The Retirees go Abroad – London in July – Audrey Hepburn Exhibition

The National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square held an exhibition of photographs on the life of Audrey Hepburn and we visited the exhibition before heading home. As you would expect no photos permitted.

The website for the gallery carries this statement about the exhibition;

“This fascinating photographic exhibition will illustrate the life of actress and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993). From her early years as a chorus girl in London’s West End through to her philanthropic work in later life, Portraits of an Icon will celebrate one of the world’s most photographed and recognisable stars.

A selection of more than seventy images will define Hepburn’s iconography, including classic and rarely seen prints from leading twentieth-century photographers such as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn. Alongside these, an array of vintage magazine covers, film stills, and extraordinary archival material will complete her captivating story.”

I have taken some of the photos off the web site and these are below.

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After viewing the exhibition we went to the top floor restaurant for tea and discovered a great vantage point to view parts of London.

It was time to go home. So back to the hotel then the tube station to Moorgate station and collect Thistle for the drive to Long Eaton.

The Retirees go Abroad – London in July – Tower Bridge and Globe Theatre

We had attempted a visit last time we were in London with David and Veronica and missed the opportunity by being diverted. Not this time.

From Tower Hill tube station we walked past the Tower of London down to Tower Bridge. Built 1886–1894 it is a combined bascule and suspension bridge crossing the River Thames The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. The bridge deck is freely accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians, whilst the bridge’s twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

Entering upon the bridge from the north bank we proceeded to the first tower and after paying our fee we entered an elevator taking us to the top of the tower and a video presentation on the creation of the design for the bridge. From there we walked on the eastern gangway to the other tower stopping to view the river from the glass floor and to take pictures of London high above from the middle of the Thames. From the south tower we circuit back across the western walk way and then down the stairs and onto the engine rooms. As we do a boat travels through the open bridge. Quite a remarkable structure.

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It is then quite an easy walk along the south bank past Hayes wharf where there is a metal work sculpture of something that looks like it is out of a Jules Verne novel onto Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. Here we did a guided tour after visiting the museum. Unfortunately I could not take photos as they were doing a rehearsal for that night so we got to watch the last three scenes of the play.

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Now completely exhausted we dragged ourselves across the Millennium Bridge over to Blackfriars tube station and home

The Retirees go Abroad – London in July – Buckingham Palace

Today we go to see the Queen. Well at least her London home. Our tour takes in the Queen’s Gallery, the Royal Mews where her coaches and coach horses are housed and the State Rooms of the Palace.

The Queen’s Gallery is a public art gallery at the west front of the Palace on the site of a chapel bombed during the Second World War. It exhibits works of art from the Royal Collection (those works owned by the King or Queen “in trust for the nation” rather than privately) on a rotating basis; about 450 works are on display at any one time.

We arrived early to beat the crowds but lined up for the State rooms instead of the gallery. Oh well we were not the only ones in the queue that day.

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With directions we soon found the gallery but we were still early so we browsed the Royal gift shop. One thing about the Royal family is that they are good for tourism and they produce plenty of memorabilia to satisfy the tourist throngs.

This exhibition was entitled “Painting Paradise” and presented paintings of gardens down through the ages. The entry fee provided you with an audio guide which provided information on some of the more important paintings. As with all art there is the pretty picture that satisfies the eye and then there is the art with a story such as the picture of Henry VIII with Jane Seymour and their son or the Rembrandt portraying the resurrection of Christ as a gardener. To read about it in detail go to;

https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/exhibitions/qgbp/painting-paradise-the-art-of-the-garden/paradise

You will not be disappointed.

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The Royal Mews is a combined stables, carriage house and in recent times motor garage of the Royal Family. In London the Royal Mews has occupied two main sites, formerly at Charing Cross, and since the 1820s at Buckingham Palace. I have always wondered where the word Mews comes from so after visiting the Royal Mews I consulted Wikipedia which says “The first set of stables to be referred to as a mews was at Charing Cross at the western end of The Strand. The royal hawks were kept at this site from 1377 and the name derives from the fact that they were confined there at moulting (or “mew”) time. The building was destroyed by fire in 1534 and rebuilt as a stables, keeping its former name when it acquired this new function.”

