Friday, November 1, 2013

We're Off to See the Queen!

When we moved here I decided that I would travel with John every time I could.  So when he told me about a meeting in Windsor, UK, I booked my ticket post-haste!  10 days in lovely October weather sounded perfect for this jeans & sweater-deprived mountain girl!

We traveled to London for a few days of vacation before his meetings.  Some of my readers know that we lived near London in the 1990's, so we had a short list of must-see places.

We took a river taxi down the Thames, boarding the vessel at exactly noon:

 Had a great view of St. Paul's and some pigeons:

Our destination:  the new Globe Theatre on the South Bank.  They had just built it (an exact replica of the 16th century Shakespeare theatre) when we lived here before, but we never got to see it.  Now, having seen and directed so many of the Bard's plays, I was thrilled to be there.  And a special shout-out to my friends Monica, Sami, and Beth, who were with me in spirit!

Our guide: 

Here is a panorama, taken from the yard: (sorry, the video isn't uploading correctly.  I will try to fix it in a few days)

More views:

That night we had tickets to see The Book of Mormon at the West End with our good friend Meg.  It was SO funny!!  Of course, an early dinner at a Pub near Leicester Square.

A sweet sidewalk flower shop in the twilight near Hyde Park:

Every Saturday morning there is a famous antiques market on Portobello Road.  John came along pretty willingly (with the promise of a pub afterward...) and took some photos of the crowds:

And me at the closest Underground station:

We headed to Regent's Park for a contemporary statue exhibition.  Gorgeous gardens:

with this extraordinary sculpture.  From afar it seemed like a photograph, but it changed from every angle.  So amazing:

But most of the installations were just confusing:

(The title says "Grass Painted Green."  It was just a rectangle of grass spray-painted. Really.)

Next up:  Trafalgar Square and a short visit to the National Gallery of Art:

And look what we found!!!!! (No, we didn't eat there...the queue was really long, and besides, there were countless pubs in the vicinity!)

That evening's entertainment was "Much Ado About Nothing," with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave.  I got the tickets just to see those two legends...and had to agree with the pretty-bad-reviews it got.  But we got to go to The Old Vic: (no touch-up on this photo!)

Sunday:  V&A Museum:

Harrod's Egyptian Hall escalator, where a woman was singing opera karaoke:

and an afternoon refreshment:

We went to evening Mass at Westminster Cathedral.  No, not Westminster Abbey.  This one is a Catholic Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster.  Such a beautiful building, and the inside is filled with mosaics:

We attended Solemn Vespers sung by the boys choir in the afternoon, then toured the building before Mass.  Very early, crowds were forming - we wondered if that many people usually come that early for Mass?? And then the procession began and we realized it was a special celebration of the international community within the diocese.  Not only representatives from the community, but at least 30 priests, the bishop and the archbishop (and the choir, of course)! The readings and prayers were said in different languages - we were so blessed to be there!

Monday morning was spent at the British Museum.  In the afternoon we visited The Shard:

Views from 32nd floor:

The White Tower:

The Tower Bridge:

The "Walkie-Talkie" building, that was in the news lately for its mirrored surface melting cars in the streets below:

Down the street was a replica of the Golden Hind

And Southwark Cathedral, with its special Shakespeare memorial and window, since he lived in the area:

Vacation had to end and we headed to Windsor for John's meetings.  Our hotel was right across the street from Windsor Castle! I'm not complaining...

John and one of his Singaporean colleagues:

I happened to be having coffee outside and heard a band...and realized it was the changing of the guard!  (again,I am trying to insert a video here, but the sight isn't working..)

They returned about 20 minutes later:

On the last day of the meeting, we had a tour of the castle.  We couldn't take photos inside, but as we were looking out a window, we saw a car drive through the gate and up to the queen's apartments...asked the guard if it was someone special...he said yes...was it the queen?...yes, didn't you see the queen's flag being raised which signals that she is here?!!!!!

I had to get this one:

And this one...also across the street from the castle is TKMaxx...the British version of one of my favorites: 

We spent the remainder of our time out west, in Gloucester. Another amazing cathedral, of course, and the spot where they burned someone at the stake back in the 1500s... this cathedral is where they filmed  Harry Potter movies - the cloisters are the locations in the school:

Buried in this church is a son of William the Conqueror, and they say that one of the stained glass windows from 1350 has images of golf.  Too much to take in...

Gloucester (pronounced Glawster):  Lots of history (Romans, Celts, Vikings, Civil War, Severn River), nice pubs and markets.  But what we loved most was walking in the Cotswold Hills just outside of town.  The villages are made of golden-hued stone; the green hills are dotted with sheep and lined with hedgerows.

The weather cycled through rain, mist, and sun all day.  Part of our walk was in an autumn forest:

And of course we found a pub (built in the 1600s) for refreshment before our walk back:

And at last we had to head home - our flight took off in the evening, so we took a short detour on our way back to Heathrow to see Bath Abbey, the cathedral in the famous spa town of Bath.  I always remember this building because of the ladders on those columns with angels climbing up and down:

The church is on the same square as the Roman Baths - real reconstructed baths from the 3-4th century:

And John enjoyed his last pint of Hobgoblin Ale at The Lamb & Lion - till our next visit!

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