A September 2001 trip
to London by zabelle
Quote: London is a sprawling city of boroughs that meld together to form a coheasive whole. It is a melting pot for the world and a very cosmopolitan city.
Hotel | "Millenium Gloucester Hotel"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 18, 2001
Millennium Gloucester Hotel Lon
4 18 HARRINGTON GARDENS
We began our adventure with a starter of deep-fried calamari rings with lemon aioli. It was not a large portion, but they were large rings and were very, very tender. It was delightful.
For our main course, we had cod and chips. We all got the same thing. Sometimes I have plaice and chips, but not this time. This fish and chips almost defies description. The coating is light and flakes off, and it isn't greasy at all. The fish is the freshest you will ever taste--exquisitly white and tender, very lightly flavored. The pieces are huge, and none of us left any. The chips are nice, crispy french fries, chunky and delicious.
We washed this down with pints of ice-cold lager. I ordered a side of gherkins. I love them--sweet and tart at the same time. I even shared.
There is nothing on the menu except fish, but it runs the gamut from fish soup, prawn cocktail, and fish pie to oysters, salmon fish cakes, and lots more.
For dessert, we had some delicous sorbet, which cleansed our pallates and warmed our hearts. It was a wonderful meal with great service, a very British atmosphere, and three very contented Americans.
I can't believe I forgot to bring my camera, but oh well--my description will have to do for this visit.
2 Farmer Street
London, England W8 7SN
+44 20 7727 7528
Everyone in our party ordered very different things. Al ordered the filet with mushrooms ragout, served on a bed of spinach with a wine sauce. Joe had risotto dolce latte with leeks. I ordered tapas and mezze.
Not only was everything delicious, but it was also beautifully plated, and the ambience of the restaurant was wonderful. We enjoyed a lot of light under a glass roof in what was formerly an open courtyard. The service was flawless, and our waitress could not have been better.
My tapas included Spanish olives, baba ghanouj, hummus, Manchego cheese, and tabbouleh. I'm a very experimental eater, and I enjoyed every one of these unique bites.
Al's filet was one of the best things I have ever tasted. It was so tender and flavorful that it defied description. Joe's risotto was creamy and very large.
Good bread with great crust was delivered from a basket a waitress carried. She came back several times to make sure we had our fill.
I wish we had had time for dessert, but we had things to see, and frankly, we were quite full. This is a wonderful place to eat that was quite busy--even at an off-time on an off-day.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 21, 2001
Wallace Collection, Hertford House
London, England W1U 3BN
020 7563 9505
London, England WC2N 5DN
+44 (207) 747 2885
Once you get there you are in for a treat. This is one of the premier decorative arts collections in the world. The art collection here is first class. It also has the best collection of arms and armour , second only to the Tower of London collection.
The collection was assembled primarily by one man, the 4th Marquess of Hereford. It was his illegitimate son and heir Richard Wallace whose wife left the collection to the nation with the stipulation that it be kept together, nothing added, nothing taken away. Now on one hand this means a stagnant collection but given the quality of the collection there is very little that could improve it.
We began our visit with a trip to the Fakes and Frauds section. Things that are not what they are suppose to be. Some purposeful and some accidental. Its a good lesson for a would be antique buyer.
There is a marvelous collection of French Boulle marquetry furniture here. Probably the best in the world.
The museum does have the most outstanding collection of Sevres in the world. There are 6 pieces of Empress Catherine the Great's turquoise blue set delivered to the Hermitage in 1776. The 4th Marquise aquired about 100 pieces looted from the Hermitage during a fire and after deciding to keep the six. He sold the other pieces back to Tsar Alexander II.
The Grand Picture Gallery will knock your socks off. There is Rembrandt's picture of his son Titus, Titian's Perseus and Andromeda, Poussin's A Dance to the Music of Time, Reuben's The Rainbow Landscape and Franz Hals' laughing Cavalier. There are also works by Watteau, Philippe de Champaigne, Delacroix, Fragonard, Boucher, Laurence, Reynolds, Gainsborough and many, many more. There are case after case of miniatures. Way too many to describe.
If you still have any energy walk through the rooms of armour and arms. This can take several hours to enjoy. Take your time, its too good to rush.
There is no entrance fee but a donation is highly recommended. The collection is open daily 10am-5pm, Sunday noon to 5pm.
