Blog

Highlights of London

Posted on October 17, 2010 by Holly Hayes
Part of: UK and Western Europe

Tonight we are settled in our new hotel in Mainz and tomorrow we go to Heidelberg for two nights. Looking forward to it! But first, here are some highlights from our three days in London (Monday-Wednesday).

St Paul's Cathedral

We didn't go inside St. Paul's this time, because we've visited a few times before, the admission is overpriced and they don't let you take pictures. Lame. But it is a lovely cathedral and we had a nice time taking some photos of the outside as we passed by one evening.

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West facade

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West facade with dome

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South transept

British Museum

The British Museum is one of the greatest museums in the world and one of my favorite places on earth. It's huge, it's free, and it's all laid out beautifully.

London: British Museum
The Round Reading Room (1854-57) and Great Court enclosed by a ceiling of glass designed by Norman Foster (2000).

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Assyrian lion guardian

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Assyrian relief

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The Hinton St. Mary mosaic, found in perfect condition in a Roman villa in Britain. It's one of the oldest surviving images of Jesus, dating from the 4th century. Those are pomegranates on the sides.

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An ancient ivory Crucifixion - I'm sure I've seen this on the cover of one of my books at home.

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Funny fish on a shard

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Book and artifacts illustrating an Enlightenment antiquarian's fascination with Stonehenge and Druids

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Ankh from Nubia, I think

Victoria & Albert Museum

I hoofed it for over an hour through the heart of London to get to the V&A, which I like even more than the British Museum because it has a friendlier vibe and they encourage photography rather than merely tolerating it - they've hosted Flickr events and everything. Rare in a museum. Thank you, V&A!

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Glass chandelier by Seattle/Tacoma artist Dale Chihuly in the foyer

They've also opened new Medieval and Renaissance galleries since my last visit, and I've been dying to see them. It didn't disappoint. I spent almost two hours in just the medieval galleries!

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Unfortunately I wasn't feeling totally well by the time I finished with the medieval galleries - I had weird intermittent dizziness that started that day and still comes and goes now, but seems to be just a minor inner-ear thing because I'm otherwise fine. I felt so wonky that I was only able to pop briefly into the ancient Buddhism gallery rather than spend the time I'd planned, which was a little sad, but I was mighty tired by then already. Thankfully, there's a taxi rank right outside the museum, so I took a long cab ride home. Most of the ride was spent stuck in traffic, but it was sure better than walking!

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And look what I saw from the taxi! Chipotle! This is one of our favorite lunch joints back home and I had no idea it had gone international. Sadly, we didn't have time to go back and check it out, as it was pretty far from the hotel and we left the next day.

Tate Modern

While I was at the V&A, David was hoofing it down to the Tate Modern museum. He was intrigued by the industrial building and I had thought it was interesting on a previous visit, despite not generally being into modern art. His assessment: it was OK, but too crowded with people. He added that it might have been a total waste of time if it weren't for the Picassos.

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Picasso painting

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Entrance to a gallery

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People enjoying the latest temporary installation in the big Turbine Room - 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds. It was created by a Korean artist using Chinese labor over two years. Since each one is a mini work of art but they were mass-produced, it says something about the group and the individual. And you can play in it. David said he was creating a lot of dust.

Radisson Bloomsbury Street Hotel

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We had a really great hotel room at the Radisson Bloomsbury Street, which added a lot to our enjoyment of the city. When we arrived they offered an upgrade to a king deluxe room on the top floor, which we couldn't pass up, and it was huge and so nice. It's a lot easier to deal with the crowds and the noise out on the streets when you know you have a nice quiet place to retreat to! Further bonus (and one of the reasons I chose it): it's right around the corner from the British Museum.

Food Highlights

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Bread pudding from room service, which we may have accidentally ordered two nights in a row. It was hot and seriously delicious, even including the out-of-season strawberries (being from Oregon, I'm a strawberry snob).

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We had breakfasts of muesli, yogurt and porridge from Pret a Manger most days, and a lunch or two as well. That place has long been among our favorite stops for a quick and filling snack - we could both happily eat their tuna and cucumber baguettes sandwiches for many days in a row!

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We had one of our lunches at Jamie's Italian, owned by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. It was busy, but the service was good and the food was great.

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Octopus appetizer

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Spaghetti bolognese for two

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"Polenta chips" - a unique and really delicious idea.

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On our last night in London, we had dinner at The Ultimate Burger down the street from our hotel. It's not a place we've tried before and it was really empty, so we weren't so sure it would be good, but it turned out to be excellent.

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I had a chicken, bacon, and avocado burger.

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David had a Moroccan lamb burger.

Miscellaneous Other Stuff

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Sculpture at the Temple Church, beautifully taken by David on his way back from the Tate. He stopped by twice, on his way there and back, to take pictures for me, but it was closed both times. What a guy!

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London bus detail

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Bertrand Russell's house

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Our hotel was near the theatre district around Covent Garden, so we saw a lot of these.

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Covent Garden

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Piccadilly Circus

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Two of several cinemas in Leicester Square. It looked like they were getting ready for another premiere at the primary one, the Odeon. I got to see some movie stars at a premiere here a few years ago!

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Sir Sean Connery's hands in Leicester Square. I didn't put my hands in them - it's a London street, after all!

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Muji, my very favorite store in London. It's a Japanese chain with stores in other major cities in Europe and the eastern USA as well. Hopefully it will at least make it to Seattle one day! It sells great, simple, beautifully designed office supplies and home and travel things.

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Egyptian Escalators in Harrod's

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Bakery department in Harrod's

I also touched a $15,000 dress in the Dior department in Harrod's. Very carefully.