Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thanksgiving In London

We decided to spend the four-day Thanksgiving weekend in London; take in a couple shows, visit Hampton Court and the Portobello Market. So, Wednesday night we hopped on Ryanair, landed in Stansted at 2020 (820 PM), took the Stansted Express into the city, underground Central Line to Lancaster Gate and got to our hotel just after 2200 (10PM).

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Our hotel, The Columbia, is a former US Officer's Club in London located on the north side of Hyde Park on Bayswater Road. This is definitely a no-frills hotel that has seen it's better days but for the price, £97 per night, with a great English breakfast, it fills the square. The Columbia is a good example of the old joke that goes: the English are twenty years behind working half days to catch up. Here's a typical reason why that comment may be appropriate; this is a 2' x 4' by-hand tracking board that the hotel uses to manage their room bookings.  Guess they've never heard of spread sheets.

It was late but we had to visit at least one pub before the end of the night and, conveniently, just down the street from The Columbia is a cozy, old pub, The Swan.  Jeff scoffed at my French 1664.  He had the only mass produced lager in Britain, Carling.  OK, time for bed, big day tomorrow.

Thursday, Thanksgiving, 22 November 2012

We're on our way to Hampton Court, a 35 minute train ride outside of London.  If you haven't been in the London underground lately, at some of the the stations, there have been some significant changes.  This is Waterloo station where we're changing over to the train system.  Here they've built a glass and steel wall along the platform.  Not sure if this is a safety or noise issue but it certainly has changed the image of this station.

Catching the 0936 train to Hampton Court.  You can see we make a stop in Wimbledon.

Hampton Court is up the river from London on the Thames in Richman upon Thames.  It was originally built and owned by Henry VIII's trusted adviser Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.  When Wolsey fell out of favor the king received the palace as a "gift" from the Cardinal.  Henry then greatly enlarged Hampton Court to be able to handle his court of some 1000 people.

Approaching Hampton Court.  On the left is the Jan Seymour Gate and the right entrance is the Great Gatehouse, the main entrance to the palace.

The Great Gatehouse.  The history of Hampton Court is divided into distinct parts; the Tudor period which included its use by Henry VIII and his three offspring, King Edward, Queen Mary and Elizabeth I, and the Stuart period used by the first Stuart king, James I in 1603 and beyond the Stuart dynasty to Charles II in 1760.  George III of American revolution fame, never visited the palace.

Once passing through the Great Gatehouse, seen here, you find yourself in a large courtyard called Base Court where most arrivals first entered the palace.

Within Base Court is the Wine Fountain.  During extra special events Henry would have the plumbing adjusted so that, rather than water, the fountain flowed with wine. I'm checking out the inebriated figure on the steps of the fountain.

Incredible brick work on the chimneys above the Tudor portion of the palace.

Our first stop on the great audio tour provided by the palace was the kitchens built to feed Henry VIII's court.

The double gates through which all the game, meat, vegetables, baking ingredients and more were delivered each day. The far, closed gate, is Jane Seymour Gate.

A huge stew pot used for Henry's court.  This pot was permanently fixed with a fire place below that was stoked by the cooks.  That's a BAL, Big Ass Ladle.  

Fish Court is a narrow alleyway in the kitchen area where food that required cooling, such as fish, was stored.

This is Fish Court.  The passage way was intentionally built narrow to minimize direct sunlight and help keep the storage rooms on either side as cool as possible.

In the kitchens of Hampton Court.  This is just one of the large fire places used in the kitchens.

Hundreds of meat pies were made each day for the court of Henry VIII.  In Tudor times the crust of the pies was just a means for cooking and holding in the ingredients.  The people of Henry's court just knocked off the top of the crust, ate the inside meal and tossed away the crust.

I'm standing in one of the doorways of the Hampton Court kitchens.  The ceiling in the kitchens is 40' high.

They made hundreds of loaves each day to feed as many as 1000 people in Henry's court.

These are the spits on the open fire place where meat was grilled for Henry and his court.  You can see that as many as 8 spits could be turning, by hand, at one time.

 A video showing just how huge the Hampton Court k itchens needed to be to feed King Henry VIII's court.

You can see by the soot above this fireplace that it was used extensively.

One of Henry's wine cellars.  These are huge barrels and, interestingly, the bands to hold the barrels together are made of reeds.

