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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 Jul 4th, 2014, 04:10 AM
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THURSDAY, JUNE 19: Boat ride across the Thames, Matisse Cutouts at the TATE MODERN, SOUTHWARK CATHERAL, the GEORGE INN, and evening at the PORTRAIT GALLERY
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Another bright but humid morning. I strolled down to Embankment Pier to get the Riverbus (not sure what it is called) across the Thames to the TATE MODERN to tour the acclaimed MATISSE CUTOUTS exhibit which runs until September 7. Another woman and I struck up a conversation while waiting to board. She was doing research in various London archives into an aspect of the slave trade. Our exchange was short because she disembarked before I did. Originally from South Africa, educated in Australia, she is now a professor at Barnard College in New York. Another brief, but interesting encounter with a stranger while traveling solo.

I hopped out at BANKSIDE PIER. Looking up, I saw hundreds of folks approaching across the pedestrian MILLENIUM BRIDGE that links the City and St. Paul's to the South Bank. Nearby was the GLOBE THEATER which I had intended to tour before entering the Tate. But by then it was just after 11 so I decided to forgo the Bard and head into the huge TATE MODERN to check out a few exhibits before my scheduled tour at 12:15. Factoid: opened in 2000, in the renovated Bankside Power Station, the Tate hosts some 4.7 million visitors a year making it the most popular modern art gallery in the world.

Despite its bulk, the building is commodious with many places to sit, eat, or engage in some interactivity with the collection. For example, I passed a "Bloomberg Connect" drawing station where a group of teens were decorating electronic screens which were then displayed on the wall above. They loved it! Also I wanted to check out the work of the hugely popular abstract expressionist MARK ROTHKO (1903-1970). One part of his collection merits a whole room at the Tate. Here is his BLACK ON MAROON - you decide.

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/mark-rothko-1875 (under Rothko Tate)

Now I know why I had not visited the Tate Modern before - just don't get it! But I did enjoy an exhibit of colorful RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONARY POSTERS (dominant shades red and tan) used by Stalin's regime to promote collective farms and industrialization.

Our tour (£19.50 including admission) started promptly under the direction of Ian, a curator who had worked many years at the Tate and was delightfully enthusiastic about the show. He gave us headsets so we could hear him as he led us from room to room. Crowds? Full, but not that bad, especially since the works were well hung and you really did not have to see their titles to enjoy them - some 130 pieces in all.

The artist undertook this work later in his life after a serious illness. His forebears had been tailors so Matisse felt very comfortable with shears in hand as he skillfully "cut into the color" and rearranged the shapes in his studio for the desired effect. Assistants painted the large sheets of paper he used and pinned the forms to various surfaces under his direction. Included in the show were many photos and film clips of Matisse at work during these years.


Ian said that it took years to put this show together, collecting from various museums and private owners for this block buster which will have only one more venue - the MoMA in New York City from October 12, 2014- February 8, 2015. In case you can't make it to London or New York, this short clip will give you an overview of the show - it really was wonderful!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLgSd8ka0Gs (Called Henri Matisse: the Cut Outs)

Leaving the Tate, I strolled along the pleasant Bankside path past several shops and flower bedecked pubs until I arrived at SOUTHWARK CATHERAL, the oldest Gothic church in London. It is a beautiful structure, somewhat obscured from a distance, surrounded as it is by modern structures. I paid homage to two of the borough's favorite sons - taking note of the memorial window to William Shakespeare and the Harvard Chapel, a tribute to university founder John Harvard who was born in the parish. Silently, I paid my respects to the poet Geoffrey Chaucer whose pilgrims depart from Southwark in the CANTERBURY TALES.


I then strolled through BOROUGH MARKET, "a gourmand's delight, London's oldest food market that boasts a mouth-watering range of fresh food stalls under its Dickensian wrought-iron roof." This is a favorite tourist destination with good reason. I was tempted by a huge, pungent pan of Spanish paella, but resisted considering the "full English breakfast" I had that morning.


My final stop was the nearby GEORGE INN, the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London now owned by the NATIONAL TRUST. For centuries coaching inns provided shelter and hospitality to merchants/hawkers before they entered the city over London Bridge. It was rather quiet that day when I passed through around 2PM so I just moseyed through the various rooms examining the pictures and artifacts. I had read an interesting book last year about the inn so it was a must -see, even though it was too early for a beverage. SHAKESPEARE'S PUB, A Barstool History of London as Seen Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub - The George Inn by Pete Brown. Provides a delicious tidbit of London history and lore surrounding the Thames.

