Friday, March 1, 2019

Springtime in London

You'd never know you were right in the middle of London
(Don't forget, you can click on photos to enlarge them.)
Why, you may ask, am I finally coming out of hibernation to bring you a post about a trip to London I took almost an entire year ago? Well, it's because I'm headed there again tomorrow, and it's just embarrassing to be backed up two posts for the same place with that long between them. 

So here's a quick - but long - overview of what I did in London last spring. In case you have to wait several months for the post about my next trip, it probably won't be a whole lot different from this one - except for Brexit...

First let me just say that I think this was my all time favorite trip to London, which is really saying something because I love that city at its coldest, dreariest, most crowded and inconvenient worst. But this trip was different in a few very important ways.

Usually, I zip in and out of London, using it as a base for traveling around Europe and the UK. But this trip, I rented a studio for an entire month and tried to get a feeling for what it must be like to actually live there. 

I stayed in Earl's Court, which is a super convenient area from which to get around the city. My studio was just a short walk from the tube station, which also had a little market nearby, so I made that little walk often and it gave me joy every single time. 

Because it passed by gorgeous Regency buildings...
 And a beautiful garden square, which we Americans would consider a very nice sized park to live on.






There was a similar one in front of my building, but my apartment faced the rear of my building, so I only saw these when I was out and about.
















I think I would have loved it in any case, but I arrived near the end of April and stayed to near the end of May, and the weather was glorious for more of that time than I'd ever experienced there before. That made it even more wonderful than ever to get out and walk around.









And not just in my neighborhood. It was beautiful everywhere. Bright blue skies, fabulous architecture and lovely flowers wherever you looked. I absolutely loved it. 






People were laying out in the sun everywhere they could find a patch of grass...and London has lovely parks scattered all over the city. 

Southbank, near the Eye.





St. James Park, where the photo at the top of this post was taken...
...and the flowers were out all over.


If you look on a map of London, St. James Park is not anywhere near as big as Hyde Park, or even Regent's Park. But I walked all the way through it and it still felt like a little bit of a trek.


There were lots of people taking a break from touring the Museum of Natural History, which is one of the most stunning buildings in London, in my opinion. 











One of the very few disappointments was that the Big Ben clock tower was wrapped in scaffolding because it had started undergoing two years of repairs. Though they did take the scaffolding down to ring in the New Year for the city's brilliant annual celebration







The Tube


I love London so much, I don't even mind taking the subway there - or, the tube, as they call it. I love most of the tube stations I end up in. 

I spotted a bird in one, going through the turnstile. 
















Once I got through them myself, I saw him on the platform. I've seen them in the actual trains, as well, but it's always weird.











The Earl's Court station has a Tardis replica in front of it.












I was in between the Earl's Court and Gloucester Road stations.















I like the Piccadilly line best because it goes to all my favorite places. I can ride it directly in from Heathrow, which contrary to most people, is my favorite London airport. It goes all the way to St. Pancras, which is another one of my favorite places in London, and where I come and go on the Eurostar. It stops at Russell Square, in Bloomsbury, which is my favorite neighborhood in London.













This was the first time I'd ever suffered through a Not in Service delay. You may think this looks like a crowded platform...












...but look at it 8 minutes later...

















...and after it arrived. Yeah, not so much fun. But, believe it or not, it doesn't bother me that much. And I am fairly claustrophobic.














I love the British SO very much. Polite, but firm, lol.





















Covent Garden

There is so much to see in London, I try to find something new every time I go. But I have my favorites, as well, and I try to re-visit at least some of those every time I go. 


The Piccadilly line also goes to Covent Garden, which is one of my absolute favorite places to visit in the city.















The market is particularly lovely in the sunshine.




























And the Royal Opera House is amazing. 













This is where Eliza Doolittle was selling flowers in My Fair Lady. 
















 Covent Garden is every bit as wonderful at dusk and at night as it is during the day. It's got a lot of tourist trap stuff, but I still love it. And though it's been a while since I've been to the Transport Museum there, I recommend that, as well, particularly if you have kids. That was a huge hit with all of us when we went a few years ago.








I'd been to Covent Garden many times before this trip, so I have no idea how I'd never known that Bow Street ran along the side of the Royal Opera House. Anyone familiar with British historical fiction, or even British history, may have heard of the Bow Street Runners.







