More London days

While I did not walk a marathon today, I may have walked a half.


I started and ended in West London. I walked to the Tate Britain. The gallery focuses on British paintings from the 16th century to modern times. One of the paintings I wanted to see was on loan. I have encountered that a few times this visit.


From there, I found my way to the Southbank and walked to the Tate Modern. In case we have not met, I am not a big fan of modern art but there was a piece by Diego Rivera and a couple of pieces by Salvador Dali. I am a big Dali fan. There were a few pieces that did intrigue me, but for the most part, I am like what is this? Or I could have done this i.e. the stack of bricks or the canvases of solid color. I would love to paint a canvas all black and charge you $10,000 for it. Just let me know. I wrote a paper on modern art during my art history class at the UW. I was very vehement in my critique of it. But the views of the city from the tenth floor are amazing.


From there I did photo stops at the Shakespeare Globe, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower of London. I love the tower. So much history happened in that place. I love to picture Elizabeth I entering there at the dead of night, unsure of the outcome.


From the tower, I took the underground to South Kensington to save time. I loved the neighborhood from the moment I left the station. What a great vibe. Next time I come, I will want to spend more time there. I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. They have a Frida Kahlo special exhibit, but tickets are sold out. They were having a Day of the Dead event so the place was buzzing. I was able to see most of the gallery. Some areas are closed at 5:45 but the rest are open until 10:00 on Fridays. There were a lot of good pieces. I would like to return and really take my time.


Tomorrow I start the journey home. I wish I had more time, but it is time to get back to the grind. In the words of world-renowned Michael Buble, “Another summer day has come and gone away in Paris and Rome…”.


The area I am staying at is Pimlico/Belgravia. I am about five minutes from the Victoria underground and around the corner from the train and bus station. It’s such a convenient location.


I love the underground, but I also love being able to walk around and see how the neighborhoods connect. I love my Rick Steves’ guidebook because everything is broken up by neighborhood. It’s easy to digest, and there are handy maps where I can see where things connect, and which underground serves where I am going. At of all the brands of guidebooks for Europe, I find his the most useful when it comes to planning and implementing.


Edits when I get home.

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London chronicles

Today I did a lot of walking in Central London. I am sure I walked a full marathon getting there and back with some backtracking.


I walked to take some more pictures of parliament, Big Ben (the structure surrounding it is under construction) and the London Eye. Then up Parliament/Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. From there I hit up Leicester Square, Soho, Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, and Covent Garden. I ended the day by returning to the National Gallery where I was more focused on seeing the art. When I was at the British Museum, I was so scared I was going to hit some priceless artifact and break it. Oh, the horror!


As I was taking pictures of Big Ben, parliament, and the London Eye from the Westminster Bridge, I think it really hit me. I am in London! I guess I am a few days late with the realization. Even though it is not the high summer tourist season, it’s still packed with tourists. I did hear that some countries (like Switzerland) are on a break right now.


One of my favorite statues is the one of Boadicea, who was a Celtic queen. I watched a movie about her life and was struck by her courage to go against the Roman invaders. Of course, her ending wasn’t happy, but she did leave the earth on her terms. I walked around Parliament Square then headed to Trafalgar.


I enjoyed walking around Chinatown. All the food smelled so good and the window displays looked so great! I need to hit up dim sum when I get home.


Both Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus were hopping. I know ultra touristy, but it seems like the tourists walking through it were having a good time and realizing, hey I am in London! I liked Soho. I don’t think I went there last trip. It has a good vibe. I was trying to think of what neighborhood in Seattle it reminded me of, but I came up blank. Maybe old-school Capitol Hill meets Fremont?


I had also not been to the Covent Garden area (or at least I have no memory). It was just as packed as Leicester and Piccadilly. It had a good vibe. Some places were definitely pricier.


Oh. There are people picketing to do a re-vote on the Brexit referendum. It doesn’t seem like people were informed when they voted and now have voters’ remorse. I talked to one of the picketers on Monday. We commiserated together on the current respective political climates in our nations


When I was in the museum, I sat down by an older woman. Then another older couple joined us. Anyway, we started talking. My original neighbor, Marilyn, is from Toronto. Her husband passed away four years ago, but she travels with a friend who is also a widow because they travel well together. She is taking an 18-day transatlantic cruise in a few days back to North America. She said that she and her husband saved money to travel together, and she misses traveling with him, but she is still traveling. She has done quite a bit of traveling and told some interesting stories about traveling in South America in the 1960s and traveling to Morocco. In Morocco, people thought they were American and some of the men spit on her husband, who was 6’2”.


