Grayza goes to London Day 6

January 30, 2010

Flying back to civilization this evening so last few things to see or do.  Ehh…. I don’t really have any deep desire to go see anything else, but I suppose I have to.  Checking out the map it seems to make sense to go to Liverpool Street Station where later I will be getting the Stansted Express, so I could leave my bag there and walk down to The Tower of London, see what is around there.

I think this is the business and finance part of London because, well, it is empty.  There is no one around, shops are all closed and traffic light.  But the high buildings make it difficult to get bearings.  Eventually I find the Tower, which is bigger than I expected, but it was really Tower Bridge that I wanted to see.

I like Tower Bridge.  I like that it is sort of ‘fake’ with the appearance of being some kind of ancient Gothic building but is in fact much more modern than that.  Entry to the tower and exhibition is £7 and with an extra 50p you also get access to The Monument.

As soon as you get inside the first tower it is obvious how shallow the façade is with the real structure of riveted girders inside the stone exterior and windows.  The tour is interesting, and gives some nice views from the bridge, and down into the engine room.  After that I went along the river again to The Monument.

The Monument was designed by Wren to commemorate those lost in the Fire of London in 1666.  Access is only £3 + a workout as you have to climb 311 stairs in an ever tightening spiral to a viewing platform.  I was more pleased that I was able to make the climb than I was to see the view, but hey it’s another part of ‘the London thing’ ticked off the list.

I headed back to the station, still mostly through dead streets and then I found a flock of geese.

A flock of geese penned in but by the look of the film crew around the corner and the extras sitting at a bar being given directions on what to do.  So if anyone sees a film or TV show where a flock of geese waddle past a bar let me know… (do geese waddle?)

Back to the station and even though it was far too early to go to the airport I had nothing better to do and with a replacement bus service in place and rumors of an accident on the motorway I figured I might as well be at the airport than hanging around in London.  When I did get to the airport I grabbed a coffee, opened up the mac and started watching an episode of Dexter while waiting (with headphones on obviously).  I was getting into it when I suddenly realised that I was watching this scene where the police were examining the naked body of a murdered woman… while people were walking around behind me chatting and enjoying their coffee and perhaps not wanting to see this.  So I had to move around to find a place to watch more privately.

A long day.  Glad to be back.

Grayza goes to London Day 5

January 30, 2010

Nearly over, last full day in the capital.  Breakfast then get into town early – I’m still very impressed with the underground system, but I also still can’t get the hang of it and ended up in the wrong place again.  Oh well, it just meant a bit of a walk to get to Trafalgar Square to have another go at The National Gallery.  I was there briefly on Tuesday but I just had to get a better look.  This meant I could try Museum Technique #5!

To recap:  Museum (and Gallery Visiting) Techniques:

  • #1 ‘run’ around randomly
  • #2 hire an audio guide
  • #3 ask at the information desk what the highlights are
  • #4 ask at the information desk what you should see given ‘x’ minute
  • #5 the guided tour

There are a few things you need to keep in mind for a guided tour of somewhere like The National Gallery.  You have to be able to hear the guide and you need a solid elbowing technique to make sure you can get a good place after each move!  I only started to realise this after the second painting we saw but once I was in on the game I was good at it and very much enjoyed both the tour itself and this gentle ‘sport’ among the 60+ people that were on the tour.

The way it worked here was that the guide took us around 5 paintings in the collection to show the layout of the building and how the collection was divided among the gallery, give some background detail of each painting and the artists.  He also mentioned that there are a number of guides and they choose what to show and change it for themselves so you are likely to have a different tour each time you go.

This was a very good way to visit The National Gallery as it gives a good start and overview then allowing you to browse in a more informed manner.  I even managed to find a nice corner to do some sketching, which I get very self conscious about doing in a gallery.

At around 1 I did another repeat of Tuesday by going back across the street to St Martin-in-the Fields (which isn’t) for their free lunch time concert.  This was great, very well attended but still a nice relaxing environment and now I was in the mood I carried on sketching – also it didn’t really look like the kind of crowd who would appreciate snapping photos during the music.

Then I met up with some friends for lunch!  We went to Covent Garden, round some back lanes that I would never have discovered on my own and to a very, very good coffee shop – the Monmouth Coffee Company (good coffee : no website).  You could tell it was good by the queue, the fact that there were only three tables squeezed in to the tiny place and the toilets weren’t working.  Oh and the coffee was good!

Then we went back to there place a fantastic split level flat somewhere near Shepherds Bush, to just hang out at catch a film – Valkyrie.  It was fantastic to hang out and also to just chill and not be either wondering around on my own or in a hotel.  It’s funny how hotels – even though someone comes into clean every day and they cook you breakfast – just aren’t as homely as home.