Day 50 16-06-2014 Mon Fly Home

As I hinted yesterday, that was not the last full day. We had forgotten that our flight did not leave until late in the evening, so we had a “bonus” full day. Given our state of weariness we opted to have an easy day focusing on the Tate Modern art gallery. We had difficulty finding it on the London map, so asked for help from the concierge. She unerringly pointed us to a location on the map very close to where we thought it was – on the other side of the Thames from the Tate Britain. However, I was troubled by the fact that it said “Lambeth Palace” at that location. Undeterred we made our way there on the Underground. Once back on the surface Joan asked a passing cyclist for direction: forty minutes on foot that-away, he said. He then pointed to the correct location on the map, giving us a d’oh moment. Back in the Underground, helpful staff advised the most efficient route to the nearest station at London Bridge.

This was fortuitous because we also got to see Southwark Cathedral – one of the oldest in the city.

IMG_8585 IMG_8586From there we did a quick swing through the Borough Markets and then along the Thames past the Globe Theatre and on to the Tate.

IMG_8594 IMG_8595 IMG_8604 IMG_8607The Modern is on the Thames not far from Tower Bridge and right at the Millenium Bridge.

IMG_8713 IMG_8648 IMG_8711The gallery itself is housed in a converted power station, so not particularly attractive on the outside. Most of what was the turbine hall is still a vast empty space – quite impressive. The galleries are in what were workshops and offices. There was the odd interesting work, but most of what was on display did not speak to our tastes.

 

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We wanted to eat lunch in the restaurant in the Tate as a treat, but the wait was too long. We had a drink at the bar instead, enjoying the great view on the other side, including St Paul’s cathedral.

IMG_8638 IMG_8641 IMG_8644After lunch in the café we hopped across on the Millenium Bridge (foot- and cycle traffic only) and on to St Paul’s where we looked in briefly. We then meandered around the streets in the general direction of the Bank, the Underground station for our route home.

painted chewing gum on the Millenium Bridge
painted chewing gum on the Millenium Bridge

IMG_8721 IMG_8797On the way we stumbled across the Guild Hall, a complex of buildings around a plaza. Part of this complex was an art gallery so just had to see that, especially as it was free.

Motto of the Guild Hall
Motto of the Guild Hall

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very large painting
very large painting
Queen Victoria seated on the throne in the House of Lords 1838
Queen Victoria seated on the throne in the House of Lords 1838

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spooky the way soldiers at front stand out
spooky the way soldiers at front stand out

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The Guild had its own church in one corner – St Lawrence Jewry – an intriguing name.

IMG_8785 IMG_8786 IMG_8789 IMG_8794 IMG_8795Further on we were attracted by a gilded figure on a dome atop a massive building. After walking around the side to the main, rather unobtrusive entrance, we daringly popped inside. The porters were only too willingly to accommodate the rubber-necking tourists and allowed us to have a quick peek around the entrance hall. I naïvely asked them what this building was: Sir, this is the Bank of England! Oh.IMG_8799 IMG_8802 IMG_8803 IMG_8804

Across the street was the Royal Exchange, emphasis on “was”. It now houses upmarket fashion shops and bars. Attractive inside and out. On the square was a statue (this is for Andy) of the man who first built a machine for boring the deep Underground tunnels.

IMG_8805 IMG_8807 IMG_8812Our return to the hotel was uneventful, as was the taxi trip to Paddington and the Heathrow Express to the airport. We got there very early, so had quite a good meal in one of the eateries there. We had more cash left over than expected and wanted to buy something, but could not find anything we wanted to splurge on. That surely is a sign of getting old.

As on the outbound leg, the flight to Hong Kong was awful. I commiserated with the tall man my height in the seat in front of me while we were both standing around at the back of the aircraft to relieve the agony. He was well-travelled and agreed that Virgin Atlantic’s seats on this plane were the worst he had ever experienced. Fortunately for us, VA had decided about four months ago to cease all flights into Australia as of June, so they re-booked us on Qantas for the leg home from HK. That worked very well for us, not least because we had used up inactive frequent-flyer points to upgrade to cattle class exit row seats.

