The Dead Centre

I guess that cemeteries are not high on the must-see list for many visitors to London, or any other city for that matter.  However, there is so much history to be found, especially in a very old cemetery like Highgate Cemetery.

Yesterday began very quietly after our long day in Paris on Wednesday.  We set out after lunch on the Underground and then a strenuous uphill walk followed by a stroll through Waterlow Park where we enjoyed the colourful autumn scenery.

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There are 2 parts of Highgate Cemetery – the East and West sections and there are separate admission charges for each. The older West section may only be visited as part of a group tour so we opted for the East section.  This was a self-guided walk with the aid of a small leaflet which highlighted some of the more well-known graves, including that of Karl Marx.

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Almost directly opposite is the grave of a Mr Spencer.  A quirky play on words – Marx and Spencer!

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The naturalised woodland, which in places is quite wild, lends an interesting air to the surroundings.

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Paris Scrapbook

How do you spend 11 hours in the capital city of a foreign country that you have never visited before?

Well, do your research beforehand, canvass opinions and experiences of others, choose a few particular things of interest and restrict your movements to a relatively confined area.

An early start, 2.5 hour trip on the Eurostar and we arrived at Gare du Nord station by 9.15am local time.

We bought daily Metro passes, strolled around Montmartre, had brunch in a local cafe, rode the funicular, visited the Sacré-Cœur and saw the Moulin Rouge.  Then it was time to head closer to the Seine to some of the other points of interest.

The Arc de Triomphe was the first thing we saw as we emerged from the Metro subway.  A mix of short trips on the Metro combined with lots of walking took us down the Champs-Élysées, on to the Musée d’Orsay then a river cruise on the Seine.  Dinner and a walk back to the station rounded off a very full day and we were back in our London accommodation almost 18 hours after we had left it.  Wow!!

Here is a taste of what we saw.

Sacré-Cœur

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The rear – where the cleaning regime is not so rigorous.

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View from Sacré-Cœur to Montmartre.

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The iconic windmill atop the Moulin Rouge

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Arc de Triomphe

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Champs-Élysées

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Part of the interior of the Musée d’Orsay

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Paris viewed through the face of the clock window in the Musée d’Orsay

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River view

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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris from the River Seine

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Another river view

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Musée d’Orsay from the River Seine

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The Eiffel Tower from the River Seine

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Cafe Joly – where we had dinner.

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When selecting the photos for this post, I noticed the effect of the light, particularly the shots near the river.  It is easy to understand the fascination this has provided for generations of artists and their quest to capture it.

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No Plans

It is important to have some days with no plans and Tuesday was one of those.  This was partly because we were knew we were taking a day-trip to Paris on Wednesday and did not want to be tired before we set out.

When we arrived here in London, I made a ‘to do’ list in my notebook.  This was not an exhaustive list set in stone that we had to race through to complete.  Instead, it was about keeping a record of things that were of interest to us and a reference of what we may (or may not) do.  Some things have been deleted due to timing, weather or lack of interest while others have been added as we have discovered them along the way.

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After a slow start to the day, we caught the train to Tower Hill station near the Tower of London.  A short walk to the Tower Bridge gave us the perfect vantage point to see (and hear) the 62-gun salute fired at 1pm from Tower Wharf to celebrate Prince Charles’ birthday.

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Why 62?  Well, the ‘standard’ is a 21-gun salute but there are an extra 20 fired because the Tower of London is a Royal Palace and a further 21 because it is located in the City of London.

 

It was time for a late lunch and we found The Counting House, located in the heart of the financial district of the City.  It is a former bank and now, a specialty pub.  The old banking chamber has been magnificently restored. We enjoyed our meal before another short train ride to the West End.

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Within a day of arriving in London we discovered that the movie, Paddington 2 was due to be released in the UK on 10th November, so I quickly added that to my ‘to do’ list.  Where better than to see the film than the very city in which it is set?

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Whilst we could have headed to any suburban cinema to see the film, I decided on a somewhat different experience and we went to Picturehouse Central, a short walk from Picadilly Circus.  Our timing was immaculate as the next screening of Paddington 2 was in about 40 minutes.  The tickets are not cheap at this location but it was worth it for the experience.

The whole ‘package’ included a downstairs coffee shop, upstairs restaurant and bar.  As well as the usual offerings of popcorn and other snacks there was an opportunity to purchase unpackaged, serve yourself lollies.

A couple of views of the interior.

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The lolly bar.

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There were so many choices but we agreed on a selection to share.  It was good to see that the containers provided were various sizes of paper cups.

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Once in the cinema, there are comfortable, reclining seats.

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Paddington 2 was an excellent movie and, in my opinion, almost better than the original.

A fun, impromptu day.

 

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Against the Railings

On our previous visit to London we walked past Buckingham Palace and took a photo or two.  However, I found it the building quite featureless and bleak.

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We did not consider watching the changing of the guard as, by all accounts, it is very crowded and you have to arrive well ahead of time in order to get a decent view.  I felt that our three days in the height of summer could be better spent.