New Experiences


One of the new things I did this trip was visit Spencer House, the amazing home of Princess Diana's ancestors. It sits right on the edge of St. James Park, with the most glorious view, and the interiors are stunning. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed, though I did get one of the bathroom! Still, the link will take you to the website, where there are way better photos than anything I would have taken anyway.













But look at the monstrosity that was allowed to be built right next to it. Things like that make me want to cry. 

Anyway, I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in architecture, Princess Di's family or British social history, because the family was one of the most important in England at one time.








Something else I did for the first time in London was to visit a regular mall, a shopping center meant more for locals than tourists. I needed a new suitcase and this mall happened to be easy to get to from the neighborhood where I was staying. Strangely enough, I almost felt like more of a tourist there than in most places I go in London. 

It was the same in Mexico City. I went to two different malls there, one to go to the movies and another to pick up a piece of electronics at a Mexican Best Buy. The experience at Best Buy was almost identical to ones I've had in the States, and that just made it all the more weird for me, I don't know why. The language barrier didn't come into play, I just showed a guy a photo of what I was looking for and he led me right to it. 


In London, I had the exact name of the suitcase I wanted, and had even called ahead to make sure they had it in stock at that location. Both the young women there were friendly and helpful, and everything went smoothly. I was in and out in about 15 minutes. Of course, everyone spoke English. So I have no idea why it all felt so foreign. Travel can just be strange sometimes.

But the absolute most fun I had on this trip was meeting up with someone I had known online for over a decade. He had been experimenting in doing standup for about a year, and I went twice to see him perform. The first time, he also had a friend of his along whom I thoroughly enjoyed meeting, as well. The place he was performing was a really lovely pub on the south side of the river, which was quite easy for me to get to, the Duchess in Battersea.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing him perform again at least a couple of times this trip, too.

Theater

I saw two plays while I was in London last time. I would have loved to have seen more, but a vast majority of the big named ones seemed to be Broadway imports. I prefer to see American plays in New York and British plays in London. And I'm not real big on musicals. I'm actually pretty picky, because the big shows are so expensive.

I went to see An Ideal Husband because I like Oscar Wilde plays. It didn't hurt that Jennifer Saunders, who played Edina in Absolutely Fabulous, was in it. The production wasn't absolutely fabulous, but it was decent entertainment and I love just the experience of going to the theater.

Not only do I love being in the actual theater...













...but I love all the little things that go with it. 


















Look at these little binoculars you can rent for a pound.

































It was a much bigger production than the play I'd seen at The Old Vic several days beforeThe theater still had the lovely details similar to much larger venues.

But Mood Music was more of an experimental production, with a plain stage divided by just a few chairs and tables. It was still very good, I thought. I enjoyed it, anyway.






Walking back from The Old Vic, I passed through a part of London I don't see very often, the most modern bits. I like some of the more remarkable modern buildings, like the Shard and the Gherkin. But I found this bit pretty ordinary, and I wasn't wild about it. City planners have allowed another art deco building to be slated for destruction, and this is the kind of thing that gets put in its place, which seems criminal to me.











Victoria and Albert Museum

I can't remember if I've ever posted about the V & A before, but it is my favorite museum in London. I'm not real big on paintings, as a rule, but I like other things you find in museums, and this one is amazing. The building itself beautiful, and it's got a breathtaking cafe that I didn't make it to last time. I'm making it a priority this trip.












Because this museum is free, like others in London, you can just zip in and out whenever you're near or have a little extra free time. I actually had to go twice to see everything I wanted, and it wasn't a big deal since it didn't cost anything. I basically go to see 3 exhibits.

Fashion Through the Ages

Look at this coat. It's from the 1800s, and it could be worn today if wearing fur wasn't such a taboo.

















Dresses, fans...















...the fifties were truly special.


















But the fashion of the sixties, just like the music from that period, was outstanding.













And, of course, the early 70s were essentially just part of the 60s.

















Jewelry

I love looking at jewelry of royalty and aristocracy from centuries ago.




























And art deco is my favorite period in just about everything.











Furniture



















For someone who has no fixed address, I am inordinately fond of furniture.

I find pieces from all different time periods fascinating.





Though, again, pieces from the 30s to the 60s do hold a special place in my heart.
















So that was my last trip to London, and I am just a few hours from the next one. Every post I write about the city is just me gushing about how much I love it, the architecture and the people. God, I love the people. You can't blame me.