At the time of our visit there were half a dozen coaches including the Diamond Jubilee coach and the Gold State Coach, which was built for George III in 1762. Weighing almost four tonnes and requiring eight horses to pull it, it has carried every monarch to their coronation since 1821.

The Diamond Jubilee State Coach was built to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The coach was conceived and designed by Mr J. Frecklington, who was also responsible for the construction of the Australian State Coach. The State Coach was on display outside of the State Rooms in the Palace.

Among the vehicles on display are the Irish State Coach, and the 1902 State Landau, used for recent royal weddings including that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

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Buckingham Palace was originally known as Buckingham House. The building which forms the core of today’s palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. It was subsequently acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and was known as “The Queen’s House”. During the 19th century it was enlarged, and became Buckingham Palace the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The palace chapel was destroyed by a German bomb during World War II; and the Queen’s Gallery was built on the site.

The original early 19th-century interior designs, many of which still survive, included widespread use of brightly coloured scagliola and blue and pink lapis, on the advice of Sir Charles Long. King Edward VII oversaw a partial redecoration in a Belle Époque cream and gold colour scheme. Many smaller reception rooms are furnished in the Chinese regency style with furniture and fittings brought from the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and from Carlton House. The Buckingham Palace Garden at approx. 37 acres is the largest private garden in London. The state rooms, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public each year for most of August and September, as part of the Palace’s Summer Opening.

Again our entry fee included an audio tour with a considerable amount of information and sub directories on different aspects. You need every minute of 4 hours to complete this tour. We finished in the gardens where we had a light lunch along with hundreds of other visitors. We then exited through the garden which included another gift shop. On to Victoria Tube station and Tower Hill to visit Tower Bridge.

The Retirees go Abroad – London in July – Paddington Canal and Little Venice

Buckingham Palace only opens to the public two months of the year and we can hardly say we have been to London unless we have been to see the Queen. We have timed our visit so that it is after Greg’s visit and before we go to Edinburgh which means we are in the early period of the summer school holidays. Expecting that traffic will be hectic, we have planned to leave Thistle at Potters Bar Rail Station and travel into London by train.

The traffic on the M1 was as expected and we made Potters Bar within 3 hours instead of the two hours determined by Tommy. Fortunately we got a train to London almost immediately but where we thought we were going to Kings Cross St Pancras Station we ended up at Moorgate. No worries it is on the Circle Tube Line so we make our way over to Bayswater, but all this adds another hour to our travel. Next time we will look for parking at Cockfosters Tube Station and cut out one change.

Our hotel is “close to the Tube”. It is if you can walk through walls. Due to the road layout a two minute walk turns into a 7 minute walk. Oh well, that life!

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All this “travel” and a very delayed lunch through our order being lost leads Kerry to want to rest before doing any exploring so I go off on my own. Up Inverness Tce to Porchester Sq to Westbourne Green across country to Delamere Tce and I find myself in Little Venice on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Here is evidence of London’s industrial past and the continued use of canals even in this big city for recreation. So I walk the canal through Paddinton to St. Mary’s Hospital where it ends in a new high rise development.

On the way I met a family of ducks so used to pedestrians that they pose for my photo.Then I meet a 2nd family followed by a coot family with its nest on the rudder of a canal boat.

Along the tow path I also encounter a variety of canal boats some obviously well used and some obviously abused. At Paddington rail station there is a new development incorporating the canal and around by St Mary’s there is that new high rise development I mentioned. By the way note the footbridge across the canal that is in segments raising up for water borne traffic.

I then walk back along Praed St into Bishopsgate Bridge St and finally into Inverness Tce where I encounter a beehive in a backyard and a bust of George Kastriot Skanderbeg (1405 – 17 January 1468), a 15th-century Albanian nobleman on a street corner.

