We did drive into London on Thursday, June 25, taking our rental car back to the office near the Marble Arch. So what? Well, if you’ve ever driven in London, you will know that was something of a feat. On the way we stopped to see the Kenwood House—an 18th century estate remodeled by Robert Adams—on the edge of Hampstead Heath. The house itself is a work of art, but inside are paintings by Vermeer (“The Guitar Player”), Rembrandt, Hals, Gainsborough, Romney, Reynolds, Landseer and others. We were preceded in our visit by a heard of young women, who breezed through the rooms without an inkling of what they held. So Sad. If you’d like to see what’s on offer at Kenwood, go to: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/kenwood/history/collections .
We would have stayed longer at Kenwood, and looked around Hampstead Heath—an amazing spread of open, natural space in London—but, we were warned that we should get into London before 3:00 pm, to avoid the traffic. It was pretty bad when we did drive in, between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm, but with the help of Google Maps (which my great-niece Alison had got working again after it had “stopped working, sorry” when I arrived in Edinburgh,) we made it with only a couple wrong turns. We loaded our things into a taxi, and made it to our flat, about two miles (at most) away, in about forty minutes. I understand there are people who live in London, and own cars, but one wonders why.
That afternoon, after unpacking and starting laundry, we walked to Harrods to visit their food courts. Roger decided he would like to see if they had any socks he would like, so we went down to the basement where men’s furnishing are arrayed. I wondered off during this transaction and stumbled onto the Princess Diana/Dodi Fayed memorial. I’m afraid I really laughed out loud at the spectacle, somewhat to the annoyance of my compatriots who were fawning over the thing. “Innocent Victims” proclaims the engraving on the pedestal supporting the statue of Diana and Dodi seeming to step off heavenward. Really? They were the victims of a drunk driver, and maybe not so innocent. But, I guess if you’re the owner of Harrods, and your son is killed by a drunk driver, you have the right to grieve in any way you wish, including this bit of kitsch.
Roger got his socks, and we went on to the food courts—an amazing display of elegant edibles. We bought a few gourmet items then went on to purchase more mundane breakfast items at Waitrose.
I had been to London many times when we lived in Essex for two years, so felt no guilt in taking the next day off while Roger visited the Pietre Museum which houses a huge collection of ancient Egyptian stuff. I walked to Sloan Square to a computer store, then to the Kensington Gardens. That night we were pleased to find our favorite Tandoori restaurant of thirteen years ago was still alive and well at its old place on the Brompton Road, just a couple blocks west of Harrods.
We had reservations to see the Houses of Parliament on the next day, Saturday, something we had never taken the time to see before. Well worth the effort. We had thought to visit Westminster Abbey again, but the crowds were overwhelming, so we decided to walk to the National Gallery on Trafalgar square. After a nice pub lunch we started walking down Whitehall. The police had blocked it off to traffic, we thought due to a demonstration about Eritrea. Not so. It was the day of London’s Gay Pride Parade, and the day after the SCOTUS’ decision validating the right of gays to marry. It was huge. The participants and the crowds were ecstatic. We proceeded to Trafalgar Square, but reached a crowd so thick, my claustrophobia began to set in, so we made a quick exit through the Admiralty Arch and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. We thought we might visit the Queen’s Gallery on the off chance she might be displaying her Vermeer. (Roger has a goal of seeing all the Vermeer’s.) We found that it would not be displayed until October. Don’t think we’ll make it.
We spent Sunday at the National Gallery. For some reason, we had never visited it when we lived in Essex. If you’ve any interest in great pieces of art from medieval to the early 20th century, the Gallery is a treasure.
On Monday we went to the British Museum (which we’ve both visited many time) and saw their special exhibit “Defining Beauty”: the body in ancient Greek art.” It was a great chance to get close to some of the Elgin marbles. That evening we say “The Book of Mormon” at the Prince of Wales Theatre, after a splendid meal in Chinatown. On Tuesday, we visited the John Sloane Museum—an eclectic treat. Roger went on to the Tate, which I have seen, and I went to the flat to pack. We ate one more Tandoori meal that night. Tandoori food, hidden parks, walkable streets, every corner filled with history—I will miss all this about London. One thing that delighted me was to find that our flat was on the same street as my favorite author, P.G. Wodehouse had lived for awhile. I could live in London—if I were rich.