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


I took the Tube to Waterloo (a huge interchange) then to Charing Cross (Trafalgar Square) and up the road to the Strand Palace. The hotel has an alcove off the lobby with three computers. Whenever I saw one free, I grabbed it to check my email, rather than on my IPhone - don't ask!


Later that evening I returned to Trafalgar Square to re-visit the PORTRAIT GALLERY, attached to the NATIONAL GALLERY, which is open on Thursday (and Friday) night until nine. The evening openings have a lively vibe with a wine bar, music, and conversation. Portraits are arranged chronologically so I wandered through the rooms enjoying many that I have visited before.

Among them was "Conversation piece at the Royal Lodge Windsor" showing the royal family in 1950 with the then Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose taking tea "informally" with the King George VI (1895-1952) and Queen Elizabeth (1900-2002), later known as the "Queen Mum." The pose broke with tradition - "the informality of the presentation, for which Queen Elizabeth was responsible, was entirely new: set at Royal Lodge, where the family's life was informal, and at tea-time, an accessible and very British occasion."

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/se...-Lodge-Windsor

Further on I noticed "Dame Judi Dench" by Alessandro Raho, painted in 2004. The actress is standing in a trench coat in a depiction so realistic that it looks like a photograph.

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/se...930/Judi-Dench

Another one of my favorites is of MAGGIE SMITH (also wearing a trench coat) done a in 2012 by James Lloyd. A far cry from her role as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey.

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/se...e-Maggie-Smith


Another lovely evening sauntering through Trafalgar Square ...

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Tomorrow, the best day: a tour of DOWNTON ABBEY filming locales, lunch at the SWAN'S INN, and an afternoon at BLENHEIM with beautiful June weather in the Cotswolds
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 05:37 AM
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I have tried, and failed, to appreciate "modern" art - basically anything after the surrealists. I've even attended art history lectures at the NC Art Museum. But the buildings housing modern art are usually interesting even when I don't especially like them (I say usually, the one the NC Art Museum put up looks like a warehouse, and what is one to make of this? http://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/E...in/i-FDLMZQD/A).
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 08:00 AM
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I,too, am a complete failure when it comes to appreciation of modern art. So I've stopped trying. In my many trips to Paris, I've never set foot in the Pompidou. I will probably skip the Tate Modern also (when I go back to London, as I'm sure to do after reading this wonderful trip report!). Keep it coming, latetraveler!
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 08:08 AM
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Here's thursdaysd's working link

http://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/E...in/i-FDLMZQD/A

(That trailing '<B</B>' bites one every time . . . )
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 08:18 AM
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Just as a reminder, someone please tell me if the Tube stairs are as bad as in the Paris Metro. I always took the Tube on my previous trips, never the buses. As I did the Metro, with no problem. On my May trip to Paris, I thought I would die with all those stairs! I'm still recuperating. I suppose the bottom line is:
travel as much as possible when you are young. I might have to resort to bus tours!

Also, the Paris bus system is great, but they are SO crowded. Is it the same in London?
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 08:35 AM
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Thanks janisj - I'd forgotten about that wretched parenthesis!

I don't remember having problems with stairs in the Tube, it's mostly escalators and a few elevators. But the walk for connections can be long.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 08:36 AM
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Hi THURSDAYSD,

"I have tried, and failed, to appreciate "modern" art - basically anything after the surrealists." I hear you, maybe about 10% of it makes sense to me. You are right - the architecture is usually a redeeming factor. I am glad I saw the GUGGENHEIM in BILBAO, for example.

Even at the TATE BRITAIN which traces British art through the ages, many of the "modern" pieces looked like piles of junk to me.

Thanks for following along. Sorry could not access your link...
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 08:52 AM
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Sue4: You simply must assume there are stairs in most tube stations. A few are totally step free -- but VERY few. Some only have short flights of stairs so not really a problem. But many have quite a few steps -- yes, there are escalators in most stations, but you also have to take stairs to get to/from those escalators. And those stairs can get quite crowded (take Leicester Sq for instance)

If one has any sort of mobility limitations -- the buses are much easier.

latedaytraveler: try the 'corrected' link in my post above.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 11:10 AM
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So glad to find this, lateday. What a great trip and fine, fun report.

You do get around.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 11:55 AM
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I am really enjoying your report! Love all the detail!
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 12:02 PM
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me too, Stoke! [glad to find your report, lateday, i mean].

