Sunday, June 5, 2011

The London Neighborhood

On our last morning in London, after I got packed, I took the opportunity to venture into the little cemetery that I had mentioned in my first entry about London.  What a beautiful, peaceful place in the middle of the bustling city.

Most of the headstones in the cemetery were unreadable because they were so weather-worn.

Throughout our stay in London, the temperatures were in the 60s.  On the last day, they rose to the 70s for the first time and we had a really sunny day.  Some of the pictures in this set show the dappled sunlight on the gravestones.

This is the tomb of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress.

The gravesite of William Blake and his wife Catherine

This obelisk marks the grave of Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe.

A view of our apartment complex from the cemetery

A view of the apartment complex from across the street.

Just above the curved roof in the foreground, you can see the balcony of our apartment.

Wesley Chapel was located just across the street from the apartment complex.
Wesley keeps watch in the courtyard.  Hard to make out his features when he's backlit.

The castle down the street.
Actually, whatever its original purpose (and I never did learn), it currently serves as a school.

With the exception of the rest of the story of Miss Strappy Sandals, for which I am awaiting the final translation from the French, this concludes the entries on our 2011 tour of Paris and London.  Can't convey what an incredible journey this was.  Thanks to Carl, who has endured much abuse in this blog, for all of his hard work to make the trip happen and for making it an incredible journey for the four of us.

The Mews

The last stop in our whirlwind day was at the Royal Mews, the British monarch's stables.  The stables house fewer than 40 horses that are used primarily to pull the royal carriages of Queen Elizabeth II.

We used this entrance.  Evidently the Queen and other members of the royal family use another entrance that we were not shown.

One of the two horses that we actually saw during our tour of the Mews.

Most of our tour was devoted to the other residents of the Mews, namely . . .
the Queen's state coaches.

The Landau
The top comes off this convertible carriage.  At higher speeds, you have to be careful about getting bugs in your teeth if you ride facing forward.

The Canadian State Coach

The Irish State Coach

The Glass Coach

The Scottish State Coach
Distinguishable by the gold thistle carving around the top.

The coach in the next three pictures are all of the Queen's favorite coach.
The Australian State Coach

She favors it because it is the only coach of the many she owns that is air-conditioned and heated.  If you look at this picture at the largest size you can see that it has an emu and a kangaroo on the door.

The lanterns on the carriage have images of Queen Elizabeth.
If you look at the carriage top here, you can see the carvings of plants that line the top of the carriage.  They are all native to Australia.

You might recognize this carriage from a recent televised event.  This coach was the one used by William and Catherine to travel from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.  When parked, the groomspersons keep the leather blinders up when it is parked to keep it from cracking.

We did see one other coach . . .

A coach that you will probably get to see in another event that will be televised in 2012.

This coach was built in 1762 for King George III.  He was the one that the American colonies had the beef with--a little matter of taxation without representation.

This coach was one of the things that he purchased using those taxes.

The Gold State Carriage weighs four tons and is drawn by eight horses.
The carriage is carved from walnut and is covered in seven layers of Gold Leaf.
It has been used in the coronation of every British monarch since George VI.

Queen Lilibet has used the coach three times:  Coronation, Silver Jubilee, and Golden Jubilee.
She will use it again in 2012 when she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee--only the second British monarch to have a Diamond Jubilee.  The other--also female:  Queen Victoria.

You might have noted the nautical theme of the carriage.  At the time it was crafted, Britain considered herself Ruler of the Seven Seas.  This carriage was meant to commemorate that status.

A fun fact to know and tell:
Nice to know that this gaucheness is also supposed to be the worst ride one can imagine.
An admiral who once rode in the coach said that it was the only time in his life that he had experienced sea sickness.

A final picture . . . 

Horsepower instead of Horses

The Aubergine Bentley

The Tate Modern

After initially being told that we couldn't take pictures in the Tate, Jordan learned late in our visit that she could as long as she didn't use flash.  She snapped these four pictures.  The first and last picture in this series are self-portraits of the same person.  If you can't tell from the first, you will certainly know when you see the last.

Do you recognize the artist?  If not from the picture, how about from the style?

A Lichtenstein.

The art in Europe (other than the Mona Lisa) was within arms reach and crowds were restrained by ankle-high roped off areas.  Literally, you could, if you had no respect for anything, reach out and touch the canvases.  Amazing.

This was a computer that searched the Internet constantly for references to torture in multiple languages. When it found one, it would print it on a sheet of adding machine paper, cut it off, and drop it to the floor.

Were you able to guess the identity of the artist before you saw this picture?  If not, I assume you know now.  Right?

Andy Warhol

The Globe Theatre

Now that I've been back a few days, I wanted to post the pictures from our last full day in London, and from the morning that we left.  We had a full day of activities, that began with a tour of the Globe Theatre.  The theatre itself was absolutely wonderful . . . our tour guide, on the other hand, was the worst that we had on the trip.  Based on the information she passed along, some of which I will share below, she was accustomed to giving tours to high school students who had absolutely no interest in the tour.  She used the kind of scatological details that one utilizes when having to teach say--a senior level English class full of football players and cheerleaders who have no interest in A Man for All Seasons, but have to have the English credit to graduate from high school.  Hmmm.  Wonder about the origin of that example.

The theatre is located on the Thames as it was in Shakespeare's time.  In the day, however, the theatre was located about 100 yards from its present location.  At that time, the Thames had not been tamed by the "artificial" concrete banks that maintain its current course; consequently, it was much wider.

The Globe is generally thought to be a round theatre.  Actually it is twenty-sided.

The Bard Himself.

