The Heath, Cyberdog and MILK
Kristin and I did a run/bike ride up to Hampstead Heath. We took a peak at the Highgate women only pond and had a great view of the city from atop Parliament Hill.
Back to 10 Hungerford to collect Mom and set out for Camden Market. Kristin bought a gorgeous belly-dancing outfit from a woman who is an aerobics class and belly dance instructor. She encouraged Kristin to continue belly dance classes and start teaching in Wenatchee. Mom and I agreed she'd be excellent at it.
I prepared them for the Cyberdog experience and we dove into the pulsing clothing caves. Staff spotting at that place is always the best part.
Had dinner in a Thai restaurant near Primrose Hill. The waitress wasn't enjoying her work, but the food was excellent. We walked to Regents Park and took lots of pictures in the English Gardens. I learned from the reader board that one side of the Gardens was designed by a father and the other side by his son.
We came across an outdoor photo exhibition in the park titled MILK. While we were taking in the exhibition, the clouds suddenly started dumping all of their wet contents directly on us. We took shelter in the sales tent along with 30 others. Took a black cab home.
Literary LondonWe took a boat along the Thames from Embankment to Greenwich. Our guide was actually quite good. He had been in the merchant marines for years and talked a lot about how the river and surrounding areas had changed since he was a young lad.
In Greenwich, we walked all around the decks of the Cutty Sark, a beautiful old tea clipper that is now a very well-presented museum. We hiked up the little hill to the Royal Observatory and saw the original Harrison clocks of 'Latitude' fame and stood on either side of the Prime Meridian. We explored an herb garden in Greenwich Park and visited the Trafalgar Pub (another literary stop) just for a picture, not a pint.
For supper, we sought out two London staples at one location; the Grapes pub near Limehouse, an old Dickens hangout, and good old fish and chips. The pub wasn't easy to find and is still quite a popular place. It was packed, but we managed to wrangle a table somehow and indulge in Britain's contribution to world cuisine.
Riding through the Docklands on the Docklands Light Rail at night was like being in a sci-fi movie. Lights glowed through the windows of the glass and steel skyscrapers and the made futuristic reflections on the water.
Shakalaka BabyKristin and I did another morning swim session at Highbury Pool. This time we did a few drills and worked on technique. It broke up the monotony and before long an hour had already gone by. Again, the weather was a bit overcast so we headed to Parliament Square to gawk at the Parliament buildings and Westminster Abbey from the inside and out. We spent over two hours inside Westminster Abbey and learned a lot from the audio guide about the dead royalty buried there. The Queen Mother (Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) who died in 2002 is not buried in Westminster Abbey, but in Windsor.
The weather was very changable (typical London) but thanks to Masa's birthday backpacks, we had all our layers along to keep us comfortable. Thanks Masa!
In the evening, it was off to the theatre, darling. Bombay Dreams at the Victoria Apollo. When the music started and the brightly costumed cast started singing the intro, Mom whispered to me, "I love it already!" Kristin bought the music CD and we were singing Shakalaka Baby for the remainder of the UK tour. If you get some undesireable song or jingle stuck in your head, Shakalaka is the cure. Kristin is a big Ganesh fan.
Impressionists do it betterKristin and I started the day with an early swim in Highbury Pool. We did a 45-minute session then headed back to Holloway with a Starbucks chai tea latte for Mom. The weather turned to rain, so we opted for indoor sights. We headed to the National Gallery. On the way, Mom spotted St Martin-in-the-Fields and wanted to check out due to its rich classical music reputation. Alongside the church is a street market with mostly (all?) Asian vendors. Kristin and I both had a Chinese chair massage. Kristin found paradise under a canopy and careful selected 6 tops then skillful bargained to get them all for the price of 5. Then she headed two tents down and bought a Chinese-style men's shirt for Travis.
We finally made it to the National Gallery, got the audio guide, meandered through lots of religious paintings then lit up when we got to the Impressionist work.
