Monday, November 26, 2012

london {photodiary}

I've finally sorted through pictures from London!  This is some blend of a photodiary and a (too detailed) account of what we did - maybe it will be interesting to you, but mostly it's so I don't forget what we did.  I hadn't been to London since a family trip around 1999, so it was certainly a treat to explore once again.  Overall it was wonderful.  I got rained on some and wasn't quite prepared for the cold, but loved it nonetheless. 

//Sunday - Tuesday
As I mentioned a few weeks back, I had a few days of work to put in and then had 2 days to play on my own while Adam finished up work stuff.  So for both of us, these days were work during the day + dinner and wandering at night.  

A certain favorite was Byron Hamburgers, recommended by my brother and his wifey, who used to live in London.

Tues night I was done with work (!!) and walked out to meet Adam at the Eye.  The walk took me through a few parks, catching a glimpse of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and all that, and across the Westminster Bridge.  Cold but beautiful. 

I spent the rest of Tues night planning my 3 remaining days in London.  While I usually resort to more typical resources for trip planning (TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Frommers, etc.), I largely planned through a combination of recommendations made to Anna from Door Sixteen combined with some fancy Google Maps action to see what was a reasonable walkable distance from the hotel.

On my first day of freedom, I slept in a little, rolling out of bed at 9:30.  After going through the shower and grabbing a lazy (free!) breakfast of grilled portobello mushrooms and tomatoes, chicken sausage, scrambled eggs, whole grain roll with brie, smoked salmon, and some amazing tea, I headed out just around 11am.  I spent about an hour wandering around Hyde Park, checking out the locals, the tourists, the wildlife, some mounted guards (?), and ended up at the Albert Memorial.

From there I made my way down Exhibition Rd, where I first popped into the Science Museum to thaw and hide from pending rain.  There were too many flocks of small children so I turned back to go to the Natural History Museum, but there was a crazy long line.  So around the corner I went to the V&A. 

I spent about 2 hours there, only in select exhibits.  I quickly went through their collection of Korean ceramics and chests, then checked out some award-winning British photography.  But the majority of the time I spent in the Fashion and Jewelry exhibits, which both showed an evolution of styles, fashions, etc. over the years.

I got in trouble for taking pictures in the Jewelry exhibit, but got a few good shots anyway.

Aren't those Egyptian snake arm bands amazing?  From 700AD!  And that bra necklace is so great / funny.

Feeling thoroughly museum-ed out, I cut up Brompton Rd, doing some window shopping along the way.  My next destination was the Saatchi Gallery, but I intentionally meandered, taking a longer route.  I couldn't resist stopping in Skandium to check out some luxurious and pricey Scandinavian housewares.  I walked around slowly and petted things longingly, but resisted the urge to spend thousands on a handful of pieces.  Actually those price tags are sufficient deterrents so it wasn't difficult at all, but they still are just so pretty.  And soft.  And nice.  I want to go back and live in the store.

When I finally got around to trying, I had some trouble actually finding the Saatchi Gallery, largely because the map provided by the hotel showed the wrong location.  I almost gave up, but am so so so glad I didn't because I absolutely loved the Saatchi.  It reminded me a bit of the Hirshhorn in DC, filled with contemporary, provocative and beautiful photography, sculpture, and installations.

When I was in the area I started seeing all these people carrying rolled up poster tubes, and in increasing frequency as I neared the Saatchi.  This made me think there was something inside that was either super amazing enough for literally every person to purchase, or something that was free.  Turns out it was something super amazing AND free! 

On the top floor was a photographic exhibition dedicated to Karl Lagerfeld's latest photographic book, The Little Black Jacket: CHANEL's classic revisited.  These black and white photos depicted many familiar and famous faces, with each individual sporting a uniquely-styled yet identical black CHANEL jacket.  I was so excited to get my hands on some free posters that it took me a while to figure out just what the exhibition was, but I loved it.  More photos and info can be found here.

This also extended into a photo installation dedicated to Yoko Ono, as well as a video of her doing some sort of interpretive dance of her life I'm guessing.  And of course, wearing the little black jacket.

Other highlights included Jon Rafman's The Nine Eyes of Google Street View (more photos can be seen here) and an exhibit of meticulously-cut paper art.

At this point I was feeling like quite the old lady (sore back, dehydrated, tired) so I did my best to powerwalk back to the hotel.  I gave Adam a hug, checked some email, and then ran out again to grab some wine from around the corner and pizzas from Ask Italian.  We had a classy dinner in the room. 

For my last day on my own, I figured I would spend more time outside than in museums and basically just wander.  My walk took me past some monuments which marked the tight ties between the UK and US (9/11 Memorial and FDR statue), I checked out some shops and markets, and hung out at Trafalgar Square, where I got caught in a sudden cloudburst, followed by some wonderfully warm sun.

I swung by Covent Garden, then cut south along the Thames, walking all the way down to Lambeth Bridge.  The sky was super dramatic post-rain.

I walked along the South Bank until I felt pooped and headed back to the hotel via Soho, where I stopped at Hummus Bros for take away.  Although it came highly recommended, I had no idea what I was in for.  This is some delicious hummus - I got mine with guac and chicken, plus a free small lemonade.  The whole meal seriously made my day.  Hummus Bros please come to Boston!!!

I took a nap to recharge and popped out for some more shopping, then met Adam and his work buddies for a drink.  Also discovered Aston Martin makes a smart car, the Cygnet.

We moved hotels in the morning, and explored our new neighborhood along Piccadilly looking for a meal.  The concierge pointed us towards Shepherd Market which had a lot of small restaurants and pubs.  We spotted a small local joint which was buzzing with activity and chose it for some sandwiches.  Adam had bacon & brie with cranberry and I had chicken with mozzarella, basil, and roasted veggies.  Both were super yum, and we enjoyed them thoroughly in the park - except for when we got rained on.  Bellies full, we headed over to the Buckingham Palace, through St. James's Lake Park, by Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, and walked all along the South Bank.  All familiar territory at this point.

We made it to Borough Market before dark and had some Monmouth Coffee and checked out all the delicious local produce, prepared foods, and beer.  Trying to stay warm, we trekked down to London Bridge before deciding to turn back to check out the Tate Modern.  Sadly I didn't love it as much as the Saatchi, but it was fun to check out nonetheless.

Finally, we swung by Harrod's just because, and admired their lavish window displays which were Disney princess themed.  Dinner was back in Shepherd Market at The Little Square where we both had the chicken burger topped with thick slices of bacon, avocado, and deliciousness.

In the morning we jumped on the tube to St. Pancras, where we were catching the train to Paris!  This was such a close call in terms of time - I guess it's obvious if you think about it, but we hadn't planned for full security and customs.  It worked out though, and our adventure continued.  A Paris post to come soon!

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