Sunday, July 31, 2011

Around The World 2011 Day 33: London, England

Today could have been an easy day of little activity.  Maybe a meal, maybe a walk to Speaker's Corner, maybe even a drink.  But today what I shall now call the Bex-Factor has kicked in.  You see, the Bex-Factor is when we are in a city with someone who has never been there before, like we were with Rebecca in Rome.  A day that could have been spent twiddling thumbs is instead spent giving a personal tour.  A Waste Tour one might say.

Today we will be taking Barbie's sister Carol and her fianceé David on a Waste Tour of London.  David has never been to London before, and has not even ridden the tube yet, and we have some plans for him.  Get ready for too many pictures.
The day began in the Four Seasons tenth floor lounge, for coffee and croissants.  I noted the binoculars and thought I would put them to good use.  As you can see, I aimed them right at Big Ben and then locked them.  Can you tell?
Holding the iPhone's camera up to those binoculars gave me great joy.
Barbie relaxes in the lounge.

Carol and David met us at our hotel, and we started on our journey.  Our first destination will be to visit the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.  We have not seen it before, and Barbie and our guests are quite interested.  Even if Lady Diana was not my cup of tea, I shall avoid crude and terrible comments at her expense.

Our hotel is located on the Southeast corner of Hyde Park, which means our first destination literally involves a walk through the park.  It is the sunniest, most pleasantly beautiful day that you can imagine;  a sunny day in London.
Young men were doing rollerblading tricks in the park to amuse themselves.

Hyde Park, and the contiguous Kensington Gardens, are as wonderful an urban park as you can find.  It dates back to 1536 when Henry VIII acquired the land from manor Hyde.  It remained a private space for the royals until Charles I opened it to the public in 1637.
The Serpentine.  Any good urban park has a lake, and The Serpentine is a wonderful one that, as you can see, the locals and the local wildlife both enjoy.

There was hunger in our group, and we stopped for a bite to eat.
Hyde Park Crying Child Candid.  July 2011.

This boy would not stop crying about something that was too minor for his parents to bother caring about.  He was finally told, "Keep crying and you'll get nothing at all."  And he kept crying.  I have heard this kind of behavior referred to as nature's birth control.
Barbie got a three tomato salad.
And we shared a ham and pineapple pizza.  Pizza in London is not comparable to pizza in Rome, if you are keeping score.
As I took this shot, the woman with the cane looked at me and I looked back to express, "Yes, I am a bloody tourist and you are in my shot.  What you do not know is that hundreds will see this because I will now refuse to crop you out."
The locals are quite fond of the sunshine, indeed.

We then came to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.  It was not what I expected at all.
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is an oval fountain that is a bit of an infinite, looped river.  The water rushes by and children play in it.  It is inclusive and delightful, designed by American Kathryn Gustafson to express Diana's openness.  As far as I know, she adored children and would probably be delighted that her memorial is a place of play and not somberness.

Also, with people rushing in every direction, the above panorama came out particularly avant gardé, no? Half bodies, random feet, and floating torsos.
My feet have been to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.
This statue is part of a campaign to give change to a charity.  I was going to completely ignore it, but then this shot came out wonderfully.  For the record, it is colossal.  I would estimate it is at least 12-15 feet tall, which does qualify as a colossal bird.
Carol, David and Barbie stroll through Hyde Park.  Technically, we have already crossed into Kensington Gardens.  Bonus points to those of you who remember that the Albert Memorial across from Royal Albert Hall that we visited just two days ago was also in Kensington Gardens.

After a lunch and an hour's stroll, we were about to escape the park and enter the Underground, when we spotted a sign that said Peter Pan Statue laid by J. M. Barrie.  I had no idea, but Kensington Gardens is the setting for J.M. Barrie's book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, a prequel of sorts to the Neverland story.  Barbie and Carol are big fans of Peter Pan, which means we are diverting course for the statue.
Show offs.  These birds have seated themselves across from the Peter Pan statue and it is like they want you to take their picture instead of the statue.  Yes, I am accusing these birds of showboating.
How is that for a beautiful shot of a beautiful statue.  Please ignore Wendy looking up between Peter's legs.  I am sure that the angle of her view is meant to express wonder at his pipe playing, and not the pipe in his trousers.

Sue me.  I joked about Peter Pan's peter.  The more lyrical version would be Peter Pan's Pecker.  Yes, I quite like that one.
Barbie and Carol with the Kensington Gardens Peter Pan statue.
These are called the Italian Gardens of Kensington park.  The street and tube entrance sit just beyond the trees.
Sometimes you see a step that another culture has taken to beautify their surroundings and you think, "Godspeed."  But consider this; someone has to empty that bin.
We took the tube out to St. Johns Wood.  Care to guess why?  You should know why.
There used to be a sign next to the sidewalk, but it was constantly covered in graffiti.  Logic clearly dictated that it be taken away.  Fortunately I took a photograph of it in 2006. 
I decided this morning to wear this shirt.  Shame is defeat.  And I am not ashamed to wear my Abbey Road t-shirt to the Abbey Road zebra crossing.  (And I hope you pronounced that in your head, "Zeh-brah."  Not "zee-bruh."

For the record, we checked with Carol and David if they had interest in The Beatles and would be interested in visiting Abbey Road.  When they said that they wanted to check it out, I rushed back to the room and changed shirts.
It was a crowded Sunday and the flow of people through the crosswalk was constant.  The drivers hate it.  At some point the city is going to have to recognize the importance of this spot and make it pedestrian only, locals be damned.
Had it not been a warm, sunny day, I seriously considered coming here with my black sports jacket so that I could kick off my shoes and cross barefoot as Paul.  Perhaps someday when I am old, or older, I will come here offseason and with a group of friends and truly recreate the album cover photograph.  That would be epic.  It just would.
There is the building where an unbelievable amount of history has been made.  Not just by The Beatles, but by many other artists as well.

