Thursday, April 30, 2015

Touring Turkey - Part 1 - London

Resetting Our Internal Clocks in London

Arriving in London
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What's up with the place names in England?  Maybe I was just a bit punchy from the long flight from Los Angeles to Heathrow, but as Rob and I sat on the "Tube" from Heathrow into London, I found myself giggling uncontrollably at every stop as a pleasant woman's voice announced, "This is the Piccadilly line to Cockfoster!"
Arriving in London! Our first of many trips on the "Tube."
The Underground map is filled with fun (and funny) names:  Tooting, Shepherd's Bush, Ickenham, Piccadilly Circus...and how does one pronouce Marylebone?  And the London streets continue the humor (or should I say humour) with names like Back Passage, Mincing Lane, Mudchute, and Titley Close.

It was a fun start to our four days in London getting over jet lag before starting a long-awaited tour of Turkey.  Rob's great research paid off immediately as we easily found our way to Victoria Station and our comfortable hotel, the Luna Simone on Belgrave Road.  Luna Simone is in the neighborhood of Pimlico, and we could not have been happier with our choice of location.  Pimlico was filled with little restaurants, coffee houses, grocery stores, and shops.  Best of all, it was filled with residents just going about their daily lives, so by the end of our four days, we knew the neighborhood well and felt like temporary locals ourselves.
Seafresh Restaurant in our neighborhood of Pimlico
The cranes in the background indicate the huge amount of construction going on around Victoria Station.
Rob said he could hardly recognize the neighborhood since his last trip here about 15 years ago!

Caffé Nero in on Wilton Road
We arrived in the late morning and have learned that the best way to combat jet lag is to just keep on moving, so we set out right away to explore the neighborhood.  After a cappuccino in a  Caffé Nero  (which seems to be Britain's answer to Starbucks - we saw several of them), we walked the short distance to Buckingham Palace.  The palace guards were in their gray winter coats, so no redcoats on display, but it was fun to see so many recognizable sights - the balcony where the royal family comes out to wave after weddings, the black gates with their gold trim, the British symbols of lion and unicorn, and the famous Mall (pronounced to rhyme with gal, not ball) which stretches from the gates of the palace to Trafalgar Square.
Buckingham Palace

They're changing guards at Buckingham Palace.
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guards.
"A soldier's life is terribly hard," says Alice.
A. A. Milne
The Lion and the Unicorn on the gates of Buckingham Palace
In the middle of the roundabout in front of Buckingham Palace is the Queen Victoria Memorial, with an impressive marble statue of the Queen, surrounded by statues of Truth, Justice, and Charity, and topped with a gold statue of Victory.
Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace

Queen Victoria Memorial topped by Victory

Queen Victoria
Crossing the street, we entered Green Park, enjoying the fields of daffodils and lovely old moss covered trees.
The gates of Green Park

Selfie in Green Park

March Daffodils

Buckingham Palace through the trees of Green Park
We took a quick browse through the "Queen's Gallery and Gift Shop" adjoining the palace.  Once disadvantage of packing light is that it leaves very little room for souvenir shopping.  I would love to have picked up one of the beautiful English china tea cups, but with no room in my carry on bag, I had to settle for just drooling over them.

After a short nap at the hotel, we headed out for dinner.  Rob had done his homework and took me to Seafresh, a very good seafood restaurant on Wilton Road, where most of the shops and restaurants were located.  A very good first day of what would become one of our very favorite trips!
The iconic red phone boxes of London

A Rainy Day in London Town
Thursday, March 26, 2015

We woke to overcast skies and rain.  Not the best weather for photos, but a great day for museums…and London has plenty to choose from!  We enjoyed breakfast in our hotel chatting with a couple from Philadelphia who stay at the Luna Simone every year, then headed out to the Tate Britain, which focuses on English painters throughout the centuries.  The museum is a beautiful building right across the street from the Thames River. 
Entrance to the Tate Britain

Joan in the Tate.  It is an impressive entrance hall!

