"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." St. Augustine
Sunday, June 27, 2010
June 22, 2009 My Last Hurrah!
Honestly, everywhere you turn, there's The London Eye!
Well, it's my last day, so I tried to fit in all the touristy things I haven't done yet. This morning I took the tube over to Piccadilly Circus. I got a picture of that famous building that is covered with lights. Actually the Circus is smaller than it looks. The other buildings around it are much more impressive. I still feel amazed at how close all these well known places are to each other. Piccadilly Circus is just about four blocks over from Trafalgar Square. In between the two places are, oh, I don't know, 50 or 60 statues and famous buildings! Sometimes they are not even that famous, just jaw-dropping. I had been admiring this beautiful building right on the Thames. It looked like an old palace, just dripping with Gothic do dads and spires. Finally, I asked someone what that building was. He told me it was a hotel and only about 75 years old! But, it was gorgeous.
Next, I took the tube back to Covent Garden. It was early and many shops weren't open, which was good for me. I did get a picture of that church where Eliza Doolittle sells her violets and meets Professor Higgins. I also got a picture of the most unusual and cutest trash can I've ever seen.
From Covent Garden I went to Somerset House. It is the last remaining house on the banks of the Thames River. In old Shakey's day, private houses and palaces lined the north side of the Thames. Each house had a garden that went right down to the river, kind of like a lake house. The upper classes used the river to get around instead of using London's very dirty, very crowded, very smelly streets. Today this enormous "house" holds The Courtauld Museum, three restaurants, the Royal Navy offices, and the Inland Revenue! And, it's still not filled up! The courtyard had a beautiful water feature complete with Greek gods and water nymphs. I came to Somerset House because I had seen it in a movie, and I wanted to see it for myself. I also wanted see the Courtauld collection. The had several paintings in The Barnes impressionist exhibition that toured at the Kimball a few years ago. Their collection was small but good. They had ten Cezanne's that I had never seen! He is my favorite!
Once I had a quotient of art for the morning, I went to the very "up-market" Jermyn Street. I walked down this posh shopping street looking at all the "be-spoke" men's stores. We unsophisticated Americans would call these clothes hand-tailored. I felt rather intimidated! I can't even imagine how much a man's suit would cost.... After giving myself a little pep talk, I gathered my courage and went into Fortnum and Mason's. Imagine a British Neiman Marcus, but just for food! All my life I've read about getting a picnic basket from Fortnum's and Mason's. Let me tell you, those baskets cost quiet a few pretty pennies! The afternoon tea cost 34 pounds; that's about 58 pounds!!! I decided to skip tea and find some place cheerful and cheap.
I just started to roam and stroll through these amazing streets. Following my nose and my curious eyes, I found St. James Square. The square was packed with with expensive suits talking on their exclusive cell phones in every language in Europe. I sat in the grass, ate my lunch, and watched the show. It turns out that the square is very close to St. James Palace which is one of the Queen's houses. In fact, it's the official residence of Princes William and Harry! But, I don't think they spend much time there. It was very old and rather austere. Not ugly, just serious looking. They have their own Changing of the Guard, but tourists are not invited!
After that nice break, I got back on the tube and went to the Wallace Museum on Oxford Street. Once again, I almost skipped this museum, but decided that I didn't want to regret missing it after I got home. Well, it was well worth it! The museum was a private residence of a WEALTHY couple who lived on Manchester Square and collected art, furniture, and ceramics. When they died, they left the house and all it's contents to the state on the condition that it be used as a museum. There were quite a few so-so paintings, but there were also some stunning Rembrandts, Velasquez, Van Dykes, and Steens. They also had "The Laughing Cavalier!" Then, downstairs they had a HUGE collection of armor!!! It was incredible! They must have had 50 or more complete sets of armor from different time periods. There were countless swords, knives, bucklers, and shields. They also had several sets of horse armor, too. I never even thought about horses needing armor! Scott the kids would have loved it. I was so excited that I ran straight into the gift shop and asked the lady behind the counter if she had any books or pamphlets about the armor. All they had was one very heavy book that probably would have put me over the luggage weight limit by itself. I said to the lady and her young assistant, "Oh what a shame! We just don't get much armor in Texas." For some reason they found that very funny and gave me a real honest to goodness laugh, not just a polite chuckle.
This town in amazing!!! I am going to be soooo sad to leave tomorrow. But, my feet hurt! I'm sick of all my dirty clothes! I need a manicure and a pedicure! And, I miss y'all!!!
The church where Eliza took cover from the rain and met Henry Higgins. It's also the church where her dad sang, "I'm Getting Married In The Morning."
The courtyard of Somerset House. They were doing a photo shoot for a magazine while I was there.