Tuesday, June 16, 2015

London Day 2–In Which We introduce Terra to London, and Perfect the Potter Technique of Museum and Gallery Viewing.


Having woken up yesterday at 2am, I was more than ready for breakfast several hours later. Terra, who had somehow managed to sleep for ten hours straight and so was looking as fresh as a daisy when she woke up, and Zoe, who had not, were also hungry and so it was with delight that I was able to suggest we “pop over to the Great Hall” for some breakfast. I almost said “nosh” but it seemed a bit much so early in the trip. I’ll pull that one out in a few days.


We made our way around the gated square, a common feature of London’s streets and neighbourhoods, and into the lovely London House building which, we noted, had been visited by Her Majesty the Queen no less than three times in the past 15 years. She must get a bit tired of all these unveilings and plaques for this and that, especially when it doesn’t seem to be for anything of any great significance. I do love how the British love a good plaque though. They’ll put one up based purely on speculation that something may have happened on that spot several hundred years ago. We tourists lapp it all up and really,who’s going to question it anyway? If I saw one that said “On this spot in 1316, Sir Jeremy Poop-Lemons was Thought to have made his great Speech on the Importance of Squirrels” I wouldn’t bat an eye. “Ahh” I would think. “I must tell the others”. The others, of course, would be less than excited, I suspect, but they do humour me, bless them.

Anyway, we stepped into the Great Hall and were not disappointed. It all felt very Hogwarts as we sat down at a Gryffindor table (of course, although I suspect Terra is more of a Ravenclaw and my mum belongs in Hufflepuff for sure) and tucked in to a full English breakfast. Why they must grill tomatoes and mushrooms for breakfast I don’t know and I will admit to skipping the Blood Pudding, but otherwise it was delicious.


I think I may have just broken the First Law of Blogging which is never to mention what you had for breakfast but this was an exceptional start to the day. We were already looking forward to tomorrow’s breakfast as the house elves whisked away the dishes.

Our next stop was the underground. I love the underground. Walking what feels like several kilometres to get to the platform doesn’t matter when you are on such classics as the Bakerloo line or the Piccadilly. Every time I come to London I look forward to hearing the dulcet tones of the Voice of the Tube as she announces the next station. I was a bit distressed to learn however that she is, in real life, younger than me, and was recently fired for making a series of spoof announcements. I suppose you can only say “Mind the Gap” so many times before losing it a little. It is worth noting that you really do need to mind the gap, as I like to remind everyone, as I lost a shoe between the train and the platform once. Of course there was no retrieving it so I had to hop around on one foot like some kind of idiot until I could retrieve another pair from my suitcase. I dutifully told Terra this story while Zoe rolled her eyes with an  “Oh God, not this story again” look on her face.

We emerged into the light of day just beside Trafalgar Square, another of my favourite spots in London. There’s always a lot going on here, although the presence of cheesy street performers has increased in recent years, while the population of pigeons has all but disappeared. I think I preferred the pigeons to these guys, who make the minimum effort and seem to think that leering at tourists all day is a good way to spend their time. This visit, the place was full of men dressed up and apparently magically levitating on some sort of chair.


There were a few dressed all in gold (why?) and many more dressed as Yoda. Now this I found interesting. Wouldn’t you want to stand out from the rest of your mates if you were in this business? And could you put a little effort into it?


Worst Yoda Ever.

Turning away from such abominations, I focussed on getting my biannual picture of the kids sitting by the fountain. Usually it’s Zoe and Jacob but this time it’s Zoe and Terra.


They good naturedly endured this and my other request to climb the four lions that guard Lord Nelson. Terra promptly fell off of one but it was hilarious and only slightly embarrassing.


The National Gallery of London faces onto Trafalgar square and as it, like all Museums in London, is free to enter, it’s worth a visit. Not one to spend hours in a gallery, I have honed my technique of Speed-Gallerying to a razor sharp edge. We were in and out in less than an hour and that included an overpriced but lovely stop in the tea shop for cold fizzy drinks and cake. I am proud to report that we covered off the period of the Italian Renaissance (which Zoe and Terra both knew something about having just done a project on it in Socials – thank you Mr. De Goede) including my favourite, Canaletto whose paintings of Venice have an almost photographic quality, right through to the English masters of Gainsborough, Turner, and Constable.

Gainsborough's famous Painting, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, is on display here. As I often find with these artists, all the subjects in the painting look the same:



This looks more like Mr. Andrews and his twin sister.

And here’s another Gainsborough, The Morning Walk, featuring Mr. and Mrs. William Hallet:



But actually looking more like Mr. William Hallet and his twin brother in drag.
Not that I could do any better, mind you.

We finished the visit in the French Impressionists room and marvelled at the likes of Monet, Manet, Seurat, Pissarro, Cassat, Cezanne, Renoir and Van Gogh. At this point, eyes were starting to glaze over so it was clearly time to go but not before I spotted this creature:


I am pretty sure the Virgin Mary would be right pissed if she saw this alleged likeness of her precious baby. Looks a bit like the love child of the grandpa from the Munsters and Don Knotts.

Anyway. Clearly time to move on. We hopped on a hop-on hop off bus and made our way to the Victoria and Albert Museum with a stop along the way to walk Green Park and gaze at Buckingham Palace. The guards were doing their funny little guard thing and one of them was having some trouble with his hat which kept falling forward. Fortunately a police man pushed it back for him.


Here it is about to fall on to his face. You’d think they would think of this and try to fix it.



Her Majesty was at home, as evidenced by the flying flag, but we didn’t see her peaking out the curtains (although my mum spent some time looking for her…).

Back on the bus we headed off toward Knightsbridge. The open-top double-deckers are great for allowing glimpses of everyday life along the way, even if it is everyday Knightsbridge life, which is decidedly different than everyday life for the rest of us.




Next stop was the Victoria And Albert Museum for a fascinating exhibit on the history of shoes. With everything from 5000 year old Egyptian slippers to towering Geisha wooden platform shoes, to a pair of Lady Gaga’s boots, there was much to see. Zoe was particularly intrigued by the pairs of tiny little shoes worn by Chinese woman whose feet had been bound. She could not get her head around this phenomena, and rightly so – it is so strange, but it makes me wonder what we are doing today that will be the subject of marvel and ridicule one hundred years from now.

Again,we were in and out in an hour and a half including a stop for lunch.
I had been threatening to go to the Science Museum as well while we were in the area to see an exhibit on Winston Churchill’s Wartime science efforts but was voted down in favour of a visit to Harrods. Sorry, Chris! I’ll try again…

Once again Harrods was ridiculously over-the top but I did get some delicious rose English Wedding tea. We also had fun trying to find the most expensive bottle of wine for sale. Zoe won with a bottle of Screaming Eagle something or other coming in at 8200 pounds.


I’d be screaming too, at that price.

We also spent some time around back where the cars and drivers for all the rich Arabs sit and wait for their owners.


That’s a Bugatti on the left. Jacob would be losing his shit if he was here…

We managed a bit more shopping in the neighbourhood before giving Terra an authentic ‘Tube at Rush Hour’ experience in which were crushed into a underground car on the Piccadilly line for our ride home. You have to experience it once, I said. 

That seemed like enough for one day so we just about made it home before collapsing into bed. I hope to be more awake tomorrow for our visit to the Tower of London, at which I plan to spend more than 45 minutes, it being exempt from the Potter Technique on account of all the references to my favourite Monarch, Henry the VIII.

See you then!

Thanks for reading,


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