A room in the Tate Britain
The Tate included an interesting collection of portraits, landscapes, and sculptures.  I especially enjoyed the section devoted to Hogarth, as his etchings on the evils of gin and the virtues of good English beer had been highlighted in one of the history texts I used to use with my students. 
And we think girls today dress sexy!?

Painting of identical twins and their babies

Joan with the ladies of the Tate

Rob needs a wig to be a proper barrister!

I loved this portrait of the little boy with puppies!

I would recognize Gainsborough anywhere.  Thank you to my art history professors.

Bust of Percy Bysshe Shelley

I also recognized this as the Lady of Shallot right away thanks to "Anne of Green Gables,"
who recreated this scene with her friends...and promptly sank into the river!

What a lazy youth!

William Hogarth

Hogarth's Gin Lane

Description of "Gin Lane"























Although most modern art is housed at the Tate Modern, there was one room of modern art here.  I have to admit, sometimes I just don’t “get” modern art!
Hmmm...well, okay.
A short way down the Thames from the Tate are the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.  We joined the throngs of other tourists strolling along the river and taking in the sights.  Unfortunately, Parliament was not open to the public and Westminster Abbey charged an outrageous amount to enter (£17 – or about $34 per person), so we contented ourselves to snapping photos outside.  We did take shelter from a sudden downpour under an Abbey alcove…and got royally chewed out by a guard because we had ducked past the barricade.   Ha! Miss Goody Two-Shoes is always the one who gets caught!

Gazebo at the side of the Houses of Parliament

"The Eye" - the big Ferris Wheel on the Thames.  It must provide great views.
Sadly, it was never running during our entire stay in London.

Gates of the Houses of Parliament

I actually remembered this lion from my first trip to London 45 years ago!

Houses of Parliament

Westminster Abbey

The side of Westminster Abbey
While walking in the green in front of Big Ben admiring the statues of British Prime Ministers, we were delighted to see a group of English students putting on a lively choral performance.


Rob with one of his heroes, Winston Churchill

Big Ben - just after noon!

Joan and Rob and Ben

A group of high school or college lads suddenly arrive...

...and break into song!  Fun times!
Using our “Oyster Card,” London’s all-purpose, pre-paid transportation card, we returned to Wilton Street for some fish and chips and a little rest.  Then we hopped on the #24 bus right outside the door of our hotel and headed to busy Trafalgar Square.  This is a good place to praise the public transportation in London!  Between the Underground and the frequent buses, we could get anywhere in the city in short time.  Many of the iconic red double-decker buses were recently modernized.  They show up frequently and are comfortable and inexpensive.  The Underground is an efficient way to get all over the city, but the buses are a better way to enjoy the sights as you travel.
One of the beautiful modern double-decker buses of London
Back in Trafalgar Square, We paid our respects to Lord Nelson...

Rob in busy Trafalgar Square

There's a story to this photo.  45 years ago, as a naive young exchange student,
I was approached by an affable man who asked to take my photo right in this spot.
I was shocked when he then asked me for £5, which I didn't have.
He was not so affable after that...and I remained embarrassed about it for years.
I finally have my photo by the Trafalgar Square Fountain...and Rob took it for free!

Lord Nelson above his high tower.

Lord Nelson

...then visited the National Gallery.
Entry hall of the National Gallery

One of the many paintings in the National Gallery
The National Gallery was fine, but my favorite museum of the day was the National Portrait Gallery right around the corner.  Painting after painting of my favorite characters in British history…including so many I recognized from textbooks and history books I have used over the years.  Let's start with the gallery of the Kings and Queens of England.  This photo is just a display of many of the royal portraits that hang in the gallery.  Strangely enough, I had just browsed through a little book on the rulers of England in preparation for this trip, and these were the very photos used to illustrate the pages.


Some of the British kings and Queens


And here are some of my favorites from the selection above.

Henry VIII, by an unknown artist

Henry's son, Edward VI, who reigned for about 6 years before his untimely death.
He was the Prince in "The Prince and the Pauper"
Attributed to "Master John"

Mary I - aka Bloody Mary - first daughter of Henry VIII
and older sister of Elizabeth I
by anonymous artist
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots
by Nicholas Hilliard

Charles II
Captain Hook modeled himself on this fashionable king.
by Thomas Hawker
A young Queen Victoria
by Sir George Hayter
And there were other important historical figures hanging in the Gallery.
William Shakespeare, of course!
This is the only portrait of Shakespeare said to have been painted from life
and it was the first painting to be acquired by the National Portrait Gallery when it opened in 1856.

