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TR: solo again in London and Wales - more art, history, & literature

TR: solo again in London and Wales - more art, history, & literature

Old Jul 9th, 2013, 03:49 PM
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TR: solo again in London and Wales - more art, history, & literature

WHY: to visit/explore those museums and points of interest that I had missed on my previous visits to Britain

WHY NOT: still not interested in shopping, fine dining, or serious photography – did take a few snaps on my IPhone though

WHEN: five nights Monday, June 24 – Friday, June 28 –solo in London, followed by seven nights on one of those much maligned coach tours through central England with three nights in WALES which ended on Saturday, July 6

WEATHER: great for London, really hot a few days, with a some scattered showers here and there – brully up one or twice – no downpours

GETTING THERE: Virgin Atlantic from Boston to Heathrow, my first time with this airline which I really enjoyed. More leg room in my view. Then HOTEL BY BUS, a shared shuttle service which cost £22 prepaid. Two other parties were also dropped off. Again, the traffic was horrendous so trip was quite lengthy. Glad I wasn't paying for a cab!

HOTEL: returned to the STRAND PALACE within a five minute walk from Trafalgar Square. Arrived around noon. Although check-in was at 2, I said that I would take “anything.” So I took a single “with shower” on the first floor. Now I am not fussy, but this room was just too small and somewhat damp. Later that afternoon, I made my concerns known. The hotel was completely booked that night, but I was told to pack my bags in the morning and I would be moved to a larger “club single” on the second floor the next day. Problem solved.

MONDAY EVENING, JUNE 24: After a few hours rest, I ventured to nearby CHARING CROSS STATION to purchase my first OYSTER CARD for £35 which I used for the Tube, train, and busses during the next five days. Actually I was quite proud of myself, never having used the Tube on previous visits – relying mostly on foot power with an occasional cab.

I hopped on the Northern Line to Euston Square. My destination was the nearby BRITISH LIBRARY, a huge modern brick edifice, opened in 1997 containing some 14 million volumes including a copy of the Magna Carta and Shakespeare’s first folio. The Library was just closing at six, but I had come to attend a lecture (pre-booked for £5) offered to complement its present exhibit called PROPAGANDA POWER and PERSUASION. I chatted beforehand with a lovely older couple who attend talks there on a regular basis – definitely Bloomsbury types.

Don’t let the lecture’s title throw you off - “Not a Day for Soundbites: the Craft of the Political Speech.” The four panelists included former senior Laborite MP Bob Marshall Andrews and former chief speechwriter for Tony Blair, Philip Collins. The latter made it clear that he had joined the Blair camp “after” the decision to invade Iraq. Sparks were flying in a manner characteristic of Parliamentary debate. Current Prime Minister David Cameron did not escape unscathed either as panelists analyzed soundbites from Nelson Mandela, JFK, Tony Blair, and Barack Obama among others. The audience was over 200 strong and the 1 ½ hour presentation passed quickly. While my taste in music and live performance is limited, I really enjoyed this high end interchange by British journalist and politicians.

I ducked out before the inevitable book signings. Back on the Tube to Charing Cross, I spotted the Golden Arches on the Strand. Realizing that I hadn’t eaten for some 20 hours, I enjoyed a McChicken sandwich and coke. Some things never change.

I was happy to be back in London…
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 04:33 PM
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Tell us more! And thanks for sharing so far!
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 04:58 PM
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Irishface, I appreciate your interest. More to follow. What is frustrating is that I could not do ALL that I had intended, but I guess that is to be expected, eh?
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 05:31 PM
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Can't wait to read more. Your solo travel is so inspiring, done with such élan.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 05:38 PM
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Great beginning. Like that you scoped out the lecture/ panel. I'm following along.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 07:12 PM
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So excited to see another trip report! I can't wait to have a moment to enjoy it!
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 12:52 AM
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Travelchat, oh, I like that word “elan.”

Hi CW, you would have enjoyed the lecture – something like you might hear at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Many other talks around the theme of politics and propaganda are scheduled through September, including one by our own Michael Dukakis on the subject of elections.

http://www.bl.uk/

Thank you, Kelsey22, I have enjoyed reading about your excursions also.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 03:50 AM
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Glad you enjoyed the talk.