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Very strange so I did some research as to why he is important and why his bust is here. My research discovered that because of Skanderbeg’s military skills he and his little Kingdom presented a major obstacle to Ottoman expansion, and he was considered by many in Western Europe to be a model of Christian resistance against the Ottoman Muslims.

He was admired for defending the region of Albania against the Ottoman Empire for 25 years, however he did not gain support in the Ottoman-controlled south of Albania or Venetian-controlled north of Albania

The London Evening Standard reported that “The bust (of Skanderbeg) was inaugurated at Inverness Terrace in Bayswater to mark the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence as police halted traffic and Albanians gathered to cheer.” There you go.

By the time I got back Kerry was rearing to go and I was weary from a long walk but off we went to see what I had found.

Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK – Working once again

For the last six years we have visited London for the Move It Dance Expo at Olympia Kensington. Although the decision has been made to sell on line and not have a bricks and mortar presence in the UK, we did one more show between February 12 and February 16, 2015.

Our journey started on Thursday February 12 with Kerry’s birthday, a cab trip to Nottingham Coach Station and a three hour forty minute coach trip to London – coach is just so cheap. We arrived at Victoria Coach Station in central London and caught a cab to Olympia at Kensington.

Olympia is an exhibition centre, event space and conference centre in West Kensington, London. Opened in 1886 as the National Agricultural Hall, it was built by Andrew Handyside and covered an area of 4 acres (16,000 m2). The Grand Hall, 450 feet (140 m) in length, by 250 feet (76 m) in breadth, was said to be the largest building in the United Kingdom covered by one span of iron and glass. It now features four event venues and a conference centre.

The event is staged in this building and is filled with Universities (dance and theatre are major courses at Universities throughout the UK), Academies, Dance Schools and vendors in interested industries (like fabric specialist Glitter and Dance). This year we had only a mouse hole sized cubical in which we displayed our fabric and website, meeting all the customers and convincing them that although based in Australia they could still buy our fabrics and costumes.

The days were long and tiring sometimes busy but always deafening from the music and dance troupes performances.

Thursday after setting up our display we dropped our cases at the hotel and caught the underground to Selfridges and the Le Chalet Restaurant. We had seen a documentary on Harry Gordon Selfridge and the emporium he created which wetted Kerry’s appetite to visit the London store. I arranged a booking at the restaurant for her birthday and thereby killing two birds with one stone.

Le Chalet does not feel like a department store eatery as it has its own dedicated lift and is built on the roof in a ski lodge/chalet style. The menu is reasonable and prices on par with other places. The main thing was that Kerry was excited to visit Selfridge’s and be taken to dinner in the same night. After dinner we had a very quick stroll around the store which still attempts to lead the retail industry with presentation and range.

 

Our room at the hotel was described to us as a small room. This overstatement proved to be wrong – not the smallest room we have stayed in but in that category. Nevertheless we managed and on Friday morning Kerry awoke with disturbed disposition so I walked the 2 klm to Hammersmith Rd with our suitcase of samples and paraphernalia to open the shop. I felt somewhat out of place hiding in my mouses hole and watching the team at Bloch handing out goodies to the passing parade. Kerry arrived around lunch time feeling recovered and we worked through til five o’clock at which time we packed up to go back to the hotel whilst the other retailer’s tried to attract the few remaining members of the public until seven o’clock.

We decided that we would try our hand at the casino over near Edgeware Rd. We caught the underground and quickly found the place. We lined up to register (you must register to join just as we do at home) only to find that our registration from Brighton 7 years earlier was still current. A bit of a worry. Nevertheless we were treated as first timers and given the tour at the end of which we were given a complimentary drink each. We ordered dinner from the bar menu and looked upon the scene of gamblers hunched over the tables hanging on a card or ball. Dinner was fine. As usual with meals over here there was too much carbohdyrates so we shared the chips.

Time to try our hands. Kerry went to the poker machines whilst I tried the roulette games. The poker machine devoured Kerry’s stake so she joined me as I played my 25p roulette machine. My stake rose from my initial £10 to £22 and dropped back to £16 at which time I took the money and ran. Kerry had better luck on these machines but never recovered her earlier loses. Sharna if you are reading – TITO (ticket in ticket out). Home to bed to dream.

