TRIP TO LONDON JUNE 2-JUNE 17, 2000

This trip to London was made in June and the weather was wonderful. There were a few small rain showers, but every day was sunny and warm with highs from mid 60's to 70 degrees F.

In no particular order here is a summary of highlights:

*I hand fed some robins in Kensington Gardens Park near the Albert Memorial as well as hand feeding the squirrels who took peanuts from my fingers and scampered off. Also in Kensington Gardens were the Queen's Royal Swans - 62 of them all white. It is quite a sight. Nearby on the Serpentine in Hyde Park and I found a pair of swans and their 6 cygnets. The swans can be hand fed also and even petted.

 * A visit to the Saatchi Museum is always a highlight. The Saatchi is in an out-of-the-way location near Swiss Cottage and is difficult to find. This time there was an exhibit of nudes in picture and sculpture, a huge bronze that was in colors and showed a cutaway version of the human body - it barely fit into the museum, and also some pictures by the artist who caused the furor in New York with his elephant dung pictures. A trip to the Saatchi would not be complete without a visit to the 20:50 - the famous oil room hidden off in a side corridor.

 *A trip to Bath was planned by train, but the price for this short distance was $160 each round trip so it was decided to pass on this and see more shows. (Bus trips are about 1/3rd the price and will use next time) * The shows we saw were: "Spend, Spend, Spend", "Fosse", "Cooking With Elvis", "Buddy", "Mindgame", and "An Inspector Calls." If you're open-minded see "Cooking with Elvis". It's absolutely fall-off-your-seat hilarious. "An Inspector Calls" is great with fine scenery and acting but be sure you get unobstructed view tickets. Incidentally we got all the tickets at the Leicester Square half-price booth - be sure you go to the proper booth and ignore the half price signs at the booking agencies where you will be ripped off.

*I discovered a non-smoking restaurant (a real rarity in Europe) on High Street Kensington. It was called Wagamamma , the meaning of which is to be "selfish", or to take care of one's self and is a Japanese place. I had a fresh juice drink, edimame, and a huge bowl of noodles and broth with sliced white meat chicken for under $18. That's very cheap in London where all restaurants are about twice the price we are used to paying in Phoenix AZ.

* We visited Roger's friend, George, who is head of an organization called Director's Institute. George lives in a beautiful country house with his second wife and two little girls. George's driver picked us up and took us to the country. From there we went for lunch at Clivedon. This is a country hotel that was formerly the private estate of the Astors. The grounds and gardens are like a miniature Versailles and the lunch was very elegant. Clivedon became famous as the location of the tryst between Profumo and Christine Keeler and Mandy Davies that brought down the British government 40 years ago. It is presently one of 60 elegant hotels that Bill Gates has purchased in various places in the world.

 * We always rode the buses and Tube using the Zone 1,2 weekly Travelcard (it's the best travel bargain in town). After a bit I even memorized some of the bus routes and tube station stops.

 * One Saturday was the rehearsal day of the trooping of the Color and we watched from near "Horseguards" in Whitehall. This rehearsal is for the big event held the following Saturday that commemorates the Queen's birthday. Everything was the same at the rehearsal, except the Queen did not appear. There were bands and horses and uniforms and quite a lot of pageantry and beauty.

 * We decided to cross the Millennium Bridge that had received so much press about its unplanned excessive swaying , although the architect was quoted as saying "It is not my fault." We crossed the bridge and then walked back over it and it did sway a bit. There was a large crowd of people waiting to go across it with police only allowing a few on at a time. We later learned that it was "closed indefinitely" and won't reopen until the wobble is fixed.

 * We walked to St. Paul's and thought we'd tour the cathedral after having seen so many beautiful cathedrals in Paris and Rome, but upon entering and looking around I decided that the admission price of 5 pounds was more than the tour was worth. The cathedrals in Paris and Rome did not charge admission and were filled with stained glass and quite beautiful.

 *One day we went to visit George's sister, Joanna, and her husband who live in Richmond. Their country home is beside the huge Richmond Park and close to the Thames. We had lunch at their Roehampton tennis/golf club, then toured Kew Gardens and had an English afternoon tea in an old teahouse near Richmond . George's sister visited us many years ago when she came to America to become a Playboy Bunny. Joanna was an actress in a James Bond film, then a TV correspondent, then a Reuters reporter and lived in Japan for five years. She learned to paint in the Japanese style, showing her paintings in Japan and then in London. currently, she is a psychotherapist.

 * An Internet Café with 550 flat screened PC's was across the street from the large one bedroom apartment where we stayed. I went there on several days to read my mail and answer some items. Usually when I return home after a trip I have over 100 pieces of e-mail. This way I was able to come back with very little e-mail to read. The price was quite reasonable at $1.50 for up to 6 hours. Prices varied during peak hours. The cafe was open 24 hours a day and was packed at 5pm.

 * A visit to the Tate Modern was free. It is a former power plant and takes hours to tour. I enjoy modern art and had a grand time there. It is similar in size and type of art to the Pompidou in Paris.

 * I went to Chelsea to visit my favorite store - Jo Malone on Sloane Street- where I purchased some of her bath products (Madonna is supposed to buy there too but I didn't bump into her). While walking on the street I saw a Chelsea Old Age Pensioner and it took quite a bit of running to catch up with him and see his outfit from the front. He wore a smart navy hat, long bright red coat with silver buttons, and navy trousers. As he walked briskly along, he used a black cane entwined with silver trim. He had a white small beard and mustache and resembled Kentucky Colonel. The Chelsea pensioners date back to World War One !

 * We visited Hampton Court that is the country home of the English Kings -- Henry VIII and William III. We had narration tapes and by the time we arrived at the room containing the 500 year old works of art I was too exhausted to do more than just look at each one but not spend a lot of time. The gardens were massive and very beautiful. The Palace was quite impressive with the huge rooms, kitchens and furnishings, as well as the narrative with many facts that I did not know about the Kings. We got there easily via a R68 bus from Richmond tube station.

 *A favorite adventure was a visit to the Royal Courts of Justice on Fleet Street. This turned out to be so interesting that next trip I want to go to Old Bailey, the criminal courts. You just go into a courtroom and hear the cases providing the court is not full or not in special session. We saw three appeal cases. The court decorum is very different from the US - I just loved the wigs!

 * The return trip home was longer than planned because the English air traffic computers were down. Gatwick airport was not letting planes take off. There was a computer outage. We sat on the runway for over 3 hours before leaving and had to be rebooked on a later flight out of Atlanta. Luckily, Delta did a fine job of managing the situation. I saw on the news that some people on other flights were in Heathrow airport two days later still waiting.

 

Naoma can be reached at naoma@cheerful.com 

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