<<Andrew then led us through the INNER TEMPLE and MIDDLE TEMPLE premises explaining the complexities and traditions of these British legal establishments. Their origins sprung from the powerful KNIGHTS TEMPLARS, an organization that was dissolved by King Edward II in 1312. (Hey, Annhig, or others help me out here!) Andrew then clarified the difference between "solicitors" (they prepare the cases) and "barristers" (they argue the cases in court). >>

I respectfully agree with the answer given above by my learned friend, Mr. P. London. [thanks, Patrick!] My understanding is that the Templars had to flee France after they fell out with the French king over a debt that he didn't want to repay, which led to him causing them to be excommunicated and in some cases executed so that he could seize their wealth; they were then formally disbanded and their power dwindled. quite how the area that had been the seat of their power in London became the centre of legal London is not clear, but by the 18C that was the case and it remained so for about 200 years. indeed until very recently formal court dress had not changed during that time, as shown by the exhibition of legal clothing in the Royal Courts of justice [just across Fleet Street from the Temple, hence it commonly being referred to as "over the road" by barristers when they are asked in which court they are appearing].

Even if you can't get to a guided walk through the Temple, you can still enjoy the atmosphere and the gardens [Inner Temple garden is open weekdays from 12 - 3pm] or you could reserve a table for lunch in the Middle Temple

http://www.middletemple.org.uk/venue...lunch-in-hall/

the website says that you can combine this with a tour of Middle Temple Hall; i've never done thing but as it was where Twelfth Night was performed before Elizabeth 1, it should be pretty good.

enjoying your TR, lateday, as ever. it is galling [but in a nice way] to see that you have managed to visit far more places in London than I managed in 18 years of living and working there - i must have walked past Dr. Johnson's House countless times, ditto the Wallace Collection. I've even appeared in the Mansion House as there used to be a court there, but never been on a tour. keep it coming.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 12:22 PM
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Sue4, I spent 2 tourist weeks in London earlier this year, went all over, and hardly used the Tube at all. The bus is so much more pleasant, for my money. The central London bus map is free for the asking at tube stations, if you're not the app type. I think we had to stand maybe once, but usually we go right upstairs and try for a front row seat.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 12:35 PM
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I visited both London and Paris this spring, and I found the Tube in London to be much easier than the Metro in Paris. Yes, there are stairs in most stations, but not as many flights and more stations have escalators.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 01:09 PM
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Hi SUE4

" In my many trips to Paris, I've never set foot in the Pompidou." Either have I although I hear there are great views of the city from the top floor? Is that right?

Regarding stairs on the TUBE, I can't compare them easily to the METRO - because I only had a few rides on the latter with difficulties, not with stairs, but with directions. On the Tube it is the lengthy corridors/passage ways that get you, particularly at big stations like Waterloo and Victoria.

JANISJ,

Thanks for the link. Wow, that looks like one big pickle holding up that building! Yuk.

STOKEBAILEY,

Nice to hear from you. You got around quite a bit in London yourself if I recall, eh?

LOVE2TRAVEL,

Thanks for traveling along...
ANNHIG,

Thanks for the info on the Templars. Your legal system sounds complex (but rich in tradition) from this side of the pond. The Middle Temple luncheon sounded tempting, but with a glass of wine or two, I would be out for the day so I did not indulge.

" you have managed to visit far more places in London than I managed in 18 years of living and working there" The difference - yeah, you were WORKING while I just scour the net for months before a trip looking for interesting places to explore. Some days I have to force myself a bit to keep going and never accomplish it all. C'est la vie.

ENEWELL

Thanks for weighing in on the Tube vs. Metro
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 01:38 PM
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The Middle Temple luncheon sounded tempting, but with a glass of wine or two, I would be out for the day so I did not indulge.>>

lol, lateday, contrary to popular opinion it is not compulsory to drink alcohol at a legal lunch! perhaps next time?
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 02:03 PM
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Right,ANNHIG, sounds good...
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 02:12 PM
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Just back, so I finally had time to read your TR. You certainly did London in depth and your report was quite interesting. Going solo to really see your interests sounds like a lovely way to go. I definitely would like to return to London as we didn't even scratch the surface.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 04:26 PM
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Hi TPAYT,

I am enjoying your TR too about your jaunt to London and Paris with your granddaughter.

"I definitely would like to return to London as we didn't even scratch the surface." Believe me, no one "scratches the surface" the first or even second time in London. There are so many "biggies" to cover first.

And recall - I am not a shopper (never been to Harrod's, although I did visit Selfridge's) and am not into fine dining so that gives me a great deal of time for other things. I am not into theater either although I did see a show this year which I enjoyed. No one can do it all, but it's fun trying.
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Old Jul 5th, 2014, 03:11 AM
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Always enjoy your reports -- yours on Paris & France was a great help to me last year as I planned a very similar trip.
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Old Jul 5th, 2014, 04:01 AM
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Hi CLBTRAVEL,

You are so nice to say that. Where did not go in France outside of Paris?
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