Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

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

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

Old Jul 11th, 2013, 01:03 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,552
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So enjoying hearing about your trip and glad to know you've discover the Tube! Though with your hotel location lots of stuff is within walking distance. I do hope you made it over to Lincoln's Inn and the Soane Museum which is close by. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip. We saw the Propaganda exhibit in May and enjoyed it, great to catch a talk while you're in London.
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2013, 02:17 AM
  #22  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Europeannovice,

That sounds like fun, joining an art class at the National Portrait Gallery! How old is you son may I ask? During my stay I made note of so many venues which I thought that my grandchildren, a boy 13 and a girl almost 9, would enjoy in London. I am trying to talk my daughter and her husband into taking them there soon.

Gertie3751, you wrote: “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!” When were you there? This was my 4th visit to London so I had done many of the major attractions like the Churchill War Rooms and the Eye. But I always return to the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square which are only a 6-7 minute walk from my hotel.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2013, 03:24 AM
  #23  
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 830
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for you post. Isnt ST. MARTIN’S IN THE FIELDS CHURCH lovely. I stopped by for a lunchtime concert. Then I grabbed a lunch in the basement café (the crypts).

Latedaytraveler, you are now swaying me, I might have to skip next year's Provence and Cinque Terre to go back to the UK!
kelsey22 is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2013, 04:33 AM
  #24  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cathinjoetown, thanks for following along…

Welltraveledbrit, I did stroll by Lincoln’s Inn, such lovely grounds. But I did not make to the Soane Museum unfortunately. I did hear quite a bit about Soane’s banking success though when visiting the Bank of England Museum. I also had watched a video on Youtube about that intriguing Soane museum before my trip.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2013, 04:48 AM
  #25  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Somerset House was a favorite find on our last trip to London proper, together with the Courthold Gallery. We were spurred on by a London friend who urged us not to miss it!

Nice report. We also love, love, love Wales , so I'll be coming along for the rude!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2013, 08:09 AM
  #26  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Taconictraveler, yes, Somerset House is quite intriguing. I did not notice it either when I spend 5 days at the same hotel on the Strand in the summer of 2011. The Courtauld Gallery is a gem.

Our stay in Wales was brief, but oh, the castles, history, and zillions of sheep in sleepy meadows. Welcome aboard.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2013, 05:58 PM
  #27  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
TUESDAY, JUNE 25 (cont.) During my previous visits to London in the summers of 2010 (rudely aborted by a broken wrist) and 2011, I noticed the construction of THE SHARD, the city’s skinny, pyramidal, glass covered multi-use skyscraper near London Bridge, now the tallest structure in the European Union (the-shard.com). The viewing gallery and exposed observation deck were opened to the public in February 2013.

The concierge suggested that I take the train, not the Tube, from Charing Cross two stops to London Bridge station. No problem with my Oyster card handy. I was surprised though at the number of commuters (it was then around six o’clock) who ran wildly through the stations, many in high heels and smart business dress, to make their connections. The trip was short through graffiti covered rail passages with one brief glimpse of Big Ben framed by the London Eye. Arriving at London Bridge station, I looked around but couldn’t spot the Shard until I stared directly above me and there it was!

Approaching the entrance, I was directed by a dapper doorman to the rear entrance for those going to the observation floors. The staff inside were super friendly as we were quickly whisked through security after purchasing our tickets – for a hefty £24.95, roughly $40 US.

The ascent to the 69th floor was swift and painless. The crowd – including an international group of business men - was sparse at this hour. An optimum viewing time would be around dusk, but that would have been a bit late for me in high summer. The viewing floors offer a magnificent four-sided panorama of greater London with electronic microscopes to zero in on particular sites. No seating or other accommodations – just glass. A quick flight of stairs brings viewers to an upper level that is partially open to the elements.

Looking directly down, the Thames looked muddy as I noticed the HMS Belfast, the Royal Navy cruiser which appeared like a toy ship from that height. Many other structures caught my eye including the ultra- modern ovoid shaped City Hall, also on the revitalized Southbank, opened around 2005.

This, of course, is the bailiwick of the colorful, irreverent MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON. Recall, he told then Presidential candidate Mitt Romney what-for when the latter made a few “constructive” remarks about Johnson’s running of the 2012 Summer Olympics. The wily blonde-haired Johnson is also quite writer. Just read his JOHNSON’S LIFE OF LONDON, a play on Samuel Johnson bio about the city he loves. I must say that Johnson’s vocabulary in the book is so extensive that I ended up having to look up many words including “chivvied,” “feoffee,” and “tivate” to name a few. Check him out on Youtube – always amusing.

By the way, the City Hall has a café open daily to the public according to one of my favorite London web sites tiredoflondon.com. This modernistic building, described by one wit as a “glass testicle” was one of those places that I hoped to visit but did not. Too bad, but I did see it from above.