Saturday we walked together to Olympia and I then went exploring whilst Kerry watched the shop. I strolled down Kensington High St toward Kensington Palace and Hyde Park, ducking up small side streets and lanes to see what I could see. I came across the Church of St Mary in Kensington Church St and the grave of some poor individual who had been buried in the footpath to be walked over and parked upon for centuries to come. Inside the church the vicar was conducting a baptism and others came to light a candle. I was amazed by the remembrance plaques around the wall dating back to the 18th century and many in remembrance of loved ones who died in the empire but not in Kensington. One chap, a member of the East India Trading Co, had died in service to King and country in Bombay in the mid 1700’s. Outside, the graveyard that once encircled the church had been confined in part to a lane way where the headstones now rested against the wall of the lane and some graves (like the unfortunate mentioned earlier) were now the footpath for the living.

I continued walking ending up in Gloucester St then hung a left to Baden Powell House, the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and on to Harrods. I had lost track of time so when I rang Kerry I was greeted with “where the hell are you!” and an invitation to return to Olympia by the quickest means possible. Which I did. Finished the day at the show and returned to the hotel, dinner and bed.

Sunday saw the same routine except that this time we packed up and ended our last trip to Olympia and the Move It Dance Expo. That evening we dined at the Checkmate Restaurant in Cromwell Rd. Not bad but they were having a bad hair day in the kitchen and service was slow. Meanwhile I was trying to determine who the players were in a very serious picture of a chess match on the wall. The picture had been blown up to a size where the figures were fuzzy. Even so you would expect the staff to know but No not one. I guessed it was Boris Spassky but uncertain as to whether it was his 1970’s game with Bobby Fisher (when he lost his World Champion title to Fisher) or the 1980’s game with Gary Kasperov (the eclectic Russian Master and World Champion). Later research I found the picture – it was Fisher.

The following day after a stroll through Kensington and a coffee at Carluccio’s and a sticky beak in Bill Wyman’s “Sticky Fingers”, we returned to Long Eaton on the coach – happy to be back home.

The Retirees go Abroad – In the Shadow of the Templars

 

The story of the Knights Templars has always fascinated me. Briefly told these are the highlights:

Around 1119, a French nobleman from the Champagne region founded the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, which was eventually shortened to “Knights Templars”. Jacques de Molay, the last of the Order’s Grand Masters, took office around 1292.

King Philip IV (the Fair) of France mistrusted the Templars, as the organization had declared its desire to form its own state in the Languedoc of south eastern France, similar to how the Teutonic Knights had founded Prussia. Philip had inherited an impoverished kingdom from his father and was already deeply in debt to the Templars.

At dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307, scores of French Templars were simultaneously arrested by agents of King Philip, later to be tortured in locations such as the tower at Chinon (the profile on my blog has a picture of the Tower at Chinon in which Jacques de Molay was tortured), into admitting heresy and other sacrilegious offenses in the Order. Then they were put to death. The Templars reached out to the Pope for assistance, and Pope Clement did write letters to King Philip questioning the arrests, but took no further action. Most monarchs simply didn’t believe the charges, though proceedings were started in England, many Knights were arrested and tried, but not found guilty.

In 1312, under extreme pressure from King Philip IV, Pope Clement V issued an edict officially dissolving the Order. In September 2001, a copy of the Chinon Parchment dated 17–20 August 1308 in the Vatican Secret Archives, a document that indicated that Pope Clement V absolved the leaders of the Order in 1308 was found.

So to visit the Temple Church in London was extremely interesting. The Church was built by the Templars and consecrated in 1185 until the order was dissolved in 1312 and their property confiscated. In 1608 James I granted the whole of the area known as the Temple to two societies of lawyers, Inner Temple and Middle Temple to preserve the Church and be held ever more for the profession of the Law.

 

After visiting the church, we tried to visit some of the things we saw on the Tour of the Hidden Pubs. We found the clock and tower in Fleet St, and the statue of Elizabeth I moved to Fleet St but the rest was too hard to find and we had to get over to West End for the theatre.

