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TR: Solo in LONDON for ten days on unfinished business ...

TR: Solo in LONDON for ten days on unfinished business ...

Old Jun 29th, 2014, 02:38 PM
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TR: Solo in LONDON for ten days on unfinished business ...

WHY: As always, pursuing those artistic, historical, and literary sites/venues that I missed on my previous four visits to London. In the past, I have always joined a tour after several days in a city. But on this trip I was solo for ten days - how many times can you see Stonehenge and Stratford, great as they are?


WHY NOT: Not interested in fine dining or shopping. In fact, I don't recall going into any stores. It was heaven. Suffice it to say, that after so many visits, I had "done" most of the "biggies" like the Tower, Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms, the Eye, and the like. So I would be exploring less well known venues and parts of town.


WHEN & WHERE: Monday, June 16-Thursday, June 26


After a smooth VIRGIN ATLANTIC flight from Boston, with a shared transfer on HOTEL BY BUS, I arrived at the STRAND PALACE HOTEL about 11:30 and heard those sweet words, "Your room is ready." I know, I know, this is my third stay at the same hotel. Believe me, I investigated other lodgings in the Trafalgar Square/Westminster area but they were all much pricier. Tab roughly $270 per night with full breakfast in a super location. The Strand caters to solo travelers.


http://www.strandpalacehotel.co.uk/


THE WEATHER: except for the first night, the weather was absolutely fabulous - sunny, low 70s with a very short sprinkle when returning from dinner one night. Most unusual, I know, but I really lucked out.


MONDAY, JUNE 16 - the first evening.


After sleeping for a few hours, I freshened up and headed a short distance to LSE (London School of Economics) for a public lecture which I had read about on one of the many sites listing "free public lectures in London." This was back in March. The subject was CAPITAL IN THE 21ST CENTURY by former LSE grad and French citizen Thomas Piketty - never heard of him, but that talk would do for convenience and a unique experience.


Soon I realized that this guy is HUGE! The book, widely reviewed and discussed, was on the nonfiction best seller list everywhere. Piketty, in his 40s, youngish and good looking, was attaining rock star status in the academia and the media. So what does he say in CAPITAL IN THE 21ST CENTURY? Basically that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer? Who knew? His subject is "inequality" which touches a nerve in many quarters.


The monumental study was undertaken with others, tracing the accumulation of wealth over the past two centuries in many countries in Europe and elsewhere using tax records and other data. Piketty maintains that the mid decades of 20th century prosperity during the 50-70s (I remember those "happy days") were an anomaly after the chaos of the two world wars. Whereas wealth in the old days (think Downton Abbey) was land-based and inherited, today's tycoons accumulate wealth through huge salaries and investment options. He stops there - not offering a solution, merely describing the situation. Here he is with Jeremy Paxman, British talk show guru - if you are still with me.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dusbw6q0NBw


In early May, the LSE website announced that since interest in Piketty's visit was so high, one would need a ticket (free, of course) to attend. Students and faculty would be given first dibs, fair enough. I did not get a ticket but decided stroll over to the old Peacock Theater on campus and see what was happening that night. An hour before the event, hundreds of lucky ticket holders were queuing, holding their precious tickets in hand.


I joined a second line for those hoping to gain entry if seats were available just before the event. And still they came. I chatted with a interesting gal who worked in the City. Her daughter, an Oxford student, had a ticket so Mum hoped to join her. It was really damp and miserable (the sun would appear the next day and remain for the duration ), but I decided to tough it out with her. What impressed me was the earnestness of these young international students who were really thrilled to hear this guy.


Amazingly, this woman and I were admitted at the last moment and heard the whole talk. Piketty is charming but difficult to follow with his French accent when he talks quickly. He was clearer in the Q & A because he took his time when answering.


Leaving the theater, I picked up a sandwich "take away," and headed back to the Strand to rest up for the ten days ahead. It was great to be back in London...


************************************************** *************
Tomorrow: the SILVER VAULTS (and the family jewels), DR. JOHNSON'S HOUSE, MANSION HOUSE, and a THAMES PUB CRAWL
************************************************** *********
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 03:59 PM
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Looking forward to reading more!
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 04:07 PM
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It sounds like the kind of thing I do in London too. Have a look at UCL, see if they have any lectures on. And the London Review of Books bookshop in Bury Place opposite the British Museum. Lucky you!
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 05:01 PM
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Nice report...!!

