June 12, 2011
The rain came back, again and after my previous bad experience I was a little hesitant to run out into it. I spent the morning reading my latest book purchase and sipping some hot chocolate.
By early afternoon, I decided to brave the water and try again for the Tate Modern Museum. I’m so glad I did. The Tate has some of the most amazing exhibits of modern art that display everything from Monet, Picasso, Munch, Rodin, Diane Arbus, and one of my new favorites Dorothea Tanning. I completely lost track of time as I wandered through amazing interpretations of life and philosophy. Throughout the afternoon I had to stop several times to write – thank goodness there were benches in the exhibit halls. Epiphanies abound in the presence of ingenious works of art.
The rain waned to a drizzle so I went for a little walk along the Thames. To my excitement, the tide was low and there was an open gate leading the to the beach. The details of my little excursion are in the post “Sand in My Shoes.” I now have one less thing to do on my bucket list.
June 13, 2011
The day started with a marathon shopping trip to Charring Cross Road which is full of bookshops. One store after another sells new, old, and antique books. In a future post, I will give further details, (bookstores in London are an entirely different experience from those in the US). In one of the used bookstores, I was thrilled to find the final novel I needed to complete my collection of Dennis Potter books (they are out of print and almost impossible to find in the States). Then, on the advice of a local, I ventured down Cecil Court where there is a string of tiny bookshops that carry everything from centuries old manuscripts to books on all things related to transportation. I couldn’t afford a single thing, but it was a great experience to see so much history.
Above: A view of Cecil Court, a hidden gem of independent bookshops.
From Charring Cross I made my way towards Trafalgar Square where I sat and enjoyed an ice cream cone. The fountains sparkled beautifully in the sun, so I sat for a while and simply enjoyed the ambience.
There’s a quick way to get from Trafalgar to St. James Park along The Mall – the main road that leads straight to Buckingham Palace. The road begins with an enormous archway and is lined with dozens of large Union Jack flags. The sight of it recalls every sense of tradition and pageantry. I followed the flags until I found an entry gate into St. James Park, where I sat and watched the world go by.
Above: The Mall – All the way at the end is Buckingham Palace
Click for more . . .
June 14, 2011
Today, I got a bit ambitious. This history geek in me decided it was time to go on a little quest and find as many Roman ruins as possible. Armed with a self-guided walking tour book, (thank you Frommers), I situated myself near the city center and went exploring. First, a little trip through the Museum of London, which is filled with loads of artifacts dating from tens of thousands of years ago to the Roman Era to the Medieval Era and all the way up to the modern era. I had no idea this place had so much! Probably the most fun part was that for many of the items, they tell you exactly where the artifact was found (i.e. Southwark or London Wall).
With a bunch of new knowledge crammed into my head, I started to walk through what can only be classified as elevated sidewalks that connect various sites to the Tower of London and the Barbican Arts Center. In the midst of fancy, modern buildings and upper level walking were Roman ruins and they were scattered everywhere. Remnants of the original Roman enclosure wall flank offices and apartments, brick and mortar bastions sit next to garden ponds, and people eat their lunches on Roman wall foundations.
The walk also took me to the Guildhall (a place where many historical people were tried for various crimes – I won’t bore you with the details), but I found myself veering off course to the Guildhall art gallery which houses some amazing 17th and 18th century paintings. The real treat however is what lurks beneath the gallery. When the foundation for the gallery was dug, the remains of a Roman amphitheatre were found. The gallery was built around the ruins, which are now on permanent display. Not much is left, but its still an amazing thing to see.
Above: The remnants of London’s original Roman Wall, with what’s left of a bastion.
Below: Another segment of the wall in the midst of a modern building.
I backtracked to the Barbican so I could scope out the full extent of this arts complex. The building houses a school, theater, cinema, and concert venue. Its open to the public and there are all sorts of places to eat, sit, and be creative. So, I did all three!
After playing for a little while, I went back up to the elevated sidewalk and made my way towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was in the “neighborhood” so I thought I pass by and snap some pictures. Out of all my trips to London, never once have I been able to get a good picture of that dome! Today I got a few halfway decent shots. I hung out in churchyard for some cool shade and to give my feet a break.
Above: St. Paul’s Cathedral
The Millennium footbridge was a quick jaunt across the street, so decided to cross the Thames and soak up some more sun. I had never crossed this bridge, so now I get to check one more bridge off my Thames River list. However, I will say this is a very hot bridge to cross when the sun is out. It’s metal along the frame and walkway and boy does it glare. It was 72 degrees and I got heat rash from this crossing. Sadly, I’m not kidding.
Above: A view of Saint Paul’s from the other side of Millennium Bridge
Desperate for a little shade and ice cream, I parked it at on bench facing the river and let the river float by along with the tourists. The ice cream was a perfect way to end a very eventful day – yummy – I’ll bet the Romans didn’t have this good.
**As always, click on pics for a larger view. **