Thursday, November 18, 2010

uk trip-- day 3 --london

london! oh, sweet jimmy carter of the peanut state, how i do love and adore london!

we left reading around 9:30 am for my and leff's first trip into the capital. (yes, i screwed up the ticketing system at the stations again. (although my recovery time was faster!) must i remind you that i am a klutz in clodhopper boots?)

leff, groc and i were based out of paddington station during this trip. it's has a beautiful interior. a beautiful and crowded interior.

(leff's photo)

yet, despite the crush of people, things moved quickly. once again, everyone was aware of their surroundings. (i really wish that there could be a course for americans on how to move in public spaces!) once again, it was *quiet*!

an aside: coming from a country where people tend to bray at the top of their lungs at every opportunity, it was extra refreshing to not be under constant auditory assault while in the uk. conversations were held in quiet tones. (what is clunkily referred to stateside as an "inside voice".) mobile phone calls were brief. there was, in general, a sense of respect for other people. i miss this. bitterly. (i do realize that there are exceptions to the rule in the uk but, in general, our trip was aurally serene.)

what comes next is an embarrassing confession. we had breakfast at a krispy kreme.

look, it wasn't about a longing for home (god, no. if it was still possible for me to be in the uk, i would be in an instant!) but more about readily accessible coffee and the need for a table so that i could consult our a-z.

that being said, it is easier to go to london for a krispy kreme donut than it is to procure one in seattle as the latter city's public transportation is such a pile of suck. (*zing*. you know it's true, seattle people. don't even try to be metro apologists.)

here's a handy tip. the paddington bear statue is located right outside of the krispy kreme.

i spotted him while i was preparing myself for my first trip on the tube.

as you may have gathered from my idiotic difficulty with great western rail tickets, i did have some cause for concern. among my group of friends, i am notorious for my inability to navigate underground transportation systems. this is due mainly to my need for landmarks to get my bearings. i also have difficulty reading most light rail maps even though i have no problems with contour maps or charting long distance travel. i'm inconsistent when it comes to mappish matters and it drives me crazy.

i should not have been worried at all. the tube is designed to be user friendly. it's a work of pure genius! in fact, i enjoyed minding the gap!

(leff's photo)

for those of you who have not taken the underground, here's a very brief summation (all others, please skip if you'd like.)

tickets can be purchased at stations at either automated machines or through a ticket window. leff and i chose the window option as we still weren't sure if it would be worth our purchasing oyster cards (we didn't).

at this point, it's a good idea to consult a tube map. small maps are available so grab one before you go through the turnstiles. (seriously, do grab one. it is one of the world's greatest transportation maps. it's, frankly, brilliant!) you could also get a quick overview by checking out one of the many large maps that are posted on the walls.

routes are color coded. for our first trip to london, we took the bakerloo line which is designated by brown.

tube stations may have more than one line. it's not difficult to comprehend in which direction you should be heading, however, as things are very clearly labelled.

this is not a picture of clear labelling. sorry.

once you have reached the correct platform, you are presented with a sign that, and here's the best part, lists all of the stops on the line with an arrow directing you to the correct area!

gott in himmel, it's WUNDERBAR!! i didn't get lost once! (and that's really saying something!)

(apologies for not having pictures of this type of wonderful sign.)

it is very easy know when to exit at your stop as there are maps above the seats. additionally, stops are announced and many stations (at least in the touristy areas) have themes. an example of this (of which i, sadly, don't have a photo) is the baker street stop. there is sherlock holmes tiling in addition the the "baker street" signage.

(leff's photo)

so, yes. i LOVE the tube! i say this after experiencing it during rush hour as well as off peak.

i also say this after screwing up at the turnstiles. what? you expected me to be able to do that correctly the first five times?! haha. no. you can't take me anywhere.

our first destination in london was the national gallery. in retrospect, i think that we may have taken the wrong tube line because we exited about three blocks from trafalgar square. not that this was a problem (yet. remember the foot foreshadowing in the cardiff post.). we just needed a few minutes with the map. plus it also gave me a chance to snap this photo.

shed has assured me that these types of bt phone booths are generally in touristy areas and in nice village greens where they make visual sense.

anyway, trafalgar square! you can see big ben from there!

i'm calling it big ben even though i know that that's the name of the bell and not the tower. look, londonist ran a piece on just this issue the other day and the general consensus seems to be that everyone calls it big ben for convenience's sake.

but back to the square. the lions are very popular even in the off season. and even though they have dog paws.

one of my favorite things about the square is the use of the fourth plinth. i'm glad that william iv didn't have sufficient funds for his statue. we'd've been deprived the wittiness of this sculpture otherwise.

behold the national gallery.

it's a behemoth, kids. i knew ahead of time that i wasn't going to be able to see the whole thing but i was still overwhelmed.

one thing that i didn't know is that photography is prohibited inside. leff and i were reprimanded in the lobby for taking a photo of the tiles. no matter, i can give you links to relevant paintings that i want to note.

i'll make this brief although, god, i could go on and on and on...

