Friday, March 23, 2012

Running Around London

Monday afternoon, after 4 nights in Ireland, we flew back to London. Originally the plan was for Jamie and Carla to stay at the St. Pancras Hotel for two nights, and we had reservations to join them at St. Pancras for the second night, after spending Monday night at our apartment in Uxbridge. Plan B: go to St. Pancras with them for both nights. That was much better, especially since we had four tickets for a 10:30 am entry to the Lucian Freud exhibit Tuesday morning at the National Portrait Gallery.

The Freud exhibit was truly amazing. He died last year at age 88. His early paintings were very different in style from the later ones, but all were brilliant. Many of the paintings were very large, including the unfinished painting on which applied his last brush stroke before he died, painting a dog's ear. The thing I found fascinating was that the dog, half finished at most, didn't have any sketch lines of any sort to serve as a guide as to where to paint or to show the general position of the body. With over 100 paintings in the exhibit, we had to rush to see it all, since we had lots of other things on the day's agenda.  

The eastern coast of Ireland drifts by as we fly towards London.

I guess we got out of Ireland just in time, before we started looking like tourists. 

The St. Pancras Hotel is located next door to the St. Pancras train station and the King's Cross tube station. Go out the side door of the Booking Office restaurant and you're standing in the train station.

Jamie and Carla relax in the lobby of the St. Pancras Hotel. This place was an old train station and hotel slated to be demolished. It was rescued and renovated thanks to the efforts of Sir John Betjeman, the Poet Laureate of England.

The train station is more like an upscale mall with shops and restaurants. Tuesday morning, before heading out to the Lucian Freud exhibit we stopped at a French cafe in the train station for breakfast.

Carla initiates a book conversation with a Tube reader.

Buying a snack on the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the Thames, St. Paul's Cathedral in the background. 

A shady looking character watches Carla. 

The Tube maps are starting to make sense.

Robin teaching Underground Navigation 101. Her students paid close attention, and that turned out to be really good the next day when we put them on the wrong train to Heathrow. Oops.

St. Paul's. Millennium Bridge. Jamie. Carla.

On the north bank of the Thames, near the Millennium Bridge, is an office building named Baynard Place. It stands on the site of Baynard Castle that burned down, owned by Mary Sidney. Interestingly, this is a brilliant sculpture based on a "Shakespeare" quote called The Seven Ages of Man. The quote is chiseled in a beautiful spiral design around the base of the column. And it's on Mary Sidney's former property. Weird.

Even more interestingly, the sculpture is by Richard Kindersley, who gave Robin a stone-cutting lesson in his studio, then turned his studio over to her to practice in for an entire day, several years ago. A great artist, his work can be found all over London and the UK.

If you want to just ride the escalator, stand to the right. That leaves room on the left for people who are in a hurry or just can't tolerate wasting time standing still. Yes, that's Robin up there on the left.
I added Carla (right) to my Tube Feet photo collection.