Henry made his appearance a few times during our tour.

Onto the parts of the castle that were utilized by the upper class of English society.

This is Ann Boleyn's Gate which is across Base Court from the Great Gateway.  It's part of the Henry VIII's expansion.

Inside the gateway of Ann Boleyn's Gate.

The opposite side of Ann Boleyn's Gate.  An astrological clock made for Henry in 1540.  In addition to time, date and phases of the moon it also shows the London tides of the River Thames.  Tide information was important since most royalty traveled to and from the palace via barges on the river.

Hampton Court's Great Hall, built by Henry VIII, is the last such great hall built for the British monachy.  This is where Henry and those kings and queens that followed would hold their huge banquets.

One of two huge stained glass windows at either end of the Great Hall.  You can see an image of Henry at the center.  The tapestries on the wall are the very same that hung here during Henry's reign.


One of the few places in the palace where there's still evidence of Ann Boleyn. These are wood panels at the back of the Great Hall.  On the left panel, upper right you can see HR, Henry Reigns.  In the center panel, same area is a wide H with an overlying A, Henry and Ann.  Once Ann lost Henry's interest and ended up beheaded, Henry ordered any reference to her be removed from the palace.  They forgot this one.

After Elizabeth I died with no heir, the Tudor dynasty came to an end.  James I and the Stuart dynasty began in 1603.  During their reign, James I's son, Charles I, would honeymoon in Hampton Court with his 15 year old bride, the English Civil War occurred, Charles I was beheaded but the monarchy was later restored.  In 1689 William and Mary jointly assumed the throne.  Mary began a gigantic renovation with the assistance of the renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.  Half the Tudor palace, including Henry VIII's staterooms and private apartments, was replaced.  If Mary had not died as the result of smallpox in 1694 she had planned to tear down all remaining parts of the Tudor palace.  An example, of William and Mary's renovations, Fountain Court.  The architectural design difference, compared to the Tudor palace, is obvious.

William and Mary's renovations, like the eastern facade of the palace below, were highly influenced by Versailles and French design.  Behind us here are the large garden and park of Hampton court.  It was in this park that William fell from his horse and later died from the injuries.

The south side of the William and Mary portion of the palace with the Tudor palace beyond.

The two obvious styles of architecture merge here; Tudor on the left, William and Mary on the right.  The Tudor part here are original sections of Hampton Court and the apartments of Cardinal Richard Wolsey, the original builder and owner of the palace.

The crest of William and Mary.

We're back in London just walking around to some areas that we had not been in before.  The London Eye on the south side of the Thames.

Parliament, Big Ben.

On our way to the theater.  Walking down Regents Street, already decorated for Christmas.

Right next to the theater was this bar.  I think it might be a gay bar.

Pre-show pints in The Three Greyhounds pub.

The Prince Edward theater.

We're seeing Jersey Boys.  

Prince Edward theater before the show began.  Jersey Boys was great!!!  The end of a fun Thanksgiving.

Friday, 23 November 2012
Friday morning we took the underground to the east side of London, hopped on the Dockland Light Rail (DLR) and got off at the Cutty Stark station to visit the Royal Observatory.  That's a steep hill to the top.  Take note of the large red ball.

We made it to the top of the hill.

At Sheperd Gate is this 24-hour electric clock, one of the very first such public clocks.  The Sheperd Clock was built in 1852 and actually is a slave clock that receives impulses from a master clock.

Below Sheperd Clock are these standard measurements.  The actual measurement is from the inside of one brass semi-circle across to the inside of the other.

See, that's six inches.

In 1675 Charles II commissioned an observatory and created the position of Astronomer Royal which was filled by William Flamsteed.  The red brick building is Flamsteed House designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was the first science-based structure built in Britain.  The red time ball fell, and still does today, at 1300 so that sailors on the Thames could see and adjust their clocks and watches.  Here we're standing in Meridian Square.

0 degrees, 0 minutes, 0 seconds establishes the 0 degree longitude, the Prime Meridian.  A brass line runs across Meridian Square depicting the Prime Meridian.

Here Jeff straddles the Prime Meridian.  Left foot in the eastern hemisphere, right foot in the west.