Leaving the Shard, I trained back to Trafalgar Square (Charing Cross) and had dinner at the CRYPT RESTAURANT at St. Martin’s in the Fields Church, with “beautiful 18th century architecture brick-vaulted ceilings, historic tombstones beneath your feet and delicious home-cooked food.” A winning combination: http://www.stmartin-in-the-fields.or...-in-the-crypt/

The Crypt Restaurant is accessed through a glass-domed entry immediately beside the church which was opened in 2006. A fight of marble stairs (an elevator is also available) leads to a gift shop, meeting area, and rest stop before entering the vaulted crypt restaurant beneath St. Martin’s Church. The menu is rather “earthy crunch” (locally sourced) and good, with wine by the glass and beer available. Self- service cafeteria style. But it can become a bit noisy as folks move their chairs against the grave stones on the floor.

Drifted through Trafalgar Square again – so much to see – before returning to the Strand Palace. Tomorrow THE CITY …
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2013, 07:30 PM
  #28  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,556
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Latedaytraveler, add me to your list of enthusiastic readers. You had me hooked at the lecture you attended - from your eloquent description I think it's something I'd have enjoyed too, followed by your visit to the Courtauld. More than a decade ago I attended an exhibition from the Courtauld Collection that was hosted by our own Art Gallery of Ontario and throughly enjoyed it. Your report of your visit and details of the wonderful small Impressionist pieces to be seen there reminded me why I was so enthralled by it.

Last October I reunited with school friends from across Europe and Canada who hadn't seen each other in 30 years, for a four day weekend in London and the crypt under St. Martin in the Fields was the venue for a wonderful dinner of laughter and reminiscing on one of our evenings together. The environment and atmosphere was exactly as you describe.... as was my first view of The Shard (by looking UP and not across) from Burrough Market.
(FYI I also attended a since closed exhibition at the British Museum called "Shakespeare: Staging the World" about the increasing prominence of London as a world city at the time, as reflected in various Shakespeare plays and I think you might have found the eclectic mix of art, artifact and written word conveying the ideas interesting too.)

I've been to and traveled through Wales 3 times so far (thanks to relatives there who also love to travel) and I love it. Last visit included three days in the Gower Peninsula which was stunning. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures and impressions !
Mathieu is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2013, 10:47 PM
  #29  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,020
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi, latedaytraveler - As always, I'm thoroughly enjoying your writing! Good for you attending a political lecture (it does sound fascinating). Your visits to Courtauld Gallery and the Shard are equally interesting. I'm looking forward to further installments!
susan001 is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 02:12 AM
  #30  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Mathieu,

Thank you for your enthusiastic response. I am sure that you would have enjoyed the lecture- loved that British “public school” repartee. The subject of Tony Blair’s magnetism, in the face of his ill-chosen decision to join the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was also a subtext in the conversation. Aristotle was thrown around quite a bit too – it was that kind of discussion.

Glad you were reminded of your fun time at the Crypt and your sighting of the Shard from a distance. London is an exciting place to visit. My time in Wales was short but I loved the countryside and the historic castles. Also enjoyed checking out the public statuary of Welsh greats like PM David Lloyd George and early supporter of the British Health System Aneurin Bevin.

More to follow…
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 04:32 AM
  #31  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 1,313
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Latedaytraveler--My son was 10 when we went that year to the art class at the National Portrait Gallery. Basically DH and DS were doing real well and we were comparing our masterworks. They started laughing a bit out loud. The teacher came over and said to them "come on now, it can't be all that bad". Then she looked at my work and said "OHH--I'll deal with you later".

We just happened upon the class. I highly recommend if you have the time. It was fun and proved my non artistic abilities. I appreciate art--just can't draw.

We also loved the John Soanne Museum with the Hogarth paintings. Next time you visit, try to see that museum. It is very quirky but really fascinating.

Enjoying your trip report!
europeannovice is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 05:01 AM
  #32  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Susan001, thanks for tagging along.

Europeannovice, what other London attractions did your son enjoy at ten? Again, planning for my grandchildren whose parents are thinking of taking them in the foreseeable future.

Sorry that I missed the Hogarths at the Soane too. Thank you for your interest…
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 07:47 AM
  #33  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
************************************************** ****
Footnote to THE SHARD- I just came across an article from the LONDON TIMES of July 6 which I had stuffed in my suitcase entitled “Room at the top as Shard fails to sell the high life.” The viewing level described above is only one part of the multi-complex, the others being residential floors (not open), a hotel (now delayed), 25 floors of office space (not yet rented), and floors of restaurants/bars some of which have opened to mixed reviews.

