Friday, July 26, 2013

Brighton Interim Update

Daughter Rebecca and grand-daughter Penelope arrived on schedule July 17th at Heathrow. They had spent a few days with daughter Rachel and her husband Will in DC, so they already had a three hour jump on the jet-lag issue. Anyhow, we picked them up at Heathrow #1, rode the train back to Heathrow #4 where we had parked overnight, and then drove on to a Caravan Club site somewhere northwest of London, where we unpacked, moved them in, and crashed. The next seven days were pretty busy: "The Making of Harry Potter," Oxford, Blenheim Palace (including an encounter with the Duke of Marlborough), Avebury, the Vyne (home and garden), Nunney (family castle), the Jane Austen House, Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey), Monk's House (Virginia Woolf), and now Brighton. Rebecca has gone up to London for a few days' sightseeing and culture on her own, and we have Penelope to ourselves, which we have been looking forward to for months. Anyhow, we'll do a bit more of Brighton, the Royal Pavilion, etc., and then head up to London ourselves to show P the relevant sights. She is already quite fond of double-decker buses. I'll work on the blog as I can...being with the grand-daughter takes precedence over all!

PS As many readers know, Vicki contributes monthly to the World Wide Travelers newsletter, mostly on the more practical side of our travels; her July write-up is at
Not afraid of Virginia Woolf; Penelope at the
Writing Shed, Monk's House

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

London Scenes 2013

We got to London Wednesday afternoon and spent the remainder of the day setting up camp at the Crystal Palace Caravan Club site, reorganizing and repacking in preparation for our visitors next week, daughter Rebecca and grand-daughter Penelope. The weather turned quite warm, for London, in the upper 80s, but, fortunately, our campsite was well-shaded. We visited the National Gallery on two days, the Wallace Collection on another, the Victoria and Albert on another, and the Tate Britain on still another. We have seen some art and also some history. There were also walks around the Parliament and Thames areas, a play, a visit to BBC Broadcast House, Portobello Road, the ruins of the Crystal Palace, and more. I'll probably do a post on the Wallace Collection, since it was pretty special, but most of the others were old friends in one way or another about which I have blogged before. Our two visits to the National Gal got us up only to the year 1600!
My only photo from the National Gal this time--the missing Annunciation panel
from Duccio's Maesta in Siena--the guard was on me immediately: I had
forgotten the no fotos policy!

An unexpected view of Big Ben from the Embankment

Spamalot! "Not dead yet!"

Us on the Thames

Parliamentarian #1, in front of his Houses

The usual madness, in unusual July warmth


The Wallace Collection...deserves a post by itself

Outside the LaCoste store

Pots and pans sculpture at Selfridge's

Park anywhere you like if you have one of these

Oxford and Duke Streets

Minding the "Mind the Gap" poster

At the V&A; we had forgotten how overwhelming it is; limited ourselves
to the classical and medieval sections; glass; fashion, and a few others; and of
course the gift shoppe

The Nation's Painter, at Tate Britain (Turner's snow storm at sea); we'd  forgotten
how overwhelming the Tate can be, too)

The Doctor's TARDIS, at BBC Broadcast House (Doctor Who)

Standing in the middle of the ruins of the Crystal Palace; when it opened in 1851,
it was one of the wonders of the world, an all glass and steel building nearly
2,000 feet long; when it burned, in 1936, Winston Churchill was in the crowd
of 100,000 onlookers, and wrote that it was the "end of the age..." 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gongoozling At The Sign Of The Horse And Barge