Back to the Tube!
Barbie has a favorite saying, from visit here in 1999 when she was breaking protocol and standing to the left, and a Brit coming up behind her shouted in a thick accent, "Stand to the f***ing right!"  She quotes it most times we ride down these endless escalators.

Our next destination is Buckingham Palace, but first it is time for more foods.  Two years ago we stayed at The Browns Hotel (loved it) and became attached to a pub across the street.  Since we exited the Tube at Green Park, it was a quick detour for a great lunch.
Barbie, David and Carol at The King's Head.  You see, I am getting better at including pictures of people this summer.  I am trying.
Barbie's lunch, the Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
My lunch, a Chicken and Ale pie.  (This was GREAT.)

And now, Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you a very carefully premeditated and skillfully produced stop-motion extravaganza.

The Life and Times of A Pint of Guinness.
how to make a gif
It is a short life, but a life of the greatest quality.
From the second story window.

Time to pay a visit to the Queen's digs.
Full confession:  there was likely an attractive young woman behind me while we were stopped at a crossing, and I figured I would hold my iPhone just past my arm and grab a random shot of the space behind me to see what I would get.  I completely missed the target, as you can see.  But what I did get is yet another wonderful accident.  An in focus portion of my shirtsleeve with an out-of-focus pretty woman's boyfriend.  I should prepare a collection of Waste pictures called Accidents someday.
We crossed through Green Park on the way to Buckingham Palace.  This shot captures an idyllic day in the park.  It also captures a guy who even I recognize is a serious hunk.  This one is for the ladies, and some of the guys.
It does not show as well as I would like, but the title of this picture were I to hang it in a gallery would be Bum Pillow.  Say that in your head with a British accent, please.
The Queen's Digs, sometimes referred to as Buckingham Palace.
How is this for a panorama?  The Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace.
Barbie presents the Buckingham Palace to YOU.  I keep thinking of it as the Queen's house, but someday there will be another King.  There has not been a King of England for 59+ years.  They should shock the world and announce that the British monarchy no longer recognizes male lineage, and is exclusively a Matrilineage.  
The Victoria Memorial.  I feel better having finally seen her husband's memorial this visit.
My feet have been to Buckingham Palace.

It is a good thing that Tracy reminded me yesterday to take more pictures with my feet.  I had been forgetting to do this.  And now I have done it to her Queen.
Could you ask for a better QuadCam shot?  I rarely remember to use this app away from meals, but boy do I like the effect.

Next stop, St. Pauls' Cathedral.
On the way to yet another Tube ride, we passed Petty France.  In Paris I shall search for Petit England.
David to the left, Barbie and Carol at center, riding the Tube.  We got daypasses for £6.60 and will have taken, I think, at least six rides before the end of the day covering distant parts of the city.
There is no wine shop with a better name, anywhere.
Barbie presents St. Paul's Cathedral.
This beautiful cathedral has a long history.  The current building dates back to 1708, but there has been a church on this site since 604 AD.
Proof that the above picture was not a post card.
I realize that I am being far less historically oriented than usual today.  Accept it.  In all honesty, I am rushing.  I apologize to the fans of history.   Ummm... England was a very powerful empire that used their naval superiority to stretch across the globe and they were able to build amazing things in their capital with their wealth, and sometimes the monarchs were good people and sometimes not so good.

And my favorite bit of history is that the Romans founded Londinium around the time Jesus was making some noise over in Judea.  It took another thousand years for the medieval tribes of England and Scotland to develop their own kings, and it was not until 1603 that the Kingdoms were united under one monarch, and until 1707 that the England and Scotland were united into Great Britain.  There.  That was some history.
No photography was allowed in St. Paul's.  I, um, must have been checking the time and tapped the worng part of my iPhone's screen.

And with that, we called it a day.  Carol and David had already seen Parliament/Big Ben/The Eye on the previous day, and tomorrow we can all head to Scotland knowing that David has gotten a genuine taste of London.

After some time to rest and clean up, we needed to head over to Carol and David's hotel, the Sofitel.

We went down to our valet and asked for a taxi.  That is when we got a little surprise.  The Four Seasons has a car for use by guests, and we were offered to ride in the hotel car instead of a taxi.
Did I mention it was a Rolls Royce?  I think you know me well enough to know that had I never met Barbie my behind would never, ever in a million years sat on the soft leather of a Rolls Royce.

This marks the second time my behind has sat in a Rolls.  The first was the car sent by The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, on our honeymoon.
As they would say here, Nice engine.
One of my favorite memorials in London is this, The Crimean War Memorial.  Read the blog two years ago for how significant the Crimean War was for the advancements in patient care pioneered by Florence Nightingale.  Powerful stuff.

We walked over to dinner, and I spotted the following sticker in a car window.
Sex sells.  We all know this to be true.  Even the rhinos know it.
We came across Bentley's Seafood Restaurant, and chose it on a whim.  British luxury companies (owned by Volkswagon)  must be the night's theme.
We shared the lobster bisque to start.
I had the mok fish with grilled calamari and pork belly.
Barbie had the skate.
Chocolate mousse.

And that wraps up dinner.  I think both Barbie and I would encourage you to eat at Indian restaurants while in London.
We needed a final shot for the Waste, and we chose the meta-shot, as that is me actually working on the Waste.  I shall now refer to my feet as zebra feet, because that dark and light bands across them will never go away.  (Pronounce that, "zeh-brah," please.)

Tomorrow, Scotland.