London, United Kingdom/Ireland trip

Thursday, May 18: Shopping

^^^Back in Trafalgar Square

On Thursday we slept late and had a light breakfast at a local coffee shop, where we learned about the English condiment brown sauce. I think that the jury is still out on brown sauce.

Since we missed much of the National Gallery of Art, we went back just to see some highlights, such as this Van Gogh, this Cezanne and a room full of Rembrandts:

The rest of the day was for shopping. This was mainly for Sandy’s benefit, since there has never been a tourist trap that he could resist, but I can be just as bad about antique stores and craft galleries. I read in a local magazine that Portobello Road was an excellent street for antiques, so we went there.

^^^I really wish I had bought this hat for him now. He rocks it.

I bought us both coats in a Scottish clothing store there. You’ll see them in future photos. I was never cold in London, but I decided that I needed a raincoat. I came very close to buying a whole bunch of cabinet hardware in one shop.

^^^We ate lunch around 3 p.m. at Portobello Gold, where I finally ordered fish and chips. It started raining again so we relaxed there a while.

^^^We went to the Camden Market and Camden Locks. I didn’t take a photo of the market itself. However, if you could picture what a mild version of hell might be for me, it would probably look like Camden Market. We finally left after I went through shooting my entire repertoire of looks of dismay, warning, and finally desperation at Sandy. Not my favorite part of the trip. I looked forward to getting out of the city.

That night we packed for the next morning and walked around the neighborhood before settling on Bella Luna, an Italian restaurant, for a late dinner. They played Christmas music THE WHOLE TIME. At first it was a bit more classical, but when it changed to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the table just behind us was also chuckling about it. Sandy merrily called out some joke about it as I turned around laughing, and for the first time, we got the British shock treatment. We had butted into a conversation with strangers, and the reaction was freezing cold. This was not Ireland, ya know.

London, United Kingdom/Ireland trip

Wednesday, May 17: Museum Day

It poured rain on Wednesday. We ate breakfast with a young Australian couple who lived in the Outback. They said that it cost more for them to travel to a city with an airport in Australia than the plane ticket from there to the UK cost. And I thought that I grew up in the sticks.

On the way to the British Museum, we stopped in a beautiful old art supply store where I replenished my supply of Pitt pens. It carried lots of pigments, and there were hand marbled papers in the window.

^^^First we saw the Rosetta Stone, which had such a crowd around it that I was afraid that I’d have a panic attack. Fortunately, the crowd thinned considerably as we moved away from it.

^^^I especially liked this frieze panel with Amazon warriors in battle.

^^^Back to the British Isles

There was a bog man, and mummies. Lots of mummies. It was crowded. We had a bite to eat in one of the museum cafes, hit the gift shop and left.

Sandy wanted to go to the Imperial War Museum, so we got on the Tube and crossed the Thames. It was a nice walk, not so wet by that time. Sandy looked at the exhibits but I went straight to the museum cafe and caught up on my email, Facebook, etc. since I could get wifi there.

We took a break at the hotel, then went back downtown to Piccadilly Circus and just walked around in the rain. Most of the stores were closed. We found ourselves in the theater district, around Soho and Covent Garden, then walked back along the Strand to Charing Cross Station.

^^^One gallery had a couple of paintings by Bob Dylan in the window. I took this photo especially for Susanne.

We stopped for pints of delicious Whitstable Bay Black Oyster Stout at Mr. Fogg’s Tavern, sat in the window and watched the rainy street scene across from the Noel Coward Theater.

We went back to West Hampstead to eat dinner at Toomai. Very good Thai food.

I was so surprised that I didn’t see any antique bookstores. Turns out that there was a little street with several of them right around the corner from the pub where we stopped when I looked at Google maps while writing this post. Oh well, I didn’t need the temptation to load anything else in my baggage. Another place for me to go back to one day.

art, fiber art, London, tapestry, United Kingdom/Ireland trip, weaving

Tuesday, May 16: National Gallery

^^^Trafalgar Square from the steps of the National Gallery.

I was eager to see this contemporary tapestry exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. The tapestry, “The Caged Bird,” was designed by Chris Ofili, and woven by weavers at the Dovecot Tapestry Studio in Scotland. Loosely based on the book “And I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, the exhibition showed the artist’s process and studies and explained the symbolism in the tapestry. Some I would not have seen or understood if I had not looked at the rest of the exhibit. There was a film, and when I looked at the triptych tapestry again it came even more to life for me.

