Friday, April 25, 2008

Miles and Miles

My last full day in London served up quintessential English weather. It was dark and pouring when I headed out for the day with the intention of going from museum to museum, spending as little time as possible outdoors or above ground. By the time I reached the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House, the rain had tapered to mist, and it had stopped by the time I had finished looking at the Impressionist paintings and the Renoir at the Theatre exhibition.

Wednesday was St George's Day, which apparently England is trying to reclaim from its more recent association with the British National Party and football louts, and there was a festival of English food, with lots of vendors from Borough Market, in Trafalgar Square. I wandered around, watched the tea ladies and some other entertainment, then had a bowl of various types of salad, made from spelt, rye, beets and other veg from The Veggie Table, and a scrumptious piece of banana cake that came from Flour Power City Bakery.

After lunch, I nipped into the National Portrait Gallery to see a small, but fab, photography exhibition by John Londei called Shutting Up Shop. Then, with the weather now warm, sunny and gorgeous, I decided to stay outdoors and really started covering some miles, most on foot with intermittent bus and tube trips. First to Oxford Street -- a place I usually try to avoid -- to hit John Lewis for another pair of knitting needles.

Next, a walk up Marylebone Lane to The Button Queen where I got a couple of interesting buttons, one vintage deco one that was probably too expensive but I think it would look neat on a neckwarmer. From there, I went by bus to St John's Wood to pick up a Beatles floaty pen for rosenbeans, and ran into Esther walking back to Belsize Park.

Not wanting to waste a moment of spring air and lovely late afternoon light, I decided to do the Hampstead walk from Some of it was in streets and lanes I'd been in before, but most of it was new. I skipped the Admiral's House, but otherwise did the entire walk, all the way up to the flagpole by Jack Straw's Castle, a pub that both Dickens and Marx liked to frequent. The flagpole is on the highest point in London, and I was hoping for splendid views, but there were no vistas to be seen from there.

Walking back to the tube station, I went by the Holly Bush Pub and caught sight of the BT Tower and the London Eye over the rooftops of Hampstead.

Before leaving for home on Thursday, I took a quick walk down some previously-unseen streets of Belsize Park.
Everywhere I walked, there were signs of spring bursting forth -- lilacs starting to bloom, magnolia blossoms opening, tulips and pansies in all the front gardens. I saw the site of a painting by Robert Bevan that we'd seen in the Camden Town Group exhibit on Saturday. As soon as I saw the painting, I thought it had to be Belsize Park (the label confirmed it), and I dragged Spooner over to see if he would recognize it (without looking at the label or my saying where it was). He hadn't a clue, even though it's a five minute stroll from his house. I guess I'm getting pretty good at identifying the sights of London, or at least the sights of some of the areas I've gotten to know.

The trip home was long and tiring. I left Spooner's at 10 a.m., and while I was underground for an hour and a half, making my way to Heathrow on the tube, a storm went over and planes weren't allowed to take off until it had passed. This put all flights behind schedule, and ours sat on the tarmac for two hours before they let us move to the runway. It was 8:30 p.m. by the time I got into my car in Framingham, and 10 p.m. on the dot when I pulled into my driveway. My body is now somewhere between London and Eastern time, and I got up at about 4:30 this morning to dump my 617 photos onto the computer and look at them. After I unpack and do some laundry, I'll start putting them on Flickr and will drop a few into my blog posts. I'm sure I won't get far before jet lag takes a grip of me and I crash.


  1. What fun, MJ. Your pics are so so fab.

  2. Hey MJ, looks like you're have fun in London. Saw you're comment on my site, the music is 'Ghost Town' by The Specials.