Total flight time was 21.5 hours and we landed early at 6:50am. It had escaped us that this is peak hour so we had to stand all the way to St Leonards.

We got home at about 9:30am to be greeted by a driveway full of leaves, and mould on a number of surfaces, but with the hot water turned back on and a bottle of fresh milk in the fridge – thanks Roland!

Part way through our recovery nap, we were roused by a phone call from a sub-continent person allegedly from “Telstra Technical Department”, that out Internet connection was being terminated due to misuse. I used semi-polite choice words to tell him what I thought of that, given that this was not our ISP and we had not used our computers for seven weeks.

Day 49 15-06-2014 Sun London

What we thought was our last full day was dedicated to a visit back to the National Gallery to see, in particular, Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks that so captivated me on our previous visit in 2011. We did see that, but I now have a new favourite – Pietro Perugino’s Virgin and Child with Angel. This was a triptych with St Michael in the first panel, the virgin in the middle, and archangel Raphael on the right. We were delighted to be able to buy on-demand prints of each of the two right-hand panels in the gallery shop, produced by a massive HP printer.

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Pietro Perugino Archangel Raphael with Tobias
Pietro Perugino Archangel Raphael with Tobias
Pietro Perugino Virgin and Child with an Angel
Pietro Perugino Virgin and Child with an Angel

My enthusiasm for images of Virgin and Child continues. The NG is full of them – they must easily have a hundred of them there. It’s understandable I think because artists deliberately tried to make them beautiful. Another artist whose version of this image appealed to us was Andrea del Verrochio.

This morning at breakfast, we were asked if we had seen the Trooping of the Colour. We were disappointed that we had missed this event. However, today we had a sort of consolation prize. On exiting the NG we were confronted with a Hare Krishna procession in full swing right outside in Trafalgar Square. It consisted of people dancing in the street and pulling by hands on rope three floats that were then positioned right outside the NG entrance steps on Trafalgar Square. It looked like they were dishing out free lunches too, but we’d already had a very nice lunch in the NG café. The beer I had there really impressed me, considering it was in a bottle.

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IMG_8488 IMG_8489 IMG_8490Admiralty Arch at the top of The Mall off Trafalgar Square

Admiralty Arch at the top of The Mall off Trafalgar Square

view thru Admiralty Arch to Buckingham Palace
view thru Admiralty Arch to Buckingham Palace
The Mall
The Mall

IMG_8541Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

We skirted around this celebration and made our way via Whitehall to the Parliament buildings, crossing the Westminster Bridge to walk along the south embankment to the Jubilee Bridge and back to Westminster station for our return home. The city was full of people today, but then it was Sunday, so a lot of families out and about. We continue to be amazed by the sheer diversity of people in this city.

Horseguards
Horseguards
Horseguards
Horseguards
Whitehall and Big Ben
Whitehall and Big Ben

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Jubillee Bridge and train station
Jubillee Bridge and train station
Whitehall Court
Whitehall Court
Aussies aren't the only ones who need to cringe
Aussies aren’t the only ones who need to cringe

IMG_8569 Westminster pano

There was a bit of drama on this trip. We had changed lines at Green Park and Oxford Circus, but were told at Marble Arch that the train was terminating there, due to “emergency trackwork”. A likely story – probably another jumper according to Joan. As a consequence we had to walk about a mile back to our hotel.

IMG_8582We had an excellent dinner at Santorini, a Greek restaurant nearby (just off the Queensway on Moscow Rd) in honour of B&H’s safe return from those parts. Even the Greek wine was very good.

Day 48 14-06-2014 Sat London

Another gallery day today. First the Wallace Collection which was not dissimilar to the V&A but with better quality items.