  • i was astounded to find that i like peter paul rubens' unfinished work. so much gesture!
  • there was a guide on hand at the holbein to explain the skull. i was kinda' sad about that 'cause it's much cooler when people figure things like that out on their own.
  • the arnolfini portrait is much smaller than it appears in reproductions! it's still a stunner of a painting! (that reflection! cor!)
  • uccello still makes me laugh. he really, really wanted you to know that he got that perspective thing down. (the gridding is fabulous! i've always loved that one guy that's lying on the ground!)
  • the "madonna of the rocks" still gets that primus song stuck in my head. (i studied that painting in the early '90s)
  • "whistlejacket" is *huge* and so modern in sensibility. it also looks like it was a hell of a lot of fun to paint!
  • fra filippo lippi's "annunciation" still kicks my ass. he's always been my favorite fra.
  • i didn't have time to find the crivelli where leff and i had planned on saying this. (sorry, inside joke.)
i'm sure i'm forgetting a lot. this is because 1) i forgot to take notes. sigh.. 2) i actually had to cover my head with my jacket because i was suffering from image overload. 3) my feet were beginning to become a problem. aha! more foreshadowing!

the snack area was nice though. this is one of the places where groc helped me develop an addiction to everything elderflower.

i also liked the signs warning of pickpockets although i didn't take a picture of them as i was too busy trying to not watch the disgusting couple snogging in front of us while we were eating our egg and cress. seriously. barf. get a room, etc.

once we were finished with the national gallery (although, really. can you ever be?) we decided to do a bit of walking. (you see what i did there with the italics? heh.)

we all agreed that it would be a good idea to head toward the houses of parliament since there was so much to see along the way. the horse guards, for example.

this one particular guard would occasionally have a bemused look on his face. it was very faint and very quick but it was nice to see that he found the whole gaggle of people taking pictures of him to be entertaining.

lots of statues line whitehall. the two that i was particularly keen to see were the memorial to the women of wwii.

although i'm still not sure how i feel about it. (promise that i won't go into gender politics and feminist theory but, yeah...)

and the cenotaph.

quite impressive and austere which is really what you want from this type of memorial.

downing street is located roughly between the two monuments.

i was quite surprised to see that the guards were toting semi automatic weapons. i mean, it makes sense. the pm is there as well as the war rooms but i'd always seen downing as a non weapon type of place. (or, at the very least, a hidden weapon type of place.)

you'll note that i don't have a picture of this. that would be because i tend to not take photos of people with semi automatics. it's this "thing" that i have. heh.

an amazing sight was waiting for us at the end of whitehall. it's f--king big ben!

(this is a bad habit of mine, blurting out "it's f--king *insert incredible site*". i did it several times on this trip.)

i almost trampled a poor little lady while i was taking the above photo. i was being an oblivious, idiotic american so i apologized profusely. she just smiled broadly and said "welcome to london!"

guess who we found as we continued to walk through the area?

yeah, abraham lincoln! i still haven't had time to research what he's doing so close to westminister but i can't blame the guy. i'd still be in london if i could be.

speaking of westminister, check out this facade!

it's * enormous*! i regret the fact that we didn't have time to visit this trip. next time. we're absolutely going next time!

there was a really cute sticker located on the abbey grounds.

nearby, the churchill statue was fenced off but i still got a picture of ol' winnie.

hey! there's that big ben guy again!

i can't be sure but i think this may be where the inside joke "the queen is a master stone mason" started. (many foundation stones in the uk bear a mark that states that a royal placed the stone. i kinda' just went from there...)

were you aware that the queen mum carved this all by herself?

she's so talented.

we crossed westminister bridge

(leff's photo)

to the south bank. here's where photographing every lion that i saw in the uk became a thing.

promise that i won't bore you with all of those pictures.

the blisters on my feet were killing me at this point so it was imperative that we find a place to sit for a while. i can't remember who found the yo sushi but, man, am i ever glad that they did!

this is leff's miso soup shortly before he christened his camera with it.