But Bob Marshall-Andrews most certainly isn't "a senior Labourite": he's a barrister with a briefish career in real politics and an unapologetically independent cast of mind that led lots of senior members of the Labour party (in and out of government) to call for his expulsion from the Parliamentary party.

I'm not at all sure he's a party member any more: he certainly plays no role in party affairs, and he rarely (if ever) in his active political years made a crafted political speech. Though I'd love to see a copy of the speech he must have made to the Medway party in the early 1990s to get adopted as candidate. He probably handled hustings well too. His fame was - ironically - for clever throwaway remarks (as we called them before they got rebranded as soundbites). His probably WERE spontaneous.

Your panel was 100% journalist: I suspect the absence of any politicians might have been because the subject isn't really one politicians like talking about.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 06:15 AM
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Hi FlannerUK,

Thank you for the clarification. I guess I used the word “senior” because Bob Marshall Andrews was (or really looked) older than the three other panelists and they seemed to defer somewhat to his wit. He reminded me of an aging Shakespearean actor with his silver hair and rough-hewn features. The guy was entertaining though.

Tony Blair took quite a raking in this discussion. Sorry I missed Alastair Campbell’s talk at the BL on May 17 as part of this same series. Didn’t Campbell say recently that Winston Churchill was a bigger liar in wartime than Blair in his day? Now that’s quite a stretch!
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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Following with interest. You and I are kindred spirits, lateday!
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 12:14 PM
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Hi Chgo Girl,

True, we are kindred spirits. I recall your great report from last October with the varied Victorian sites you visited in London including the Linnean Society at Burlington House. That led me to the Royal Academy of Art at Burlington House which I will describe shortly. It also gave me the idea of looking up available talks like the one I enjoyed at the British Library during my stay. Merci.

Have you any plans to return to London or elsewhere? I feel a bit “tripped out” at this point but that always fades with time, eh? Thanks for following along.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 02:19 PM
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I'll have to look for talks at the BL - My next visit is in October and none are currently listed but it might be a bit early.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 03:01 PM
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Didn’t Campbell say recently that Winston Churchill was a bigger liar in wartime than Blair in his day? Now that’s quite a stretch!>>

even if you accept this thesis, whereas Churchill was/may have been lying to pull the wool over the eyes of the enemy, Blair was allegedly lying to pull the wool over the eyes of Parliament and the electorate.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 03:37 PM
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Hi JanisJ,

The PROPAGANDA POWER and PERSUASION exhibit ends on September 17. Not sure what is on next at the British Library. But given the size of their auditorium and the large audience, I would assume that similar lectures/discussions are held on a regular basis.

Glad to hear that you are returning to London. I also found free lectures at the GUILDHALL LIBRARY, but I could not make those although they seemed quite interesting.

Hi Annhig,

I agree, “Blair was allegedly lying to pull the wool over the eyes of Parliament and the electorate.” I just couldn’t believe that Blair would ever be taken in by George Bush’s obsession with attacking Iraq. It must be a bitter pill for the British public given their sacrifice in blood and treasure.

But on a lighter note, notice that I took your advice, bought and Oyster card, and traveled easily throughout London during my days there.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 03:39 PM
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Thanks Latedaytraveler for a fascinating read. We haven't been to the British Library yet so hopefully can see it on our next trip. Signing up for a lecture sounds really interesting not for DS but for me anyway and maybe DH.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 05:05 PM
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Europeannovice, thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, the British Library was closed when I arrived for the talk and I did not return. Just couldn’t do it all!

But I did notice many lectures at various museums including the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery. Also saw some talks at the Tate Britain, another venue I didn’t make.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 06:34 PM
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TUESDAY, JUNE 25: After a substantial “full English” breakfast at the hotel (the first of many), I proceeded about ten minutes down the Strand to the COURTAULD GALLERY (£6) which houses one of the most celebrated, small Impressionist collections in Britain. I had read about this museum after my last London sojourn. I guess the word “gallery” threw me off originally – sounded like a high end retail establishment.

The Gallery is housed in an 18th century mansion within the larger complex of SOMERSET HOUSE. The collection was the gift of Samuel Courtauld in 1932, a wealthy industrialist and art enthusiast, who favored Impressionist paintings. A quality assortment of Medieval and Renaissance art, much of it religious, is displayed on the first floor along with 16th – 18th century works including those of Rubens.

