Friday morning, as usual we were up late and didn’t get out of the hotel until about 11:30. We decided that today we would visit “The City”, the square mile that is actually the city of London. We intended to start at St. Paul’s Cathedral, but there was a special function going on so instead we went to the museum of the city of London.
Seriously (aren’t I always?) it is one of the nicest museums I have seen in a long time. The objects are beautifully displayed and the interactive stuff for kids is blended right into the regular path through history and the museum that they actually add a lot for the adults, too. The historical part starts in the ancient past, with pre-modern humans and takes you right up to the 1970s. There is a lot to see and learn. Gerry and I pretty much went through the museum at our own paces since I like the old history and he’s more interested in the new.
One thing becomes clear – the city of London has been destroyed so many times, it is a wonder that anything old (like the Tower of London) has survived. One of the impressions I got of the city as we visited it was that the whole place was being converted to very modern (VERY MODERN) buildings and spaces and much of the old stuff has become hemmed in on all sides by new stuff. They have left it there – but they haven’t conserved the neighborhood around it. That struck me as strange – imagine coming from Old San Juan where the entire place has been carefully conserved…But it does make sense when you think of the fires, the plagues, and the blitz of WWII. Not a whole lot was left standing! It is a new city.
I was particularly taken with what I though was an artist’s fantasy of London in the future, with all these unusual glass buildings. I was in for a surprise on Saturday – when I realized it wasn’t so much imagination: Many of those buildings are already being built.
After the museum we headed back to visit St. Paul’s. Another 15 pounds apiece! The tour was good, not too long, but really – either Westminster or St. Paul’s in one trip. Doing both is redundant. There are no photos inside, but the exterior is definitely photogenic!
This was the night we had dinner with Robyn and her family, which I have already told you about.
Saturday, was our last day in London and it was a beautiful day! It was cool, but sunny. I refused to spend my day in the tube or inside! Today we decided to just walk around. I conceded to Gerry that we would begin our walk at Trafalgar Square. We spent at least an hour walking around the square, just people watching. We also took advantage of a music installation that was there – called “BeOpen- Creative Think Tank”. It was a circular construction of speakers, and we walked inside and listened to a piece of guitar music written especially for that “building”. Think of an Oreo cookie – a black cylinder from the outside – with a white room inside. The white walls and ceiling are all made from huge speakers). The sound came out of all the different speakers at different points and it was wonderful to hear.
There were millions of people walking around that morning. Millions. No exaggeration! We had to elbow our way through the crowds. We left the square and followed the hoard down Whitehall Street. A big crowd was milling around the horse guards, so we did too. Then we continued to walk down to the Thames.
Opportunity presents itself and we jump! Our boat trip! Yes, finally, we got on a boat ride on the Thames. Not the one all the way to Hampton Court that we had hoped for, but this one fit our schedule (just an hour) and we got a discount with our tube tickets. Who could resist? Not your intrepid and dedicated blogger, nor the sidekick she drags along!
We did enjoy it! It was cool, but the commentary was thorough (we couldn’t always find the things he was describing!). We traveled up to the Tower Bridge, and then hopped off (it was actually a hop on- hop off boat, that we hadn’t planned to hop off. But we did!
The Tower of London brings back so many memories of being here 11 years ago with Oscar and Gerry! We didn’t visit it again, but we did take pictures. We also stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the south side of the bridge – its back wall is the bridge itself! Nice location, good service, and good food, too! The name was from the Canterbury Tales, so we even had a literary spark to the meal!
Following lunch, we meandered down the Thames, back the way we came, enjoying the views and the warm sun. The City of London is just a mass of modern buildings that didn’t prove to be very interesting after all (we had already visited St. Paul’s) so we concentrated on the walk along the water. Our destination was the Millennium Bridge.