Back on the bus to Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street where we ate sandwiches at Pret a Manger. Home to the flat where we put on fancier clothes and headed to Sadler's Wells to watch Carlos Acosta with a troupe of talented Cuban dancers.
My Birthday!It was a perfect London day, and the perfect way to spend a birthday. In the morning, Brian, Kristin, Mom and I all set out for the Columbia Flower Market. We got there in good time, early enough to see the street packed with vibrant colors on both sides. Kristin and Mom were pricing flowers, shrubs and trees and comparing the prices with those in Washington. Apparently, decent prices do exist in some parts of London.
After much plant identification and photographing, we sat down to a proper English breakfast including stewed tomatoes, baked beans, hash browns, mushrooms and toast. Kristin had the bacon and eggs. Next to our restaurant was a pub that was absolutely rocking with people and dance tunes. This was at 9 am. A close look at some of the faces inside confirmed our hunch that these partyers had been going all night long.
The weather was good and getting better, so after lunch we got in the queue for the London Eye. The crowds were thick but everything was well organized and it was only an hour before we were able to hop inside our pod that took us high up over London.
After landing, we cruised over to the Somerset House Courtyard fountains where I couldn't keep my eyes off a darling toddler in diapers zig-zagging around the sprays. There were a couple dozen children of varying ages all splashing about enjoying this watery oasis in Central London.
We strolled through Victoria Embankment admiring yet more blossoming flowers. We phoned Michelle and caught her before Sunday morning yoga class.
We stepped inside St. Paul's Cathedral and somehow, after seeing so many spectacular sights over the past two weeks, it didn't seem all that grand. I like viewing it from the outside best, especially at night standing on Blackfriars Bridge.
Here's the godess Kristin next to a beautiful statue at the end of the Columbia Street flower market. By evening, we had burned off the big English breakfast with all the walking. So we headed to Merkato on Caledonain Road, Brian's and my favorite London restaurant. We had an excellent Ethiopian dinner and got to eat with our hands. Feeling the need for some locomotion afterward, we decided to walk the mile back to the flat. Along the way we looked at Pentonville Prison with new architectural appreciation thanks to our recent history lesson in Dublin.
We got back to the flat and when I walked in the door I was greeted by a rainbow of balloons decorating every wall and a big, home made chocolate birthday cake thanks to Brian! We ate it with ice cream drizzled with Scotch whiskey cream liqueur that Mom had purchased along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Mmmmmm.…it was superb. To top off the perfect day, the gang endulged me by watching Best In Show and nobody told me to be quiet as I recited lines from the movie just seconds before the actors did. Now that's a loving family.
Kristin's UK photos
BACK IN LONDON TOWNKEW GARDENS
Kristin and I started the day with a run/bike ride to Camden Garden Centre, along the canal, briefly into Camden Market, back along the canal, up into Regents Park to use the loo then back to Hungerford Road.
After a hot cereal breakfast prepared by Mom, we headed out to Kew Gardens. It was already 3 by the time we arrived, so our visit was somewhat rushed, especially for the botanical duo that is Kristin and Carolyn Munn. We visited most of the glasshouses, snuffled through the scented garden, trotted through the order beds and took many photos along the way.
Back in happy Holloway, Brian went shopping for our favorite picnic foods and prepared a moveable feast for us to dine on whilst attending the Kenwood Lakeside Summer Proms, an outdoor classical music concert on Hampstead Heath. The setting was absolutely ideal for a sunny summer evening.
But this is England. It was raining steadily by the time we met Brian in our assigned deckchairs (1/2 hour late, sorry Brian). By the third movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik it was absolutely chucking it down. Many people in the audience hardly seemed to notice, hunkered down under their umbrellas and keeping the ol' stiff upper lip. Not this gal. I love my Mozart and Beethoven but after finishing the sandwich I was outta there. The music was brilliant but we couldn't enjoy it in the sopping wet atmosphere.
