Awhile back a good friend loaned me a kaleidoscope that was fitted to be attached to the end of a camera lens. I attached it to my 50mm Sony lens and went to Discovery Green to shoot some stylized photos of The Fab 40, a Beatles tribute band headed up by David Blassingame. Apparently there’s a name for this artistic style that I applied to my photography. It’s called “Vorticism” which started out as a short-lived modernist movement in British art and poetry of the early 20th century and was partly inspired by Cubism.
These are my “vortographs”
We took today to go to the National Portrait Gallery as Cynthia wanted to see the Tudor and Elizabethan portraits. You see these paintings all the time in various context but seeing them in person is quite remarkable.
From there we decided to go to Fortnam and Mason to have high tea. When we got there it was still closed and they would not open till noon. We did notice that there were barricades up for the New Years Day parade so we decided to watch part of that as it was only about an hour away.
Interestingly enough, most of the marching bands were from Texas.
There were bands from Austin and Dallas as well.
There were also some London specific entries to the parade
We stayed and watched the parade for about an hour before deciding it was too cold and headed inside of Fortnam and Mason to experience high tea.
We enjoyed a nice tea and a tray of finger sandwiches and made our way back to the hotel to pack. Tonight we had our going away dinner and are preparing to come home.
It has been a wonderful trip to London.
Today our plan was to go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We got there early and staked out a great spot for watching the ceremony.
One of the reasons we had a good spot for viewing the ceremony is due to the fact that we met a remarkable man who was also there to see the changing of the guard. His name is Michael and he is 80 years old and was one of the children evacuated during the blitz in WWII.
He was a wealth of information about the war, the crown and London in general. After the ceremony he invited us to a pub to have a drink and then proceeded to walk with us all around Westminster. He showed us many things and told us many stories as we walked and talked for hours.
After we finished our specially guided mini-tour with this amazing man we found our way back to the hotel to freshen up, get some dinner and prepare for the evening’s festivities.
Though we are not usually the type of people who go out on new years eve, we had managed to secure tickets to attend the The Mayor of London’s NYE 2014 Fireworks which takes place on the Thames River. Since they had limited ticket sales to 100,000 we felt that it might not be TOO crowded to go down and ring in the new year with a mass of London revellers. It really turned out quite well. It felt safe and the people were so fun and friendly. We met up with our friends Michael and Katrina and rang in the new year in amazing style. The fireworks display was one of the best I have ever seen in my life. Words can’t even describe what it was like to stand there and have the London Eye erupt right before your eyes.
Fortunately our hotel is not too far from the site where the celebration was held so we were able to walk home after the event rather than have to try and crowd into the subway or find a cab.
What a fantastic day! Tomorrow is our last full day and we will likely take it easy as we get ready to come home.
Things are truly winding down now. We’re taking it easy in hopes that if we save our energy we might be able to stay up tomorrow night and join in the new years eve celebrations which include a huge fireworks display at midnight over the London Eye.
We spent the morning just trundling around along the North Bank. Nothing much to report for today’s adventures so here’s some photos of Cynthia and me wearing the London Eye like a sombrero.
Another great day of sunshine. Cynthia had said she wanted to climb to the top of St. Paul’s while in London so we made our way to the cathedral after breakfast. We explored the cathedral (no photography allowed inside} and, knowing I could never make the climb, Cynthia headed up the 528 steps to the very top while I took the opportunity to do some photography down by the river.
We had arranged to meet up on the Millennium Bridge once Cynthia had finished her climb so we could go exploring some more of London.
We made our way to see St. Bride’s Church
We also walked down Fleet Street to see the art deco buildings. I wanted to see the street that was the home of British national newspapers until the 1980s
It was an interesting walk that took us to the house where Dr. Samuel Johnson lived and where were told we could find the statue to his beloved cat, Hodge.
After walking around all day I wanted to get a photo of Battersea Station, the power station many of us know from the cover of the Pink Floyd “Animals” album. Unfortunately, the building is undergoing major restoration as it is being turned into a living and shopping space.
All in all, though, a good day.
Another bright, beautiful day in London. Temps are in the upper 30’s so it’s quite brisk. We had intended to go to St. Paul’s today, but it’s only open for services on Sunday so perhaps tomorrow.
