London travels

Posted by jerry on October 9th, 2005 — Posted in Travel

The cobblestones glistened damply in the morning light as I set off to Covent Garden markets. They had yet to open, but the buildings alone were fascinating. “Here on this site Punch and Judy was first performed in 1648 as witnessed by Samuel Pepys” read one sign. As I approached the market, I noticed a number of bicycles chained to fences. But I knew that Covent garden couldn’t be far away when I saw this two-metre unicycle…

Unicycle at Covent Garden

I wish them luck on the cobblestones!

The concert in St Martin in the Fields was breathtaking – a fine complement to the extraordinary architecture.

St Martins in the Fields
St Martins-in-the-Fields

The National Gallery has an excellent collection – they were just finishing a Stubbs exhibition – but for me the Canaletto painting from St James Park is always worth a look

National Gallery London
London – National Gallery

From Charing Cross it was a quick tube ride to St Paul’s Cathedral – Wren’s crowning achievement after the Great Fire. The dome you see from the outside is only the outermost of three, and was inspired by Bramante’s design for St Peter’s in Rome. The outside one is more cladding than anything, and beneath it is a brick cone that tapers up to support the lantern. Finally there is an inner dome with wonderful frescoes painted by Sir John Thornhill (1716-19) against Sir Christopher Wren’s wishes, that have been newly restored.

St Pauls dome
St Paul’s Dome

St Pauls inner dome
St Pauls inner dome

The whispering gallery (above) actually works – someone across the dome sounds like they are right next to you – a bit disconcerting really! I was treated to a delightful choir practice where the music wafted up into the gallery from the floor below.

It is well worth climbing the 538 steps to the top of the dome – the view is amazing

View from St Pauls
View from the top of St Pauls Cathedral

Of course London is the place to meet Australians – well blow me kangaroo down sport – if that isn’t Rolf Harris the bloke from Bassendene in Perth Western Australia who made a bit of name for himself with a paintbrush and a wobble board…

Rolf Harris, Trafalgar Square 2005
Rolf Harris

It seems he was doing a community arts project – Rolf on Art – which involved getting hundreds of people and community groups to paint fragments of famous paintings by numbers – and the result was pieced together in enormous frames in Trafalgar Square. It was a huge event with more than 10,000 people there to see it all come together. It was broadcast by BBC and there were bands and jugglers and demonstrations of Renaissance painting techniques and models of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions and loads more. It was a great atmosphere.

Rolf on Art
Rolf on Art

The Victoria and Albert Museum has an excellent collection of textiles – including the Jane Bostocke sampler – the oldest dated English embroidery sampler

Jane Bostocke sampler
The Jane Bostock Sampler (1598)

The museum was kind enough to open the musical instruments section just for me after I explained that my hardanger fiddle was modeled on the one they have there, and that I was over for a few days from Australia. I would have been just as happy to come back later when it might have reopened, but the staff were really helpful and gave me a personal tour of that section. They explained that it was closed as they were short of staff that day.

I rounded off the visit with bit of shopping at Harrods. It was the first time I had been to Harrods, even though I had previously lived in London for a year. The decor is, well, a bit over the top… but the staff were very helpful and friendly. And although I expected higher prices, they really weren’t much higher – and the service was excellent. The food hall does spectacular food displays. And if you are from outside of the European Union you can reclaim your VAT on major purchases. This brought the ultimate price of my new mini-disc recorder down to less than I would have paid in Australia.

Harrods of London
Harrods

The one place that keeps drawing me back to London is St James’ Park – I love the view from the footbridge towards the Horseguards

St James Park

And the fact you can walk through the Horseguards to Whitehall – where the Whitehall Cafe serves excellent lunches and a fine pot of tea.

Horseguards London
Horseguards, London

All up it was an excellent visit – I’ll post more photos on specific themes later

Cheers
Jerry

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