As a tapestry weaver, I know that the weaving process is a linear art of units of two threads crossing at right angles, so I was impressed by the interpretation of the watercolor paintings by the weavers of Dovecot. Separating the three panels and then viewing them again as a whole made me appreciate it more as well. The rest of the room was painted with figures so it was a 3-D experience, in a way.

Guess what: you can watch the film on YouTube!

We decided to come back to the National Gallery the next day, went back to our hotel for a nap, then out to a local pub called the Railyard. I insisted on going to pubs since I am all about craft beers and logging new ones on Untappd, and even though Sandy is not a beer fan and has cut down on his alcohol a lot for health reasons, I appreciate that he obliged me in this. Here I was disappointed that the only non-hoppy brew that they had on tap was Guinness stout. I’d find out that the UK is as crazy about hops as the US is. I rarely saw a brown ale on tap. However, they did have a bottled Guinness porter that was excellent.

London, United Kingdom/Ireland trip

Tuesday, May 16: Tower of London

After breakfast at our guest house, we decide to hit the Tower of London first. It was a sunny, breezy day, perfect temperature to stroll around the ramparts of an ancient fortification beside the Thames. As you can see, the Tower of London is not just one tower.

^^^See that guard in the background? We found out how serious they are when a toddler ran out on the grass and he yelled and pointed his rifle at her. An older woman was trying to get her to come back and finally had to step out there and grab her as the guard yelled at them. I was shocked. I wonder what he was guarding? The crown jewels are on the other side (the only place in the complex we didn’t go, since we don’t have much interest in sparkly stuff), guarded by this guy. vvv

^^^I was trying to take a photo of the gargoyles and a plane flew over at just the right moment.

There was a dragon sculpture made from objects such as pieces of armor and dueling pistols inside the White Tower. There were fun activities for kids, and we did those too. Re-enactors led groups of children through the complex and had them laughing and shouting in various little interactive scenes.

At the Royal Fusilier Museum, we found out how wimpy we were being about our backpacks when we both tried to lift a backpack only one quarter of the weight that each Royal Fusilier soldier carries. I could only lift it about two inches.

Tower of London: well worth the money, I think.

London, United Kingdom/Ireland trip

Monday, May 15 in London

The rest of Monday was a bit of a wash. We spent a long time reading in Dublin airport, with me fiddling with my phone obsessing over wifi connection and it not working for calls and texts despite having my phone company turn on international calling. At Heathrow I tried to buy a sim card and found that my phone was locked. I considered buying a new phone there with a wifi hotspot. My phone did not connect with the wifi at Charlotte Guest House, and nobody could figure out why. The wifi at most pubs and restaurants required you to sign up for a wifi account that asked for a UK postal code. I was extremely frustrated. This obsession would last another couple of days until I let it go. It was a relief to let it go. We got by. It was fine.

Anyway, all faith in my sense of direction was lost after we got off the Tube near our hotel and I steered us in the opposite direction. With our heavy backpacks on, down a hill, of course. Later I figured out that there were three different train stations near our hotel – the Underground, the Overground, and the National Rail. I was relying on a map in my head, but setting out from the wrong station on that mental map.

The nearby Tesco (one of the big grocery chains there) greeted us with a display of the treat that originated about 30 miles from our North Carolina home, which proves that every place in the world is starting to look alike.

For a inexpensive hotel, Charlotte Guest House was in a good neighborhood. Lots of restaurants and shops, and easy access to the Tube which got us anywhere we wanted to go in London within 30 minutes. The hotel was in a group of five renovated Victorian era townhouses. The beds were comfortable, the bathroom new and clean, the complimentary breakfast was good. It had a dining room in a sunny back room and patio. The staff were helpful and friendly. I found it too warm, and I did not sleep well, but I don’t know how much of that could be attributed to the room. Sandy and I aren’t used to sleeping together. He snores like a grizzly bear, louder than anyone I have ever heard, and his sleep apnea freaks me out. I toss and turn all night, snore sometimes, and on this vacation, I found out that I hum in my sleep. Anyway, I would stay there again, unless I absolutely needed wifi.

We had an excellent meal of lamb curry and went a little naan crazy at Guglee. We both considered it one of the best meals that we had on the whole trip. Then we crashed.

Okay, this was a boring post, and there weren’t many photos, but there will be no more complaining about wifi or snoring. I covered that. It will get better, and there will be MANY photos after this day. I’m really writing this for me, anyway, so I can remember the trip clearly after my memory fades.