 

At West End we ended up in Covent Garden, Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant, and preparations for Christmas (but its only November!).

 

After the theatre, we decided to walk to the Tube Station through Covent Garden and encountered the London Film Museum and its exhibition of original James bond vehicles. We immediately decided this was the mission for tomorrow.

The Retirees go Abroad – On Her Majesty’s Service

 

We went to the theatre and saw “The Play That Went Wrong”. It went very wrong and I would not recommend it. Our plans for the following day were to do another walk but we passed by an exhibit in the London Film Museum. We were offered a mission and should we choose to accept it we would visit “Bond in Motion (the largest official collection of original James Bond vehicles)”. Of course we accepted.

The display included:

Gold Finger his majestic gold Rolls Royce Phantom III.

 

The archetypical Aston Martin DB5,

 

The submersible Lotus Esprit S1,

 

The Citroen 2CV,

 

And a variety of other craft.

 

There was also a display of examples of the creative process – story boards and concept art.

 

We spent over and hour and a half touring the display and found it necessary to refresh in the coffee shop. After ordering two coffees and snacks, I spied the reason we had been called in on this difficult job – I spotted a mouse in the kitchen. I reported the sighting to the Barista (unfortunately named “Q”) and I was informed that “007 was on the job”. As we were leaving we both spotted the villain scampering under James’ BMW. We left wondering if 007 ever got his man.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Hidden Pubs of Ole London Town

 

We met Andy at Temple Tube Station along with 6 other hardy souls as it was still drizzling with rain and the moon was hidden by rain cloud. Andy is a young actor waiting for the big break and doing these guided tours to make some cash whilst studying.

We headed off east toward Middle Temple and our first stop was outside 2 Temple Street the former house of William Astor the American millionaire. The building was built by John Loughborough Pearson for William Waldorf Astor, in 1895. It is now some sort of reception house and is maintained by, managed and preserved by Bulldog Trust, a charitable organization, and is hired out for functions. It opened to the public as a gallery in October 2011. An image of the bulldog appears outside the Temple St. frontage.

Oh there are famous sights, but to get to them we have to walk through a maze of lanes of the Inner and Middle Temple. In fact we retraced our steps from that afternoon visiting Temple Church, Middle Temple the Great Hall and the Square before landing in our first pub; the Deveraux. The Devereux is located in the back alleys near Fleet Street. We sampled a pint; my choice being Hobgoblen to match the haunted atmosphere said to exist at the hotel. The weather was becoming more and more miserable so we were disappointed when Andy said we must press on.

Andy took us to Gough Square and the former house of Dr. Johnson, claimed to be the author of the first English Dictionary and other literary works. Johnson had a cat called “Hodge” and the only real trace of Johnson today is the statue of his cat outside his house at 17 Gough Square London. By this time we were both huddling under an umbrella and the last thing I was concerned with was taking anymore photos promising that we would come back tomorrow in the sunshine.

We set our course for the most famous London inn of all – Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade II listed public house at 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office Court, City of London. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of a number of pubs in London to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. According to Andy, there has been a pub at this location since 1538.

The vaulted cellars in the basement are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside you soon realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms. In fact you find yourself getting lost in the maze.

For around 40 years, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was associated with an African Grey parrot named Polly. The fame of the parrot was its ability to swear and imitate corks popping and it was world famous such that on its death in 1926 around 200 newspapers across the world wrote an obituary, and a copy of these are posted on the walls along with the stuffed parrot. They have new parrot but he is a bit shy and doesn’t say a word.

From the Cheese we journeyed back along Fleet Street until we dived into a small alley through another alley and before we knew it we had popped out down near Blackfriars and a pub called St Brides Tavern beside the church of the same name. Just across from this landmark (down another alley) is the London Distillery a modern remake of a London gin distillery and around the corner is our last pub Punch Tavern.