However, after doing plenty of research we decided to take a look yesterday.  We arrived about 45 minutes before the procession was due to begin and found that there were already some people milling around outside the palace gates and on the steps of the Victoria Memorial.  There was plenty of clear space at the railings so we chose our spot and settled in.

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It was a clear and sunny autumn day and the crowds built up to the extent that they were several people deep in front of the palace railings by the time the ceremony began.

We were rewarded with perfect views of the entire proceedings on the forecourt.

The guard in front of his sentry box.

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The Old Guard ready and waiting.

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The New Guard arrive.

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The Changing of the Guard.

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The band depart.

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Back to work.

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I am glad I had the opportunity to witness the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and I offer the following observations:

It is worth arriving early to ensure a spot where can get a good view.
Be prepared to be squashed against the railings.
Standing on the concrete pavement and pressed against the iron railings in 6C temperature is COLD – even when rugged up, including scarf, mittens and beanie.
It is something I have seen and done – ticked off the list and have no need to repeat the experience.

And the final word from the poetry of A A Milne………

Next, we moved on to something slightly more egalitarian.  An exhibition titled, ‘North: Fashioning Identity’ at Somerset House which we found interesting and at times, thought-provoking.

Just to remind us of the season, there is an outdoor skating rink and large Christmas tree in the courtyard of Somerset House.

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Holiday Days

The last couple of days have been quieter but no less interesting.  We have been having lazy mornings to start the days and doing things that have not really lent themselves to taking photographs.

In some of our research before the trip we discovered Prince Charles Cinema, an independent movie house in the West End.  After perusing the program, we decided to buy tickets to see ‘Cabaret’ on Saturday afternoon.  Neither GMan nor I had seen the film and we both thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  We have now bought tickets to ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ next Saturday afternoon as well.

Today we headed off to the Tate Britain to see an exhibition which was of great interest to us, ‘Impressionists in London’.  The exhibition only opened 10 days ago and I was unaware of it until I read about it in a magazine on our first night in London.  Naturally, I added it to the ‘to see’ list.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition which was quite extensive and definitely worth the admission cost.  While we were at the gallery we also saw the large body of work by JMW Turner held by the gallery as well as pieces by his contemporary, John Constable.

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It was quite cool today and whilst this photo does not indicate the temperature, it does show that London is well into the grip of autumn.

This evening we attended a service at Westminster Abbey.  Naturally, there are no photographs.  Today is Remembrance Sunday here in the UK and the service began with the Last Post and a minute of silence to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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Gone to Greenwich

Even though November is apparently the wettest month in London we were hopeful of some fine weather as we had a few outdoor activities on our ‘to do’ list for this trip.  Top of that list was a cruise down the Thames to Greenwich and then some time to explore the attractions in the area.

The forecast for yesterday looked reasonably optimistic so we packed our lunch and set off.  The weather turned out to be better than I could have dared to hope.

A short train trip to Embankment station brought us to directly opposite the pier for the Thames clippers.

Leaving the Tower Bridge in our wake as we headed east.

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A half-hour cruise and we arrived at Greenwich, home to the Royal Observatory and the prime meridian, the National Maritime Museum, the Old Naval College, the Queen’s House and the restored tea-clipper, Cutty Sark.  It was clear that we could not do all of these justice so we chose to visit those things that were of greatest interest to us.

Our first glimpse of the Royal Observatory.

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The first stop was the Royal Observatory which is positioned atop a substantial hill.  We discovered that there was a discount admission ticket which covered both this and the Cutty Sark.

There are magnificent views to be had from the elevated position.

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Some of the interior of Flamsteed House, designed by Christopher Wren and named for the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed.

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The Queen’s House, seen in the centre of the view from the Royal Observatory, is 400 years old and has been used for many purposes as well as being derelict at times.  It has now been fully restored and is now a repository for many historical artworks, including the Armarda portrait which has recently undergone extensive conservation work.

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We also saw this magnificent painted ceiling in one of the rooms.

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Whilst the maritime museum would have been interesting, we decided to forgo it in favour of touring the Cutty Sark.

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Unlike many other vessels which are open to the public, the Cutty Sark is no longer afloat but has been raised and suspended which makes the hull entirely visible and accessible.

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Of course, someone has to steer the vessel.

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An interesting collection of figureheads, including Florence Nightingale and Abraham Lincoln.

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A Change of Pace

Since we have chosen to spend 3 weeks in London, there is no mad rush to cram in a crazy amount of sightseeing into the available time.

Yesterday began by walking a few blocks to a shoe repair shop as I realised that my boots needed to be re-heeled.  The shop was barely a couple of metres wide and GMan and I could just fit into the available customer space.

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Even though it is not exactly the height of harvest season here, I wanted to see what was on offer at the Farmers’ Markets which are located in various parts of the city.  Most are on the weekends but I did find one which operates on Thursdays.  We caught the tube to Goodge Street and walked to the markets which are adjacent to the University of London.  Most of the stalls were selling hot meals or prepared foods but I did buy some apples as well as some vegetables – potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips, beetroot and beans.

We also called into St Pancras International station to print our Eurostar tickets for our day trip to Paris next week.

