Tuesday, March 16, 2010

London Days 5 and 6

Wednesday morning was very cold but sunny.  Since the kids planned to sleep late, Kathy and I headed out on our own, figuring we’d go to see Buckingham Palace.  When we got to the Green Park tube stop, though, we saw a bus for the “Big Bus” sightseeing tour and decided to hop on it instead of going from place to place on our own.  We headed up to the open topped upper level of the double decker bus and, after a stop or two, made it to the very front.  Though the blowing wind made me wrap my scarf around my head, the sun balanced it out a little bit and the great views of everything we were passing made the cold worthwhile.  We spent the next several hours going to Westminster Abbey and Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the Marble Arch, 10 Downing Street, and a whole series of other typical London attractions. 
            When we got back in the early afternoon, the kids had gone out shopping for new clothes to wear to the club they were planning to attend that evening.  We headed back out to find some lunch, heading not toward  Brompton Road or South Kensington as we usually did but toward Sloane Street instead.  The weather had gotten very, very cold and it had begun to rain again, so we ducked into a nearby tea house to eat then headed back to the flat. 
            That evening, once Dan and Becca were back, we headed down Brompton Road, past Harrods and Harvey Nichols, to eat dinner at Wagamama’s.   the noodle restaurant chain that’s popular throughout the UK and elsewhere in the world, but isn’t in the US anywhere but in Boston.  Becca was in noodle heaven, I think, starting with dumplings and a large bowl of miso noodle soup.  Dan, Kathy and I also enjoyed our meals.  After dinner we walked back to Eggerton Gardens.  Becca and Dan got ready to go to clubbing at Gay Late.  Kathy settled down to finish Killer Angels and I used the evening to grade assignments my students had submitted while I was away.

            On Thursday morning it was pouring out and the temperature had dropped.  We were all tired (and I was touristed out) so we decided to take it easy for the day.  Late in the morning Kathy and I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum which was only a few blocks away.  I’d seen on their website that they had five of Leonardo daVinci’s notebooks and wanted to see them.  Just before we went in, we passed a statue of John Henry Cardinal Newman, whose Apologia had been a favorite of mine in my junior year of college.

 When we got in the museum, it was packed. (It was a vacation week in Britain, so parents had brought their children to the museum to get them out of the house but also out of the rain.)  At the information desk we asked where the notebooks were but no one knew.  We were sent from one section of the museum to another looking for them.  Finally, as we were both complaining loudly after being sent to the sixth gallery that ended up with no daVinci notebook a docent in the room came over and explained that the notebooks weren’t all out on display at the moment—that there was only one available and only one page of it could be seen.  She walked us over to the gallery room where it was currently on display.  I was extremely disappointed.  We decided to head next to the gallery rooms with the oldest pieces in the museum’s collection. (The V&A doesn’t have anything from the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, etc. that I so love to visit when I’m at the Met.)  It turned out to be closed (as were many of the galleries), so we went to see the oldest Celtic artifacts, many of which were copies of old Celtic crosses with the markings that I’d researched when we were in Wales a few summers before.  By now it was lunch time so we tried to get to the cafeteria, but it ended up being swamped by people.  We walked back to the entrance through the part of the Asia gallery that was open and saw the exhibit that I thought was the best in the museum—an arrangement of Buddha and bodhisattva statues reflecting the changes and styles of the various periods in which they’d been created—before heading back out into the rain.

            That evening, after doing the laundry and packing for the next day’s flight home, the four of us went back to Covant Gardens and took a stroll through Chinatown before going to see “Avenue Q.”  The show itself was enjoyable and we had very good seats, though it felt a little strange sitting in a London theater to see a play that had been on Broadway for so many years and had a setting in New York. 
            The next morning the driver who had met us the first day arrived promptly at 5:45 to take Kathy, Becca and me to the airport.  Dan slept a bit later before leaving the apartment about 10 am to head off by the Bullet train to meet a friend of his studying in Brussels at the Lille, France train station. 

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