For my Outlander friends, here is a young and bonny Prince Charlie, Charles Edward Stuart
by Louis Gabriel Blanchet

And here is the Jacobite heroine, Flora Macdonald, who hid Charlie in her
maid's clothing and helped him flee to the Isle of Skye.
Painting by Richard Wilson

The famous diarist, Samuel Pepys
Painting by John Hayls
Although we had been immersed in British history all day, London is a very multicultural city now.  Throughout our stay here, we heard more conversations in languages other than English than the other way around.  Many of the staff in the local markets are originally from other countries.  At the end of the day, Rob and I again walked down Wilton Street looking for a good place to eat, and we passed – in addition to several English pubs – two or three Indian restaurants, a Mexican restaurant, a Turkish restaurant, and an Italian restaurant, which was our final choice.  It was excellent…and run by actual Italians (unlike, say, the Olive Garden).


A Day at Hampton Court
Friday, March 27, 2015


What a wonderful day!  This old history teacher was in heaven exploring the very rooms where Henry VIII once lived…the beautiful Hampton Court Palace.  My former students may remember my love for this era in history…and the story of Henry and his six wives in particular…so this visit was the fulfillment of a long-time wish.
Rob and I set out after breakfast for the trip on the underground District Line to Richmond some miles out of London.  Along the way, we had a nice chat with an American student, a young man who is studying psychology at a local university and planning to live here permanently.  In Richmond, we transferred to the R58 bus that took us the rest of the way to Hampton Court.  (It still amazes me how these big buses can wind their way through the very narrow and busy streets!)
One of my bucket list wishes granted!  Arriving at Hampton Court Palace.
The day was a bit overcast in the morning, but quite a bit warmer than the chilly days we had the last two days, and by afternoon, it had cleared up beautifully, so we got to see this lovely place at its best.  We got our tickets (which we had already reserved online), then headed for the Tiltyard Café for a nice Tudor-inspired lunch.  (The Titlyard stands on the grounds of – well, the Tiltyard...where Henry and his friends would “tilt” or joust.)  Many of the recipes served in the café are based on foods of the period.  The venison stew seemed a bit much for lunch, so I had a nice vegetable custard pie…delicious!
Food fit for a Tudor King!

The Tiltyard Cafe had several posters with information and court food and customs.

And the Tudors really liked their meat!
After lunch, we entered the Base Court just inside the castle gates just in time to be met by one of Queen Katherine’s ladies-in-waiting who told us that King Henry was calling on some of his subjects to help him wrestle with a difficult problem.  A group of about 20 of us were escorted (through a hidden door in the wall) into the presence of a young Henry VIII and his advisor, Cardinal Wolsey (who was actually the first owner of Hampton Court.)  This experience was wonderful!  Henry’s wife, Katherine, was no longer able to bear children (although her ladies maid and Wolsey assured us that they are still praying for a miracle.)  Henry asked us what we thought was the most important obligation of the king, and assured us that we could not offend him with our answers.  I contributed “To protect his people,” and a few others chimed in with other answers, including the one Henry agreed was most important.  “To protect my people, I must have an heir.”  Ahhh...I could see where this was going!
The conversation went on for quite a while.  He asked if we thought the people would follow a Queen, as he did have a daughter, Mary.  What problems would that bring?  I chimed in again…she might marry a foreign prince who would try to take over power.  He then asked us if we would accept his illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, as king…but he saw problems with getting everyone in the kingdom to accept that solution.  Perhaps he could marry Mary to an English noble...but then there would be jealousy and possible war between potential English suitors.  The discussion really did make it clear how thorny an issue this was at the time.  Finally he asked if we saw any way out of this dilemma (short of murdering the queen, whom he declared to love and honor), and a young English woman in the group came up with what was, obviously, the final solution…the biblical injunction against marrying your brother’s widow (which he had done).  Henry and Wolsey got quite excited about the possibility and agreed to withdraw to discuss it.  Marvelous participatory theater…and very impressive to see how many in the crowd knew their Tudor history!
Rob and I then wandered around the grounds and through the many rooms of the castle, enjoying chatting with the red-coated guards who gave us more information about the castle and its inhabitants.  
Statues line the entrance to the palace