The developer Irvine Sellar who has “spent the last 14 years turning the Shard into a glass-panelled towering reality” – with a £1.4 billion loan from Qatar – remains confident that all will be well. Sellar concludes, “The Shard has been a long time coming. But this is a building that is going to last for a few centuries.” So be it.

THE SHARD enjoyed further notoriety yesterday (July 11, 2013) when six female Greenpeace climbers scaled the structure to protest Shell’s (whose nearby headquarters are reflected in the Shard’s glass front) drilling for oil in the Artic. These gals accessed the property without permission from the roof of the adjacent London Bridge Station. Fortunately, they made it to the top, “making their point” in a manner of speaking.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 05:23 PM
  #34  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 1,313
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I love your eloquent descriptions. Keeps the reader captivated.

DS's favorite places on that trip were the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace--do try to time your visit with the live kitchen demonstrations. He enjoyed climbing to the top of St Paul's Cathedral. He also liked the Benjamin Franklin House and doing a brass rubbing at the Crypt in St Martin's in the Field.

He also would have fully enjoyed the show Oliver if it were not for contracting food poisoning and being stuck in the bathroom during the ending. He had eaten a very bad shrimp salad that was laden with a heavy mayonnaise. Yuk in more ways than one.

Did you like the Bank of England museum? Would you recommend?

On our next trip we hope to visit the IWM Duxford and maybe Blethchley Park--they have a national computing museum and the spy museum where they broke the code of the enigma during WWII. Both places sound fascinating.
europeannovice is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 05:29 PM
  #35  
cw
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 3,648
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Still following along and enjoying your report. Next visit we'll have to check out the Shard.
cw is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 06:03 PM
  #36  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi again Europeannovice,

Thank you for sharing your son’s interests. I am sure that climbing to the top of St. Paul’s would provide great exercise for a young man. That is why I want my daughter and her husband, not myself, to take the grandchildren to London. Sorry that your boy had food poisoning – it can happen anywhere.

Yes, I loved the Bank of England Museum which I will be describing next. Kids would especially love being able to “handle” a 28 pound gold brick – behind a secure glass globe, of course. Blethchley Park sounds like fun and has such historical significance. Has your family done the Churchill War Rooms?

I also visited the Benjamin Franklin House near Charing Cross and saw their historical interpretation –excellent.
Will you be returning to London in the near future?

CW, thanks for following along. So much to do and see in London. Do you expect to return soon?
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 06:18 PM
  #37  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 1,313
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am sure your grandchildren would love London. The parents and kids can climb to the top and you can admire St Paul from the ground floor while you wait for them to come back down if you decide to go with them. We enjoyed St Paul more than Westminster Abbey because Westminster Abbey was super crowded with wall to wall people. Whereas, St Paul had plenty of visitors but it didn't feel that overwhelmingly crowded.

Looking forward to more of your trip report including the description of the Bank of England museum.

Yes, we did do the Churchill War Rooms and really enjoyed it-especially the time line in the room.

DH and DS went to visit the Benjamin Franklin House while I explored the National Gallery so I missed Frankin's house but they both said they enjoyed it very much.

We hope to visit the UK again next year. There are so many wonderful places to visit. You can spend weeks there and still not see/do it all.
europeannovice is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2013, 07:05 PM
  #38  
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 1,619
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi latedaytraveler,

Loving the trip report.

May I ask what the Strand Palace cost you per night? And did you book direct, or how?

Many thanks!
scotlib is offline  
Old Jul 13th, 2013, 02:45 AM
  #39  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,925
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hello Latedaytraveller
I was in London June 20-30 this year, though I'm there every year for quite some time. Stay with my son so don't need to worry about hotels.
This time I went to the Summer Exhibition at the RA, the Courtauld Gallery, the British Library, the Lowry exhbibiton at theTate, some of the recitals in City Churches put on by the City of London Festival, a day of Travel Lectures at Kings Place organised by The Guardian, Vermeer and Music at the National Gallery, a recital at Temple Church, I'm sure a lot more.
There are often free lunchtime recitals in various churches...St James Piccadilly, St Lukes Old Street and of course St Martins in the Fields. Plus lunchtime chamber music concerts at the Wigmore Hall, a place it is often hard to get tickets for in the evening.
UCL also had a festival of lectures mainly on history and philosophy, and I went to their Petrie Museum for the first time, a real gem and quite hard to find. And of course it is right next to the British Museum where I saw their Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibit.
London is so wonderful for catching up with culture.
gertie3751 is offline  
Old Jul 13th, 2013, 02:54 AM
  #40  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Europeannovice, I agree that St. Paul’s is fabulous, although it is unlikely that I would be climbing up those stairs.

That was a good idea to have DS and DH go to the Benjamin Franklin house while you did the National Gallery. And there is always so much to see just hanging around Trafalgar Square. This time the stone lions were inaccessible because they were enclosed within a construction site – not sure why.
latedaytraveler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -