29 December 2009

London Love/Hate

Good morning readers
Are you wondering about the title of today's blog?  Well you might.  The thing is:  I absolutely LOVE London!  But.... for all the love I have for London, I also have almost a similar hatred of it because it is SO crowded!  There are millions of people riding the tube, visiting the attractions, walking higgeldy-piggeldy in the streets - and everyone is in a hurry, hurry, hurry! It's exhausting.  However, the good things about London are so smashing that the bad things are easily surmountable. Yesterday we ended up on Charing Cross Road, as in the brilliant movie, "84 Charing Cross Road" starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.  I recently saw and loved the film so HAD to re-live it.  I walked past lots of fascinating antique book shops (all closed - was public holiday) and ended up at No. 84 and you will not believe what was there: a PIZZA HUT... Once over my bitter disappointment, it was off to visit one of my favourite places on the planet - The National Portrait Gallery.  It houses an excellent selection of portraits, my favourites being the Tudor portraits of all those famous historical figures.  The detail in the clothing is phenomenal and you can get right up close to the picture to see it.  The feathers!  The satin folds of clothing!  The jewellery!  Bliss!!!!  I also really enjoyed the more contemporary portraits of people I'm not familiar with.  I particularly loved this one of Hugh Gaitskill, a British politician, painted by Australian artist Judy Cassab. I like Mr G's penetrating gaze...

Following the NPG, we walked though the little alleyways near Covent Garden and found, amongst other wonderful things, an aromatic delight in the form of Neal's Yard Dairy CHEESE SHOP!  You could smell it before you could see it.  What a delicious pong.  Mum and I were instantly in heaven.  Where to start?  The young lady behind the counter, Lucy, was very helpful and let us taste a few things and we came away with slithers (!) of stilton, cheddar and something called "The Stinking Bishop" which lived up to its name, let me assure you! Thankfully the air is so refigerator-like that one can walk around London with a bag of smelly cheese all day with no fear of melt. 

We finished off our day at The British Museum which was quite a fantastic experience.  I've not been there before and when we first fought our way in to the Museum and were confronted by the other 33,497 people also visiting, I initially had negative thoughts about museums.  However, after a delicious lunch at Pizza Express down the road, washed down with a bottle of Sicilian red, we felt restored.  We had to get away from the restaurant anyway because my mother was flirting outrageously with the well-muscled, gay Icelandic waiter in his tight t-shirt! It's really amazing how much better one can manage a crowd after a tasty lunch!   

These images are some of the treasures within the walls of the British Museum.  Their collections are breath taking.  I was absolutely agog at the historical significance of the sculptures, wall sconces, armour, jewellery, pottery and art that we saw.  And of course, we only saw a tiny fraction of what they have.  It was absolutely brilliant and I would rate it FIVE STARS!
The worst part of the day was entering a packed tube station, to wait on a packed train platform before forcing ourselves onto a packed train and then extracating ourselves like toothpaste from a pressurised tube at our stop.  It was truly horrible.  How can people live like that?  So, life in London is a two-edged sword.  You need the crowds to generate the choice, variety and quality of available goods but that means putting up with those crowds when you want to enjoy those treats.  Today is our last full day in London.  Spud is off to the RAF Museum on his own (his Mental Health Day) while mum and I find some fun and possibly cause some havoc.  Stay tuned!  PS:  they are forecasting snow but I am sceptical.  The weather, whilst cold, has been clear and sunny so we are lucky.  We are travelling to Manchester tomorrow so that could mean KAOS.

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