Whilst waiting for the second bus near Archway, Mom noticed a Whittington sign with a cat on it. Thanks to Brian's sleuthing and Mom's knowledge of literature, we learned that it is Dick Whittington's Cat. Richard Whittington was thrice the Lord Mayor of London in the late 1300s. The gifts left in Whittington’s will originally made him famous. Stories began about how a poor boy became rich with the help of his cat. There is no evidence that Whittington kept a cat, and as the son of a Lord he was never very poor. But the play produced in 1606 titled Dick Whittington's Cat tells the story of a poor boy coming to London and how his cat helped gun become wealthy.
When we got home, I opened the door and found birthday balloons all over the flat and a big chocolate birthday cake with candles and a cute card that says, "Every day with you is a picnic". Brian had been busy! We all ate cake and watched Waiting for Guffman. It was a perfect evening after all.
Edinburgh - Day 3THE VAULTS WALKING TOUR
Mercat Tours was founded in 1985 by a group of Edinburgh history teachers so naturally, this was the tour company for us. The tour took us into underground Vaults, dark and quiet chambers that have been abandoned for almost two hundred years. We saw rooms used by craftsmen to make and store their goods, rooms used as beer and wine cellars and some rooms used as homes. No natural light reaches these rooms and one can imagine the grim conditions of life here in the late 1700's.
At the time the Vaults were constructed, Edinburgh was spreading rapidly. Moneyed people wanted to escape the sewage-filled streets of the Old Town and move to the cleaner new developments. To improve access from the Old Town to these new developments, two enormous structures were built, North Bridge and South Bridge. The South Bridge was completed in 1788. The bridge is supported by 19 huge stone arches, which were then divided into Vaults and used by the businesses above.
IN SEARCH OF SCOTTISH SALMON
We stepped into St. Gile's Cathedral where John Knox was a preacher. Although he instigated an education system for Scotland (because he insisted everyone should be able to read the word of God), we decided we probably wouldn't get along with him as he didn't like women. Queen Mary had it worse because Knox didn't like Catholics or French either.
We chatted with a woman selling info inside the Cathedral. She had been to Seattle and seen the salmon climbing the ladder at the Ballard Locks. I asked her how the taste of Scottish salmon compared with that of Alaskan salmon as Mom has sung the praises of Copper River salmon on several occasions. This Scotswoman insisted, mostly with facial expressions and body language, that there is no comparison; Scottish salmon is far superior to any other in the world. From that moment, it became our mission to find a Scottish salmon meal. Unfortunately, not many places along the Royal Mile serve a full dinner menu at 3 in the afternoon. After checking out a dozen restaurants, we settled on the World's End pub where Mom and I each ordered a salmon salad. Kristin braved the vegetarian haggis, neeps and tatties which were actually quite yummy. Was the cold Scottish salmon at a chain pub as tasty as a grilled Copper River fillet at Ivars? What do you think?
Edinburgh - Day 2EDINBURGH CASTLE
First stop today was the Castle. We each had an audio guide to give us details and dates. In addition, we did a half hour tour with a live person. The names and sequence of some royalty was starting to gel for me now. I finally understood why King James the VI came before King James the I and how they were in fact the same person.
We saw the Honours of Scotland, which include a jeweled golden crown, a sword and a sceptre dating from the late 15th and early 16th century, during the reigns of James IV and James V, the grandfather and father of Mary Queen of Scots (who was not Bloody Mary, but her cousin).
Mum bought some Scotch whiskey to keep us all warm.
Kristin bought a half-sarong....well, it's actually a whole sarong, but it's knee-length. I chated a bit with the interesting married couple that run the clothing stand. The woman is from Nagoya, Japan. Her Scottish husband shared the fact that all Cashmere is actually from China and Mongolia. I did some research on the Internet and it appears this is mostly correct.