Tourists join the courtiers around the fountain in the inner courtyard

The astronomical clock of Hampton Court

Every room had a unique chimney

An amusing fireplace (from a later era)

All of these table decorations were of folded linen!
Soon another young woman of the court, Lady Anne, invited us to join her in her favorite spot, the cloister garden where she would retire for some quiet away from the 1,500 courtiers and servants who often filled the palace.  While talking with us in the garden, she was suddenly interrupted by Henry, looking down on us from an upper story window.  
A young Henry VIII addressing Lady Ann from his window.
He began to flirt with her shamelessly and as he came down to see her, she warned all of us ladies not to let the flowery language of courtship sway us into damaging our good reputation.  Henry entered the garden and a very witty conversation went on between the two of them, with Henry demanding the promise of a kiss in exchange for composing a poem to her virtues.  The men and women were divided into two groups.  The men helped Henry with his poem, and we women had to decide if he deserved a kiss.  All great fun…and both actors did a wonderful job.
Henry VIII requesting a kiss from Lady Ann

Henry solicits Rob's help with his poem praising the charms of Lady Anne

Rob was obviously delighted with the performance!

Henry claims his reward.
As the performance ended, and the garden cleared out, I enjoyed noticing another performer who did not seem to be noticed by the crowd…lovely Annette Benning and her daughter walked by, escorted by a private guide. 
We next visited the beautiful palace chapel where Henry worshipped.  No photographs were allowed, so I borrowed some from Google free images of the high ornate ceiling gilded in gold with the slogan “Dieu et Mon Droit”…God and My Right.  The organ in the chapel does not date back to the Tudors.  It is ONLY 300 years old, but is still played.  One of the attendants told us a funny story about the current Queen’s visit to the chapel.  In celebration of the 400th (?) anniversary of the King James Bible, Elizabeth II entered the chapel to find all the seats filled with chaplains invited from around the land.  She sat herself down between a group of them, wiggled around noticeably, while saying, “You are taking too much room.  Move over!”  Then Prince Phillip arrived, and she said sternly, "Come sit down. You're late!"
Hampton Court Chapel

The gorgeous ceiling of the Hampton Court Chapel.
After seeing the Palace rooms, we went into the beautiful gardens, which were decorated by huge spruce trees trimmed into turrets and pyramids.  We strolled the grounds for a while, enjoying the first real sunshine of our trip, and the numerous birds who enjoyed the pools and streams in the gardens, then returned to the Tiltyard for afternoon tea and a “Maids of Honour cake,” which Anne Boleyn was said to be eating when Henry first met her.
The gardens of Hampton Court

The back of Hampton Court Palace

Rob enjoying the sunshine

Royal swan

Tufted Ducks

I have no idea what kind of duck this is...but isn't he interesting?!
(That should probably be "she."  My birder brother informs me that this is a female or young Shelduck.)

Gardens of Hampton Court

The Hampton Court Maze is the oldest surviving hedge maze -
created in 1690!

Serving tea to my honey and eating "Maids of Honour" cake

Spring hyacinths were blooming in the Tiltyard gardens
Sadly, it was time to return home, so we walked on the bridge over the Thames (where you could imagine Henry gliding up to the Palace on his royal barge) and took the train back to Waterloo Station.  Back in our hotel room, it was time for a little rest.  (It is always hard for me to take time to rest when we travel.  There is so much to see and it is so hard to get here, but I’ve learned that we do better if we don’t try to do so much that we end up too tired to really enjoy it.)
Lions and Unicorns guard the gates of Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court sits on the banks of the Thames River and was reached by royal barge

Hampton Court Palace on the banks of the Thames River.
Dinner tonight was a fitting end to our best day so far.  We gave ourselves a little preview of our upcoming tour of Turkey with a visit to Kazan, an excellent “Ottoman” restaurant right here in our neighborhood.  Excellent restaurant! We were completely happy with our choice!
Dinner at Kazan Restaurant - a nice preview of the Turkish cuisine coming up soon!

