Christmas in London, 2012

Well, it has been over two weeks since I last posted.  My last post, which was on Dec 14th.  David arrived in London on Dec 15th.  It always takes him a couple of days to get rested.  It is a tough schedule to work for a month straight.

We made a trip to Canterbury one day and walked around. I wanted him to see what a cute town it is.  We had a lovely sunny day.  This is a picture of the Canterbury Cathedral with blue sky as the background.  The last time I was there, it was too overcast and foggy to get a good picture of the cathedral.

The train ride was nice.  I showed him the lovely parks. Look at the beautiful swan we saw in one of the parks! I also pointed out a few historical buildings and we did a couple of the shops.  Lunch was at a pub and then we hopped the train back to London.

On Wednesday, December 19th, we made our way to Heathrow via the tube to meet my brother, Perry, who was flying over to spend 10 days with us for Christmas.  It always seems to take forever waiting to meet someone at Heathrow.  You see where the plane has landed, when they disembark and then the waiting begins.  It always seems that several flights arrive at once and people come out into the arrival terminal in a steady stream.  It is difficult to tell who is on what flight.  What seemed like forever, Perry finally came through the doors….sans luggage!!!  Actually, what seemed like “forever” to David and me, really was “forever”.  Perry had waited for his luggage, which never appeared and then he had to make a claim.

After our happy reunion, we made our way back to the apartment to continue the search for the missing luggage.  In the beginning, they were telling Perry that they had no record of his luggage and couldn’t tell him if it was still in Portland, Maine or Toronto, where he made his connection.  They thought that maybe the tag had gotten ripped off and for that reason, it wasn’t in the computer system…not good!

Since we had done all that we could do, Perry and I walked to Kings Road to the Saatchi Gallery.   This gallery was open by Charles Saatchi in 1985 to display his private collection of art.  In 2010 it became the Museum of Contemporary Art for London when it was given to the British public.  However, it is still referred to as the Saatchi Gallery today and is free to the public.

Displays are constantly changing and the current one that we saw was “Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art 1960-1980”.  I must say, some of it was pretty “out there”….several large pictures of tattooed prisoners, photographs documenting the decline of people’s health after the collapse of communism…not pretty.  For example, there were pictures of nude people with tumors growing on various body parts.  However, there was one artist, Valery Koshlyakov, that I did like.  She had created large scale architectural collages of buildings out of cardboard.   I thought it is very creative and loved the concept of flimsy cardboard representing a strong, solid building.  After the gallery visit, we went to a cafe for coffee and then to the GAP so Perry could pick up some clothes.

Thursday the luggage saga continued.  We did all that we could do concerning the luggage in the morning.  In the afternoon, we went to the Courtault Gallery.  A couple of Perry’s friends had recommended that he go. I can’t believe that I had never heard of it in all my time here.  I am so glad that we went!  It is a small but had an impressive collection from Renaissance to 20th century art and is particularly known for their collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.  There were paintings by Renoir, Degas, Manet, Gauguin, Monet and others.

It is located in the Somerset House on The Strand close by the theater district.  This stately building from the 18th century has a rich history and only became an art gallery in the late 20th century.  This picture gives you an idea of the grandeur and size of the Somerset House.  Along with the gallery, it also houses the Courtauld Art Institute that offers classes on art history and conservation.

If you are ever in London and enjoy art, I highly recommend this exquisit art gallery!!!  I plan to go back!

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent wandering around Covent Gardens, the West End Theater district, over to Piccadilly Circus, up Regent Street and through the Carnaby shopping area where we had a dinner of fish and chips at one of the many English pubs in London!

Friday, I am sad to report that was a beautiful, sunny day.  The previous days were cool, overcast and rainy.  I am sorry to tell you that Friday was a sunny day because we spent the whole day in the apartment waiting for the luggage, which had been found, to arrive.  We received a call Thursday afternoon telling us that they had the luggage and it was on its way to London and would be delivered that night.  Then, we received another call telling us that they weren’t going to be able to deliver it Thursday night but would deliver it mid-morning on Friday.  Friday morning at 8:20, they called again to confirm that they would make the delivery mid-morning.  After spending the whole day, waiting for the delivery, the luggage finally arrived at 4:00 in the afternoon.  We were grateful to have it, grateful that it arrived intact but had we known that it was going to take the whole day to get it, we would have gone to the airport to pick it up!  At least it was all behind us and we could focus on enjoying London and each other’s company!