The day was not all about domestic chores.  We took another trip on the tube – this time to Baker Street – specifically 221B Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.  We had attempted to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum on our previous trip in 2014 but were not prepared to spend 3 hours standing in a queue.  You can read the story of that adventure here.

However, this time we were in luck and only had to queue for about 10 minutes.  Part of the reason for the lengthy queues is the fact that the house is quite small and the number of visitors at one time is strictly regulated.  Once inside, we enjoyed the authentic interior and many curios.

Here is a selection of photographs.

The study

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Mrs Hudson’s room

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A couple of the wax figures on display

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Although I am not an afficionado of the Sherlock Holmes novels, I did enjoy the visit to the museum.  Nevertheless, you would have to be a really dedicated fan to be prepared to endure the long queues which appear to be the norm during the summer season.

A bit more grocery shopping followed by dinner and a drink at the local pub rounded off the day.

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Back to London

Our brief trip to Wales was soon over and it was time to catch the train back to London on Tuesday afternoon.  We found our accommodation easily and were soon settled in.  It is an Air BnB accommodation between Paddington and Hyde Park.  It is just as good as the photos and perfectly located.  There is easy access to two Underground lines and it is within walking distance of plenty of the places we are interested in seeing.

One of the first things we did was to locate Waitrose supermarket on Edgeware Road and do some grocery shopping.

The next day we walked through Hyde Park, re-acquainted ourselves with Royal Albert Hall and headed on to the Science Museum.  As with all museums, we could have spent the whole day here but we had come with a specific exhibition in mind. ‘Wounded: Conflict, Casualties and Care’ is a special exhibition focusing on the massive casualties sustained at the Battle of the Somme – 57,000 casualties on the first day.  This was of particular professional interest to me and I now know a little more of the origin of Gillies forceps and needleholders as well as Robert Jones bandages and Thomas splints.

A couple of views from Hyde Park.

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We continued on to the Design Museum which was a complete change of pace but most interesting.  The building in Kensington is a rework of a landmark 1960’s building which has been vacant for nearly a decade.  The interior is a modern, open space which lends itself perfectly to the various displays.  While this museum may not be for everyone, we found the displays and multi-media presentations interesting and thought-provoking.

Our route home took us past several overseas embassies which are close to Kensington Palace and the road has sentry guards and boom gates at either end.  There were also plenty of signs advising, ‘No Photographs’ so naturally, we complied.

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Cardiff – City and Castle

We had a bare 24 hours in Cardiff but managed to see quite a bit in the available time.

The forecast was not looking good but we checked out of our accommodation (luggage left at reception) and braved the drizzly rain while we went in search of breakfast.  We found Crumbs Kitchen which provided the gluten-free options I was looking for.  It was tucked in one of the many beautiful arcades which criss-cross the city blocks.

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We arrived just before 9am so had to wait until opening time.

Here is another view of Morgan Arcade.

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I did see a sign announcing that Cardiff was the ‘City of Arcades’ which I think was quite accurate as I have never seen so many memorable arcades in one city.

On the northern edge of the city retail precinct is the imposing Cardiff Castle so we decided that we had sufficient time to make a visit worthwhile.

This was our first view of the keep atop the motte.

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The castle precinct apparently dates from Roman times with parts of the perimeter wall built by the Romans.  Various structures were built and re-built during successive centuries, including the Normans and again , much later in the late 19th and into the early 20th century.

The view from the top of the keep.

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Part of the interior of the keep, including the very steep staircases we climbed to reach the top.  It was quite treacherous in the wet weather.

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The inside of much of the perimeter wall is surrounded by earth embankments.  This, combined with the massive thickness of the walls meant that this was a perfect place for air-raid shelters during WWII.

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Finally, we toured the Victorian house on the estate.  The opulent interiors were a sight to behold.

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Capital Cardiff

Cardiff is the capital of Wales and home of the National Assembly for Wales.

We arrived by train from Swansea, walked to our accommodation and then spent the afternoon discovering a little about this compact but interesting city.  A ride on the Aquabus – a modest 24 seat ferry – took us from Bute Park to Mermaid Quay on Cardiff Bay.

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A late lunch was the first thing on the agenda so we opted to have our main meal at Bellini’s, one of many eateries and restaurants lining the redevelopment of the old docks.

This imposing waterfront building beckoned so we took a closer look.

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The Pierhead has an interesting history and is closely linked to the development of Cardiff as a major port.  It now contains some historical artifacts and we were also able to view a 6 minute video of the history of the docks as ‘seen’ through the windows of the building.

Here is an interior view.

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Tucked around the other side of the Pierhead was a far less striking building, but an important one nevertheless – the National  Assembly for Wales .

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It is an interesting building which is predominately glass and slate when viewed from the outside.  The interior is open and airy with plenty of light-coloured timber which provides a beautiful contrast to the dark slate.  We were able to look around inside (after going through security) and saw the chamber and the golden sceptre which apparently was a gift from the government of New South Wales.

By this time the afternoon was drawing to an end so we decided to walk back to our accommodation via the city centre and discovered a few of the many arcades so decided to take a closer look the next day.

 

 

 

 

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