Friday, July 10, 2015

Day 25 - London start

As I sit here in a very frustrated state at an Airbnb that is not going so well, I'll reminisce about my first real day in London on this trip and how much better it was.

Our friends' house was a far cry better than the one I wrote this post from!

I started out at Lori and Gideon's house, taking in a visit with their son Noah, who is a 15 year old I relate to. He's very direct, with a funny sense of humor, and I feel like I would have connected with him at school had I met him then. I took off that morning for the center of town, taking in a bit of their charming neighborhood, called Haggerston or De Beauvoir, which is park like and suburban. The first night there they put me up in a luxurious guest room with down comforter and a lovely garden view, but then a cousin came to town and I was put into a closet (seriously) on an inflatable mattress! And loved it! For one thing, the closet has windows on two sides and was big enough to put a queen size mattress in it, and then just being able to hang out with them was a treat. Plus it was an easy base of operations once I got the trains sussed, which didn't take long. London's public transport is phenomenal, even if it is a bit pricey. It can take you just about anywhere in the city, and it's generally comfortable. I never waited more than 5 minutes for trains during the whole trip. 

Some of the recent London building additions have some pretty questionable design!

One of the first things that struck me was the number of construction cranes visible from anywhere in London. Seems like the building boom is going strong here. Wish I could say I loved all the additions to the city, but it is good to see the economy is alive and kicking. 
Soane Museum, on Lincoln's Inn Fields.

I had a big list of things to see in London from all my online research, and I wasted no time to get in to the Soane museum, built around John Soane's house on Lincoln's Inn Fields in the middle of town. Soane was a classical architect who designed his own house, those for clients, and some major works such as the Bank of England headquarters. He also collected all kinds of Roman, Greek, and other bits of architectural and ornamental items for his teaching practice, much of which is on display as it was left in the house in the early 1800s. The house is a crazy rabbit den of passages filled with shelves and pedestals, innovative and unusual rooms with things like tinted skylights and a central heating system that rises up from the basement, and a very cool picture gallery with swinging doors that increase the hanging area by fourfold. Only bummer was a ban on photography, so I was sneaky Sam with my phone cam, which puts a damper on the experience. Nevertheless, it's a great spot I highly recommend, and it's FREE!

Sneaky Pete photo of the interior of Soane Museum showing his packrat tendencies.

After that I walked over to the nearby British Museum, also FREE, and spent several hours wandering the immense halls and snapping freely. The collections here leave the Met's collections far behind, with hall after hall of just the Greek things, including of course the hotly contested Elgin Marbles, taken off the Parthenon in the early 19th century and shipped to London for "safekeeping".  

"What did you bring home as a souvenir, my dear?"
 "Not much, a few statues and a temple or two."
Wandered around a bit longer in the center of town, trying to see something I might recognize from 35 years ago, but things are so much more commercial today (just like in NYC) that I really couldn't get anything that felt at all familiar. Took the train back and enjoyed a bite with friends.

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