London: Tourists, Various and Sundry

Monday was our final day. This trip, so planned for and thought about and dreamed about was nearly over. I asked Dave to take my photo (and I took his) so we could have a photo where we looked slightly awake and perky, not in the middle of dragging about and sightseeing. Here we are outside our hotel.

We look so fresh and alive!

After the Tate Museum, we boarded a double-decker bus and saw the sights from above ground. We jumped off at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to play tourist.

I believe that when we brought our children in 1999/2000 (yes, it was the Millenium) Big Ben was all wrapped up getting spruced up. Nice to see his face.

It only took three tourist-tries, but I finally got someone who could take a photograph of us.

House of Parliament

Note the Churchill statue to the right.

We liked the gilt flags on the building across the street–which must be the backside of Westminster Abbey.

Britain’s Home Office, or their version of the State Department.

We hit Harrod’s–this is the ceiling in one of their rooms. We finally bought something at Harrods: chocolates to save for August 11th, our anniversary.

I had wanted to buy some earrings, or some other souvenir of London but the conversion rate of 2 dollars to 1 pound made it next to impossible. It wasn’t so much about the money–I had savings and could have purchased things. But it became about the value of the item. I saw a silver charm for my charm bracelet. I could have purchased it for 39 pounds, but I didn’t think it was worth 80 bucks, so I passed. In conversations I began saying to people: “Come to America–we’re having a sale. Everything half off!”

Cool ornamentaion on the tops of these more modern buildings–crowns.

Back home to our hotel for dinner. I liked the multi-culturalism of these eating places. We chose the one to the left (out of camera range) and had pizza.

So that’s it. Just like the gates of the British Museum, our time here was closing.

Dave had good conferences, we saw a lot (and missed a lot–next time).

But, we’re ready. And like Dorothy knew, as she chanted it to the crowded square in Oz: “There’s no place like home.”

London's Museums

We began the day with a ride on the tube, entering from the tube station near our hotel.

He wasn’t at our tube station, but somewhere in our day of traveling London’s mass transit.

We started at the Tate.

We headed for the Singer-Sargeants and enjoyed seeing Lily, Lily, Carnation, Rose once again, navigating groups of school children.

All of a sudden Dave says, “There’s someone running through there.”
I looked, didn’t see anyone. “Someone running?”
“Yes, right through here.”
Still didn’t see anyone, so we went to an exhibit by Alan Michael who’s realism really captured Dave’s interest. If we were independently wealthy, I would have bought him a painting for his birthday right then.
Then I saw the person running. They began at the far end of the Great Hall, dressed in running clothes and ran for everything they were worth to the other end of the hall where they turned a corner and disappeared.

It turns out we were “participating” or seeing Martin Creed’s Work No. 850. The guard at the hallway entrance and chatted about the runners. There were six runners, who seemed to come out of nowhere, and disappeared after their run.

The artist’s statement on the wall provided reasons for its genesis:
In Palermo we went to see the catacombs of the Capuchin monks. We were very late and only had five minutes to see it all before closing time. To do it we had to run. I remember running at top speed with my friends through the catacombs looking desperately left and right at all of the dead people hanging on the walls in their best clothes, trying our best to see it all… it was a good way to see it. It was that kind of delirious running which makes you laugh uncontrollably when you’re doing it. I think it’s good to see museums at high speed. It leaves time for other things.

Living in Riverside, I don’t get out to mainstream museums very much. But it’s this exhilaration at seeing something that stimulates, that tweaks your ideas of things that provides wonderful reason to brave the traffic, time constraints, weather, and my own inertia to take in different views of the world.

Outside the Tate.
We took a bus around town (see next post for our tourist tramping around) and headed to Liberty, another museum as my sister Christine refers to it. Good description.

This photo is for my mother.
We had tea in Liberty’s once, she and I, after shopping.

The store has an interior courtyard with carved woods, fine plaster motifs, elegant clothing and furnishings. I bought a half-meter of one of Kaffe Fasset’s prints.

I grew up on aphorisms, so am attracted to them when I see them. This is on the catwalk between Liberty’s and another building.

Liberty’s side view

We took the tube then to the British Museum and Dave again found his bliss among the ancient stones and ruins.

A younger thing between two older things.

I liked the super-imposed writing atop the bas relief hand.

The museum courtyard has an undulating glass ceiling, with the reading room in the middle. This view reminded me of a pueblo-styled building.

I sipped a coke while waiting for Dave. A storm front had moved in and the thunder rattled the panes with rain washing over it in a muffled drumming sound. We were late in the day, and the galleries started closing.