London, England W1M 6BN
+44 20 7563 9500
Attraction | "The Houses of Parliment"
We ordered tickets online, and they were mailed to us well in advance of our visit. We had to check in 15 minutes early, and we were split into groups of 16 to 18 people. We were then assigned a guide--in our case, Kate--and we went in one group at a time. Security was high--we were patted down, went through a metal detector, and our bags were searched.
We were shown the Sovereign's entrance, but we got to go in a trade entrance. We walked up the Royal Stairs--the queen takes the lift up these days. At the top of the stairs, there was a beautiful stained-glass window of Edward the Confessor.
The Houses of Parliament were largely destroyed by a fire in 1834. They were rebuilt in a high Gothic style. We toured into the robing room where the queen changes into her robes for the opening of Parliament. Prince Charles and Prince Philip get to use a smaller room. This room is beautiful, all maroon and gold. It has Arturian Friezes around the upper walls, extolling the values of chivalry.
The royal gallery has portraits and statues of the monarchs. There is also an interesting model of the former palace of Westminster. There are cases here with important documents, one of which is the signed death warrant of King Charles I.
Next, we went through the Houses of Lords, and Kate explained the makeup of the House, Lords Spiritual, Lord Temporal, and Life Peers. Then we got to do what the Queen can never do: we walked from the House of Lords to the House of Commons (the monarch is not welcome in the House of Commons). Charles I was the last monarch in the House of Commons, and he tried to force his way in.
We picked up some interesting trivia here. There are lines on the floor in the House of Commons. The terms "Don't Cross the Line" and "Tow the Line" had their birth in this room. The lines are to keep the two parties apart. We got to announce ourselves as we entered the House, just as the members do when the bell calling them is rung.
Our last stop was Westminster Hall, the largest remaining portion of the old palace. It has a beautiful 15th-century hammered roof. This was also the only room we were allowed to photograph. This is the room where William Wallace was condemned and Charles I sat where we stood. Monarchs have also laid in state in this room.
This was an amazing experience. If you get the chance, do it. It's a wonderful lesson in the British system of government.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 19, 2001
Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament
North Bank of River Thames
Westminster, London SW1A OAA
+44 (20) 7219 4272
My all time favorite shop is Culpeper. It is an herbalist shop with a wonderful variety of all natural lotions, soaps, mustard baths, potpourri and sachets, wonderful spice mixes. This is a great place to pick up a small easy-to-carry gift. I brought back some seasoning packages one for apple pies and one for chicken curry. I got myself a mustard bath and some steak and beef seasoning. The combinations are unique to England. It is located at 8 The Market. They do have an online site so if you find something you can't live without you can order from home.
My other favorite shop is Reject China. The shop has just undergone a very successful renovation that has made the shop much easier to visit. They have opened up the second floor and now you can shop without the fear of breaking something. This is the place to find the best prices in London on Wedgewood, Portmeirion, Royal Doulton and more. I always find some small items that I want here and this time was no exception. I purchased a very pretty Christmas trivet from Portmeirion and also a salt and pepper set as well as a couple of small pieces from the Blue Room Collection. They also sell small porcelain boxes, clocks and Lilliputs. Some items are seconds but they are plainly marked. This shop is at 26 the Market.
There are branches of Monsoon and Body Shop in the Market. Also several book stores, a tea store, a tobacco shop and lots of restaurants including Ponti's. I love getting a jacket potato and sitting in the center court eating it while people watching.
There is always activity here. All sorts of artists are performing, sometimes rock, sometimes jazz, and on our last visit, a marvelous soprano in the style of Sarah Brightman and a string quartet. They do come around soliciting donations but you are free to donate or not. There are magicians, clowns, stilt walkers and puppeteers. It is an amusing place just to walk around.
There is also a Market called the Jubilee Hall Market. On Monday they have antique dealers, Tuesday-Friday is general merchandise and weekends are arts and crafts. For all you stampers out there there is a booth that sells wood and metal stamps. I bought a few and they are wonderful. The image is clearer and crisper.
Just be vigilant at Covent Garden. This is a haven for pickpockets. Act as you would in any large city, don't flash your cash and keep your wallet where it is not easily picked and then just enjoy yourself.
The shops are open Mon-Sat, 10am-8pm/Sun, 10am-6pm.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 20, 2001
London, England WC2
+44 20 7836 9136
What I really wanted to talk about was seeing shows in London in general. It is really quite easy and not nearly as expensive as in the States. We always order our theatre tickets ahead of time. There is a half-price ticket booth in Leicster Square, and if you have more time than money and no preference for a particular show, that is the way to go. For me, my time in London is much to precious to waste waiting in line. I order my tickets from the individual theatres and pick them up the night or afternoon of the performance. There is a great site at: Londontheatere.co.uk/index/shtml. This site will tell you what is playing, and you can search by name of show or by type, i.e. comedy, drama, musical. It will then give you the theatre name, address, and phone number and tell you which tube stop to take. Also at this site are reviews of the current show, updates on openings and closing, and seasonal specials.