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Rembrandt self-portrait
Rembrandt self-portrait

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Frans Hals, The laughing cavalier
Frans Hals, The laughing cavalier

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Afterward, walking down Oxford St., we observed an unruly queue of people waiting to get into a Footlocker store. Some had been camped out all night. A little further on we observed a seagull in flight carrying a pigeon. It almost collided with a bus, forcing it to let go its prey. The pigeon took off like a shot with the seagull in hot pursuit, wheeling all over the place. We don’t know how it turned out as they flew into a side street.

Then on to the Tate Britain.

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Joshua and the Angel

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Queen Elizabeth proclaiming her eligibility for marriage
Queen Elizabeth proclaiming her eligibility for marriage

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John Constable, The Lock
John Constable, The Lock

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In the evening we met up with Gabi, our friend from Sydney in the early 80’s. We started at a pub in Victoria Station but it was so noisy with World Cup 2014 broadcasts we had to get out after one drink. We then had a fun evening together over a meal at a nearby Italian restaurant.

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outside a Lacoste shop
outside a Lacoste shop

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Day 47 13-06-2014 Fri London

It was warm and sunny in London today. Our first destination was the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, which we reached by walking through Kensington Gardens. Kensignton Palace in the grounds (large but unassuming building) was Princess Diana’s home after the split. At the bottom end of that was the most impressive Albert Memorial,

detail from one the corners
detail from one the corners

which is in turn opposite the Royal Albert Hall, the home of the Proms concerts. There are a number of attractive buildings in the vicinity.

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The V&A was a big surprise to me (the advantage of not knowing anything ahead of time – I know, poor form): it had an amazingly extensive display of decorative art works. The sculptures were mostly from recent ages, but very interesting.

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boys, aim here
boys, aim here

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sublime craftsmanship
sublime craftsmanship

Next it was on to the Natural History Museum across the road. In the entrance hall there is a diplodocus skeleton in the main entrance area and a statue of Charles Darwin. The diplodocus was a replica and its leg bones were actually those of an iguanodon (I think) according to one of the attendants: “everything under glass is generally genuine”. We explored the dinosaur gallery in Roland’s honour: he was fascinated by dinosaurs as a small boy and knew the names of many of them.

fellow believers
fellow believers

IMG_8157We went home for a rest before going out to meet the son of a Sydney friend and his partner. We spent a very pleasant hour-and-a-half or so in a pub behind the London Eye.

Day 46 12-06-2014 Thu London

Our last day with the car was spent travelling to nearby Windsor to see the Castle. This is a large complex sitting atop the only hill in the vicinity. From there you can look down on the playing fields of Eton. The castle itself evolved over the centuries, like most others. I have mostly negative opinions about the place so I’ll keep those to myself, but a large part of it comes from the prohibition of photography. St George’s Chapel was quite interesting. Henry VIII did a lot of work on it, including an elaborately-decorated ceiling. He and a few other monarchs are interred in the tombs below the Quire where there is a tablet in the floor.

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tethered mowing
tethered mowing
Eton chapel
Eton chapel

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IMG_7872 IMG_7876 IMG_7882 IMG_7884 IMG_7896 IMG_7899me and Kate

me and Kate

Lower courtyard panousing traditional wooden rakes!!!

using traditional wooden rakes!!!

All the walking and warm weather tuckered us out so we decided to hand the car back a little early. Good thing we did as the rental car drop-off lot was rather difficult to find. The signage for this function at the airport was quite inadequate. The rental company ferried us to Terminal 5 where we took the fast Heathrow Express to Paddington Station (we had been there 3 years ago when visiting the Pangbourne friends). We had expected a long and expensive taxi ride to the hotel, but it was only a few minutes away so gratifyingly cheap.

Our worst fears were realised when we pulled up outside – it was exactly the same kind of place we had stayed at in 2011. Fortunately the room was marginally larger than back then, so we can manage.