All goats (except for Angora goats) produce two coats of fiber: coarse outer guard hair and a second or down coat which grows and is shed seasonally. When that down coat is less than 19 microns in diameter, is low in luster and has a nice crimp, it is considered cashmere. Most cashmere-producing goats live in the high, dry plateaus that stretch from northern China into Mongolia, surrounding the Gobi Desert. The United States has also recently been breeding cashmere-producing goats. Converting cashmere into luxurious garments is where the textile factories of Scotland and Italy come in.
Edinburgh - Day 1Kristin, Mom and I flew to Edinburgh. We caught the airport express bus #100 right into town, about 6 streets away from our Frederick House Hotel. We were centrally located in the New Town just off Princess Street, Edinburgh's main shopping street. Kristin was magnetically pulled into another Lush store, to my advantage, because I got a few bath bombs and backside scrubbing bars for my birthday.
Princess Street Gardens run between Princess Street and the Castle. Inside the gardens is the "Floral Clock". The clock face is made up of thousands of small plants and the hands of the clock are covered in plants too. The clock even tells the right time. In Scotland's climate, the clock is only there in the summer months and has to be replanted every year in the spring.
We took a bus tour of the main sights. Kristin and I thought it best to disembark from the first bus. The tour guide, bless him, looked to be in his 80s. He teetered, wobbled and nearly fell to the deck so many times that all we could concentrate on was recalling our first aid techniques.
Dublin - Day 3Toured Kilmainham Gaol, a jail built in 1796. Now a heritage site, its occupants are tourists and film companies rather than inmates. Prisoners from the United Irish Rebellion of 1796, the Emmet Rebellion of 1803, the Great Famine of 1845 to 1851, the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848, the Fenian Rebellion of 1867, the Land War of the 1880s, the Easter Rising of 1916, the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War were held and often executed here.
It was at Kilmainham that we learned our own Pentonville Prison, just a 10 minute walk from our flat, is quite old and famous. Pentonville Prison was completed in 1842 and is commonly called the Model Prison. It was considered an architectural masterpiece when first opened. Some visitors came to see the structure rather than the prisoners.
Before Kilmainham, we took a general walking tour of the city with a very jolly, red-headed and bearded Ph.D. student.
Dublin - Day 2Tour of Trinity College. Saw the Book of Kells. Reportedly the oldest book in the world, it contains the new testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It's written on calf skin.
We stopped in a restroom on campus and I noticed they used those purple lights, but didn't have any glowing posters to go with them. I asked Kristin and Brian if they knew what the purpose of the lights were. We took a few guesses amongst ourselves, but none seemed plausible. Then Kristin struck up a conversation with a guy who was selling family name history and asked him about the lights. He told us it was to discourage drug users from using the restrooms for shooting up. Under the purple light, you can't see the lines of your veins. According to this guy, some drug users get around this by tracing the lines on their arms before going in.
We checked out 'The Dublin Experience,' a multimedia show on campus. A bit corny, but it did prompt questions such as:
Q: when was the Bronze Age?
A: The period used to be divided into the early bronze age (± 2300 - 1400 BC), the middle bronze age (± 1400-1000 B.C.) and the late bronze age (± 1000 BC - 700 BC). It has now been redefined as the earlier bronze age (± 2300 - 1200 BC) and the later bronze age (± 1200 - 700 BC). The original three-period structure to which was added a fourth period -a copper age- has been made obsolete in overall Irish and British prehistoric metallurgy by the discovery of the fact that tin-bronzes were introduced very early. As elsewhere, it is not surprising to find that C-14 dating has pushed back the beginning of the copper / bronze age to dates around 2750 B.C....
Q: who were the Norsemen and if they came Normandy, which is south of Britain, what's with the 'North' reference?
A: aka Northmen, Danes and Vikings, these guys sailed south and raided villages in northern and even southern Europe. Some settled in Normandy. These Norsemen came back up and raided Ireland.
Kristin found Lush and was in scented heaven.