Today we took advantage of the weather and took a spin on The London Eye. It’s a bit pricey for a 30 minute ride, but the views are spectacular.
From there we made our way to The British Library via King’s Cross Station.
No photography allowed at The British Library, sadly, as there are some very cool exhibits there including a Gutenberg Bible and some original hand-written Beatles song lyrics. We even got to see an inverted Jenny in the philately exhibit.
After that we just enjoyed some more walking about and taking in the sites before heading back to the hotel.
I should note that subway travel has been complicated as the Central and District lines are not running while they undergo maintenance.
Temperature is dropping on London. Down in the low 30’s and the room has a slight draft. Last night we found the space heater. It made the room very comfortable but Cynthia was worried about it being a fire hazard so she had me switch it off when we went to sleep. The about 1 in the morning she woke me up to turn it back on.
Our commuting has been slightly disrupted due to the closure of the Central and District subway lines. These are the primary east/west lines and hit many of the spots we like to visit. Navigating around these closures has been challenging but not insurmountable.
Today we went to the Imperial War Museum. This is a fantastic space and we spend most or our day there exploring. We particularly enjoyed the First World War Galleries exhibit. Very powerful and informative.
We spent the rest of our day wandering around the parks and visiting with the birds
Tomorrow’s forecast is for sun so we plan on going to St. Pauls so Cynthia can climb to the top and also to ride the London Eye.
It’s Boxing Day. Most all the museums and other sites are closed. The Tube is running a reduced schedule and it’s cold and overcast. We made the trek out to see the replica blue police box because we are somewhat nerdy about Dr. Who and on our way back we took a peek at the Harrods window displays. After a nice Indian meal for lunch we decided to take it pack it on and take it easy for the rest of the day so we could catch up on some photo editing and post card writing.
If we get inspired we may go out tonight, but I am not counting on it.
Today was Christmas day and we had a very low key agenda planned. The hotel is minimally staffed so the breakfast was continental rather than full English. The tables in the breakfast room had Christmas crackers placed at each of the seats so we got to experience that English Christmas tradition. You pull the cracker like like a wishbone and it pops and inside is a small toy, a Christmas crown and a bad joke.
After breakfast we decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and blue skies so we wandered around Hyde Park.
From there we found our way to The Grazing Goat where we had reservations for a traditional Christmas dinner. It was a very festive and delicious experience. I had Venison Wellington and Cynthia has a more traditional turkey dish. Again we had crackers and we decided to wear our Christmas hats for the entire meal.
We met a lovely couple from Edinburgh who were in London for the holidays and we had a very nice time sharing travel stories and generally carrying on. At the end of the dinner we had a traditional Christmas pudding for dessert and then found our way back to the hotel. Unfortunately the subways don’t run on Christmas so we had to walk. Fortunately the weather was still fantastic so it was fine.
We wrapped up the day by watching the Queen’s speech on BBC 1 and the Dr. Who Christmas Special. All in all, a very merry Christmas.
We’re feeling the effects of our extensive hiking about London. This morning we walked to Buckingham Palace and then on to the Royal Horseguards to watch the changing of the Horseguard.
I think this one horse knew I has dined on his cousin in Iceland
We did have some more sunshine so we walked about in the early part of the day taking in the sites.
Being tired and it being Christmas Eve we went back to the hotel. And though it was not our intention, we ended up taking a nice nap before heading out to The Grazing Goat where we had dinner reservations. From there we made our way back to the hotel and are wrapping it up for the day.
Museums, museums, museums. We hit the British Museum and the National Gallery. A full day exercise. Both museums are fantastic.
I even had the opportunity to add another shot to my “Camera On The Floor” series. This is the National Gallery Dome.
We also strolled about Trafalgar Square. Great to finally see it. They do need to flush out some, if not all, of the buskers. So tacky.
We also made the trek out to see the Christmas lights at Oxford Street this evening. Not worth the effort if you ask me. Too crowded and the lights are not all that great.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Things should be calming down for us for the next few days.
Christmas is in the air in London, that’s for sure. Carolers in various places as we move about the city. It’s quite festive and fun.
Today we made our way to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It’s cheesy, as you might expect, but you can’t go to London and NOT visit 221B Baker Street.
Even William The Sheepie got in on the fun.
We walked around the neighborhood and found our way to The Windsor Castle Pub which is the meeting place of the London Handlebar Club.