They even have theatre seating plans, so you can decide which sections you prefer to sit in.
I have used it with great success. Make sure you plan this as far in advance as possible, since some of the popular shows sell out months in advance.
London, England W1V 9LB
+44 20 7413 1437
Attraction | "Syon House"
Syon House is a Percy Family Home. They are the Dukes of Northumberland. The Percy Lion sits on top of the House, he was origianally on their London Home and the guide told us that after an argument with the King the Duke turned the Lion so that his butt faced the Kings Home. Now his head is toward London.
Syon house was a former convent. It was here that the body of Henry VIII rested on its way to burial at Windsor. Its also here that his body burst and blood dripped out of the casket and was licked by the family dogs, fulfilling a prophesy by a Franciscan monk that dogs would lick his blood.
The Duke was one of Robert Adams' chief patrons and the house is one of his first projects. He remodeled it in 1761 in the Italian Classical Style. It is in the double cube design. There is a bronze statue of a dying Gaul in the Entrance Hall. The Ante Chamber is Rome in the 2nd century. There are 12 real marble pillars and there are 12 statues that were rescued from the Tiber.
The Red Drawing Room has a great collection of Stuart Families Portraits. The British Honeysuckle pattern is repeated throughout the room. There was a very friendly volunteer in this room and he pointed out some of the things that were not on the tour.
The Long Gallery is a remnant of the Tudor Home, it would have been where the ladies took their exercise in inclement weather. There are lots of Percy pictures in this room, one in particular of Hotspur, an early Percy, is interesting. They are trying to repaint this gallery but the volunteers showed us the problems they have had matching the paint without becoming garish.
There are several rooms that have been opened to the public recently because the family was told that they needed to offer more or they would loose their tax break. Lucky for us they needed the break.
There are many more rooms that we visited but 500 words is not enough to describe them all. There is some wonderful painting, Dutch and English. Some very interesting furniture including the bed that Queen Victoria slept in.
There is a nice National Trust gift shop and a cafeteria style restaurant.
Allow several hours.
Open March 14-Oct 31 Wed, Thurs, and Sunday. 11am-5pm
District Line Gunnersbury Line then 237 or 267 Bus.
Middlesex, England TW8 8JF
+44 20 8560 0881
The cost of entrance is 4pds. The rooms are relatively small, and the lighting is excellent. Room 5, which is the first room we entered, has two Raphaels, one of St. Anthony and one of St. Francis. They are both part of a larger altar piece. The second room in Gallery 5 has a haunting St. Sebastian by Guido Reni--compare it with the St. Sebastian by Antonio Bellucci. Quite a different interpretation. The Bellucci is light and yet tragic, and the Reni is so compelling, I was fascinated--he uses ashen grey for the skin tone, and yet the face is beautiful.
Room 4 has six Poussins. The Triumph of David is now the favorite painting of copyist and students. Speaking of students, there were two rooms full of children doing their lessons with their art teachers. They were hard to walk around, but they were very well behaved.
There is a wonderful painting by Philippe de Campagne of Moses and the Ten Commandments that draws your eyes to that wall. Also, a Claude Lorraine landscape of Jacob, Laban, and his daughters is one of his most attractive works (in my opinion). He painted it when he was over 70 years old.
Room 3 has a magnificent Reynolds girl with a baby, thought to be Emma Hamilton in her early days. It has a definite Impressionist look, not by deliberate effort but because Reynolds was experimenting with colors.
Room 2 has a gorgeous Reubens, Venus, Mars and Cupid, and a Van Dyke of Venetia Stanley on her deathbed.
Room 11 has two Rembrandts and a Dou.
Intermixed with the art was some lovely furniture. Between two Canalettos in one gallery is a Gainsborough portrait of an unknown couple, and underneath them is a beautiful French Comode. But the piece de resistance in this room is the portrait of the 4-year-old Princess Victoria. Her grown-up clothes and hat make her look very much the queen, even as a small child.
This is a wonderful small museum, chock full of the most wonderful art imaginable.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
College and Gallery roads
London, England SE21 7AD
+44 20 8693 5254