Saturday, 20 July 2013

Bodies and roses

Last night we headed down to Brixton Village to eat; goodness, the place was heaving.  There were, predictably, enormous queues at both Franco Manca and Honest Burgers, and we ended up in the Colombian café, which was less crowded.  What Colombians like to eat, it appears is meat, meat and more meat - I ordered a steak which was huge, but in fact not too enormous when you got down to it, as it was very thin.  And delicious!  With rice and potatoes (why?) and salad which included a slice of beetroot, yuck, and avocado (yum) and fried plantain (also yum).  Dr Sauvage had the veggie option, which was a huge plate of beans with salad and all the possible sides, and the Swan Whisperer had another kind of steak that had a fried egg on it and came with a tomatoey sauce.  We all drank beer, and when we had finished we went to the gelato opposite for ice-cream.  I've never seen that gelato without a mile long queue, and certainly there was a steady stream of people in and out while we were eating our main course.  I had salted caramel ice-cream which was delicious, but was also tempted by the nocciatella and/or the pistachio, which was the dull green colour one associates with proper pistachio ice-cream, as opposed to the bright green of fake.

This morning we did not hurry to go out!  However, once we were ready to go, we caught a 35 bus that takes us up through Camberwell, Walworth, the Elephant and Borough, over London Bridge and to Liverpool Street (and on to Shoreditch).  We got off just after Liverpool Street and headed towards the Spitalfields Charnel House, which was open to the public today (I had found out through the splendid Ian Visits website).  This was fascinating - an ancient hospital church (the 2nd in London after Barts) founded in the 11th century and persisting until dissolved by Henry VIII.  The Charnel House had been built in the graveyard as a repository for bones, mostly of people who died in the famine years of the early 13th century, before the Black Death took hold.  It survived because it had been lived in after the dissolution of the monasteries, and because rubble from (I think?) the Blitz and earlier redevelopment had been piled up there.  Anyway, it was fascinating.

After that, Dr Sauvage said she would like to visit The George Inn, which we had passed on our way, so we caught a bus back to London Bridge station and had lunch at the George. I had a rather dry, but tasty burger and a pint,  and she had fish and chips and cider.  Then we walked.  We wandered round Borough Market, which gets bigger and bigger, and then retraced our steps very slightly to see the remaining wall of the Bishop of Winchester's Palace.  Then we walked along Bankside and found the remains of the Rose Theatre, also open to the public today, so we went in and enjoyed a film about the theatre and the modern excavations and campaign to save the remains, which I remember from when it happened (a shot of a very young Judi Dench amused me, but I probably looked that young then, too).  Dr Sauvage's day was made by one of the audience apparently being someone from Downton Abbey, but I don't watch that so wouldn't know.

Anyway, we then headed back to the river and walked on past Shakespeare's Globe, the Tate Modern, the Oxo Tower, the new Blackfriars Station, the South Bank Centre (never seen it so crowded!) and nearly to the London Eye (and I am not going to link to all these places - if you don't know them, google them for yourself!), and finally ended up walking past the former County Hall to catch a 159 home from Westminster Bridge.  And a much-needed cup of tea when we got in.

I don't know where the afternoon went, it seemed no time at all but it was well past 5:00 pm when we got home.

Friday, 19 July 2013

A Tourist at Home

I have a house guest - she whose blog name is Nicole Sauvage - all the way from Macon, Georgia (which I learn that, unlike its French counterpart, is pronounced to rhyme with bacon) by way of Paris.

So last night we had a very traditional English supper: cold trout with salad, followed by summer pudding and all washed down with Pimms.  Sadly the Swan Whisperer couldn't join us as he had a nasty fall at Dance Club (fuelled, I suspect, by having drunk all the Tinto de Verano before he went), and had to spend the evening in A&E having a badly cut knee dressed.  He didn't reappear until nearly midnight.

And this morning after breakfast Dr Sauvage and I headed on out.  We walked down into Brixton and then caught a 159 outside Lambeth Town Hall, and sat on it all the way to Paddington Basin. I wasn't very sure how we could get where we were going from there, but a very kind bus driver said that What We Needed was a no 7 from outside Paddington Station, so we walked there, and our walk took us via St Mary's Hospital which is full of paparazzi waiting for the Royal Birth.  No sign of TRH, of course - if I were her, I'd have it in the wilds of Welsh Wales and tell people afterwards; after all, they no longer need the Home Secretary to come and check that it wasn't a changeling smuggled in in a warming-pan like whoever it was meant to have been.  Anyway, no sign of any excitement, so we headed on to the bus stop and got on a no 7 to Russell Square.

We were a little early to meet the Daughter, so ensconced ourselves comfortably on a bench in the shade and then texted her, and she texted back in about 5 minutes to say come on over, so we did and she met us downstairs and showed us round various bits of Senate House. As Dr Sauvage so rightly commented, it looks exactly like a Fascist or Communist headquarters - wasn't it used as one in some television programme or other?  I know it was used for The Day of the Triffids.

After this, we had lunch in the local Prets, which has quadrupled in size since I used to work upstairs from it, and then the Daughter had to rush back to work, so we finished our fizzy water and then caught a 91 bus down to Trafalgar Square, only we sat downstairs which was a Big Mistake as we couldn't see the entrance to the Aldwych Tram Tunnel properly, nor Bush House.  We could see Somerset House, though.

We got off the bus at Charing Cross and made our way to the National Gallery.  Dr Sauvage had two things she wanted to see, which were luckily almost at opposite ends of the gallery - Hogarth's Marriage a la Mode, and the Marriage at Arnolfi.  So we went to the one and then wandered slowly to the other, stopping to look at whatever caught our fancy - and a great deal did!  Then we wandered back by a slightly different route, and so to the gift shops where postcards were bought.

And then a potter around Trafalgar Square before heading underground again to Tooting Bec, as Dr Sauvage wanted to buy a shalwar kameez, which she duly did.  I was very tempted, but persuaded myself I didn't really need one.  Sadly, the sari shop is closing down soon - I bought my set there, so did my mother, and Sasha0407....

Then we caught a 355 bus home, and are now relaxing with a cup of tea before heading out to Brixton Village to get some supper.  Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Day 18: Antwerpen-home

We were fairly lazy this morning and didn't go down to breakfast until about 09:00; it seemed odd to hear so many British voices in the dining-room, and we realised we simply hadn't encountered many other English-speaking travellers during the holiday.  The breakfast was good, except the juice was nasty and the coffee was so weak it couldn't crawl out of the cup.  If a coffee machine says "Expresso" on it, it's a fair bet the regular coffee will be weaker than weak.

I discovered that my black cardigan was missing, and realised I must have left it in the restaurant the previous evening.  This was locked, but the kind receptionist said he would look for it as soon as someone came in with the key, which was due to happen around 12:00.  We were not leaving Antwerpen until about 3:00 so we left our luggage at the hotel, and set off to explore.

We bought day tickets for public transport, but were foiled as we couldn't see where the tram we wanted left from, only to discover that it was, in fact, a metro!  Once we sorted that out, we got to the Groene Markt, and had a lovely walk round the old centre of the town.  Including, quite accidentally, the red light area where the poor women sit in the windows and parade their charms.... I felt rather sorry for them. The Swan Whisperer was most embarrassed, as he hadn't realised that was why that particular street was pedestrianised....

Then we decided to go for a tram ride there and back again, which was a mistake as a child was sick, which reduced me to curled up in foetal position with my eyes screwed shut and my fingers in my ears.  But I was able to move to the back of the tram and carry on looking out of the window.  We ended up in a very Moslem/Turkish area - I was tempted to go and buy some flatbreads and/or hummus to take home, but there wasn't time. 

We found somewhere to have lunch, and then took a final tram back to the hotel, got our luggage and the next train to Brussels.  Only we nearly failed to get out at the right station as I had dozed off and the Swan Whisperer assumed I'd say when it was time to get off!

And so on to the Eurostar - and I slept the entire way through the tunnel and was very confused as I'd heard them say they were going to stop briefly in Calais Fréthun, and the next thing I knew they were stopping at Ashford instead!  And so to St Pancras, and the Victoria Line, and a 355 bus, and home.

It was a really lovely holiday!  I wish it were all to do over again!

Day 17; Train Day 10: Hamburg to Antwerpen

The train was on time when it got to Hamburg, thankfully, so we got in, were shown to our sleeper, and went straight to bed. I was on the bottom bunk, and turned myself round so that me head was by the window, as that way I could get out left side first, which is what I'm used to - it's way easier to brace yourself if you are lying the right way round. Plus I could lie there and look out of the window, which was lovely.

The train was due to spend 3 hours in Hannover, splitting up and joining together again, but something must have gone wrong, as it was well over an hour late when we woke up. Not that we had slept terribly well with all the bumps and bashes as carriages were split off and joined together, but once the train started moving again it was lovely and I, for one, slept very soundly but not long enough.

We had a private shower and loo, but our shower was broken. The SW went to one further down that was empty, but I decided I wouldn't actually reek if I made do with wipes for once, so I did. Breakfast was provided, but not desperately satisfactory, so when we arrived in Utrecht we headed to the nearest Starbucks (I know, but maybe it's different, abroad) for coffee. We would have liked to have explored, but the SW looked outside and said that he was sure Utrecht was a very nice city, but all he could see was a building-site! So we got the next train south, decided we were too tired to explore Rotterdam, or Roosedaal, where we also had to change trains, and came straight to Antwerpen.

I regret to say we spent the afternoon watching the British Grand Prix and the Tour de France, but we did go out to stretch our legs before supper.