Days wandering the streets of London


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June 6th 2016
Published: June 19th 2016
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Wednesday: We got back to London on the afternoon of the 1st of June, after a slightly delayed trip back from Santiago. The camaraderie of the Camino continued to the airport with people spontaneously making conversation and sharing their joy. We had left the hotel befor 0730 on a crystal clear blue-sky day in Galicia. Into Gatwick, down through the thick clouds that are so typical of London. A particular joy of travelling from Santiago was the airline's concerns about walking sticks. Despite Catherine trying to protect hers, all three were lost to the system. We did not have any checked luggage so that was not an option.

The train took us all the way through to West Hampstead and we walked the final 500m to Alex and Jill's place, but not before enjoying some Thai street food among the hipsters. We wanted to cook for Alex and Jill and so we planned a vegetarian priazzo. This involved three types of mushrooms, for the meatball replacements, a yeast-risen pizza dough, as well as a tomato based Raghu sauce. All came together very well but took some construction. Alex got home at about 2000 but Jill not until 2130. She is studying for a bridging qualification in mathematical economics at University of London, Birkbeck College. She was in the middle of the exam period and was certainly working her passage. Exams on Friday as well as the following Tuesday. The Priazzo went down a treat. It is not that recipes for Priazzo are common. We first enjoyed this "pizza pie" type dish in the US and at a Pizza Hut! We simply copied that as faithfully as we could - no PizzaHut franchise we have visited anywhere else on earth has presented a Priazzo again. Now a family tradition though.

Thursday: The young folks headed off early. They left us with everything we needed including a Hidden Walks of London book (see photos in the next blog entry). We set off downtown and walked for miles around the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Georgian houses, and other classic tourist attractions. After having had the time to really look at the Santiago Cathedral, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament looked wonderfully ornate and overwhelmingly impressive. With the ongoing of burials at the Abbey, we wondered what were the criteria, and who of the current scientists, actors, writers and even musicians would have their final resting place at the Abbey. There would be a committee no doubt.

After simple lunch fare of a Cornish pasty, we headed up towards Piccadilly Circus, where Alex works. The National Gallery had an amazing wall of flower art, made of more than 52,000 fresh flowers over the 5 day exhibition. We then discovered Carnaby Street, with the most amazing shoe shop. Just Catherine's style of art in shoes (we came back the next day and after much deliberation she chose a pair). Clearly in the right style of place, on both occasions staff complimented Catherine on her Melbourne styled shoes!

Dinner with Neil, Alan and Liz Johnson. Very nice to see them all again. We ended the evening in the oldest pub they could find in the City of Westminster. Telling stories over pints around the bar. It was about the coldest June people could remember, so we were rugged up as we headed home. There were hundreds of people on the streets about 11:30 as we arrived in West Hampstead - a feel for how many people are in this huge city.

Friday 3rd: We met our old friend (and tutor when we were undergraduates) Peter Riddles for lunch in Covent Garden. Great to catch up as always. Much talk of families and Australian innovation. Wandered through the shopping area, which has changed enormously since we were last there, separately, about 35 years ago. No longer a produce and flower market - now a craft market and place to eat. Still on foot, we wandered to the Tate Modern on the south side of the Thames. Some interesting art with a political voice, some with lines and block colours, and much in between. Interesting piece from the late 1930's in Germany - Nazi storm troupers cutting the corners of the crusader cross to create the swastiker. We had seen the crusader cross over the Camino, which is an interesting linkage. In an exhibition called Citizens and States, artists explored the Power of art to drive political and social change. Unfortunately we can no longer find the name of the German satirical cartoonist to took shots at the Nazies in 1938: a courageous thing to do. We also saw the gallery of the Royal Watercolour Society housed some fine paintings all for sale.

Headed to the National Portrait Gallery, particularly for Greg to participate in a class. About 50 people sat on small stools in front of their chosen portraits by master painters and did their best to copy and to learn. The class was specifically about using colour and the teacher, a local artist, wandered around advising and discussing with the pupils. Greg chose to draw James Joyce from a painting by Jacques-Emile Blanche, and a bust of Dame Edith Sitwell by Maurice Lambert. Greg was happy with his own work, but astounded by the work of some others in the class. Great use of a few hours.

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