I was in London for two weeks in May and would love to return for a month.
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 05:44 PM
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Hello all,

IRISHFACE, thanks for your encouragement - always enjoy your comments

GERTIE3751, I did look at the UCL offerings and expected to attend one talk, but it did not work out. So many wonderful opportunities for free cultural exposure in London - that's why I love the town!

POOLE, what did you most enjoy when you visited London in May? So much to do and see.I can understand why you would like to return for a month.
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 06:24 PM
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Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Another latedaytraveler trip report!! Can't wait! (And off to a wonderful start!)
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 07:00 PM
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Hi CHGOGAL, aren't you nice! I appreciate your following along...
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 10:13 PM
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Oh - I'll be along for the ride too! I also like to attend lectures, and especially 'platforms' at the National Theatre/etc. But due to various circumstances I haven't been able to squeeze any in my last 4 visits. Hopefully I'll have more free time when I go back in the Fall.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 12:04 AM
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on for the ride
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 02:07 AM
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Hi JANISJ,

" But due to various circumstances I haven't been able to squeeze any [public lectures]in my last 4 visits." Certainly not with your traveling companions B1 & B2 - they would rather be at Starbucks,eh? Hope you go solo next time.


BILBOBURGLER, welcome and feel free to make corrections along the way.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 02:28 AM
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Sounds great, looking forward to the rest.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 04:23 AM
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Hi NIKKI, have you been in Paris lately???
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 04:37 AM
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Not since last year.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 06:28 AM
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So how did the audience treat Piketty?

Between the interview with Paxo (who, for all his usual thuggery, can be a bit of a pussycat with people purporting to be dissidents) and his exposure to you, Piketty hit heavy savaging from the FT for hokey numbers.

There are legitimate arguments to challenge Piketty's data, both in theory (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e1b9254e-f...#axzz368F7w8Z0) and in practice (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/e1f343ca-e...#axzz368F7w8Z0).

There's also a thoroughly illegitimate knee-jerk reaction to the FT's critique among those who want to believe Piketty's thesis before reading it: the book must rank with some of Hawkins' among the least-read bestsellers ever.

My prejudice suggests the side an LSE audience would take is pretty predictable. It'd be interesting to hear what actually happened.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 08:05 AM
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I am so excited you are back Lateday...I can't wait to follow along!
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 08:29 AM
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Signing on for what I know will be an interesting read!
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 08:30 AM
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Hi FLANNERUK,

Thanks for weighing in with your thoughtful comments on CAPITAL IN THE 21ST CENTURY. I could not access your first link, but was able to read the second. With such a mountain of data used in Piketty's work, there are bound to be many holes. And he admits in the FT piece:

“I have no doubt that my historical data series can be improved and will be improved in the future . . . but I would be very surprised if any of the substantive conclusion about the long-run evolution of wealth distributions was much affected by these improvements,” he said.

Who knows? Recall the words of Mark Twain - "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." In my opinion "inequality" is caused by an education/skills gap in today's society rather than by the avarice of one particular group.

Regarding the audience, they were polite and attentive, many on line with the hashtag for the event - or whatever they call it. Again, Picketty maintains that he is describing a condition, nor proposing a "solution." Wisely, he leaves that to others.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 09:40 AM
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Hi KELSEY22 and CATHINJOETOWN, thanks for following along. Hope all is well.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 09:46 AM
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the SILVER VAULTS (and the family jewels), DR. JOHNSON'S HOUSE, MANSION HOUSE, and a THAMES PUB CRAWL
************************************************** **************

TUESDAY, JUNE 17

I slept a bit late - 8:15, but got ready quickly, then enjoyed a Strand "full English breakfast." After buying a street map at a nearby shop, I proceeded up to COVENT GARDEN station to purchase an Oyster Card. Sorry - this Tube station was undergoing renovations and did not permit entry although passengers could disembark from it. It was a glorious day so I continued to HOLBURN station where I bought a 7 day Oyster Card for £68. Good to go.

