Tuesday, October 25, 2016

London: Day 5

Roman wall 
Our last day.  Although we had crammed a lot into our trip thus far, we'd made an ambitious list for Tuesday.  And somehow, we accomplished it all.

We got up early and went out into the rain-wet streets toward the Tower.  I had done the tour years before and felt no need for another one, but I love getting off the Tube and encountering the Roman wall, 1000 years old and just sitting there in the middle of it all.

In the U.S., we 'd have cut it up into pieces and installed it in a museum, behind glass, where it wouldn't look like anything but a pile of rocks.

The skies had cleared and it was brilliantly blue, so sunny it was difficult to take pictures without the cooperation of passing clouds.

We walked for awhile around the Tower grounds and then crossed the bridge (which I'd never done before, for no particular reason) to get to our next stop, the marvel that is the Tate Modern.

Tower grounds with modern building in background

When I was last in London (fall 1995), there was only the Tate Gallery, which has now become the Tate Britain.  All the modern art has moved to this new location, a spectacularly renovated former power station with 20 foot ceilings that can dwarf even the most enormous artistic impulse and bring them down to human size.

This museum was Mario's choice, not mine; my taste runs more toward what we saw at the National Galleries, but I was very glad to have gone in the end.  Sometimes the setting really can determine how you see art, and this enhanced my experience tremendously.  I only wish we'd had time to go up to the viewing platform, but there was a line, and a schedule to keep to.

The tower (oldest building in center)
After the Tate, and a bacon roll from a street vendor (using up the last of our cash), we walked to Embankment and took the Tube to Westminster.

It was bright and sunny and we could have walked, but we were trying to fit a lot into a short period, so the train it was.  Getting off near the Abbey and coming up above ground to the push of the crowds is one of the "changes" I liked least -- having to stand in line at times to cross the street, being jostled constantly (albeit more politely) -- felt more like NYC than London.

Tower of London
This was my fifth trip to London, and my fifth visit to the Abbey (which is one of the few attractions in the city that has an admission charge).  I don't know why, but I always like to make that pilgrimage.  Even the crowds there don't bother me -- they're quieter, less camera-obsessed (since photography isn't allowed) and I can move at my own pace.

I stop in on Queen Elizabeth I and her half-sister, Queen Mary, entombed uncomfortably close together.  Hopefully in death these two sisters settled their many differences; otherwise, eternity is going to feel really, really eternal.

Traitor's Gate

 Mary of Scotland isn't too far away, adding insult to injury.  (I always did consider her a bit of an idiot).

We had visited the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery a few days prior, and agreed that the Abbey is where you get to visit all the people whose portraits you stared at a few blocks away.  

The bacon roll was wearing off, but we decided to get to our next destination before eating again.  Mario is a comic book/graphic novel fan, so we had to make a pilgrimage to Forbidden Planet for him.  Since this isn't as much up my alley, I required food and wine first to fortify myself.

Tower Bridge closer to - before we crossed
Topped off by a steak and ale pie and two glasses of wine (a happy accident in that the kitchen staff lost our order and we got a free round while we waited), we spent some time in Forbidden Planet, where Mario mingled with his people the way I do at fabric and garden stores.

A short walk brought back to Trafalgar Square, where we had an hour to kill before our last treat of the day -- and the trip.  I had bought us theater tickets to see Kenneth Branagh at the Garrick.

Kenneth Branagh is tied to London for me.  I was there in 1989, when his film of Henry V came out, and I saw it at the movies there, because I couldn't afford to go to the theater.  (I figured a Shakespearean movie was as close as I was going to get).

Modern London from the Tower area

Full circle 25 years later, grown up and with some money to spend, getting to see him live.  The whole experience at the Garrick was amazing, it's a white and gold wedding cake of a theater in the inside.  We had second tier seats, up but not too high, close enough that we could still see faces clearly, but inexpensive enough that we didn't think twice about buying tickets.  (That never happens at home).

We got in a little before midnight, having walked around London post-show, had a bit more wine, beer and the last of the cheese, and did our packing.  One thing to be said for not shopping on vacation -- packing literally took about 10 minutes for the two of us.

Recycled bottlecaps at the Tate Modern
Because we didn't feel like getting up at the crack of dawn, we treated ourselves to the Heathrow Express train the next morning from Paddington.  The Tube takes about 40 minutes from the airport and makes a lot of stops, plus since we were traveling during morning rush, it would have been packed.  But it's relatively cheap.  The Express is 20 pounds, but it's direct from Paddington to each terminal, takes 15 minutes, and runs every 15 minutes.  We decided that was the way to go.

Once again, we did online check-in, so we got through security pretty quickly, had breakfast at the airport (why are their airport restaurants priced the same as restaurants elsewhere, while U.S. airport restaurants hold you hostage and charge you double? Why?) and then only had an hour or so to wait at our gate.

Once again, the crowd was light, so after a little while, and a snack,  Mario moved up to watch movies and I read for a bit then tipped over in my seat and slept part of the way home.  I would have probably slept more, except the flight attendants were so unoccupied that they kept cruising the aisles, offering snacks, beverages, wine, facial wipes, etc., it felt rude to ignore them.

Tate Modern
Landing in Philadelphia, we waited in line at passport control and the security checkpoint, which was probably the most inconvenient part of the whole trip.  From there, we took the airport train right back to our neighborhood and walked home to greet the kitties.

Tate Modern

Tate Modern 

Tate Modern - mainly for scale.
This place is enormous.

Inside the Garrick Theatre

Understated neon at the Garrick


diannew said...

Thank you so much for sharing your vacation with us. Your writing makes me feel like I was part of the party.

Irene said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Thank-you for sharing!

Claire Cooper said...

I love the bottle too work by El Anatusi at he Tate modern. I first saw some of his work at the RA summer show last year. Really inspiring how it's stitched together and hangs like fabric.

badmomgoodmom said...

Sounds like a fun trip. You have good taste in travel companions.

Is the bottlecap textile an El Anatsui work?