The Millennium Bridge was already built the last time we were here in 2001, but I didn’t remember anything about it. Walking over it was sort of fun – Behind us was St. Paul’s Cathedral, and in front was the Tate Modern. We were headed to the Tate Modern to meet Robyn.
The museum is huge – even more imposing inside than out. We walked around to the main entrance. We were supposed to meet Robyn at “the top of the ramp” – so off we went in search of a ramp.
We found one – In a big empty (but for people) space that is used for huge installations. So, It seems Robyn must be waiting at the top of it. But wait. What’s going on?? There are rows and rows of people walking v e r y s l o w l y down the ramp. We watch for a while (secretly hoping for a flash mob!). They walk to the end of the space, then turn around and walk a little faster back up the ramp, then turn and walk even faster back down, and finally run back up! Meanwhile I went and found Robin and we were at the top of the ramp waiting to see if Gerry (who I had lost track of earlier) would show up. He did. But then we were joined by a fellow who proceeded to tell us all about his father and his father’s good qualities that he hoped he would be able to impart to his two children…Are you confused and wondering what that was all about? So were we! He was part of this group of people walking up and down the ramp, and now running around in circles and flapping their arms and skipping. It was art! What can I say?
With Robyn, we took a guided, by her, walk around Southwark. We saw the reconstructed Globe Theater (from the outside) and then strolled through the market. The market was closing up, but there was still lots to see. Certainly enough to know that on our next visit, we’ll make a point of walking there again. We ended up at The George Inn – one of the oldest, if not the oldest, pub in London! There were a ton of young people outside in the courtyard drinking their pints” at picnic tables. We opted for inside and upstairs – quieter – very civilized – but just what I had hoped for: A pub experience. With a bit of history, as a bonus. It has been so fun to be reading Rutherford’s “London” at the same time as visiting the city. It is so fun to see the places come alive. Just after this visit to Southwark, it became a major focus of the part of the book I was reading!
After dinner, we said goodbye to Robyn and headed back to our hotel to pack and prepare for the trip to Lanzarote the next day.
So, final comments about London…Where to begin?
It was great coming back after such a long time, and wonderful to remember all the places we visited with the kids 11 years ago. It was wonderful to see Robyn. She was a major memory from the original trip in 2001, and definitely will be a best memory from this trip, too.
I liked being here at this time of year. It was cool, but sunny most of the time – great for being outdoors and walking.
I did not remember that there were so many foreigners in London, but Robyn hit it on the head when she described London as a truly international city. She told us that 1/3 of the people who live in London, were not even born in the UK! You can see that clearly on the streets- yet what is ironic is that whether your face is Asian or African or Arab, your English is the Queen’s English! Naturally, you hear lots of other languages and accents, too. It is truly international.
One of my strongest impressions will always be the fashion impression. Remember, I ‘m from the Twiggy generation!
Let’s start with the shoes. When I tell you anything goes – you must believe me. The footwear is itself worthy of a photo essay! I wanted to do one, and started taking pictures on Saturday when we were at Trafalgar Square, but then I realized that the really fantastic shoes (as in “fantasy-like”) are worn on the weekdays…to work! Go figure: I was wearing my hiking boots and I didn’t cause a single head to turn! Try this when you go: Pack the most absurd shoes you still have in your closet and wear them with something that doesn’t go in the slightest, and see if you can get any looks in London. I bet you can’t!
Now London is fashionable, so be sure you have a pair of tight pants and a small jacket. That seems to be what all the women in London are wearing this year (men too, as you’ll read below). If you’re young, you’ll also need a short, but full skirt. The top doesn’t need to match, but it needs to be worn tucked in. If you’re male, go for ankle-length slim leg pants, with contrasting socks and funny shoes. Your jacket should be small too – or not small, but tight! But the best part is, even if you don’t have any of these things, you an walk around in London without a worry. Anything goes. Enjoy it!
From here, we go to Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands.
And I leave you with this final picture of London – The Tower Bridge:
From here, we go to Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands.