London - part 1

Trip Start Oct 23, 2008
1
4
6
Trip End Nov 05, 2008


Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Hide lines
shadow

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Thursday, October 30, 2008

We arrived in London on a gray drizzling afternoon of October 30th...
I have to admit now - I was mentally prepared not to like London...I mean - yes, it's one of the greatest cities in the world, and there is so much history, and so much tradition, and so much to do and to see...but to me - cities are like people, and either there is chemistry or there isn't ...and if there is no chemistry - then no amount of rationalization can change the way you feel...so, I was coming to London with a preconceived notion that there won't be much "chemistry"... I had no idea what made me think this...and I had no idea how mistaken I was!...despite my silly preconceived notions, despite gray gloomy autumn weather, and despite the traffic on the "wrong" side of the road  London has become one of my very favorite (or "favourite" - as they would spell over there) cities in the world ...

We stayed on Pall Mall street ...I can't imagine a more convenient location - a nice and very quiet street, yet so close to everything, not to mention -  within minutes from several underground ("tube") stations...Pall Mall - as many of you probably know - is home to various respectable private gentlemen's clubs...an organization my angel belongs to has an arrangement which allows its members to be hosted by one of these gentlemen's clubs...that's how we happened to stay there ...the gentlemen's clubs on Pall Mall are built in the 19th or early 20th century (the one we stayed at was built in early 1800s), and they have certain rules that probably haven't been changed since then... our club, for example, has a rule that certain areas of the club are off-limit to females - a woman is not allowed there even if she is accompanied by a gentleman...well, it's a gentlemen's club, after all, so - gentlemen make the rules, no? :)  ...I actually didn't mind this rule at all, but I was terribly curious - what was behind the doors of the "off-limit" rooms?

 

 

so my dearest angel - even though he dislikes going places without me - undertook the task of investigating on my behalf...and according to him - these rooms were not much different than the rest of the rooms in the house and nothing unusual was happening there either...I didn't ask him to take any pictures of these rooms - after all, gentlemen do need their privacy, but I was mildly disappointed that "nothing was going on"...I wanted some strange, curious, perplexing stuff!...and - believe it or not - I found it the next morning on the lawn behind the building: two decent looking gentleman's shoes next to each other on the grass...and nothing else - no other items of clothing, no footprints...

how did the shoes get there?...what's the story behind?...what happened to the gentleman who owns them?...ah, no wonder Sherlock Holmes always stayed busy in this city!...but, I am afraid,  the "mystery of the two abandoned shoes on the lawn of a gentlemen's club" shall forever remain unsolved...

Our first morning in London was somewhat devoted to work - my angel had a business meeting at one place and a business lunch at another, and we agreed to meet afterwards...so, I was exploring the city on my own...and then later we met and continued our explorations together...just walked around the city for a while...Oxford street...Savile row...went to the National Gallery on Trafalgar square via Piccadilly Circus...

by the way, speaking of Piccadilly Circus (which is a juncture of several major streets, and is always full of people and life) - there is a monument in the middle of it that is often called "The Angel of Christian Charity"...but why?! ...I am posting a picture below - look at it...should an angel of christian charity have a bow? and if yes - what for?!...some people think it's a sculpture of Eros...well, it is a little bit "warmer" - at least he has a bow...but still wrong!...the fountain with the sculpture (by Albert Gilbert) on top was built in 1893 to honor Lord Shaftesbury - British politician and philanthropist...it is possible that his philanthropic activities inspired the name "Angel of Christian Charity" ...but! the sculpture is the one of Anteros...Anteros - in Greek mythology - was Eros' brother and the god of requited love...requited love! so - better be on his good side and recognize him next time! :)

the rest of the afternoon we spent in the National Gallery...everybody knows how fabulous their collection is, but we started with their special exhibit: until November 20th they showed 2 paintings from a private collection - Titian's "Diana and Actaeon" and "Death of Actaeon"...why only 2 and why these specific 2? ...it's because the National Gallery has a rare opportunity to buy these two paintings, but it needs money for the purchase...they arranged to show them to the public in hopes to raise money for the acquisition...if they don't raise enough money - these paintings will be sold elsewhere...the paintings are beautiful, and of course we donated a little towards the purchase...if they remain in the National Gallery - it will be nice to know that our modest contribution was among those that made it possible...I hope we return one day and see them again, but this time - as part of their permanent collection...





and maybe it's a good place to mention some observations I made during this time as well as during our whole visit...

let's start with  London cabs...everybody knows the charmingly old-fashioned London cabs...they are also plentiful - unlike, let's say, San Francisco - we never had a problem to catch one any time we wanted it...they look small, but they are very roomy inside (plus - they have additional foldable seats), very easy to get into and quite comfortable...I think if I ever had to vote for the best overall cab - my vote would go to London cab!
...

Poppy Appeal ...I am ashamed of my ignorance, but I had no idea what it was until I noticed that almost everybody in London was wearing red paper poppies on them - clipped to their jackets, coats, hats...Poppy Appeal is a fund-raising drive by the Royal British Legion (which is a charity organization in the UK that supports those who served in the British Armed Forces ) to raise money for disabled veterans and to remember those who died in wars...the poppies "spring to life" in November until the Remembrance Day, and they are given to people who make a donation to this charity...
we just happened to be in London during this exact time of the year - when the whole city became red with poppies...I thought it was a good cause, so I made a small donation and got a poppy of my own...

Love of reading...I couldn't help but notice how many people read while commuting...even schoolchildren...when was the last time I saw an 10-year-old reading a daily newspaper?!...yet in London tube (aka "underground" or for me - "metro") it's a normal sight...everybody reads - magazines, newspapers, books...good for them!...

Great directions...London is a very visitors-friendly city...everything is clearly marked, signs are posted wherever they are needed most, the information is provided wherever it can help...
sometimes it is almost too much information..."horses might kick or bite"? - duh!
...but other times - it is extremely helpful...I came to rely so much on the "look left"/"look right" arrows painted at almost every crosswalk...
I am not used to seeing cars coming at me from the "wrong" side of the road (although our "right" is their "wrong", too), so - had it not been for those helpful arrows, who knows if I would've made it back home in one piece!


  



 


Two faucet system...most sinks in London - even in public bathrooms - have two faucets: one with very cold water and one with very hot water...if you want some warm water - you have to use a sink plug and mix the cold and the hot water in the sink...it sounds easier than it is though...consider this: you want to wash your hands...the hot water faucet produces scalding hot water, the cold one produces icy water, so - you plug the sink and let the hot and the cold mix together...you wait until the sink is at least half full - to be able to immerse your hands in the water...then you wash your hands...now you want to rinse them, right?...unplug the sink, let the dirty water drain, and repeat the above process again (and again - if you wish to rinse one more time)...well, I guess hands washing - like taking your afternoon tea - is a complicated ritual in England that requires time, patience and a little of Zen Buddhism attitude...as for me - I stoically endured icy cold water on my hands and was grateful that the same principle of water mixing at least did not apply to showers...

Red telephone booths, red buses, red mailboxes -  maybe red color is there to help people see them better in the fog or just to spice up gray London days ...it's bright and nice though
...but as far as the telephone booths go (and there are many-many of them in the city)  - I haven't seen anyone using them...nowadays even children own cell phones, so - the booths seem to be more for decoration than practical purpose...

      



Where are the dogs? ... during almost a week-long stay in London I saw only 2 dogs...I love dogs, and I always notice them and things pertaining to them:  in Paris, for example, I noticed that the most ubiquitous breed seemed to be a variation of Jack Russel terrier...in Madrid - I noticed that dog owners liked to have them in pairs - almost always two dogs of the same breed...in Israel I noticed a lot of cats on the streets, but I saw some dogs, too...and in London - almost no dogs...are London dogs limited mostly to the Queen's corgis?...I hope not...


Pret a Manger...I know that gourmets among you (and maybe even gourmands) will snicker at me, but! - I really liked it!...Pret a Manger (a play on french words "PrÍt-a-porter") is a chain of shops that have the elements of both supermarkets and restaurants...
each shop has a kitchen where they prepare simple but tasty foods (sandwiches, soups, salads) using natural ingredients and avoiding chemical additives and preservatives...then they put these foods on the shelves right there in the shop, and you can eat your selection in their dining room or take it out...they also make decent coffee and various tea- and coffee-based drinks...you can find Pret a Manger almost on every corner in London (much like Starbucks in, say, San Francisco), and they are always busy, but very quick and efficient...I went to a Pret a Manger shop for a quick lunch on our first day in London (while my angel was at a business lunch in a restaurant called "Wild Honey"), and we ate at some of their shops a few more times during our stay.
and I think - if you are pressed for time (after all - there is soooo much to see and do in London and always soooo little time!) and want something  fast, conveniently located, healthy and tasty (and quite inexpensive, too!) - a Pret a Manger shop would be your best bet...where else could you find ALL of the above?...


these were just a few observations that I made during our stay in London...if something else comes to mind - I'll mention it in my subsequent notes...
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Private club

Comments

rg369
rg369 on

love your blogs
great balance between informational and fun, post more!@

ArtLover on

Just read it todays WSJ that so far The National Gallery has raised enough to buy "Diana and Actaeon". They are sending it on tour now to raise more to buy the other painting. (The painting was put up for sale by Duke of Sutherland, so that you know).

Add Comment

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: