Monday, 7 January 2019

A Pirate's Life for Me

That was the title of the exhibition we decided to take the boys to see at the V&A Museum of Childhood. However.....

The day started out badly, as on the way out of the door I knocked one of our photos on to the floor and, needless to say, the glass in its frame smashed.  We had no time to do anything about it, other than quickly sweep up the glass, as we wanted (I wanted!) to take the bus to Russell Square as we were picking up the boys at Senate House today.

We got to the Museum all right - only to discover that the Boy had been and gone and left his rucksack on the Tube.  He was very upset, poor child,  but I looked up what you had to do about it, and gather there is a form to fill in on the TfL website, so I have left it with his father to do that, and they will email him if they find it.  I hope they will - one of the books in it was mine, and the other was a library book!

Neither boy was at all impressed by the Pirate exhibition, although they did like the passage you had to go through to get there, lit by ultra-violet light, which made their teeth glitter and Boy Two's rucksack look really magical (it was an owl, with each petal made of different material).  Other than that, there was basically a large pirate-ship, heaven for 3-year-olds to clamber about on, but the Boy exhausted its resources in 2 minutes, and his brother didn't take much longer!  So we headed on, and both boys made a beeline for the "sensory pod", with its light shows and changing colours, but sadly there was a projection on to the floor which revolved, and did my vertigo a great deal of no good!

So we came away.  But both children were fascinated by the Museum, I've never known them so engrossed in things.  After a trip to the loo, they got into building with flat blocks.  It was noticeable that the Boy had learnt about staggering the layers to make them more stable, but his brother hasn't grasped that concept yet!

Then it was time for coffee and cakes, which we took in the rather expensive museum café.  And then they wanted to see the rest of the museum, which took even longer!  They loved the dolls houses, especially the Rachel Whateread exhibition of 150 of them, all empty. 

The Boy took this overview of the museum which he thought, rightly, would make a lovely photo:
Then they rode on rocking-horses:
played with giant versions of those faces with beards made out of iron filings, and a magnet to move them around with, watched a wave machine with fascination (straw waves, they were amazing), were not very impressed by the model railway - at least, they liked it, but you didn't get much for your 20p in the slot, and finally spent ages with the magic lanterns.  It was noticeable that the Boy was fascinated by the mechanism and how it works, and Boy Two was more interested in how fast he could make the images move!

And we finally came away, to catch a bus over to Spitalfields and the promised lunch in Wagamama, which was delicious and copious.  The boys loved the various pieces of public art in the area, and we went downstairs to see the foundations of the Spitalfields Charnel House from the St Mary's hospital that gave the region its name (I could have sworn I'd taken a photo, but maybe not).  And a train to Wood Street and a W13 bus back to theirs.

At about 5:00 pm, we got ourselves organised to go home, but when we got to Walthamstow Central we found that the Victoria Line was closed, so we had to catch the train back to Liverpool Street.  I was totally not going to brave the Northern Line at that time of night, so went to catch a 133, but found the bus station is closed for renovation, so got a 35 instead.  This took ages, as it always does, but I eventually got home.... only to have to dash into Lidl to get orange juice and bread, as we were nearly out of both, and then realised I hadn't a shopping bag with me, so had to buy one.  Oh well....

Friday, 28 December 2018

The British Library

We managed to get in another trip before the end of the year!  Our friend J is on her annual visit from across the Pond, and we decided to meet her, and her hostess A, in the courtyard of the British Library today.

I have been to the British Library before - I was part of a panel of speakers there at an event a couple of years ago - but not often.  We went to the café there to buy lunch, which was a bit of a failure as the food was very, very expensive for what it was (industrially-produced sandwiches for nearly a fiver each, anybody?) and they sold their coffee in disposable cups, which meant I wasn't about to buy any.  AND most of my eye-wateringly expensive BLT fell out of its wrapper and landed on the floor when I opened it.  SIGH.  But hey, the company was good and we sat and chatted for a long time before deciding to visit the exhibition that had first drawn us there, which was the one called "Cats on the Page".   It was really rather glorious; lots of familiar friends, from My Cat Geoffrey to Mog, via Old Possum and some splendidly Victorian moralistic cats.  But no cat that walked by himself... I suppose they can't have everybody, but I did feel that was a particularly egregious omission.

Once we had looked round that, we thought we might want to go to the Anglo-Saxon exhibition, but we found you had to pay for that, unless you were a member, so we decided not to, but instead went into the permanent exhibition of the Treasure of the British Library, which I have been to before, but which you can spend hours and hours in.  The "Treasures" are eclectic, ranging from the Codex Sinaiticus to draft lyrics of Beatles songs, via Magna Carta, Jane Austen and P G Wodehouse! 

The Magna Carta has a room to itself - you see the copy of the charter itself (one of only a very few in existence) with a modernised transliteration on the opposite wall.  And there is a video that highlights the salient points of it.  An awful lot of it was very personal: "We will remove completely from their offices the kinsmen of Gerard de Athée, and in future they shall hold no offices in England. The people in question are ,. . .." with a list of names. Fascinating stuff, and I could - and might - spend a long time studying it!

But the highlight of the exhibition is the displays entitled "The Art of the Book", lots of lavishly-illustrated manuscripts, often of the Bible.  Many of the Bibles and prayer-books were commissioned by wealthy landowners, and sometimes the illustrations are of them and their family.  There was one lovely Nativity scene inside a letter "P" (starting Puer Nobis).

We eventually had to tear ourselves away as time was getting on and the Swan Whisperer needed to get to Figure Club.  J and A headed for Library shop, and we headed home.  A delightful afternoon, with brilliant company!

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 22 December

Before we went to bed last night, we didn't turn on the heating, as we didn't really need it, and we were not sure how much gas we had left. It was amazing how much difference it made to the warmth of our bed when we got into it - the boiler is in the "garage" underneath the bed, and some of the heat does rise.  Dreadfully windy and wet overnight - "gales" is putting it mildly!  Awoke at 07:00 local time to find the storm had blown itself out, and, despite our misgivings, the gas did hold out for hot water for our showers and cooking our breakfast.

I dashed into Carrefour to get some cooking wine, which I had forgotten to do earlier, and then we headed into an incredibly busy terminal. Fortunately we didn't have to wait, and ended up on a train that left 20 minutes earlier than planned. And so home, and now - it's CHRISTMAS!

Thank you for following our travels in 2018; we are now going to hibernate for a couple of months while the worst of the winter passes, but maybe there will be short breaks or days out to report on. Meanwhile, I wish you and yours a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2019.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 21 Decenber

The weather broke overnight, and we were treated to a howling gale and pouring rain. This was not conducive to a good night's sleep! 

As the only thing planned for today was the long drive to Calais, we didn't hurry away, and it was about 10:30 mm we set off. We stopped in Suippes to get diesel and patisserie (the latter at the SW's request) and then at some random aire to have lunch. One of the aires on the A4 has motorhome services which we assume were working as they were advertised on the boards outside, which the ones at Toul were not, although you could see where they had been. We didn't need them, so didn't bother to stop.

We had one further stop en route for the SW to have coffee. I should have liked a cup of tea but he said he didn't know if he had enough hot water for his coffee so I left it and had one when we arrived at Coquelles.  En route, we listened to a podcast of the Messiah that the SW had downloaded before we came away. 

After tea, we did an enormous shop in Carrefour, stocking up on tea and coffee and so on, and some last-minute Christmas presents. Then, before supper, we drive round Calais to look at their Christmas lights that they do so well.

It is still very windy - I'm glad we go under the Channel, not on it!

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 20 December

So that was the Christmas markets all visited and now we are on our way home. The first port of call was for diesel, which  is several cents  per litre cheaper in Germany than it is in France. We had thought to go to Edeka, but there didn't seem to be any parking (probably underground, so no good to us) and it was raining, but there was a Lidl so I popped in for one or two last bits. Then we set off on the long journey home.

