Typical tourist tells all

Trip Start May 27, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, June 5, 2009

Last week was a whirlwind of typical tourist-type experiences, and I must admit that in many ways I am a typical tourist, often overladen with hats, guides, camera, and whatnot. In the interest of avoiding shoulder injury and future rotator cuff surgery like my friend Cindy just had (get well, Cindy!), I've lightened the load in my purse by eliminating all guidebooks except for "The Handy London Map & Guide" by Bensons MapGuides (2.95), the small "London Underground Tube Map" brochure available at any tube stop, and the "London Walks" brochure which offers terrific 2-hour tours of sites all over the city..

Here in England, I relish all opportunities to take tours, shop in souvenir stands, and be all the things I absolutely don't condone in West Marin. So sign off right now if you can't stand any more of this, and I promise I won't bring you a Union jack ashtray.

Claire and I started the week with a Monday morning walk in Hyde Park where we were delighted by the sight and song of a chaffinch, common here but new to us. We scurried through the dark Luke Fowler photo and film exhibit in the park's Serpentine Gallery, making up for the time we'd spent relaxing over tea in the cafe overlooking the lake.

The everlasting love of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert is commemorated all over London, especially in the area of Hyde Park and Kensington Park. The beautiful Albert Hall is across the street from an imposing gilded memorial to him. Behind the hall, we walked along Prince Consort Road, and ran our fingers over black cast-iron fences.

Did you know that Victoria had all of London's cast iron fences painted black after Albert died? Prior to that they might have been any color. The tradition of painting them black continues to this day.

Our next stop was the wonderful Victoria and Albert Museum where we had lunch (So soon after tea? Yes, yes...) in the courtyard and admired the elderly couple at the next table who were beautifully dressed in tweeds and linens, the way we all should be at all times. This lovely lady was wearing an American Flag pin on her beret, perhaps in honor of the anniversary of D Day on June 6. President Obama and Michelle visited Normandy for the occasion. The English papers were askance that French president Sarkozy tried to leave Britian out of the ceremony. The White House put pressure on him to invite the Queen (who actually drove supply trucks during the Way). She declined, but Prince Charles came instead.

Memories of World War II are never far here in London.

Meanwhile, at the museum, the air was warm, children were splashing in the wading pool, and the toma(h)to soup was delicious. We almost hated to leave, but we had the Natural History Museum on the itinerary for the afternoon, and had to keep to our schedule!

Here's my report: it's musty, it's rusty, and the diplodocus in the main hall is dusty.

Don't know why that bothered us so much, but it did. Or maybe it was the fact that once you leave the main hall which is suitably 19th century (or suitably Jurassic, if you're counting the dinosaur), you are met with plain and dingy white walls, scratched plexiglass signage, and dreary komodo dragon models. We left it all to the hundreds of children who were appreciating it far more than we were and headed home to plan for the next day's outing to the theatre.

p.s. Food and Wine Magazine in its July issue just published a piece on London street markets, including Broadway Market and Claire's cupcakes!

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lrandal on

So agree...
...that the Natural History Museum is a let-down. It seems old and fusty, way out of date, sort of abandoned by the Powers That Be. Jerry thought so, too, and he has seen many natural history museums.

Lucky you, seeing the London parks in full bloom!


eptak on

Re: So agree...
Glad to hear you agreed about the NHS. I admit I was afraid I might fall out of Jerry's good graces with that posting. I'm going to Kew Garden for the second time tomorrow. Don't know how you two did it in one trip! Last week when I was there I learned that some nasty moth is causing great damage to the English oaks there so I know Jerry will want to check it out when you come again this fall.

Kelly Mitchell on

Sounds like you had a wonderful time, am very jealous! We have our own Blog too, www.theholidaycottages.blogspot.com if you want to take a look, or our website which is www.theholidaycottages.co.uk which has hundreds of self-catering properties all over the UK and Ireland for your next trip!

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