Friday, 30 November 2012

A day of two halves

Today saw our final day on our London Pass so we had to fit a couple of visits in to make sure we got good value for money. The day got off to a worrying start when Cheryl discovered we had been given an empty box while shopping so the first job of the day was to trek back to Oxford St and sort it. Thankfully it proved to be very simple as the box had a white dot on it indicating empty box. At this point we thought the bad day was over and all would be good so we headed to the changing of the guard at the Horse Guards parade only for Maree to discover her Swarovski crystal earring had fallen out - good thing she only ever wears one at a time - this was not a high point! The Guard change was good but there was a very dull patch in the middle where nothing happened. The Household Cavalry Museum was next and this proved to be a little gem, we saw some of the horses post the change getting their tack removed and we could try on the helmets worn by the Guards - we now have a whole new respect for them cos it was uncomfortable. It was then over the road to Banqueting House where there is an impressive ceiling painting by Ruben, but the highlight was the lowering of one of the chandeliers so its bulbs could be changed. Westminster Abbey was next and boy is this an impressive building. We got the audio guide which was brilliant - Jeremy Iron's voices it and the layout was much easier to follow than St Paul's. we then had to make a hurried trip across town to get to The Globe Theatre tour which we made with 10 mins to spare. This was good as our guide was brilliant and the one following was not as good. Was a tad chilly sitting on the upstairs levels. After a quick trip home we headed again to the Tate where we checked out the rest of the collection before once again heading to the Pre Raphaelites as Friday is late night. This was a great decision as by 9 there were very few people around and we could enjoy our favourites just about alone. Only one full day left.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Always look up

Today we set off early to go to Hampton Court Palace. Of course we picked the nana train and all of the other trains passed us but we still got there just before opening time. On entering the palace, we were heading to the kitchens, the first thing on the guidebook when a lovely elderly volunteer stopped us and congratulated us on looking up. Maree was taken with the decorative chimney pots (over two hundred different ones) and he gave us the tip of the day!! Go see Henry VIII crown before the school children arrive, over seven hundred a week! His apartments were amazing fantastic antlers, tapestries and ceilings to be seen. We came out and were confronted by hoards of school children with work sheets that no one seemed to be filling out. The guide books lied again and we had to curtail our viewing of the gardens but we still did the maze. Went to the royal school of needlework shop not a good experience. The lady was rude and if we had not really wanted to buy some pieces would have walked out. This made us miss our first choice train as well. Back to London and saw Buckingham Palace and then we walked up to Wellington Arch, where we viewed a small exhibition on Eygpt in London (nicer to view than the British Museum one) as we were the only people there. Got to go outside from the top of the arch and took some photos. Also saw the NZ war memorial.
Decided that we could just have a quick exhibition viewing before trekking back out to Oxford Street and Cheryl got to see Chocywockydoodah where they were filming something so it was a bit hard to get into. It has been a big day and everyone's feet hurt.
Squirrel count today was 2. Total 13

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A step too far

Today everywhere we went there were steps and lots of them. Has been a big today that started early but this proved to be a good decision as we got to The Tower of London by 9.15 and definitely beat the crowds. Highlights were seeing the Crown Jewels by our selves and yes we went 3 times on the travelator going past the pieces. Once again the guide book lied and there was no way we could have got round in 2 hours. The White Tower was not what we expected as it housed the armoury and our timing was not quite as good as we got there with a school group. The first large number of steps were here and they seemed to go on forever in a downward spiral. This is our kind of attraction as it had not 1 but 4 gift shops! We showed restraint and only shopped in 2. Before leaving we had a yummy lunch of baked potato with chilli meat and beans and a pear, broccoli and Stilton tart. It was then time for a quick trip to All Hallows' church and then it was off to Tower Bridge exhibition where we went across the upper deck of the Tower Bridge and then down into the engine rooms, we were able to exit through the gift shop with no purchase. Next on the list was Southwark cathedral an amazing building but we had to purchase a photo permit to be allowed to take pics, 2 people came and checked I had a permit even though it was stuck on my hand for all to see. By this stage it was 3.00 and we wanted to do St Paul's so luck was with us and the tube got us there with 1 hour to view. Was a bit of a rush tour that started with more steps 260 plus up an upward spiral then through a very narrow corridor to the whispering gallery. The downward journey even seemed to take a long time. As part of our London pass we got a audio guide which was great as we found out there is a version of Holman Hunt's Light of the World - not as nice as the one at the Tate. We then found out Holman Hunt and Millais are both buried there so it was down to the crypt to find them, a poor choice of starting meant we went round the whole crypt before finding them. A quick trip to the gift shop had to be done as we were unable to take pics. A quick trip home then back out to do some shopping at Harrods completed the day. The stairs at the tube were demoralising to say the least, am hoping tomorrow will see less stairs.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The guide book lied ......