A Walk Through History

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Another cold and overcast day, but that didn’t stop these intrepid explorers!  We visited the City of London today, starting with a trip to the wonderful British Museum.
The courtyard of the British Museum

Rob in the entrance hall
The first sight as we entered the galleries of the huge building was the famous Rosetta Stone, which held the key to Egyptian hieroglyphs.  It was impossible to get a good photo, as it was behind glass and surrounded by a crowd about ten people deep.  Rob and I both remembered seeing it years ago when you could walk right up to the unprotected stone.  It was probably wise to create a barrier, although it does not have quite the same emotional impact now.
The Rosetta Stone "under glass"
We traveled back in time, gaping at the massive sculptures of the Sumerian, Abyssinian, and ancient Egyptian civilizations.  I took dozens of photos...these are just a sample of the incredible collection of the museum.
Winged Bulls from the palace of Sargon II

There were a number of panels of the Abyssinian lion hunts

Amenhotep III

Tomb stela of Intef

Description of the tomb stela in the photo above


Mummified man

 The British Museum has the world's largest collection of cuneiform tablets
Then we moved forward to the more delicate and life-like sculptures of the Greeks and Romans, including the panels of friezes, known as the Elgin Marbles, taken from the Parthenon.  I have mixed feelings about some of these ancient treasures here instead of in situ in their native lands, although considering some of the destruction that is going on in some places of the Middle East right now, it may be that they are better protected here for future generations.
Figurines from the Hellenistic era

From a temple of ancient Greece

Joan examines some of the Elgin Marbles



Greek vase decorated with an octopus

Now that's a pitcher!

Upstairs, the museum focused on artifacts from Britain, from the bronze and iron ages up through the Romans and Vikings and on to the 19th century.
Bronze bust of Emperor Hadrian - description below



I found it interesting that the art of the 19th century was made up in great part by reproducing the art of the ancient world…replicas of Greek vases, little statues of Roman gods, and Chinese tableware.  It was also amazing how many artifacts from the Roman occupation of Britain are still being discovered.  There is still gold in them thar hills!
19th Century Tableware

 There was another room filled with unusual time pieces from past centuries.

This ship is a clock!

A variety of timepieces.

We ended our museum visit with a great lunch in the Gallery Café.  We have learned that world-class museums like this one often have remarkably good food. 
The British Museum cafe

Not bad for cafeteria food!


After lunch, we took a brisk walk toward the Thames to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral.  It was interesting to see old buildings dating from hundreds of years before side by side with modern London.



As with Westminster Abbey, the fee to enter St. Paul's was outrageously high.  I guess the trick to seeing these two beautiful churches is to attend a Sunday service, when all are welcome! 
Rob approaches St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

Just down the street from St. Paul’s were two sites that didn’t even exist the last time I visited London 45 years ago…the Millennium Bridge and, just across the Thames, the replica of the Globe Theater.  Both were “must-sees” for me.  The Millennium Bridge has a memorable scene in the movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” (We even found a baby Harry Potter and his mum sitting on the wall by the Thames.)  And anyone who knows me well knows why a pilgrimage to the Globe Theater was a necessity!
Another bucket list wish - visiting the Globe Theater.
This stands in the approximate location of the original.

The new Globe Theater

A poster of the interior of the Globe

The Millennium Bridge and the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral

A budding wizard
We did not get as far as the Tower of London this time, although we could see the Tower Bridge in the distance.  We had both visited the Tower before and after our long walk today, we were ready to head home for a nap.  We chose the bus instead of the Tube, and although it was not as speedy, it was fun to see the sights as we traveled home.
The Tower Bridge

Rob and I thought it was odd to see police on horse patrol in crowded London.

One of the many old pubs spotted around London

After dinner, we packed our suitcases for our plane to Turkey in the morning.   I could have stayed longer in this amazing city…but I guess we will just have to return some day!