Sometimes I will ask older people if they could offer one piece of life advice what would it be. So, I asked Marilyn. She said to live in the moment and to enjoy where ever you are (in life) in your life. She said that she wished she had ignored the chores sometimes and just went on a walk with her husband or did other things together. She also said to remember that we come in with nothing and leave with nothing. Focus less on stuff and more on experiences. Her and the couple encouraged me to travel as much as I can. Marilyn said it’s the best form of education. And the church said, “Amen.”


It’s November 1, and it seems likes overnight Christmas decorations sprung up, though merchandise has been in the stores forever.

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A day of London museums

Today I took in some of the “free” activities of Central and North London. There is a recommended 5 pound donation.


I started the day at the British Library. I basically took the underground there and walked my way back to where I was staying. When I was at the library, I was remembering visiting it before. It was a weird de-ja-vu moment. It has been many years, and they do circulate items in and out. I love the maps and the sacred texts and early Bibles. They have texts from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. I was able to see the Codex Sinaiticus but the Codex Alexandrinus was not there. The Gutenberg Bible was there. Of course, documents pertaining to the Magna Carta were there. I am so amazed how these items have been preserved for centuries. There was a letter Jane Austen wrote to her brother. A poem by Emily Bronte. And a book by Charlotte Bronte. Oh, and there was a collection of Raleigh’s works. I also signed up to use the Reading Rooms. I went in and wrote a little (I had to borrow a pencil), and I hope to return before I leave. The card is good for one year.


The next stop was the British Museum. I forgot how much art is there. I was wondering what would happen if Egypt asked for its artifacts back. I know there is a push to have all items from there returned. I so need to go to Egypt. My friend Linda is there now. I would also like to go back to Greece. Like last time, the area around the Rosetta Stone was packed. The Greek and Egyptian sections were probably the most crowded. Other sections on Africa, Japan, and North America were less crowded. I only allowed myself two hours in there or I could have been there all day. Last trip, I went twice and the second time, I literally walked in each gallery.


When I was there, I chatted with a woman who was from Paris but living in London. Her family came from Africa as immigrants to Paris when she was young. I asked her why she moved, and she said the racism in France was more overt. We talked about colonization (for example the English empire spanned 20 percent of the globe at some point) and the changing demographics of the UK as people from the countries they colonized move here. We also talked about religion. I am Christian, but I have an interest in other religious as well as mythology, so it was an interesting conversation. It amazes me that there are parallels that run in different religions/mythologies. For example, the concept of Ragnarök and the Norse end of the world. Then the parallels between Roman and Greek gods. Anyway, she was born Catholic but converted to Buddhism. It was the longest conversation I have had since leaving Bath. I also notice I end up talking to people who work at the museums a lot. So yeah, I guess I do have a need for some human interaction much to my surprise (smile).


After the museum, I made my way to Trafalgar Square.


I went to St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The church was built in 1720. There is a Chinese community center there, and the church serves the homeless community in the area. There is a peacefulness there despite its location (the square can be hectic). After visiting the abbey and the minster, it was very understated in a good way. Less glam and more service.


The highlight of the day was the National Portrait Gallery, specifically the Tudor and Stuart rooms. I was all giddy. I had been getting tired, but the gallery gave me life. Then to the National Gallery. I got tuckered out about halfway through (in retrospect I should have split the four over two days). I may return and see more. The thing is that I spent a lot of time in both the first time around, so maybe next trip, skip it.


I forgot it was Halloween until I saw kids out trick-or-treating. Happy Halloween and here is to Linus seeing the great pumpkin.

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Oxford, Tolkien, and Lewis…oh my!

Today, I took a train to Oxford. I caught the train at Paddington. From there, Oxford is an hour away.


My sightseeing was focused around the college, though I did go to Blackwell’s Bookstore, but I did not allow myself to shop.


I went to the Weston Library. In its “Treasures” room, there were a few items worth noting. One was a written manuscript of Jane Austen from when she was 12-15 years old. It’s called “Beautiful Consent.” There was a book that then 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth I) gave to Katherine Parr. Inside is a French poem translated into English. It is believed that she did the binding as well. There was also a book that belonged to Margaret, Queen of Scots. She died in 1093. There was also a prayer book made for an abbess, who was a Benedict nun in what is now Zadar, Croatia, which is such a beautiful place. The abbess died in 1093.


The next stop was the Museum of History and Science. What a wonderful place. I was there for over an hour. The people who worked there were really into the pieces, so when I asked questions, the answers were very thorough and informative. I like telescopes, sun dials, sextants, abacuses, microscopes, cameras, sand glasses, and globes/celestial globes. If you want to get me a gift (smile). I was in heaven. The collection included an astrolabe that Robert Dudley gave to Elizabeth I. One of Herschel’s telescopes is there. When I was in Bath, I learned that it was there that he discovered the planet Uranus. The pieces still work. It is amazing how things fall apart so easily today, and medieval equipment is still functioning. Oh, and a board including hand-written equations Einstein made when he gave at a lecture at Oxford was there. It was such a great place to hang out. It may be my favorite place from today.