Today we went to the V&A museum, firstly to view the Hollywood costume exhibition. A fantastic collection suffering badly from a very poor layout and a population of people who are really slow readers. Once again we were surprised at just how short some actors are! Had an early lunch of venison, chestnut and ale pot pie eaten in the Morris room - decorated by Morris & Co.
The rest of the museum is overwhelming and after three hours, a cup of tea and scone, decided to quit while we were ahead having seen a good eighty five percentage except for the two beasts of dacre (google it) griffin and bull were in storage. Grrr
Off to Florence Nightingale museum which again had undergone a modernisation to it's detriment - seemed to have been a sale on fake green hedging to cover the displays!!
We saw the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in twilight and the rain.
Dover St Market was our next stop do not let the name fool you is actually too cool for school - way to cool for us - but Maree wanted to buy the perfume here so we did and got out ASAP.
Walked along Piccadilly to Piccadilly Circus and then to Hamleys toy shop where they were spraying fake snow from the top of the building. Inside they had a great lego display of the royals. Post this were a bit tired so came home early.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Short famous people

Today the day began with a trip to Madame Tussaud's, where we were surprised at just how short many famous people are - Daniel Craig, Johnny Depp, Judy Dench to name a few. The new Marvel 4d movie was a highlight but both of us opted out of the scream corridor. We then headed to Kensington Palace, where they have put together a very unusual collection of rooms - some more successful than others. Seeing Queen Victoria's wedding dress was a highlight. She was short too. A walk through Hyde Park followed and a fantastic number of squirrels were seen - count is 11 live and 1 dead. The Albert memorial was viewed next, an amazing thing but the question must be asked was it good use of public money??? We then walked for what seemed like forever to find the Diana memorial which really was not worth the effort. The Winter Wonderland was next, it is basically the A and P show on steroids with lots of stalls and food. The highlight was the ice world with amazing ice sculptures but damn it was cold in the tent. There was an ice slide that Maree had to try and boy was it fun, a great deal of speed was achieved resulting in Cheryl completely missing the photo and nearly getting taken out by Maree at the bottom. We then tried to find Dover Street Market but failed and instead walked up Park Lane, we watched two men spend a long time uncovering an Aston Martin Vanquish. We walked down Oxford Street and then headed back to Liberty where we had a quick cup of tea before doing a spot of shopping.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Celebrity encounter

Today we went to the London Zoo through Regent Park. First fast track entry for our London Pass. We saw reindeer - very cute but smaller than we thought they would be - other highlights were the aquarium and the carousel. Tried to find the underground station in Camden which took a while as the ten minute walk really was ten minutes plus. Maree was getting excited by this stage because we were off to Loop a wool shop to met Stephen West, a knit wear designer. He was very nice and very tall. He chatted away and signed a copy of his book for Maree. See photo below. Had cupcakes at Hummingbird Bakery very yummy and did some exercise by doing brass rubbing at St Martins in the field. Off to Liberty a gorgeous store and had fish and chips with mushy peas for tea. Yum!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

But is it art.?.???????