After Oxford we drove on toward London, stopping at Uxbridge and staying at a pub halt, the Horse and Barge, in Harefield. After dinner, I walked to the canal, a few hundred feet away, to see the action. Britain has an array of 19th and 20th century canals, and this is the Grand Union Canal, the basic spine that runs from London to Birmingham, with numerous off-shoots. In the day, they were all commercial in nature, vying with locomotives and then lorries and then aircraft for the transport of goods. Anyhow, they are entirely recreational now, as elsewhere, although a fair number of people live on their "narrow boats." Watching the very slow goings on canals has become an activity itself, akin to train-spotting or bird-watching. It is called gongoozling, and we have unknowingly been gongoozlers at such places as the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland and the Canal du Midi in France, not to mention the Nordsee/Ostsee Canal in Germany, the Corinth Canal in Greece, and that grand-daddy canal of them all, the Grand Canal in China. Anyhow, it is good to know where to find oneself in the lexicon.
Nice pub, welcoming of motor caravaners for an overnight

The Grand Union Canal; not much going on

Later; I thought these ladies were going to give me a
demonstration of how the locks work; but they turned into
the marina before getting to the bridge and locks

Next morning, we are at the lock, and this woman, a boat owner,
is turning the windlass to open the flood gate

Vicki--no mere gongoozler-- helps to open the big gate

The boat is in, the back gate shut and the lock is filling

Up she rises

The boat owner opens the big gate (Vicki has by now returned
to the camper to watch some paint dry)

The boat is through, 8-10 feet higher, and she is closing the
big gate

They are on their way, and I am now a fully-qualified

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


We've been to Oxford several times. In 2009, the Ashmolean was closed for renovations. Vicki thinks we had seen it on earlier visits, but I was too young to remember. We'll be back in Oxford in a week or so with Rebecca, but we thought we'd better see the Ashmolean (again?) before having to share it with our beautiful 2-year-old grand-daughter.
Entrance; it is England's oldest museum, 17th century

The renovation in 2009 was more than that;
here is a museum with a consistent and
thorough emphasis on education and not
merely warehousing of works; above, in a
large and informative section on conservation,
restoration, and such, is a view of what a
Roman statue really looked like

I think the Ashmolean's strengths are more in history and
archaeology--Oxford faculty dug up much of the eastern
Mediterranean, Egypt and such--but the paintings
collection is of interest too; here is Ucello's intriguing 1472
Hunt in the Forest, totally secular, mixed oil and tempera
on both canvas and panel; how transitional can you get?

Last bust of Michelangelo

Titan's Giacomo Doria

Reynolds' George, Earl of Harcourt, and wife Elizabeth, and
brother George

A frowny-faced Franz Hals portrait of a woman

A nice Courbet pre-impressionist landscape

There were lots of others...Poussain, Tintoretto, van Dyck,
et al., but I can never resist a Claude Lorrain, here, his
Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia

Now in the Egyptology section, Vicki admiring
the full frontal pose of the Koptos sculptures,
3300 BC, said to be the oldest such (nevermind
the paleolithic friezes and sculptures we've seen

Tomb siding stolen from somewhere in Egypt (and you
wonder why they hate us...)

Nice mummy

Nice jar (sleeps two)

The Ashmolean has no Turners--not surprisingly: he was the
consummate commoner--but does display four of his works,
on loan (from an alum, presumably); here, I thought I'd end
with his Oxford, View of High Street

Upton House

The house goes back a few centuries but is best known for its twentieth-century owners, Lords and Ladies Bearsted, aka Shell Oil, who enlarged and renovated, re-did the gardens, and bought some art.
Upton House, garden side

A number of nice small Steens in the long gallery

And an obligatory Canaletto

Sir Josh Reynolds' Lord and Lady Ely

In the big bedroom, 1920s home entertainment center

And here, and the next few, the trademark of
this house, the art deco bath, done in aluminum

Yes,aluminum leaf

More precious aluminum leaf

Art deco toilet?

I guess it was in the contract that Shell Oil be glorified in
the displays

Elder Breughel's Dormition of Mary; barely recognizable as
a Breughel

A teeniny El Greco

And a Bosch Adoration, amply authenticated, but hardly
comparable to the similar one in the Prado

Vicki scrutinizes the Bosch, just to be sure

The garden is basically in a canyon, England's largest HaHa,
but is pleasant to look at

The family live in a "modern" mansion next door and raise
racing horses; above, an aristocratic horse sneers our way

The gardens from on low