Dave’s take on the ceiling.

After, we stepped outside and called Chad from a phone booth. He’d called us from London the last time he was here and we wanted to return the favor.

Arriving in London

Sunday morning we left Yorkshire, turned in the car at York and after one canceled train and another train delay, close to noon we finally boarded a train to London. We visited Harry Potter’s train platform, bought an Oyster Pass (Chad had lent us one already from his last trip) and headed down into the tube to ride to our hotel.

We headed to St. Paul’s cathedral; this is a cool bridge near Old Bailey.

Old Bailey–London’s jail/courthouse

We were hoping to catch evensong. We missed it, so after looking quietly at the cathedral from out seats (it was Sunday–no sightseeing) we headed out in the rain. Tired tourists, we were hunting for something to eat that didn’t require us to trade in one of our children as ransom.

We ended up at an Indian restaurant. The sole waiter was listening to Wimbledon on the radio, a nice clash with the wailing Indian tunes in the background. It was a rather skimpy meal for the price. We both balked at one piece of nan bread costing 2 pounds. When we commented that in the States we’d get at least two pieces for that price, he said, “Well, you are in London.”

Traveling Around in Yorkshire

We start the day with rain and drizzle and a fast trip to Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes. Yes, we try five varieties of Wensleydale (some plain, some “mature,” some with cranberries, etc.) and decide not to buy anything but a tea towel. The clerk gives me Wallace and Grommit stickers to give out to my family–we’re fans.

Hawes is a small town that is bisected by a stream, complete with stoney bridge. Very picturesque.

And did I mention it was raining?

The B&B host had mapped out a ride on the white roads of death, up over a rock formation called Buttertubs, through the Yorkshire Dales park, but when we couldn’t see out of our windshield, we decided on a more forthright course of action: drive the other direction on red-roads. We headed through Swinithwaite, West Witton and Wensley to Leyburn. I don’t know what we were expecting, but it was still raining and the town (that we were willing to explore with umbrellas) ringed the paved-over town greens. Lunch was from a grocery store, where I’m sure the clerk was snickering to her pal about those strange Americans. I tried to be polite, asking for “chips” to go with our sandwich and she said “they’re in the freezer.”

She meant fish and chips. I meant potato chips, what they call “crisps.” Snicker, snicker.

Back in the car at the car park we ate our sandwiches while watching the rain. We retraced our route to take another daring step: home for naps.

Later on the sky had cleared enough that we decided to venture out for a drive and head to dinner.

We arrived at Swinithwaite just in time to see the cows moved into another pasture.

This pastoral view was replicated in many turns of the road.

We headed south, detouring into a small town, West Burton, where I finally saw a proper village green. I’d heard about village greens in storybooks, but had never seen one. Basically it’s a Central Park for small towns–a large open grassy area where people meet and greet and play.

The Methodist Church on the village green–we were suprised at how many Methodist churches we saw.

Near Thoralby, a tiny town in the Dales.

Near Newbiggin, another tiny town in the Yorkshire Dales.

We stopped here for dinner–taking the brilliant suggestion of our B&B host.

The Street Head Inn. I think the lamb I had for dinner was frolicking in the pastures behind them last week–it was like no other lamb I’ve ever had.

View into the dining room, from the entryway. We were the first diners–we like an early dinner.

Roasted vegetables in a vol-a-vent was my appetizer. I could have stopped right there.

Dave had the butternut squash soup.

His dinner was three different types of sausage, I think–yes–they were the local award winners, or so it said on the chalkboard where the day’s menu was written. This time we didn’t look like idiots when they said head to the bar to order. We knew the drill.

I had stu
ffed lamb rolls, presented like this. The sides (in upper R corner) were green salad and vegetables. The lamb, like I said, was amazing.

We drove past Aysgarth Falls, Caperby, heading for Castle Bolton. I also wanted to get a video clip of lambs and friends bleating in the fields. It was so quiet there, that this was a common sound. Dave waited patiently for the sun to hit the castle.

Heather Cottage, Aysgarth, Wensleydale

We drove along a red road now–the A684–heading for Hawes. Where are we staying? asks Dave? I consult my travel book and look up. There! I say. Heather Cottage in Aysgarth. And so we arrive at our B&B.

Heather Cottage from the other side, at the bend in the road.

Our gracious and kind hosts for the weekend, Peter & Angela Jauneika.

She raised chickens (for our English country breakfast–which included eggs) with a proper hen-house out back. And no, we didn’t hear the roosters at all. This was a terrific place to stay. (More on the Victorian Rock Garden in another post.)