Big big day today even the rain did not stop us. We first set out to Guild hall art gallery to view Rossetti's La Ghirlandata and the Roman amphitheatre remains both were great. We then battled the rain to the Museum of London, major design flaw is if you arrive the way we did it is impossible to find entrance and we only managed it cos we found a cute building and went for a nosey look. This is an extensive museum that looks at London right through history. After another gift shop and a cup of tea we went to Kings Cross Station where we went to Platform 9 3/4, then we headed with what seemed like all of London to the British museum once again we battled the weather to get there. Again this is a very extensive collection and we both feel we have seen a lifetimes worth of Greek pottery. The Egyptian rooms were incredibly crowded but we managed to see the top 10 things with the Lewis chess set being a highlight. Boy are there some gift shops including a very expensive one where all that could be heard was "don't touch" from nervous parents. We then came home for a quick bite to eat before taking advantage of the Tate Modern being open late. This was a mistake, we are so not cool enough and boy were there some questionable pieces, but it was full of very trendy young things trying oh so hard to be cool. We were pleased to get home and thankfully it had stopped raining. On the whole a very big day. The brick picture shows one of the pieces at the Tate.

Friday, 23 November 2012

3 Gift Shops....

As today was fine we decided it was the day to trek to Salisbury to see the cathedral and Stonehenge. We caught an overland train and headed out into the countryside, saw a few pheasants roaming about. We had decided to do a tour that took in Old Sarum and Stonehenge on a hop on and off format but as we were early we walked down and checked out the outside of the Cathedral. Due to some heavy rain the river was very high and there were. 3 very good looking swans to be seen. The Cathedral is an amazing piece of architecture and we realised it was going to take much longer that the 40 mins we had so we took some outside pics and headed off to catch the bus. Who would have thought the bus station would be so hard to find.... Salisbury is very cool with the old streets and buildings and after some poor local help we found a lady going to the station. The tour was great and as we drove towards Old Sarum and Stonehenge the commentary was very informative. Stonehenge was brilliant and winter is the time to visit as it was not too crowded. Yes there was a gift shop and more than one thing was purchased by both of us... We then climbed back on the bus and headed to Old Sarum, we decided not to sto and instead got off in town to go back to the Cathedral. On the way we stopped and looked at St Thomas church which has the largest medieval mural in England. The inside of the Cathedral was breath taking, some amazing embroideries also. We chatted with the visiting chaplain and were there for public prayer time. The gift shop had the strangest mix of stuff ever and we left having bought nothing. On returning to the city we once again went to the Tate as Friday night is late night and it was much quieter so we could enjoy our favourites without the crowd. We also took in the Turner Prize finalists....this art was a tad too modern for us and frankly Paul Noble doesn't win something is wrong.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Stitching at Red House

We started today quietly confident that our research into the train timetable was accurate. Got to Elephant and Castle with fifteen minutes to spare before departure only to find we had no idea where the overland platforms were and when we asked the man at the underground station we were at the wrong station! Fortunately we knew the Bakerloo line and could get to Charing Cross easily found to overland platform only to discover that everything was running late. We got on the train with half the class and the tutors although we did not realise this until we all got off the train at Bexleyheath and we all walked to Red House.
While the tutors set up, we roamed around the outside of the house all by ourselves. Took lots of photos.
Our tutors, Nicola Jarvis and Dr Lynn Hulse, had put together a gorgeous kit for the day based on a May Morris design. Stitching went very well and we met some absolutely lovely people. We had some time in the afternoon to explore red house which was an amazing experience since we were the only people there.
We finished the day with a lecture on May Morris from Lynn which was very informative. Exit thru the gift shop was necessary with the curator of red house opening it up for us. We felt special and he has already posted photos on the red house Facebook page. The day definitely lived up to expectations.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Exit through the gift shop