Dublin - Day 1Kristin, Brian, Mom and I took a cheap Ryan Air flight out of Gatwick to Dublin . When we arrived we were excited to see the Gaelic writing on the airport signage. We were in a foreign country! The Skylon Hotel was our home for 3 nights, a bit out from the center of town. Ate at an Italian restaurant across the street and had our only Guiness in Ireland. We took a bus tour of the city to get our bearings and see which sights looked worth a closer visit.
The ArrivalAn excited Munn trio was reunited in Heathrow's Terminal 4. After a few minutes of hugging and a chuckle as we passed Starbucks, we headed to the Underground. The Piccadilly Line whisked us away and in just 26 stops we arrived at Caledonian Road station. It was a glorious stroll along avenues lined with old mattresses and burnt out cars all the way to 10 Hungerford.
While Kristin settled in and gave her eyes a bit of a rest after the transatlantic journey, Mom and I went out for a mini tour. First stop was, of course, the local library (next to the Holloway Women's prison). We then hopped on a #29 bus and got front seats on the top deck. 3 buses and a tube ride later, we were at Tower Hill. We wandered around the Tower of London and through St. Katharine Docks.
We were getting a bit 'peckish', so decided to dine at the Dickens Inn. It's a beautiful old wood building with lots of charm and fabulous views of boats in the water but I recommend you skip the food part. It didn't really matter that the meal was bad because the weather was grand, the company was wonderful and we were together in London!
After dinner we walked across Tower Bridge and headed west toward the golden setting sun. Lots of people were ambling along the south bank of the Thames enjoying the warm summer evening. We passed the Golden Hinde, the Tate Modern museum and the Globe Theatre. When the sun was just above the water, we headed back east along the riverbank and crossed over on the Millennium Bridge with St. Paul's Cathedral looming just in front of us.
A revived Kristin called to see what we were up to and accepted our offer to bring home Indian take away. I have the number for Hillmartin Tandoori programmed in my mobile phone, so we ordered the vegetarian set menu from the top deck of a #91 bus. We stepped off the bus right in front of the Indian food haven, chatted with Ali for a moment whilst collecting the savory dishes, stopped in to say hi to Mel the cornerstore Maestro who presented Mom with a gift bottle of red wine then headed back to 10 Hungerford and Kristin.
Mom's London photos 15-19 July
Hyde-ing the Real TalentI'm caught up on Brit pop music. No wonder I don't know any of it. IT SUCKS! I went to Party in the Park (pronounced "Potty in the Pock") this weekend and heard twenty bands. To name a few....
An oldie from the 80's that I never liked.....Simply Red
and the two acts I did like....Meat Loaf because of his epic rock n' roll-ness (and for being the only person on the stage older than me) and my favorite of the day, Wheatus. I finally picked up the Wheatus CD and really dig it. Lyrics are a bit too angst-ridden for my taste, but musically it rocks.
It was worthwhile to attend and witness who played live, who lip-synced, who was covering who's stuff and which songs most of the 100,000 strong crowd could sing along to. It's all marketing and air play, isn't it? Not much originality and musical talent involved. Although, I remember people saying similar things about new wave music. They would reference Led Zeppelin, the Who and the Stones. "Now those are real bands," I can hear them say. And I must agree (well, except for the Who), but I like the B-52's and Devo just as much.
Last night we went to see Charlie's Angels | Full Throtle. Best part was when they played the intro to the B-52's Planet Claire.
It's OK to Wave
Thom West says it's OK to like 80s wave music. Upon hearing this, I immediately bought tickets to Echo and the Bunnymen. They play Shepherds Bush in December.
He also wrote, "At least you don't have a Flock of Seagulls haircut."
Perhaps Thom doesn't know what I look like.
Last week I purchased two CDs from this millennium. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was Kevin's recommendation, and a stellar recommendation it was. Blur's Think Tank is the other CD that's bringing me into this decade. In addition to this modern music blitz, Lisa Reid custom made 3 CDs full of current cuts and sent them to me across the pond. All this is quite wonderful, but I do have to intersperse the new stuff with Devo and New Order lest I go through withdrawals.