Thursday, October 27, 2005

I see London, I see France...

Top Things to Do:
1) St.Paul's Cathedral--Charles and Diana got married here. Look up at the dome to the mosaics done by Sir Christopher Wren. Look at the beautiful stained glasses in the apse, see the serene stillness of the quire, and contemplate to Henri Moore's "Mother and Child." The galleries are the best part. Spiral upon spiral are the stairs up: to 259 steps up is the Whispering Gallery (you can hear someone 32m diametrically opposed to you in this dome), 378 steps up is the Stone Gallery, and 530 steps up is the Gold Gallery (the view rivals that of the London Eye). The crypt memorializes Churchill, Florence Nightingale and Wren.
2) Covent Garden-- Lively entertainment of singing, dancing and acrobatics amidst the small shops (Thornton!!). Dining is outside of course as the cafes and pubs bring their food out to you. Apple Market has rows and rows of knicks nacks for your paddity wacks.
3) National Gallery-- Amazing to me that I get to see the real works like "The Sunflowers" by Van Gogh (brushwork is almost tactile made for his friend, Gauguin's arrival), "Madame Moutessier" by Ingres, "The Arnolfini Portrait" by Van Eyck (so small), and Da vinci's "Virgin of the Rocks" (the another one at the Louvre is equally dark), studies of Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon" (the real one is at the Champ Elysees), "Dinner at Emmaus" by Caravaggio," Holbein's "The Ambassadors" (weird skull in the foreground) and all the works of Constable, Turner, and Gainborough a girl could ever need. Right next to it is the National Portrait Gallery, replete with portraits of the Tudor family, photos of English stars (Gregory Peck is so hot), and the Royal family. A huge Chuck Close greets you at the door. Bonjour!
4) Tower of London/Tower Bridge-- Definitely go there early, get Paul's (j'adore parisienne patisserie) and sit outside to soak in the view of the Tower Bridge. My sister noticed the baby blue that outlined the bridge during the daytime (it lights up in this eerily beautiful way during the nighttime). Go on a tour with a Beefeater who are trained to guard the gates for twenty years and notice the spikiness of the portcullis that works even to this day. Enter with these yeoman warders through the traitor's gate. Inside, the beefeater will tell you the wonderful stories of the beheadings that went on. The White Tower by William the Conqueror started it all. The Tower Green was probably the most infamous for two of Henry the VIII's wives who were killed there, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Anne Boleyn, most influenced by the French, wanted to die by the french sword and the cut was so fresh that when they pulled up the head for all of England to see, her eyes were still moving side to side and her lips were still chanting in prayer. Sir Walter Raleigh was a prisoner there for 13 years. Among the most luxurious of the 13 towers was the Jewel Tower, that housed all the wonderful crowns (most famous being the Crown Jewel of India), and other crown jewels. Among the most unique things about the Tower are the ravens, which old wive's tale say that if they ever leave the tower, something bad will befall England. Just to be on the safe side, eight ravens are inside the tower (six are working in house two are being benched). Lots of stories lies within the towers like the murders of the two princes who were suffocated within the tower and other tales of treason. At the top of the Tower, lies a wonderful weathervane with a royal crest to show that the kings and queens used to live there. Spectacular.
5) Kensington Palace/ Victoria& Albert Museum/Harrods-- Kensington is a magnificent place filled with rooms for a king and queen (duh). But rather dull after a while. Really the costumes make the tour, as the fashion changes with the times. V&A is really great. I really wish I saw Danny Lane's balustrade but Raphael's cartoons, Dale Chihuly's chandelier and costumes of England really made the museum for me. I love Harrods. Not because they have the dirty champagne glasses Diana and Dodi used before they died along with the gaudy engagement ring he gave to her, but because food and drink department was so damn cool. The Egyptian walls with the soft lighting made the beatiful, chocolates, pastries and othe delights sing and dance like The Nutcracker to me. Ok, maybe I am the nut.
6) Tate Modern-- I love the area in general the museum overlooks the Milennium bridge which is somewhat shaky right now so they are trying to fix it. It is really close by to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre which appears to be surprisingly new as well as Hay's Galleria which used to be a dockyard for importing teas from India and China. LA's national museum looks very similar to the Tate: colossal, white, open rectangular construction. Dali's "Lobster Phone" (raunchy), Boccioni's "Unique Forms of Continuity" (dynamic), Gilbert & George's "Death Hope Life Fear (indecipherable), Andy Warhol's prints (kitschy), and Picasso's "Woman in Nude" (monolithic). My favorite was Matisse's "Snail." It was cute.
7) House of Parliament/Buckingham Palace/Westminster Abbey-- Somewhat feel obliged to put this in because Big Ben is so awesome. Changing of the guards was kinda yawn. So crowded I need to bring stilts next time. Westminster Abbey has a nice coronation chair and some pretty stained glass windows as well as a novel poet's corner that has the stained glass in blue but seeing the tomb of Mary I after Elizabeth I and Henry VII was just plain morbid. I know, I know...Queen Victoria was crowned here. Long live the Queen!!
8) Madame Taussad's/London Dungeon--The wax museum was fun with George Clooney. Posh and Becks, and the Incredible Hulk. They had a really creepy exhibit where you go in the dark and you think that they are wax figures but they are actually live people running up to you and screaming at you!!! I was attacked so many times!!! London Dungeon was really poo poo because we learned about the plague, torture devices (tongue twister), and Jack the ripper, none of it was scary because the machines are a little off on the timing and the actors have done it so many times, they kinda just deadpan it. I liked how they take a photo of us in the beginning as I got to behead my sister...hee hee.
8) Trafalgar Square/ Bond street/Soho--West End theatres with tickets booth. Right now the hit shows are Woman In White, Guys and Dolls (Ewan Mcgregor and Jane Kracowski) and Chicago (Linda Carter as Mama Morton!!) Bond street has more high end jewelry and Soho has many cool shops and is near Chinatown which reminds me of the one in Boston but with wittier named restaurants.
9) London Eye/Saatchi Museum/ London Aquarium--Definitely go at night when the city lights make the view more fantastic.
10) British Museum/Sir John Sloane Museum--The center of the windowed dome encases a library. Small wooden shelves upon shelves worth of books. On the right side, the Enlightenment gallery mimics the theme. The Rosetta Stone is there. Just being in the area makes me feel more learned. It is a nice juxtaposition to the bare whiteness of the dome. Sloane was a great architect that housed a lot of works from China and Egypt but the best works he houses are the beautiful moral drawings of the "Rake's Progress" and the "Election" downstairs in the basement.
11)Museum of London/Monument--I loved the nook where they had model shops of the tailors, bankers, tea makers, pawn shops, dressmakers, saloons during the Victorian Age. I like the different clocks too. The monument commemorates the Great Fire of 1666 done by Sir Christopher Wren.

Anglophilic about:

Jo Malone
Whittard's Tea
Pret a Manger
Boots shaper's Lemonade
Patisserie Valerie
Fortnum & Mason
Marks and Spencer

Next time:
1) Buckingham Palace/House of Parliament-- Late July to early October is when it is open to the public.
2) Notting Hill/Regent Street: to check out the posh, well-coveted residential area.
3) Walk around Kensington gardens, check out the Serpentine Gallery. Regent's Park, Green Park, St James' Park but heck I can't even make it to Central Park/
4) High Tea at a posh hotel.
5) Somerset House for the Hermitage rooms.
6) See a show!!

Bathrooms are really clean.
Museums are free except for the special exhibitions.
Walk instead of subway. Much cheaper.
Cold and damp.


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