Life in London

I arrived back in London on Friday, October 12 after a half-day of traveling by train.  I left Bruges earlier than really necessary but would rather have to wait at the train station in Brussels than worry about making my connection.  It takes about an hour from Bruges to Brussels and from Brussels to London is roughly 3 hours.  My ticket cost $190 for a one-way, second class seat.  I was back at my little apartment by 4:00 in the afternoon.

We are staying in the same apartment that we were staying in before I left on my trip. It is in the Chelsea Borough of London on Embankment Garden, which is a small street off of Chelsea Embankment.  We have a view of the Thames River and on the other side of the river is Battersea Park.  Most mornings, I do my shuffle through the park.  I really enjoy seeing all the dogs that people are walking.  We live in a nice and convenient location.  We are a 15 minute walk to the closest tube station, Sloane Square Station, a 10 minute walk to Kings Road which is a major shopping street in London.  Exhibition Road, where several of the museums are located, is about a 20 minute walk. Hyde Park is 30 minutes away.

On Tuesday, October 16, I got a phone call from my friend, Marie Warren.  She and her hubby, Doug, were in London!!! Doug had work here and Marie tagged along.  Marie and I first met in Madawaska, Maine when our husbands worked together on a Fraser Paper project in 1989!  We have remained good friends with both of them ever since.

The last time we saw Doug and Marie was back in 2007 when David and I were flying through Atlanta returning from Chile.  Seeing her now was wonderful!  We met at the entrance of Marble Arch tube station on Oxford Street and walked to a cafe in Hyde Park where we spent the next two hours getting caught up on the past 5 years!

Then, we walked through the park, down High Street Kensington to Whole Foods and had some lunch at their restaurant and visited some more.  It was late in the afternoon by the time we finished and Marie had to get back to the hotel to meet with Doug.

The next few days, we explored London together.  We went to the northeast area where the Petticoat Lane Market and Old Spitalfields Market are.  Petticoat Lane is an open air market that is mostly wholesale clothing sold by people that appeared to be from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka area.  Petticoat Lane was lined with one fabric shop after another and not just any kind of fabric…these were beautiful fabrics with designs woven or embroidered in them.  We passed a delivery truck that was full of bolts of fabric from cotton to tulle to organzas.  It was a sight to see!

Old Spitalfields Market isn’t far from Petticoat Lane.  It has been a market site since 1638! It is located in the original Victorian building and the Market Hall has been restored.  The booths offer a variety of antiques, vintage clothing, crafts and restaurants.

From this area, we walked down toward Aldgate High and White Chapel Street.  We saw on the map the Whitechapel Art Gallery and set out to find it.  It took awhile but we eventually came to it.  What can I say about this Art Gallery?  I am glad I didn’t have to pay money to see it!  It was very modern art…Mel Bochner was the artist on exhibit.  He had some canvases that he had written different colored words, of a common theme, on.  For example, one canvas had the words “Master of the Universe, Head Honcho, Top Dog, King of the Hill, Numero Uno.  I found those to be OK.  However, his art work of newspapers on the floor, painted with a bright blue square and then the next section was the newspapers in disarray, did nothing for me!  Marie and I just looked at each other to see if the other one “got it” and could explain it!

Another Italian artist, Guiseppe Penone, had an interesting piece of sculpture. It was a tree that he had hollowed out and covered with bronze.  He had cut selective branches from the tree so that it could stand on its side and he had cut the tree into long pieces. The pieces were set close together, the art work was about 12 ft long.  Penone had bronzed the whole piece on the inside and out.  It was an interesting piece and made a tad more sense than the newspaper art!

From the art gallery, we walked up Brick Lane.  This street has had a rich history starting in the 15th century when bricks and tiles were manufactured there.  Over the years, immigrants have moved to this area starting with French Protestants (Huguenots) fleeing France to avoid persecution in the 17th century.  Later, the area was inhabited by Irish, Ashkenazi Jews and most recently, people from Bangladesh.  It is believed that Jack the Ripper assaulted and killed one of his victims on Brick Lane.  We passed the building that is currently a mosque for the population in that area.  This building has previously been a church and a synagogue as well.

Lunch was a potato jacket – popular around here – a baked potato with your choice of toppings. I had cheese and beans on mine, as did Marie.  We ordered it in a small deli, with no seating and ate it in a nearby park.

We were near Liverpool Train Station so hopped the tube and made our way over to Covent Garden.  There we enjoyed the street performers, window shopping and shared a delightful carrot cake from the food market that was happening there.

Saturday, October 20th, David came to London for his turn around. We met at the airport at 8:00 AM.  It was wonderful to see him!!!  It is always like we had just seen each other the day before which is nice that it doesn’t feel like a month has really passed! That day was a quiet day as David was tired from traveling.  He had flown from Jeddah to Dubai and left Dubai at 1:00 in the morning.

Sunday, the 21st, we had a visit with Rosemarie and Frank Goode who were here in London from Pennsylvania.  We met Rosemarie and Frank in the Dominican Republic.  They were over here for a few days so we arranged to meet with them for coffee and a visit.  It was nice that they took time from their few days here to see us!