We arrived at 8:45 in the morning so that we could take the first tour.  The theatre opened at 9:00, and we had an hour to tour the "gallery" before our tour at 10:00.  Given our tour guide, this was easily the most interesting part of the visit.

Loved this set of steps in the gallery shaped like a amphitheater.

This costume was made for the actress who played Queen Elizabeth I in the specially written theatrical work written for the grand re-opening of the rebuilt Globe Theatre.

Our guide explained to us that Shakespeare in Love was fictional--that QEI would never have attended the theatre during her reign because of its terrible reputation.  We were shocked to learn that SiL wasn't a documentary.

Although QEI wouldn't cross the river to attend theatrical events, she did attend Bear Baitings, which also occurred across the river.  Evidently, she didn't like prostitutes, but she was a tremendous fan of bear torture.  In this photograph, Carl is rehearsing Romeo's speech from Romeo and Juliet.  As he begins the line, "But soft!  What light through yonder window breaks?  It is the East and Juliet is the sun!" a baited bear materialized behind him.

Fortunately, Jordan was standing close by, and seeing Carl in trouble, she rushed to his rescue.  Because they had the same color hair, she was able to reason with him.

The stage of the Globe, set for As You Like It.  As our tour guide explained, this stage decoration was not used in Shakespeare's day.  (We were all just thinking how well these fake leaves and oranges had held up.)  The only way the folks knew where they were (i.e., the setting of the play) was through what they heard--Verona, an English Palace, Padua all looked the same.

Look, Groundlings!  As our guide explained, they were also referred to as the Stinking Masses because they smelled so badly.  She went on to explain that QEI was thought a radical and a health nut because she bathed four times a year, whereas they, generally, bathed only twice a year if that often.  Note the twins just beyond the man in the red jacket.  It's truly odd and amazing how often they stand in mirror image to one another.

At the top of this picture you can see the window from which cannons were fired in Shakespeare's day as sound effects for the theatre.  Evidently, according to our tour guide, the original Globe burned to the ground because one of the "technicians" fired an actual canon during a performance that ignited the thatch roof.

A shot of the ceiling of the stage.  As our tour guide explained, "they were painted as the heavens because actors (my note: though they needed no mimetic scenery) would have actual stars to point to if they were doing a speech about stars.  You know, for inspiration."  She was making it up as she went along.

Maybe you can tell from this picture that there were several tours, many for high school and grade school students, taking place at the same time.  A picture of the galleries from the floor of the theatre.  

Picture taken from the second level of the gallery.  The worst seats in the house were actually the most expensive because, to the Elizabethans, one didn't go to the theatre to see, one went to be seen.  The most expensive seats in the house were actually on the stage.

While we were sitting here, our tour guide explained that bathrooms were non-existent during Elizabethan times, so the groundlings actually "went where they stood."  The nobles and merchants who attended the theatre were not so base.  As she explained, "they used the stairwells."

Another gem, "Everything that you see is as it was during Shakespeare's time, except the lights.  They didn't have lights.  They didn't have the green exit signs either . . . or toilets."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Windsor Castle, or Where the Other Queen Lives

Windsor was our last castle on the grand tour of Paris and London.  My favorite aspect of the tour was St. George's chapel, where Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, King George VI, and the Queen Mother are all buried . . . among other British monarchs.  Wish that we had been able to take pictures, but alas . . .

Nevertheless, we saw the Queen's living quarters--at least from afar.  She frequently comes to Windsor for the weekends, but was too overwhelmed from the Obama State Visit to come down this weekend.  So sorry she missed us.

You know, the older monarchs (Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I, for example) kept dwarves as part of their retinue.  I had hoped that we might move into the royal palace if I could affect an introduction between Her Majesty and Carl and Robert.  Alas, it was not to be.  Consequently, we will be home on Wednesday late.

The approach to Windsor Castle
Carl points out an interesting detail of the landscape.  Robert looks interested.

Robert requested this picture to demonstrate his diminutive size to the Queen, should the opportunity to present itself.

Windsor is an impressive array of buildings.

The Entrance Gate to the Castle/Palace

Thereby, he demonstrated that the entire trip was tax deductible.

The inner fortress had a moat that was never filled.  It has been transformed into an incredible garden.  This picture simply cannot do it justice.

The view of the moat garden in the other direction.

A better view of the garden

St. George's Chapel.  What an incredible historical place.

The ever-present flying buttresses of cathedrals.

A large picture to reveal some of the detail.

A long-shot of the entire edifice.

Queen Elizabeth II's apartments at Windsor Castle.  The large windows closest to you are the family sitting room, where one of the museum docents told us the Queen has her television, on which she likes to watch the night time soaps like Coronation Street.  The towers at the top house the bedroom she shares with the Duke of Edinburg.  Carl asked why there were no windows facing the inner court.  He explained that windows are on the other side overlooking the country side rather than the peasants that regularly tour the palace.  He did note Carl's diminutive size--no doubt because he was so persistent in asking questions--and offered that it was too bad that Her Majesty wasn't in residence as her personal dwarf had met with a tragic accident the week prior to William and Catherine's wedding.  It seems he was electrocuted because of a short in the royal telly.

The gargoyles at Windsor aren't nearly so scary as those we saw in France.
My only regret is that we had such beautiful weather in Paris and London that I never got to see the gargoyles do their thing (i.e., serve as drain spouts).

Although we did not get a picture of the Queen, as she was not in residence, we did manage to get this picture of the Windsor cat.  Just look at that regal bearing.

You may remember her from your childhood:

Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
I've been to London to visit the Queen.
Pussycat, pussycat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

In her new jacket-like thingy, Jordan was able to attract the attention of one of the guards.  He asked her for a date, but she said she didn't date men who carried submachine guns.
She did ask for his hat, but he declined.