One of the main rooms of Flamsteed House is the Octagon Room where early telescope observations occured.  Here's a 17th century drawing of the room.

Jeff standing inside the Octagon Room under the same paintings seen in the drawing above.

Within Flamsteed House is a museum that exams the attempts and need to determine longitude accurately.  Latitude could easily be established, using tables, by observing the sun and moon height above the horizon.  However, for longitude, the distance in time from the Prime Meridian needed to be determined precisely.  A £20,000 prize was offered to anyone who could create a mechanism that would solve the longitude issue. This is the first clock built by John Harrison, a self-taught English clock builder, in his attempt to accurately  determine longitude.  A winning clock would have to be able to function on the open seas and deal with the rocking decks that resulted for and aft as well as port and starboard.  This clock is about two feet tall.

John Harrison's third clock, constructed to solve the problem of determining longitude accurately.

Here, I'm standing next to John Harrison's third clock.  Although this clock was close, it had accuracy problems because of it's ability to adjust to changes in humidity.

Amazingly, from the third clock to this watch, which is about 5" across, John Harrison solved the longitude problem by developing a time peace that would accurately measure the time distance from the Prime Meridian.  This is a copy of the clock that won John Harrison the £20,000 prize for solving the longitude problem.

From the top of the hill where the Royal Observatory sits we could see quite a ways.  That white dome is O2 Arena where the Rolling Stones would celebrate their 50th anniversary the next night.

Looking north from the Royal Observatory.  The muddy area at the bottom of the hill is where the equestrian events were held during the 2012 London Olympics.  They're still recovering from that event.

We could even see the weird London Olympic Tower in the distance.

Near the Royal Observatory is the National Maritime Museum.  This must be just about the largest ship in a bottle anywhere in the world.  But really, how tough would it be to make this?  You could crawl inside to build it.

Near the Cutty Sark DLR station is, well, the Cutty Sark.  The Cutty Sark was one of the last tea clippers, built in 1869.  During renovations in 2007 the ship caught fire.  Luckily, much of the structure had been removed so that the main concerns were for damage to the iron framework.

Sightseeing done for Saturday.  Coincidentally, our good friend, Mark Torres, was on a trip with American airlines.  So what better place to meet than in a pub.  Mark and Jeff.

We're on our way to the theater once again. If you're familiar with London, maybe you can guess where we are. Well, you know we're near an underground station.  See the statue in the background.  Most folks mistake that as a statue of Eros, the Greek god of love, and if you did, then you figured out that we're at, Piccadilly Circus.  With that, the statue is actually Anteros, the Greek god of unrequited love, Eros' brother.

Right there in Piccadilly Circus is this huge Britannia souvenir store.  A big part of it deals with Beatles memorabilia and things.  Here I am with the Fab Four.

Our theater for the night.

Although Her Majesty's Theater looks twice as big as the Prince Edward from the night before, once inside, it proved to have about half the seating capacity, maybe less.

And the show for the evening . . . Phantom of the Opera.  I've seen this production twice before but Jeff had only seen the movie.  As always, it was great!!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

We're on our way to catch the bus to Portobello Road.  On the way we pass The Swan and knew that you'd want to see it.

The Portobello Market takes place on Saturdays and is a huge tourist attraction.  It began in the 19th century as a fruit & vegetable market.  In the mid-20th century antiques dealers of all kinds showed up at the market and now Portobello is the largest antique market in Britain. 

Sounds like they're serious about shoplifters at the Portobello Market.

Colorful buildings line each side of the market.

An antique clock dealer with really great stuff but also expensive. We saw a couple clocks that we liked but they cost £1200 and we would still have to get it on Ryanair somehow.

Antique shops of just about every kind; books, athletic equipment, cameras, clocks/watches, etc.  Plus, lots of other things like tea shops, Scottish stuff, clothes and shoe shops, couple pubs, etc. again.

Just by saying it I think it's doubtful.

Surprising amount of silver for sale.

Even furs.

Fruit and veg.

Baked goods.

Tasty fry up.

It's the Christmas season so you gotta have trees.

Just down the street from Portobello was a house with this plaque.  George Orwell, author of 1984.

We're back on Oxford Street which was closed to traffic for the day.  Probably because this big package is in the way.

Now we're on a mission for the afternoon.  We're starting in Westminster station which has been greatly updated, like many other stations for the Olympics.