Well that was it. Andy shot through and we had to make our way to Blackfriars Tube Station and home. Andy had promised to show us cheek-by-jowl, higgledy-piggledy, brooding back-alleys, secluded courtyards and tortuous zigzag passages; quintessential London. Well we saw plenty back alleys and had no chance of finding our way around again. Apart from the dismal weather we enjoyed our search for the hidden pubs of London.

The Retirees go Abroad – Shakespeare and Dickens in London

 

We started the day with a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is massive and has the traditional dome. We were told later by our guide Corrina on our walking tour that Wren the Architect fought with the Bishop about the rebuild of the church after the Great Fire of London (1666)

Wren wanted a dome like catholic cathedrals but of course this was an anathema to the Bishop of the time. The Bishop wanted an English spire not a dome but Wren outlasted the Bishop hence we have a large dome and two spires on the cathedral today.

It is costly to visit the cathedral but we found the crypt which was free to enter. Here is the coffee shop and gift shop amongst the columns and vaulted ceilings together with statues and monuments all accessible at no cost. After coffee we returned to the St Paul’s Tube Station entrance to meet Corinna. Corinna is an actress also but in the twilight of her career and she does these tours for interest and to keep her active. The weather was a little kinder today. The sun was shining most of the time but the wind had picked up and it was chilly.

Corinna started the tour by taking us across the street to the remains of a church destroyed in WW2. This church had been rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire but devastated in WW2 and turned into a memorial garden. The bell tower has recently been converted into a residence (sold to the current occupier for 4 million pounds). She sat us down and said “London was to Shakespeare and Dickens what Paris was to Balzac. It held them in its thrall, was both their canvas and their inspiration, their workshop and their raw material. They in turn made it their own, imaginatively colonising it. And, like “special correspondents for posterity”, bequeathed it to us. Today, despite the ravages of time, riot, bombing, and especially fire, traces of their London – shipwrecks from the past – still abound in the City. Everything from superb half-timbered Elizabethan dwellings to the magnificent early 16th-century gatehouse where Shakespeare went with his plays to the offices of the Elizabethan Master of the Revels. And from London’s grandest Tudor manor house to crooked little alleys which fed the fires of Dickens’s “hallucinating genius”.” (an extract from the advertising on the web site)

We admired the gardens and looked at various pictures which Corinna handed round. Then off she went; she may have been in her senior years but she was not slowed by them. We chased to follow her to the Candle Makers Guild building, then to the Mayoral carriage on show near another guild hall, then down some alleys to a small garden where a statue of Shakespeare stood. In fact it is a memorial to John Hemminge and Henry Cordell who are credited with compiling and publishing the First Folio in 1623 being the first collection of Shakespeare’ s works. It is located near the Pewterers’ Hall another guild hall this time for makers of pewter.

After a short stop she charged off again passed a remnant of the wall of London but no time to stop just a quick photo. Onto a memorial to people who had died rescuing others. After that we entered Little Britain St and walked passed St Barts Hospital and through the gates to St Bartholomew Great Church where we paused to hear another anecdote on Dickens as around this area Dickens set a number of his stories. Quite frankly I cannot recall exactly what the anecdote had to do with but everything we were seeing was new and fascinating.

As we left the church yard Corinna pointed out the seamstresses and embroiderer’s guild and then the Hand and Shears Hotel – this had been the sewing and cloth district in the times of Dickens.

We ended up near Farringdon Tube Station. But before she let us go Corinna had to do a little song and dance to finish her tour so here on the footpath in public view Corinna starts singing and dancing – no doubt the residents are used to this performance but I was taken by surprise and delighted. After giving directions to the tube station and the local hotels she vanished.

We elected to go to the oldest looking establishment we could find – the Jerusalem Tavern.

Jerusalem Tavern
Jerusalem Tavern

It was tiny and inside it was busy with workers from nearby, the floors were worn and the layout was higgledy piggledy but we were able to order lunch and a drink and rest our feet as we sat at the table in the bay window of the pub. After answering natures call I bumped into one of the other tourists on our tour and suggested he join us – tables were in short supply. Andrew did join us and he turned out to be an Aussie from Sydney an actor by profession and visiting his girlfriend in London, We chatted away out of the wind in the warm atmosphere of the pub and after finishing lunch bid Andrew adieu and headed for the Tube station and home.