My destination was the nearby CHANCERY LANE Tube stop near to the SILVER VAULTS - opened in 1876 "originally renting out strong rooms to hold household silver, jewelry and documents, it transitioned to housing silver dealers in secure premises a few years later." I passed through a security check on the ground floor and took the elevator to the lower level which houses some forty small shops containing fabulous silver items.

http://silvervaultslondon.com/

In the foyer on this level was a glass case about six feet in length displaying lovely silver treasures. Shock - there were four magnificent matching candlesticks, each about 16 inches high, with the legend:

"S & J Stodell vault 24 set of four neo-classical column candlesticks with floral swags, grotesques & Greek key motifs by J. Carter II 1774-75."

Hard to believe, but I actually own a pair of similar candlesticks while my SIL has the other pair. Why? My former husband's parents were great people, typical of the "lace curtain" Boston Irish. They had a beautiful home with lovely silver, china, Oriental rugs, and brick-a-brack (none of which the younger generation wants, by the way.) In any case, my MIL had an ecclesiastical relative in Wisconsin, Bishop Tracy. When he died some 35 years ago, they were informed that they were mentioned in the Bishop's will. My FIL, a delightful character, was thrilled. Then he learned that the legacy was not cash, but more silver. "Just what I need," he fumed. The trove included the four candlesticks and an elaborate candelabrum which had been used on an altar.

I snapped a few pics with my IPhone for posterity.

What I realized later was that "vault 24" cited on the legend referred to the company within the complex who had displayed the candlesticks. Sorry that I did not inquire there at the time. Too late, but I will write to them and request more info on these items.

Of course, our "family jewels" are not in the pristine condition as those shown in the glass case. They have an accumulation of old polish/tarnish in the elaborate crevices - my grandson loved to clean them with a small toothbrush when he was a toddler. Needless to say, we will have them assessed and professionally cleaned.

I then drifted through the corridors and window shopped at various vaults, each with a door over a foot thick. The premises are truly secure. The place was quiet, but I hesitated to enter one of these emporiums because I had no intention of buying. On the way out I chatted with an older fellow, an attendant at the safe deposit section near the glass case. I sat for a few minutes and told him my story, showing him said candlesticks on my phone. He said, "Oh, dear, photography is not permitted in here." But too late.

He then went on to his favorite subject - history with strong emphasis on WWI. Of course, this summer starts the centenary of that bloodbath in 1914 with many exhibitions in London marking the event. This gentleman had been to most of the battlefields in France and Belgium - two of his grandfathers had served and survived the "Great War."

I told him that I was currently reading THE LONG SHADOW by a Brit, David Reynolds, about the legacy of WWI in the 20th century. He was thrilled - kindred spirits, I guess. Then he confided that his dream is to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg. Had I been? No, I find the story of our Civil War too gruesome. Time to leave. I think we could have chatted on these historical matters all day. He bid me a warm farewell - it was rather lonely in the vaults.


Out into the sunshine and on my way through narrow City passages to DR. JOHNSON'S HOUSE in Gough Square. Admission £4.50 adult and £3.50 (moi).

http://www.drjohnsonshouse.org/

An audio guide was available, but I chose to wander through the several floors enjoying the 18th century ambiance with sunshine pouring in through the ample windows. The main floor is painted a tranquil apple green. Furnishings are refreshingly sparse with laminated placards available describing the features, books, portraits and such in each room.


Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was a brilliant, robust, somewhat awkward poet, literary critic, moralist, and conversationalist extraordinaire whose witticisms were lovingly preserved by his sidekick, Scotsman JAMES BOSWELL (1740-1795) in his quintessential British bio - THE LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON.


Although Johnson's literary contributions are many, he is best remembered for his nine years of work and final publication of A DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE in 1755. After years of obscurity, Johnson finally gained popularity and success, and was eventually awarded a comfortable pension. The work on the dictionary was done by Johnson and his many scribes and assistants in the Gough Square house, the only remaining Johnson abode in London.


Creating the dictionary was a monumental task because he included, not just a definition, but a myriad of citations from literature illustrating how each word had been used over time. I enjoyed leafing through the pages of a huge copy on display. With that, I departed.


Tuesday's report to be continued...
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 02:49 PM
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Can't wait!
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