Our initial destination is Blackfriars station which had been closed for almost three years and opened just before the Olympics.  Very nice upgrade.  It was a rather dingy station before the renovation.

Yup, we're at Blackfriars station.

Up on the street level Blackfriars has entered the 21st century.

What a coincidence! Right across the street from Blackfriars station is the Blackfriars pub and our first stop on our Saturday afternoon pub crawl.

Jeff's ready for the pub crawl with his new beer drinking hat in place.  There was a monastery on this site until 1639 and the friars that occupied it wore, you guessed it, black robes.

Inside one of our favorite London pubs, Blackfriars.

Next stop, #2, is just off Fleetstreet, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, established in 1667, just after the London Fire which put out the London Plague.

The original room of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.  Almost black wood with a coal burning fire.

Across Fleet Street from Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is Tipperary, #3, the first Irish pub in London.  Of course, we had a Guinness.

West along Fleet Street is Ye Olde Cock, #4.  Excellent meat pies!!

Just a block north of Fleet Street is the rather new pub, The Knights Templar, #5. What makes this pub different is its size; big!

The Knights Templar is in a building that formerly housed a bank.  I think most banks should be turned into pubs.

The Knights Templar pub.

See, I told you, it's big.

It has a beautiful, huge bar.

Just down the street to the west is the Seven Stars, #6, and the complete opposite of The Knights Templar.  Seven Stars is in the running for oldest pub in London, established in 1602, and its small.

A unique setting on the Seven Stars bar, cat dishes for food and water next to Jeff's beer.  Oh, and the beer was Pilsner Urquell so they really liked Jeff's hat.

The cat, Tom Paine, even showed up; complete with white ruff.  

Seven Stars is a great little pub. Be careful going up to the loo.  It's steep!  Here I am walking back down the stairs.

Last pub of the night is in Covent Gardens, #7, The Nags Head.  A very popular, crowded pub but it's well worth the visit.

We're walking to the bus stop and happen upon this new Agatha Christie memorial very near Leicester Square.  My English grandmother loved Agatha Christie books and passed that love of reading and Agatha Christie onto me.

Sunday, 25 November 2012
Breakfast. Underground Central Line from Lancaster Gate to Liverpool Street.  Sell back out Oyster Cards.  Stansted Express to the airport.  Check bag, security and passport control.  Ryanair flight back to Frankfurt-Hahn airport. One hour drive home. GREAT  WEEKEND!!  CHEERS!!

1 comment:

  1. I love the board at the Columbia hotel. I've never seen that before, that is unbelievable.

    I LOVE all the pictures of Hampton Court. It brought back wonderful memories of when we were there together. I like the big ass ladle and mom passed out with the drunks on the fountain. I love the video of you turning the spic over the fire. I have a great video of you doing that. I love the wooden initials for Anne Boleyn in the great hall. I think it's cool that one got left. The first picture you have of the Stuart renovations at Hampton Court is beautiful. I'm glad Mary in the Stuart dynasty died so that she couldn't destroy the rest of the Tudor part of Hampton Court. We got an awesome Flake right on the Thames outside Hampton was amazing!!!

    I love the Christmasy pictures in London. I guess the GAY bar doesn't want to have any kind of misrepresentation. The pictures of the Royal Observatory are amazing and I like the Prime Meridian pictures. I like the picture of Dad standing in the room that has a picture dating back to the 17th cool! All of the clocks are so interesting.

    I'm glad you guys had such a great time at both shows. I did not realize that Dad had never been to Phantom of the Opera live. That's great you guys got to see it in London. That's great that Mark was in town. The pictures of the market look great. Did you just happen to walk past the place where George Orwell lived, pretty cool stuff.

    Random present in the middle of the street...haha.

    The pub crawl looks like so much fun...I'm very jealous. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese makes me really jealous. I'm glad Mom got to go to the Ye Oldd Cock Tavern this time since it was closed when we tried to go. I loved talking to Mom about the cat at the Seven Stars pub. You didn't tell me the cat's name is Thomas Paine...that is so awesome! Of course, I love the Tudor collar. Interesting about Agatha Christie, I didn't know that.

    Great London blog and looks like a successful Thanksgiving. Made me miss London a lot!!!