The weather for the rest of the week continued like the beginning of Perry’s visit…cool, very windy and lots of rain.  We made to most of it.  One of the things that Perry wanted to do was go to the Tate Modern museum.  I heard there was a Jackson Pollock and Harold Rosenberg exhibit and got tickets for us to go to it.  I am sorry to say that it was a disappointment!  There was only one painting by each of those artist on exhibit.  The rest of the Bigger Splash exhibit was a comparison between painting and performance since the 1950s.  For me, it was bizarre…there were two sections.  The first focused on various ways artist applied paint to their canvas.  An example was covering people with paint and have them roll around on the canvas.  The second part, I didn’t even understand and can’t begin to explain.  Sorry….even Perry, who really enjoys modern art thought it was a little “out there”!  We wandered through other parts of the museum, discovered another Pollock, a piece done by Lee Krasner (Pollock’s wife who was also an artist), Manet and a Picasso.

We hopped a double decker bus and rode to the Liverpool Station.  This route took us past Westminster Abbey, Parliament Building, Big Ben, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and St Paul’s Cathedral…it was a great tour.  From the station, we went to the Old Spitalfield Market which was about a 10 minute walk.  I had been there before and there were many antique dealers, something else that Perry said he would like to do while over here.  Well, the antique dealers are there only on Thursday, we were there on another day.  It is a large market but the stalls were mostly clothing.  We visited another antique mall off of Oxford Street but most of the booths were closed due to Christmas.

One day was spent traveling to Winchester.  In 1984, Perry was an exchange student at the college there.  At the time, it was King Alfred’s College.  Today it is known as the University of Winchester, King Alfred Campus.  Back in 1984, I made a trip to visit Perry so it was fun to go back and revisit Winchester and the college.

I am beginning to see a pattern with the English towns that I have visited on this trip.  They all have the same basic “ingredients”.  A pedestrian shopping area, nice parks and a huge cathedral (which they charge around $10 to visit.  Winchester offered all.  It was nice to go back and walk down memory lane with Perry.

We, also, went to two musicals….The Bodyguard which was based on the movie by Whitney Houston.  It was great, great, great!  The music was phenomenal!!! Heather Headley is the actress who plays the lead part of Rachel Marron.  However, the day we were there, her understudy Gloria Onitiri, was playing the lead part.  She brought the house down!  She was great, great, great!!!

The other play we saw was Wicked.  We had amazing seats…like 10 rows back from the stage!  It was a great play, too.  I read the book, which took me FOREVER to get through. I thought it was just poorly written although the reviews call it the “next classic”…what do I know?  Trust me when I say, the play was much better and will make me watch the Wizard of Oz in a completely different light!  The Wicked Witch isn’t all that wicked, people!

We had a great meal at Orsini, a small Italian restaurant near the Victoria and Albert Museum on Brompton Road.  I had the Mushroom Risotto, Perry had lasagna and David had pasta with herbs.  We all agreed it was great food and service in a nice atmosphere.

Christmas Day in London is very quiet.  Everything and I mean everything shuts down, even the public transportation.  Yes, there were some restaurants open but, for the most part it, was very quiet.  We had a nice day together.  We exchanged gifts….David got Perry a traditional Arabic outfit or a thawb.  It was the long white robe, loose fitting white pants, the white scarf for the head as well as a embroidered prayer cap.  He loved it…we said it could be next year’s Halloween costume!

We had picked up some pot pies for our Christmas dinner and had them with pasta and steamed veggies.  Perry had partridge and pear – appropriate for Christmas!  David had turkey, stuffing and cranberry – another good Christmas dinner and I had a roasted winter veggie pie.  They were all good, although Perry said his was a little dry.  After dinner, we took a walk in Battersea Park, across the river from us.

The time went very quickly and before I could believe it, it was time for both Perry and David to leave for the airport.  They left on the same day!!  I went to the airport with them to say good-bye and then made my way back to an empty apartment!  The first couple of days, after they were gone, it was kind of sad….it had been so much fun to have people to do things with.  However, I am used to it now and back to exploring and enjoying all that London has to offer!

Just a postscript on Perry’s trip back to the states!  On the Air Canada flight over, he was bumped to first class.  With all the luggage problems he had, he tried to get a first class seat back.  When he checked in, they said that there were no seats left.  However, at the gate, he was given a first class seat!  Yea!!

His flight out of Heathrow was delayed by two hours because of mechanical problems.  He arrived in Toronto shortly after 9:00 at night and missed his connecting flight to Portland because US Customs closes at the Toronto airport at 9:00 PM.  Can you believe that?  Closing at an international airport at 9:00 at night?  I am amazed by this.

It probably all worked out for the best because the day he flew back, Maine got 15″ of snow.  The airlines put him up in a hotel room for the night and he finally got back home a day later.  By the time he landed in Portland, it was 5:00 in the afternoon and they had all day to clear the roads.  I like to think it was God’s hand in the delay to keep Perry safe!

I hope that you had a special Christmas with family and created memories as nice as those that I have for Christmas of 2012!!!

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