(leff's photo)

the camera is now named "miso". it probably still smells a bit like the stuff as well. heh.

the hand dryers in the wcs at this yo were pretty spectacular. i think they were the japanese models that dyson took his idea from.

one note about uk loos: i *love* the public wcs in the uk for one major reason...there are FULL DOORS IN THE STALLS! it's so wonderfully private! i don't understand why we only have half doors in the u.s.

near yo was the london film museum. kev had mentioned to groc that it was a pretty great place to go so we went!

guess what was there...

there is no escaping daleks in the uk. don't even try.

the most interesting exhibit at the film museum was the section that we weren't allowed to photograph, damn it! there was an entire section devoted to ray harryhausen! the windup owl from "clash of the titans was there! one of the seven skeletons from "jason and the argonauts"! a giant medusa! a fully articulated crab!! it was AMAZING!!

still, the other stuff wasn't shabby by any stretch of the imagination.

not pictured: the full set of holmes apartments from the jeremy brett series! gah!!

the film museum exit is located near the eye.

we didn't bother with the eye on this visit, choosing instead to take pictures at ground level.

i was starting to drag my left foot at this point. (it wasn't the clodhoppers' fault. i get terrible blisters even in my five year old sketchers if i walk for more than two miles.) so we started searching for a place to rest. many of the pubs were full so we trudged back to trafalgar square and took a break at the waterstone's located there.

groc had a fairy cake with his coffee and a pain killer with his fairy cake

while we waited for off peak hours to start on the tube.

even though we spent an enjoyable amount of time at waterstone's, we still managed to hit rush hour. the biggest surprise, however, was that it wasn't exasperating! people were polite, of course. no shoving, no jockeying for position.

we also ran into rush hour at paddington station. our train back to reading was standing room only and, even though i wanted to chop my feet off because they were hurting so badly, standing on the way back was otherwise pleasant. one gentleman even gave leff half of his paper to read!

kev's friends from germany arrived in reading on the same train as us. (although it would've been too crowded for us to find them even if we had known who to look for!) after several rounds of phone tag, we all agreed to meet at an italian restaurant. while we were waiting on them to finish their bottle of wine at kev's flat, leff, groc and i ducked into a pub where we all drank some very weird cider and talked about celebrity horse accessories. (they exist and, apparently, they're pink!)(thanks for the link, grockles!

dinner at the italian place was wonderful! in fact, we closed the place down. haha!

after dinner, all of us (minus poor kev!) climbed into a black cab and headed home. i collapsed shortly afterward because, come on! do you see how long this recap is? we did a LOT that day!

next recap: leff, groc and i meet jens by the newton statue at the british library! the magna carta! caffe nerd! tate modern! drinking by the thames (outside!) in november! SWOLLEN FEET! you don't want to miss this.


bonnie said...

oh London. I loved it. I also love how you appreciated the good transit. the people there are so friendly! when I was at the airport tube station, staring at the map and looking confused, a random guy asked me if I needed help finding my line. he could have ignored me as the obvious toursist with a big backpack, but it was such a nice gesture!

on another day I was confused because I was supposed to hop off of one train, cross the platform, and get on another going the opposite way. I just stood there going "uuhhhhhh...." and some guy heard me and said "yes, it's confusing but it's the right way". thank you friendly Londoners!

Nad Leiruc said...

The only thing I have of London is an Underground pin that my "paradise partner" got for me. Thanks for those pictures! and with your post I'm more interested to go to London. I hope to survive the cold weather haha.

r4kk4 said...

of course i appreciate good public transit, bonnie. i don't drive.

nad! i really hope that you make it to london! it's a fantastic place! and the underground is superb!

well, when there aren't strikes and something doesn't fall on the line. heh. the week before we arrived, i think three? different lines had had to be evacuated by people walking on the tracks.

and the day before we arrived the tube workers had gone on strike. luckily, things and people were working again while we were there.

Groc said...

It's not you that's buying Breugel's 'Road to Calvary' is it? I know you liked it...

oh wait - it's not my Xmas present is it? Have I ruined the surprise?

r4kk4 said...

shit, if only! i love how people get dwarfed by landscape in breugel!

you're the best at finding kick ass presents! thank you! haha!

i got you a decapitation painting. i won't tell you WHICH "judith and holofernes" though, you know, just to keep you on your toes. ;D