I went into the Divinity School. The infirmary scene from one of the Harry Potters was filmed there. The building has constructed in the 15th century and was the first “purpose-built classroom.” I also went into the Church of St. Mary the Virgin aka The University Church. It had nice windows.


I went to Christ Church College. It was founded by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1524, who was Henry VIII’s chancellor before he fell from grace. It is on the site of an abbey that was dissolved under the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Cathedral was quite magnificent. I spent a lot of time there. It was built in the 12th century and is one of the oldest buildings in Oxford.


I went to Magdalen College because that is where C.S. Lewis taught for 25 years. It had lovely grounds with a deer park in the back. And of course, I went to Exeter College where Tolkien studied. I went to the Eagle and Child pub where the Inklings used to gather. Imagine all those great minds in one place!


It was a great day there. I am going to sleep very well tonight with all the walking I did.


Excuse any typos. I am tired (smile). As always, my disclaimer is I will edit when I get home.

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From York to London

I woke up earlier than I intended, and I had the thought that if I could find a place to store my luggage, I could go to the minster before heading to the train station. There is a place called Yorbag around the corner from the minster. It charges 3 pounds.


I forgot to mention that when I went to the minster yesterday, there were police acting as security. I don’t think I have ever seen that before. It’s sad. I was thinking more about the synagogue as well as the shooting in Kroger in Kentucky and the words of King Theoden in The Two Towers came to mind. “What Can Men Do Against Such Reckless Hate?” And the current administration of the U.S. is spreading so much dissent. Again, the candidate of the white supremacy groups was the candidate of evangelical Christians. That is a huge problem.


I was able to use my ticket from yesterday to reenter the minster. I think it is good for a year (as is the ticket to Jorvik). One of the pieces I was able to see that was of interest is the Horn of Ulf. It’s an elephant’s tusk that was presented to the minster in 1030 by Ulf, who was a Viking nobleman. It symbolized he was dedicating his land to the church. There is also the York Gospels manuscripts. They are a thousand-year old text with the four gospels. They were made by Anglo-Saxon monks at Canterbury and date prior to the Norman Conquest! How exciting they have survived so long. I am glad I was able to see them both!


The place I stayed in York, Waggon and Horses, is a 30-minute walk from the train station. I loved the breakfast. There were different choices. I had the Yorkshire breakfast, pancakes/bacon, and eggs on toast with bacon and sausage. There were some other hot choices, including porridge, plus fruit, cereal, and yogurt. I would totally stay there again because I could get to the city center pretty quick. My main needs are: comfortable bed, reliable Wi-Fi, and a hot shower. The staff was also really nice and responsive, and it wasn’t loud at all. On a side note, I like all the random pub names. Rose and Thistle. Rose and Crown. Etc.


The two-hour train from York goes through King’s Cross, so of course I had to visit Platform 9 ¾ since I was there. LOL. I have a picture there from my previous trip to London. I have an afro, that is how long ago it was.


I went to the Underground/Tube and bought my Oyster Card for the trip. I may need to put some more money on it, we will see. The station went directly to my neighborhood. It’s in the same location that I stayed at during my previous trip here, so I have some ideas of how to get around. I think it’s been eight to nine years, so of course, there are some changes.


I checked in and dumped my stuff. I wanted to hit the streets before it got dark. I can walk to Buckingham Palace pretty easily, so I went there to present myself to Her Majesty the Queen and offer my curtsy. I walked through St. James Park and made my way to Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I went to Evensong at the Abbey. I forgot how amazing it is. I am not sure if I will pay to go in or not. I went twice during my previous trip. It will depend on how my budget looks toward the end of the trip.


Anyway, today was a travel day and a chance for me to get orientated.


Edits when I get home.

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Even more York

I started the day by having a hearty breakfast. This time I opted for pancakes and bacon. Yum. The fall back allowed for an “extra” hour of sleep, which was appreciated. I woke up feeling quite refreshed.


I started the day at Clifford’s Tower. It is the ruins of a 13th century castle. In 1190, it was the site of mass-suicide by local Jews. They locked themselves inside the castle to seek refuge from a mob and set it on fire rather than face the townspeople. And with this week’s tragic events at a synagogue, a reminder that we still have a long way to go as people.


I went to the Jorvik Viking Center. While I am glad I went, I could have missed it. You start on a ride that takes you through scenes of how life would have been. There was some poor child who was traumatized by the experience (I was a little traumatized myself). I did take the time to view all of the artifacts. It makes me think about the people who used the items and their descendants walking among us now.