The second floor features the Courtauld’s iconic A BAR AT THE FOLIES-BERGERE by Edouard Manet, his last major work exhibited in Paris in 1882. In the painting a young barmaid with an alluring figure and wry expression stands behind the bar. In front of her is an assortment of wine bottles and a crystal dish containing oranges. The mirror behind her catches her reflection and that of a top-hatted gentleman to whom she is speaking. Critics believe that this work “exemplifies Manet's commitment to Realism in its detailed representation of a contemporary scene.”

But let’s move on to enjoy Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait with a Bandaged Ear” (the result of self-mutilation), Cezanne’s “The Card Players,” and Gaugin’s primitive female nude called “Nevermore” which features a black bird in the scene – shades of Poe? And we should not forget the post-impressionist and more modern numbers by Picasso, Dufy, Braque, and Modigliani on the third floor. The Courtauld is a delightfully manageable collection to view. Their website offers videos describing the collection and a virtual tour www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/3d-gallery/

SOMERSET HOUSE, of which the Courtauld Gallery is but a small part, is a sprawling neoclassical complex, originally a Tudor palace, now a major arts and cultural complex on the Strand. The central courtyard features 55 “dancing” fountains in summer and a skating rink in winter that have been featured in many films. Free walking tours of the Somerset House’s grounds and buildings to “discover evidence of Tudor intrigue and Georgian Enlightenment” are offered regularly.

Under sunny skies, I strolled back through Trafalgar Square and up to Piccadilly to the ROYAL ACADEMY OF ART (RA ticket £11.50 for adult gift aid) lodged in BURLINGTON HOUSE, a palatial complex with inviting public spaces not unlike those of Somerset House. The daily tour was just beginning. I was the sole participant along with a guide in training. The docent was lovely, explaining the founding of the academy by an 1768 act of KING GEORGE III (he of the “late unpleasantness” in the Colonies) to raise the professional status or artists and to foster an appreciation of the arts among the public.

Upstairs we were taken through a few elegant rooms with paintings including William Powell Frith’s panorama “A Private View of the Royal Academy, 1881” with stylishly dressed bon vivants attentively surveying walls full of paintings at the RA, the outstanding figure being that of Oscar Wilde – before his fall from grace. I recently saw this painting in a bio I read of Wilde’s wife (yes, he had one) whose name appropriately was Constance. Our docent was delighted that the door of the board room, usually closed to the public, was ajar so we stepped in to view the self-portraits of the RA’s first president SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS (1723-1792) and his successor American born BENJAMIN WEST (1792-1805). Curiously Reynolds painting seemed patterned on Michelangelo’s self-portrait that hangs in the National Gallery while West’s has the undeniable cast of studies of George Washington.

I then moved on the RA’s yearly cornerstone on its main level - the SUMMER EXHIBITION, June 10- August 18, now in its 245th year. It is billed as “the world’s largest open-submission exhibition, displaying more than 1,000 works in all styles and media, including painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, architectural models and film.” Just about all works are for sale and what fun it was to view this colorful panoply with catalogue in hand checking the prices as I went. The event was well attended, considered a mainstay of the “London season.”

I took a breather in the outer courtyard of Burlington House before trekking back to Trafalgar Square. On the way to my hotel, I entered ST. MARTIN’S IN THE FIELDS CHURCH on the north east corner of the square for the first time although I had passed it often. Designed by James Gibbs in the neoclassical style around 1722, the interior is beautiful. I read later that the design was widely copied in America – no wonder it reminded me of the Old South Meeting House and King’s Chapel in Boston.

Time to crash a while at the Strand Palace before heading out again – this time for a thoroughly modern experience – visiting THE SHARD….
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 06:56 PM
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Never enough time to do it all.

When we went the first time to London, DS spotted an art class at the National Portrait Gallery that was just about to begin when we arrived so we joined in on that. He had a lot of fun in the art class. By the time the class finished, it was time for us to go for dinner and the museum would have been closing soon anyway, so we also went in but didn't tour the museum. Similar to your British Library experience. As long as you enjoyed the lecture you can revisit the library another time with another visit. Both DS and DH had more fun laughing at my poor attempt at art during the class than they would have looking at the portraits on the walls.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 11:30 PM
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Just discovered this. You went to some of my favourite off-the-beaten-track places in London. We might even have been at some of them at the same time! Looking forward to your travels in Wales.
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 12:16 AM
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Very interesting!
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