We met up with Doug and Marie for a visit to the Science Museum and walked through that for a couple of hours.  Then, it was off to a pub for some lunch and a great visit. It was the first time that I had seen Doug as he had been working whenever I saw Marie.  They stayed an extra week to play tourist before heading back to the states.  After lunch and lots of laughs, they headed out to get some tickets to a play for that night.

We made plans to meet them to go see the play, Mousetrap, for the Tuesday matinee performance, which was the next day. Mousetrap is a story by Agatha Christie, the famous British mystery author.  This play has been running for 60 consecutive years here in London.  They claim that is the longest running show for any kind in the world. Just that record alone makes you want to see it, while here in London.  The play is at the St Martins Theater in the Theater district.  It is a small and intimate theater.  It was a really good plot and during intermission we all tried to figure out “who did it”.  I think David guessed it right!  After, we went to another pub and had a drink and some appetizers before saying good-bye and heading home.  That was the last we saw of Doug and Marie before they flew home to Alabama.  It was wonderful seeing them after 5 years…I just hope that it isn’t another 5 years before we see each other again…I do know that if it is, it will be just like yesterday that we had seen each other!  They are dear friends!

One morning, David and I decided to find the “Abbey Road” made famous by the Beatle’s Abbey Road album. The album was recorded at the Abbey Road studio nearby the crosswalk that the John, Paul, Ringo and George walked across for the picture on the album cover.  It is northwest of Regent’s Park nearby the St John’s Wood tube stop.  We took the tube and walked about 5 minutes to see the legendary crosswalk.  It is a popular tourist attraction.  There were several people taking pictures walking across it, as well as the nearby studio.  The wall in front of the studio is covered with messages from fans around the world.

Since David really enjoys walking whenever he is in a new city or area, we decided to walk back to our apartment.  It is a great way to get to know a city.  We walked through Regent’s Park and eventually made our way to Baker’s Street, through Hyde Park coming out near Royal Albert Hall and Exhibition Road where many of the museums are located.

We went into the Victoria and Albert museum.  I had wanted to go there for quite awhile and since it was Friday, it was open late.  David and I soon got separated…which was just as well as we go through museums at different rates!  I read just about everything….David cruises through!  There is so much to see in this museum!  It is the largest museum in the world of decorative art and design with over 4.5 million objects in their collection.  It was founded in 1852.  It offers insights to different cultures, art, jewelry and various periods of history.  The rotunda of the V&A has an elegant hanging Chihuly sculpture.  It is quite the focal point when you walk in!

The I chose to visit the sculptures, stain glass window exhibit and decorative boxes that were used primarily to hold snuff.  This is a collection of over 200 boxes from the private collection of Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert.  The boxes are adorned in jewels, inlaid wood and were exquisite. These boxes were made primarily for royalty and come from Paris, London, Vienna, Dresden and Berlin.

Another day, while David was home, we made a trip to town of Windsor where the home of the queen is, Windsor Castle.  We had been there before to see the castle but didn’t get to spend time in the town itself.  We were visiting it to see if it might be a good location for my dad to stay if he decides to come over for a visit.  We really liked it there.  It is a smaller city and seems to be easy to get around.  If we found the right apartment, one close to the downtown, I think dad would enjoy it there.  There is a pedestrian mall for the shopping area in the downtown as well as a mall-type area around the train station…which is also very handy to the downtown area.

The castle is part of the downtown as well and to one side of the castle and behind, is a great park.  Part of the park is private for the Royal family.  However, we walked along the Long Walk that is 2.65 miles long and lined with trees. We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and saw the Royal Guards marching through the street as they did the changing of the guard ritual.

Across the Thames river is the town of Eton that houses Eton College, an exclusive prep school for boys between the ages of 13 and 18.  It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI.  It can boast of 19 British Prime Ministers who have attended Eton, as well as generations of British aristocracy and the Royal family.  Princes William and Harry attended Eton.

The atmosphere in Eton is much quieter, almost scholarly, you might think.  There is a kind of hush as you walk over the bridge and enter the town.  Occasionally, we saw students walking to class or nearby in the downtown area.  The school uniform is a morning coat, (black tailcoat), vest and pin stripe trousers.  

After lunch of a pizza, we boarded the train back to Paddington station.  It is a real easy commute and took about 40 minutes to get to Paddington. From Paddington, we hopped the tube to Sloane Square and walked home.

And then it was over…..Tuesday, October 30th David received word of some problem on the project.  He felt it was necessary for him to return early.  We arranged for him to fly out that afternoon….4 days early.  It was sad to see him go….I was prepared to have him leave on Saturday and would have been fine with it.  Leaving early wasn’t the plan and when you are the “oldest child” you don’t like to have the plans change quickly!  I am fine now.

Finally, I feel as though my blog is caught up!!!  From now on, it will be easier to post daily or more frequently now that I have entered my trip, visits with friends and this last turn around with David.

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