Today was our wettest day good thing we had umbrellas. We decided to start the day at the National Gallery and then head to Leighton House but upon consulting with the many guides we found we were near the Horse Guards Parade and the changing was to happen at 11.00am. So after pics and a quick look round the gift shop we headed down to Horse Guards where we encountered a lack of information as to what was going to happen. Unfortunately we still don't know what should happen as nothing really did-there was a shortened version and the horses and guards did change but it had a blink and you will miss it feel. We then headed out to Leighton house, on the way we had great Cornish pasties for lunch and just managed to enter the building as it really started to rain. The house was amazing and they had recently changed the rules and we were allowed to take photos which was great. The house was a great combination of Arts and Crafts and Eastern styles. On the damp walk back we saw a number of roosting pigeons and as I was taking a pic Cheryl spotted a squirrel which we had to stalk for a closer look. The National Gallery is huge and full of a lot of artists we had never heard of and possibly never need to hear of. Due to a lack of change we could not get a map and so it was not till the last rooms that we actually saw the pics we were wanting to see grrrr. The gift shop was great and Maree failed and bought two things!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

They glow so much more than the reproductions

Today would prove if the trip was worth it... We headed for the Tate after a quick divert to sort the wifi and a bad tube decision and instead of 10 am we made 10.35 but membership was worth it and in we went. What can we say it was beyond fantastic, quite crowded but were still able to get up close and personal with all the works. The paintings glowed and the detail was amazing but we were both blown away by the large Byrne Jones tapestries, the May Morris embroidery and the embroidered panels. The gift shop was checked out but no purchases have yet been made. We had a light late lunch in the members room yes we felt special and then decided to head for Harrods. Once we got there realised how awesome the Christmas windows were - Disney princess's by designers so we did the entire outside of the building note flash windows do not go round the entire building. Harrod's is beyond huge it would suck to work there esp in departments like designer gallery. Christmas world featured a lot of glass ornaments so these could not be purchased a very good thing! but we were quite taken with the Harrods gift shop and are planning a return. The trip home was long due to delays on the tube. Has been a bit damp today but it is not cold.

Long day

Flight to London was ok, got through airport and onto tube with ease, at this point we made what seemed like a good idea but a phone call would have been better! In our wisdom (read tired state) we decided rather than phone apartment people and discuss if we could get in before 3.00pm check in we would take our cases to the Tate Britain - this involved 2 changes and a wee walk. When we arrived at Tate we decided to call apartment people and of course we could check in early sopranos changed and off we trekked bags and all another 2 tubes too many steps a poor station decision that resulted in a long walk we got to office. After another wee trek we found the apartment building but could not get in as we at the wrong door. Further investigation we found the right door and finally got in. Apartment is great but temp is a tad tropical esp in bathroom. Headed out to Elephant and Castle shopping Centre an experience that does not need repeating. Got back by 5.00pm felt like it was midnight only to discover we had no wifi hence this being late... We will do better. -

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Half way there

We have made it to LAX we are finger printed and photographed and due to lack of planning have no US dollars grrrr but this is probably a good thing. We are traveling with the Black Ferns - women's rugby team and the British Judo team. Jet lag tablets seem to be working and we had a good flight and saw the Hollywood sign as we flew in. Lots of blue sky here may not see any more for a while.....

Friday, 16 November 2012

Last pre London event

On Wednesday we headed out for our last pre booked (June) event before London the final instalment in 'The Twilight Saga'. We first watched Breaking Dawn 1 and then at 12.05 we watched part 2. Being the 'Twihards' that we are we were always going to love it and it did live up to expectations but was sad to think this was the end. As we have been a tad slow posting this we have only 1 sleep to go..... Of course no one is packed yet....And we are booked to see Breaking Dawn again tonight...

Monday, 12 November 2012

Pre London events

Booked one year previously - we CAN plan! Had a great time at the ballet in the second best seats in the house, proving sometimes planning is worth it.
Mum enjoyed her birthday trip away.

Look there's a band!