Staying in Paddington, we're not at the center of everything, but we're right at three major Tube lines and the railway station. Transportation is pretty quick no matter where you want to go.
Charing Cross lets you out at Trafalgar Square, bright sunlight, glittering fountains, humanity everywhere. Musicians and other street performers clamored for attention -- and money -- and sidewalk artists busily chalked flags on the pavement in the hope that coins would be dropped on them by patriotic Australians, Americans, Germans, etc.
My favorite performer was outside the National Gallery, where we stood for a few minutes, waiting for them to open, watching a 10K race flow past. He was an older black man, a dancer, yogi and contortionist of some skill, who managed at the end to fold himself neatly into a clear plastic box not much bigger than a cat carrier. I'll never think of myself as flexible again, I thought, as I put a few coins in his hat.
|This one just pulled you in. The photo|
doesn't do it justice
We've got a Sunflower at the Philly art museum. I'm not sure if the one in London is better, or if I simply like the way it's hung -- on a gray wall in a room lit from above, it practically pulses with light and drew everyone in the room toward it, even people who were saying, "I don't really like Van Gogh . . . oh, look at this one."
|Never seen Van Gogh's crabs before|
|Glowing radioactive sunflowers|
Apparently I read too much, but we ended up having a good discussion and I don't think I annoyed her too much.
It was surprising how much London has changed in the 20 years since I've been there. I don't mean major landmarks like the Eye and all the glass monstrosities springing up everywhere, but even small things like the interiors of museums. I had pretty specific memories of the Portrait Gallery, and things were not where I left them.
There's a whole new section at the end of portraits from the two war eras, and they're hung on clear walls in a very bright space. I miss the more "traditional" museum approach, but I have to admit it worked really well for the more modern paintings. (If Richard III had been hanging out on a glass wall, I might have gotten a little grumbly).
|Constable - can't you just smell the air?|
Once we were done with culture consumption, we wandered around for a while longer, in and out of shops and along random streets, just looking at buildings and speculating what it would be like to live there.
We ended up at Covent Garden just as a brief rain started, so we ducked into the covered market, which I remembered from years ago as having a nice mix of antiques and other goodies. Not so much anymore -- it was all pricy tat, aimed at tourists, not an aged knicknack to be seen. We waited out the rain and moved on toward the flat, to take a little down time before dinner.
|He's Henry VIII, he is!|
|Richard III. (Not guilty, says I)|
Next time, roasted goat shoulder. Next time.
|Anne Boleyn. My entry point into|
|Elizabeth I. Hard-headed woman|
|Robert, Earl of Leicester. The portrait|
that got me in trouble with the guide
|Victoria and Albert in Anglo-Saxon|
garb. They were cute.
|Random Victorian gentlemen. (Judging|
V&A's costume competition?)