The Retirees go Abroad – Chancery Lane and the Silver Vaults

 

I hope by now you have read my Remembrance Day post. You will have seen all the fabulous photos of the Poppies. Kerry took a video of the scene and posted it on Facebook. I have been unable to down load it for your enjoyment here but I have attached some other photos which I hope will interest you.

Apart from visiting the Poppies we undertook some guided walking tours of London. We can recommend these to anyone visiting London and wanting to understand what surrounds you. They are reasonably priced (9 pounds per person), you don’t have to book (you turn up and meet your guide at the designated spot) and they take about 2 hours but be ready to step it out as they push along at a quick pace. Check the timetable as the walks change from day to day and different times on different days.

We chose to do the “the Hidden Pubs of London” with Andrew, and “Shakespeare’s and Dickens’s London” with Corrina. I can recommend a visit to their website: http://www.walks.com.

We chose to travel to London via National Express Bus. We were able to get tickets from Nottingham return for 29 pounds; yes 29 pounds for both of us. Of course we had to make our way to Nottingham Bus Station and at the other end from Victoria Bus Station to Queensway in Paddington (the other side of Hyde Park). The ride down was uneventful until we got to Golders Green (clearly a Jewish precinct of London from what I saw) when the traffic became stop start. After Swiss Cottage (yes there is a precinct called Swiss Cottage) Kerry started to become car sick so by the time we reached Marble Arch all she wanted to do was get off the bus believing we were close to Queensway at this point.

After some discussion about catching a cab (dismissed obviously because Kerry was car sick) and consulting google maps, it appeared we were within 11 minutes walk from our hotel. Not so. We walked for about ½ an hour before coming to our hotel. After checking in and changing shoes, we set off to have some lunch and find the Silver Vaults and Temple Church. We purchased our oyster (the tube, bus and train card) and headed for Chancery Tube Station. By this time it had become another grey and drizzling day. Lunch at Nero’s (the coffee shop) then down Chancery Lane to the Silver Vaults.

This is an underground safe custody area. One of the vendors told us that before WW2 it had been used as a safe custody area for lawyers at the Inns and that during the bombing of London jewellers had moved their stock down there for safe custody and it had become a sliver ware jeweller’s market ever since. Entry is free and down stairs you are confronted by a huge safe door as the entrance to the market. No photos allowed so I will just have to explain it to you.

Inside the main vault are over 40 minor vaults all being used as a showroom shop for all kinds of silver ware: from silver galleons standing five feet high and six feet long to the finest of jewellery pieces, majestic timber and silver thrones to cufflinks. All too expensive for a pensioner. My favourite piece was a pair of candle taper holders with upright griffins holding up the taper. Exquisite and only 160 pounds! If we stayed we would spend our kids’ inheritance so we quickly moved on.

 

It was now dark outside but only 5 o’clock. Rain clouds had closed over London but unlike Brisbane they dripped rain in short squirts continuously through the night putting a damper on things. Undaunted we scurried through the showers along Chancery Lane until we arrived at Fleet Street and Middle Temple Lane. The building above Middle Temple Lane appears to be of Tudor origin with its exposed blackened timbers and quite out of place in a modern Fleet St. We were about to enter the past.

Past Middle Temple down the lane to the Temple Church. It closes at 4.00 o’clock so it went onto the itinerary for tomorrow. Still we took the opportunity to walk around the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. For those of you who don’t know this is the Barristers precinct in London. We were going to learn a lot more later on our walking tour.

The tour started at the Temple Tube Station Entrance at 7.00 pm. We had some time to kill and it was wet and cold. We now moved into the Strand and came upon Somerset House setting up its ice skating rink for the winter. It reminded us of the Rockefeller Centre ice rink in New York. The just about across the road we spotted the Lyceum Hotel. It presented as a warm and dry shelter to partake of a meal and quench our thirst which opportunity we did not pass up.

In my next blog I will tell you about the Hidden Pubs of London.