In his guidebook, Rick Steves has a walk along the Ouse riverside. Today I did his walk plus more. It was either that or take a cruise. Although rain wasn’t in the forecast, it did come rushing down along with hail during my walk. It was still pretty. I love the fall with the colorful leaves and chill in the air. I ran into some college students who were working on a reenactment of the Norman invasion. They were mainly history majors but some creative writing majors as well.


Oh. That reminds me. There is a lot of Harry Potter stuff in the Shambles. A lot of fans believe it was the inspiration for Diagon Alley. So quite a few Harry Potter themed stores.


Today I finally made my way inside York Minster (the Evensong wasn’t in the main section). Because my walk lasted longer, I didn’t have as much time as I intended. I was unable to look at the museum, which had some pieces I think I would have found interesting. The minster is the largest Gothic church north of the Alps. It wasn’t destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries because it was not part of a monastery. There were areas of the church that were quite cold. Since the minster is the seat of a bishop, it is also a cathedral. According to my guidebook, there is more medieval glass here than in the rest of England. They survived because they were hidden in homes.


The next stage of my journey starts tomorrow.


One of these years, I would like to come to Germany or Austria for the Christmas markets, but of course I would be home for Christmas.


In what could be TMI, this weather has my eczema flaring up!


Oh and I have seen two Five Guys and one El Gaucho. A taste of home.


The next time I come to this area, I will spend some time in the moors and think of Heathcliff even if he was more southwest.

Edits when I get home!



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More York

I managed to get to bed at a decent time (10:00) last night. As I mentioned, I am staying at a pub. I didn’t hear any noise from downstairs. I am on a busy street, and I heard the street noise. It was a Friday night, and people were partying.


I woke up this morning to rain. As I was getting ready, I looked back outside, and it was snowing. I was like wow! It wasn’t sticking, but they were nice-sized flakes. By the time I had breakfast (a nice traditional Yorkshire breakfast), it was back to rain. I forgot my umbrella, but I was able to “borrow” one from lost and found here.


I was moving slowly, but I decided to try to make the 10:15 walking tour. I was a little late, but so were about four other people. We were able to find the group though. The walk was very similar to the self-guided tour in my Rick Steves’ guidebook. At the end of the walk, I retook some of the walk because I wanted to get some pictures.


I went to the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. William the Conqueror burned York’s church to squash dissent. His son, Rufus, established the abbey as a peace offering. The church became an abbey in the 13th century and destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. So many churches destroyed. Another destroyed church I recall seeing was St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland.


I walked along a portion of the wall twice. I should mention that it was raining/rain mixed with snow off an on during the walk with the group. Thankfully it cleared up around 1:00, so most of the day had decent weather, if cold. It will be a little warmer and sunny tomorrow. I walked around the Old Town and went to the Shambles. The Shambles was once the street of the butchers. It was very crowded.


Even though I had a big breakfast, I did have a snack at St. Crux Parish Hall. It is a medieval church now used by charities that sell light snacks for fundraisers. I talked to a volunteer, and he said his group gets the space once a year. The space is in that much demand. It was listed under Rick Steves’ cheap eats near King’s Square section. I got a sausage roll, cookie, and tea for 2 pounds.


I went to St. Olaf’s/St. Olav’s church and the Holy Trinity Church. The Holy Trinity Church still has box pews. Its stain glass date back to the 13th to 15th century. And it also has medieval altar stones.


After that, I went for a short walk along the Ouse.


Then I spent some more time in the Museum Garden, which is very nice. I went to the Yorkshire Museum. There were some cool pieces including the Middelham Jewel. I had a great talk with a worker there who is getting her master’s in history. She is focused on Viking history. We started talking about the show Vikings, which we both watch.


I went to Evensong at York Minister. Tonight, there was a guest choir. Yesterday’s service was spoken because their choir is on vacation. Yesterday and today, they shared some of the prayer requests left that day. It puts things into perspective and makes some of the things I struggle with seem silly. A lot were cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. I tend to leave my prayer request, and the ones I saw at St. Olaf’s were heavy as well. A lot to pray for.


I think I mentioned I am following a Rwanda series on Humans of New York. Reading stories about the genocide also puts things into perspective.


I then had dinner at another Rick Steves’ recommended location. It was the Cornish Bakery in King’s Square. The pastry I had at the deli in a grocery store in Bath was just as good.


It was probably around 6:30 or 7:00 when I was there but there were some obviously drunk groups roaming around the square. Saturday night and people have lost their minds.


Oh. I have heard so many sirens here. I mean way more than I would think, one on top of another.


I have some thoughts I keep meaning to introduce, then I forget. I really need to write them down, but since it was wet for part of the day, I did not have my journal out to keep notes.


Time falls back tonight in England. I love having two falls backs because of my travels. I will fall back when I get back home too.


Oh, and there are a lot of chocolate stores here. York had three major confectioneries. One of them, Rowntree, is the originator of Kit Kat.


Edits when I get back.


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