Our first port of call was some random parking on the N4 for coffee, and then we stopped at Toul services where we had hoped to get water (the water at Kehl was out of use and we didn't have enough to get home) but it too was out of use, so we had lunch. Many services are put out of use in the winter to avoid frost damage, you can't blame them. However, we knew we could get water in Reims if all else failed, but the SW found a place called Les Ilettes which was said to have them all year. And we eventually found the water, and decided to spend the night here, although it is €7, but that does include electricity. Actually a very nice place and you can use the services without paying, if you've a mind to. It had been noted for future reference!

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 19 December

Up in good time this morning, all ready for our trip into Strasbourg. The plan was to park in the park-n-ride by the station and get the tram into town. However, when we got there, we found to our disgust that they had closed the barriers so that vehicles over 2 metres high couldn't get in. We knew such barriers existed, but they had been left open in November.

So we drove sadly back to the aire, via a Rewe supermarket where we returned dead beer bottles and I bought some Nürnberg sausages and mixed mince, among other things.

But Kehl has had a revolution in public transport in the last five weeks, and one can not only get a tram into Strasbourg from downtown Kehl, but they have also expanded their bus network dramatically and we can now catch a bus to the tram terminus. So after plugging ourselves back into the on-site electricity, we duly did that, and headed into Strasbourg.

The main part of Strasbourg is on an island, and what they do is to close the whole island to traffic and let rip with the Christmas markets. Because of the recent atrocities, trams were not stopping on the island itself and bags were being checked at all entrances.

Once we got in, we found the Place Kléber, where they had made an impromptu memorial to the recent dead and wounded.

Before, it had been one of the main areas, but only charity stalls remained. We headed towards the cathedral, but got turned round and ended up just by the restaurant where we had had lunch with the Daughter last month, so we went in there (I'd asked if we could have lunch sitting down, as a rest and a chance to get comfortable) and had a delicious tarte flambée with mushrooms.
Then we headed back to the Cathedral, having got our bearings, and drank mulled wine, but I don't know what spice mix they had used, but it wasn't to my taste. So the SW drank most of mine!
We said goodbye to the Christmas markets and got the tram back to Kehl, but only as far as the station, as I wanted to walk through the main shopping drag, so we did that and then got a bus back to the aire. After a cup of tea, the SW headed back to see the illuminations (I'd had enough for one day!) and now he is back and getting supper. Duck breast with red cabbage and mashed potato, yum!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 18 December

Another lazy morning - well, the Swan Whisperer did go for a run, but that was about it - and it was 11:30 before we set off. Our first port of call was the big E Leclerc just across the Ill from the camp site; I did a fairly big shop and then made the SW come in with me as there was stuff I thought he might want to buy people for Christmas, which he duly did.   

I had a ghastly shock when I came out of the supermarket, though, as the bright sunshine that had been a feature of the day so far had quite disappeared and there was only freezing fog! Fortunately not too thick, and it, too, disappeared before too long. 

Originally we had thought we might be visiting three Christmas markets today, but when I looked at the web site, two of them were weekend-only affairs. Some people might have checked that earlier, no? However, we decided that the Alsatian Wine Route was still worth going up, and we stopped at the very pretty little town of Kaysersberg for lunch. I discovered that I'd rather overdone it yesterday so I rested while the SW explored both it and the Christmas Market in the neighbouring town of Riquewihr. This was a mistake, as he treated himself to a mulled apple juice and then didn't want a cup of tea, and I was longing for one, which I didn't get.

We decided to go on up the wine route towards Strasbourg and only came off it when it began to get dark. We are now in Kehl, after a rather hairy drive through freezing fog, and will spend two nights here to have a full day in Strasbourg tomorrow. I also want to do some shopping here, if I can. And I finally have my tea!