I’ve been busy . . .
June 15, 2011
Today I was feeling all historical again, so I went to Fleet Street where the history of London peeks from every corner. Fleet Street was once London’s center for journalism, banking, and a number of pubs, but today its a busy street filled with lawyers, bankers, and tourists. The highlights for me were the memorial of Temple Bar, Number 1 Fleet Street (Dickens used this bank as the model for Tellsons’s in A Tale of Two Cities), Prince Henry’s room (from the 17th century and its still there!), Hoare’s Bank, and Mitre Tavern. In addition, it was really interesting to see how Londoners hold onto the past even thought the present keeps pushing towards the future. Old signs and storefronts remain in place even when something new takes over. For example, there might be a deli or a salon inhabiting a building but the sign for a newspaper from bygone days remains firmly in place.
Off the main road there was just as much to explore. On one of those sidetreets, Fetter Lane, I got one of my favorite pictures so far:
During my first trip to London, the tour guide (back when I went with tours instead of on my own) took the group to a church that still bore the damage from the German blitz during WWII. My pictures from that trip did not turn out well and I’ve always wanted another chance. During my next two trips I searched for this church, but never found it. This time, however, a little bit of wandering and an extra dose of luck brought me back to St. Clement Danes. Not only do I have some great pictures to add to my lessons on WWII for my students, but I gained even more respect for a city that wears its wounds with pride and reverence.
Before I left for London I read a blog that outlined the five best places to write in London and she had mentioned the Royal Festival Hall. I was close enough to that very spot, so I headed towards The Strand and then crossed the Thames at Waterloo Bridge. According to the blog, the fourth floor was a good spot and she was right! Large windows offered a great view of the river and despite the number of people occupying the other tables it was remarkably quiet. I started a new short story and simply enjoyed the ambience of creativity. Just to shake things up I went exploring and found another great spot on the 5th floor, the Balcony Terrace. Not only do you get a great view of London, but you can also hear the goings on down on the embankment. More detailed posts on the South Bank are forthcoming. There are a number of reasons why I keep walking along that side of the river, so stay tuned!
June 16, 2011
With rain threatening and me on my last pair of dry shoes, I opted to stay indoors and do another museum day. The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square seemed like the perfect way to spend the day . . . and it was! I visited just about every exhibition hall, but I naturally hovered over my favorite artists. I sat and admired Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin on the Rocks and then learned all about Britain’s most famous painters including J.M.W. Turner. From there I bumped into Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Peter Paul Rubens. My heart, however, belongs to the Impressionists, so the bulk of the day was given to Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas, and Pissarro. Each of their works inspired a number of ideas for characters I hope will populate a story or two in the future. In particular, Pissarro spoke the loudest with his painting The Boulevard Montmarte at Night.
After the museum, I wandered through the side streets around Trafalgar and eventually ended up at huge bookstore, Waterstones. I don’t know why, but I always manage to find a bookstore wherever I go. And no matter how much I try to resist, I always have to go inside! This is probably the third or fourth Waterstones I’ve been through already, but in this particular store I noticed their catch phrase. As a burgeoning writer, I found it to be a fantastic source of inspiration . . . “Feel Every Word.”
Click for much more . . .
June 17, 2011
Today was an odd day, but still quite a bit of fun. Originally, I wanted to go on another little self-guided walk, but half of it was blocked off by road construction. Before getting cut off, I did manage to find the Old Curiosity Shop (another Dickens landmark, although it’s not the real thing. According to the story the shop is actually near Leicester Square and was pulled down).
Nearby is Inns Fields, which were the execution grounds during the reign of Elizabeth II. Now it’s a very quiet park with beautiful oak trees and a tennis court. My, how times have changed! From here, I got utterly and completely lost. Regardless, I saw of lot of Camden and Bedford Square, which is a very old and leafy part of London. The building facades are just beautiful:
Once I found where I was on a map, I noticed the Petrie Museum was only a quick walk across two streets and down Gower Street. I had read about this museum a couple months ago and knew it was place I just had to go. The museum houses a massive collection of Egyptian antiquities, with a particularly large assortment of artifacts from the Amarna period (which is a focus of my personal studies). I was surprised to find its just a little hole in the wall of a university, but the collection was truly impressive. It’s not a big, fancy museum, but rather more like a storage area for objects that are still being scrutinized and studied by archeologists. I stood in amazement over jewelry, pottery fragments, carved stone slabs, glassware, funerary objects, and even textiles. Yeah, go ahead and sound the nerd alert. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the pictures.
After the museum, I found myself at yet another bookstore! Though I have an excuse this time – it was raining and I needed a roof over my head. I ended up buying Of Love & Hunger by Julian Maclaren-Ross. I’ve never heard of the book or the author, but the writing is very original and quite gripping.
Still in the shopping spirit, I followed Gower Street until I hit Great Russell Square. With the British Museum in plain sight, souvenir shops line the whole street waiting for eager tourists. I bought a Mini Cooper magnet for my husband and nothing for myself. The book was enough for me.
June 18, 2011
Seeing as it was Saturday, I decided to give the whole day to shopping. On the weekends, there’s an enormous marktetplace along Portobello Road that has everything from antiques, fruit, crafts, and knick knacks. Aside from random street shopping I also had the intention of loading up on some music at some nearby music stores, (See It’s All About the Music for the details of my music adventure).
Now the funny thing is, I didn’t buy a single thing on Portobello Road. The crowds were overwhelming, but the antique market continues to shrink. The length of Portobello is filled more with kitschy tourist souvenir shops than the antique and specialty stores that made this stretch famous in the first place. It’s sad to see, but I suppose that’s what brings in the money. A lot of the storefronts and signs don’t match the current retailer, i.e. a t-shirt store occupies a space marked as an art gallery, but its not in the same spirit as Fleet Street. However, the food was incredible. Bakeries, delicatessens, ice cream parlors, fruit stands, crepe makers, and meat markets gave the street some much needed charm, which gives me hope that human ingenuity and old fashion goods will outlive the cheap souvenir stands.
**As always, click on pictures for a full-size view. **