From there we found our way to the Victoria Albert Museum to make up for missing it yesterday.
It is a fantastic place but as usual, not my cup of tea for photography. But I did enjoy seeing it. And I made my best effort to get an interesting photo of the ‘Rotunda Chandelier’ sculpture using my circular fisheye.
After running around town during the day we made our way back to the neighborhood near our hotel for a late lunch/early dinner. From there it was back to the hotel to freshen up and then we made our way back to the Tower Bridge and had a nice photo walk down the Thames to the Millennium Bridge.
A great, but tiring day.
Today was the end of our glorious sunshine. Clouds have rolled in, but fortunately no rain to speak of. We took The Tube to South Kensington to visit the Natural History Museum with the intention of also visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Natural History Museum is a fantastic building with an amazing collection of animal specimens ranging from insects to dinosaurs. I think the dinosaur exhibit is the most popular, especially with the kids.
I was struck by the beauty of the building itself. No tripods allowed, but I found a railing where I could perch my camera and shoot some longer exposure shots which yielded some good results.
When we left the Natural History Museum it was out intention to go to the Victoria Albert Museum, but we noticed that the Science Museum was right next door so we popped in there for a visit. I was curious to see the newly opened information age exhibit.
There were some very cool displays featuring technology that I was happy to see.
I will say it is odd going to a museum and seeing technology like the Tandy TRS-80 that I used when it was new as a museum exhibit behind protective glass.
After we were done with the Science Museum we determined that we were a little too beat to try and tackle the Victoria Albert Museum so we headed back to the hotel to rest after having a late lunch. After we rested up a bit we caught The Tube out to Westminster to get some long exposure night shots.
We walked around and took in the sites and then made our way back to the hotel for some snacks and now for some sleep.
After yesterday’s adventures we slept good. Woke up, had breakfast and with another sunny day stretching out in front of us we decided to make our way to Greenwich to see the sites. This starts with a quick Tube ride to Westminster
Then a walk past the London Eye to get to the ferry
And then it’s a 45 minutes ferry ride down the Thames to get to Greenwich.
Along the way we spotted a dazzle ship. Apparently these are part of an art installation where the ship is painted in specially-commissioned ‘dazzle’ designs to pay homage to artists’ wartime contribution.
We visited the Painted Hall in the Old Royal Naval College which was really interesting to see.
This gave me the opportunity to take some wide angle shots using the technique of setting a timer on the camera and placing it on the floor facing up. It’s the best way I have found to get some of the amazing details present in ceiling paintings.
From there we made our way up to the observatory so we could stand on the Prime Meridian
Then we went down to the Maritime Museum which was interesting, but no photography allowed. But there was a large ship in a bottle on display in front of the museum
We grabbed a late lunch and then headed back to our hotel. We’re taking it easy tonight as we have run ourselves just a little ragged. Tomorrow should be a good day for hitting some of the museums.
We were so tired after arriving in London and that, combined with the sun going down by 4:00 pm we could not manage to stay awake after about 5:30 pm. We knew going to sleep that early might result in some problems, but interestingly enough we managed to pretty much sleep through to 7:30 the next morning. It was still dark outside so we both thought it must be like 2 am or so. We were very relieved that was not the case.
We got dressed and had breakfast and were greeted by a sunny day with big blue skies.
We found our way to the Tower Of London
We didn’t take the tour as we wanted to fully exploit the sunny day. We moved on from the Tower Of London to the Tower Bridge.
Here we decided to take the tour. We were especially keen to see the new glass floor in the upper walkways of the bridge that had just recently opened.
After touring the bridge we took a rather leisurely stroll down the Thames just to take in the sites.
Later that afternoon we had plans to meet up with some friends for dinner. We set The Shard as our meeting point.
When we met up we took a stroll through Borough Market and sampled some of the foods and then headed to The George Inn, a pub that was founded in 1677.
From there we all moved on to have dinner at Rabot 1745, an amazing restaurant where everything on the menu is cocoa-centric. Basically using either sweet chocolate or cacao in the making of the dish. Even my martini had cacao flavored vodka.
After a fantastic dinner we walked with our friends and explored the riverside after dark. It was then we noticed that The Shard was treating the city of London to a light show.
All in all, a very successful first day if our utter exhaustion and blistered feet are any indication.