flight time to go

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The flight from Anchorage to Portland was uneventful. I slept almost the entire time.

I was crammed in between then window and a rather large, jovial, Sidney Greenstreet sort of fellow, chortling and wheezing during the short time that I was conscious. Briefly he remenised about the days of free champagne on flights and falling asleep in the aisle. He was traveling with his wife, an inexplicably dour sort who sat in the aisle and made random complaints about the seats, the people or the food.

Sid's bulk was such that he really should have had a seat and a half--in fact, that is effectively what he ended up taking. Apparently, if you can fit you butt into the seat, it does not matter how much space your upper body takes. I spent the entire flight hunched into the window well trying to avoidnthe elbow thatnkept landingnin my midriff. And honestly, there was nothing he could do to make himself smaller, so I saw no point in complaining. He knew how large he was, in fact he commented on it a couple of times.

But I made it to Portland, had breakfast at Gustav's Bierstube and am now getting ready to board the flight to Boston. From there I head to London via iceland.

More updates to come.

Posted by philobermarck 06:30 Tagged flying portland Comments (0)

Getting ready to leave

Excitement and anxiety reign

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Tonight I need to be at the airport by 11:00PM in order catch my redeye to Boston (layover in Portland). From there I will head to London, England (layover in Reykjavik, Iceland) to begin this crazy, fun, informative trip. So after nearly 24 hours crammed in various planes, I will be free again to walk something larger than a narrow aisleway.

The past few days have been filled with the usual trip preparations. I am planning on taking only carry-on luggage, so I've been thinking and re-thinking what clothes and such to bring. Should I bring my laptop or just rely on my iPad and internet cafe computer rentals when I need to view something that requires Adobe Flash. Unfortunately, the professor of the online course I'm taking this summer does all his lectures in a Flash format, unviewable on the iPad. I am still waffling about this decision. I will need to view those lectures once a week while I am gone, because he releases the new ones on the first day of the week. Decision--something anyone who knows me is aware I am not good at.

Well, I'd best get back to work and leave this blog until later. I will keep my imagined readers updated as I go and hopefully get a comment or two.

TTFN

Posted by philobermarck 08:39 Comments (0)

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