Monday, September 21, 2009

Goodbye, Blighty

Just a quick post before I finish packing and head to the airport for the long journey home. Spooner was out the door at 6 this morning -- he's taking a dozen teens to Scotland, where it's pouring rain, for four days of hiking and kayaking. We made two more trips to Cotswold (an outdoor outfitter store similar to EMS) yesterday, one in Covent Garden to return socks purchased on Saturday, and one in Piccadilly in search of some nylon pants (that's pants in the American sense of the word; trousers to you in the UK). We also went to a North Face store and one other outfitter; after we split up in the afternoon, Spooner returned to Covent Garden and now has the perfect nylon pants.

After the first trip to Covent Garden, we walked through Trafalgar Square to see another nutter on the plinth. This one was wearing an unattractive rabbit head and making paper airplanes, some of which were launched from the plinth. Below the plinth, a giant game of chess was about to get underway -- something to do with London Design Week -- and across the way, the bells of St Martin's were peeling. All this under a blue and sunny sky. Lovely.

We made our way down Whitehall to see the Foreign Office & India Office, a very popular Open House venue. We walked right in, after having our bags checked by some odd sort of machine, and joined hundreds of other people wandering around in awe of the magnificent building. It's so vast that it didn't even feel crowded, although it was a little difficult getting the good vantage points for photos. In addition to administering the Empire, the Foreign Office provides assistance to British citizens when they are abroad -- passport replacement, assistance in natural disasters, etc. In one of the lovely 19th century conference rooms was an exhibition with video advising Brits to behave when they travel to foreign countries, i.e. no ASBOs abroad. Each room was more splendid than the last, culminating with a dead gorgeous staircase designed by George Gilbert Scott -- gilded bits everywhere, and gigantic murals depicting Britain's domain over the four corners of the globe.

We then walked over to the House of Commons in hopes of seeing Westminster Hall, but the queue was 45 minutes long, so we pressed on, walking through St James's Park where we saw many more unidentified feathered objects and a fairytale view of Whitehall from the bridge in the middle of the park. On our way up to Piccadilly, we passed a mason's hall that was an Open House venue and looked in to see the inner sanctum and to use the loo. After Spooner's unsuccessful shopping in Piccadilly, we wandered into Soho in search of lunch. I wanted to go to Mildred's in Lexington Street (said to be a fab vegetarian restaurant), but it was closed so we went to Red Veg, an old favorite in Dean Street.

After lunch, we went in separate directions. I was headed to Park Road (the west side of Regent's Park, just above Baker Street) to see one more spot on my Open House list -- the Rudolph Steiner House, the only example of expressionist architecture in London. I stopped first at the Photographers Gallery to see a small, but very good, exhibition of photos by Andre Kertesz called "On Reading." Then I tried to get a bus from Regent Street that would have taken me to Baker Street Station, but the bloody bus never came and I had to walk the whole way. I got to the Rudolph Steiner House just in time for the last tour. (More details on this when I add links and photos.)

It's been a wonderful trip -- lovely friends, fun adventures, new discoveries, (virtually) no rain and no blisters. Next post will be from stateside, and photos will appear on Flickr in batches over the next several weeks.

Cheers, mates!

Distance covered: 22,229 steps (9.08 miles)
£10 to top up Oyster card
60p roll
£4.90 lunch at Red Veg
£2.50 thank you card from the Photographers Gallery
£2.50 apple crumble from Chamomile (to take to Spooner's for our dessert)
90p that I gave to a bloke on Marylebone Road who needed it for his bus ticket

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1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to the U.S.A. Enjoyed armchair travel via blog.
    I want some apple crumble.