London Travelogue: Part II
June 25, 2014
6/5 Thursday Day Three
I wake up at 5am, but sleep until 5:30. Walk to the Gherkin building, which isn’t too hard to navigate to and from. There is a security guy at the main entrance so I don’t try to walk in, but I walk into a newsstand just so I can say I went in. I see a coffee place, but it is closed so I go across the street to a coffee stand across the street at Costa and sit outside with a vanilla latte. Coming back I dash across a street and notice several memorials dedicated to people who died on this same street.
After breakfast, I go back to my room and find I have no power (not in an existential sense but in terms of actual electricity), which is resolved when I return in the evening. I don’t know what it was, but I know I have to insert my door key to get power, which I didn’t have to do before. I wonder if someone rigged something.
We go to the Earl’s Court stop and visit Kew Gardens. Lots of nice greenhouses, one of them with stairs to a wraparound walkway. Visit various bioregions. A peacock struts around outside. Azalea Garden. Bamboo Garden. Pagoda with a view and entrance fee that I never even see. Skip the gin section, though I seriously consider it, but I want to make sure I hit the treetop part. There is a flight of steps leading to a metal walkway eye level with the treetops. It was a real highlight of the gardens.
On to the museums. One hour for three museums and lunch. Thai at Thai Square restaurant (voted best restaurant of the year 2012), so I guess I got lucky. Waiting for 2 satays at 1:42.
“Whither thou goest, America, in thy shiny car in the night?” – Jack Kerouac and “our life is a succession of Paradises successively denied.” – Samuel Beckett. These were in the Victoria and Albert museum, which has a cool glass design above the information desk in the entrance part. Glass section. Living dolls. A guy has bought one, put it in various poses and taken pictures of it. He believes its personality is revealed to him over the days. People’s clutter in an exhibit titled Consumption. Burger King crown I find and wear around.
Natural History museum. See a butterfly exhibit tent outside that one must pay for, but I don’t have time to spare and I did in Washington with my wife. Dinosaur skeleton.
Foucault. Complete circulatory system, I think one of ten in the world (I arrange the picture angle so that it looks like there are glowing eyes). Science museum. Steam engines. Moon rock. Lovelock exhibit that I don’t have time to see. I mostly skim above the surface, but somehow I manage to spend at least a little time at all three museums.
Then it’s on to Hyde Park. And Royal Albert Hall right across the street. Very green and fresh.
Peter Pan Statue. Kensington gardens.
Serge says only the queen can own swans. They are the reincarnations of dead soldiers.
Garfunkel’s for dinner. Bangers and mash. Ugh! Pass. Admittedly and proudly I can be a somewhat picky eater.
6/6 Friday Day Four
Get up at 7. Get some more cash. Aldgate Coffeehouse. I am the only one there. Then breakfast.
Off to Freud’s House in the Knightsbridge area where he lived for the last 16 years of his life. Quiet, leafy neighborhood. We start in the back garden that has a circle of roses ringed by pentas and such. He was very much into archaeology and compared the process of psychoanalysis to it, which makes a lot of sense. We go in two groups, and I am in the second. After the first floor with Freud’s office, I sit outside and I think this is when Serge tells me about his cats and dog. Upstairs there are two videos that are pretty slow but have video and audio of the actual Freud. Someone is mowing the grass and closing the windows doesn’t help except to block out the breeze. There are various books for sale in the gift shop. I get an Id shot glass (to keep my change in, of course). Kim mentions a Dali portrait of Freud that I didn’t see, so I go back upstairs and she shows it to me. I am glad I saw it.
Over to Abbey Road. I cross over it the first time without even realizing it. We all stop and shoot pictures and recross the road. See Abbey House.
Serge tells us that 150 years ago when the tube was built 90% of the population could not read or write. Color tiles and visual markers were used for orientation and navigation.
Lunch at Pizza Express. I get a good margherita pizza. While walking, I see some ancient lost and found items in a window.
Regent’s Park. We see some soccer and further in the distance, cricket. Serge says that what sport you watch determines your class. Working class, football. Middle, rugby. High middle, cricket. Upper, polo.
Camden Lock. Kind of a hippy market. Inhabition Coffee Shop. Vanilla coffee and a water. The people speak French so the bill doesn’t get divided, but we work it out.
We walk through an alley with at least seven bookstores. Jubilee Walkway. I get a magnet for one pound with three London scenes. Some of the students have tea from the Tea Palace, but it is too late for me to try and find it.
Daawat for the meal, the best Explorica meal on the entire tour. Nice restaurant with chicken curry that doesn’t have very much spice but is still good and flavorful. Good chocolate dessert with strawberry and some sort of sauce. Waterstone Books, Europe’s largest bookstore. I don’t get anything, but it is still nice to walk around in and they have substantial poetry and literary criticism sections. The poetry section is the second largest I have even scene (City Lights upstairs poetry room in San Francisco claims that high honor) and the largest literary criticism section I have ever encountered.
Come back and some folks get stuck in the elevator for awhile because it does not completely align with the floor, but they keep calm, mind the gap, and carry on.
6/7 Saturday Day Five
Get up at 7am. Nothing open. Breakfast 7:30. Rain in the air. The weather has been very fickle, but most of the bad weather has been during the first part of the trip. There have been large sections of great weather, sometimes for the entire day and night. Notting Hill and stop to Portobello Market. Rain. I get off the beaten track and find a café. Latte and large OJ at 202 after a big walk because I missed it going and find it coming back the other way when I changed sides.
Green Park. The weather gets very nice.
Buckingham Palace. Final run through for some event regarding the queen. So no changing of the guard and no tour, but this is quite exceptional.
Haymarket. Originally this was the place where you would buy hay for your horses. So, as Serge says, since horses were the main form of transportation at one point, it was sort of a huge gas station.
Caffe Rouge. Croque Monsieur and frites (fries). It is ham bits instead of slices of ham, but it is good anyway.
Sitting in the square listening to music through my headphones. Watching people outside while listening to music is like watching television with the sound muted. You get another version of reality than that which is normally presented to you. Everyone looks so unnecessarily serious.
Harrod’s Knightbridge. Serge says you can literally buy an elephant here. I get a tin of green tea after putting down a tin of Empire tea that is one pound less. And I get a strawberry cheesecake donut that is two and a half pounds. See a piano for half a million pounds, so I guess that donut was a real bargain. Numerous food places on the first level. Furniture, clothes, everything material you could think of really.
Princess Di shrine at the bottom. We find it after we go down one too many floors.
Royal Court of Justice.
~Dr. William Nesbitt
See photos from the trip on Flickr