Sunday, August 15, 2010

Face to face with Britain's best

After one too many ales on Friday night, I had a rather slothful Saturday. I did the laundry and some light grocery shopping, but admittedly I did not venture too far from the couch. It was nice to be under voluntary house arrest yesterday but I was determined to get out and about today.

I set off very early from home and headed for Bloomsbury, with the intention of spending the day at the British Museum. That plan was thwarted at the last minute by construction mayhem on the Tube, so I gave up and hung out at Trafalgar Square. As I emerged from the Charing Cross station, I could hear the bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields church, pealing to signal the end of the Eucharist service. The bells rang and rang (and rang). But there was something lovely about that incessant noise as I sat outside at the coffee shop next door, with nowhere in particular to be. It was also lovely to see Trafalgar Square before the crowds arrived - peaceful and calm, as I've never seen it before.

Sitting just behind Trafalgar Square is the National Portrait Gallery, and I spent a happy few hours dawdling in and out of the numerous galleries. It is quite unsettling to see portrait after portrait, and I swear that some of the subjects were staring right back at me, following me with their beady little eyes. I started the gallery visit with the Tudors and I confess, I love their puffy collars and heavily beaded outfits (and that's just the guys!). But then I discovered the Queen Victoria gallery and that quickly became my favourite. The romantic in me still loves to see portraits of Victoria and Albert, who were so very much in love. Sadly the portraits manage to make them look completely bored, but I still love them anyway.

Slowly but surely the gallery filled with tourists and so I escaped. I walked a fair bit after that, aimlessly wandering and trying to think whether there was anything in particular that I wanted to see. I ended up at the Royal Horseguards and found the Household Cavalry Museum next to it, but I got grouchy at the prospect of paying 6GBP to tour something that I didn't really care about, so I left. I got stuck in pedestrian traffic out the front of Downing Street, when most people were either taking photographs of the doorway to Number 10 (fascinating footage), or they were staring at the sky, gaping open-mouthed like goldfish at a helicopter that was circling above. Had these people not seen a helicopter before?! By this time I wanted to hurl myself over the traffic barrier and cut around everybody, but I was worried that the guards would taser me, so I shuffled along with the masses and thought very uncharitable thoughts about everyone.

Walking on past Parliament Square, in the vicinity of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben tolled midday and I could hardly believe how quickly the day was passing. Tourists were everywhere, making the most of the weekend weather. I kept walking up to Victoria Station, and wandered in and out of some cute shops that I discovered along the way. Having resisted retail therapy, I caught the train back to my hood and called in to the Jamie Oliver shop for a restorative (and authentic) flat white coffee, and to eavesdrop on the risotto cooking class that was underway.

Did not take any photos today, despite having the camera in my bag all the time. It just occurred to me that I didn't even go into the National Gallery gift shop either - so very unlike me! Gotta lift my game in those departments, I think...


Coco Cooks said...

Sometimes you just want to enjoy and don't need to take pictures.

Batreg said...

No gift shop visit? What's wrong, something must be wrong! The gift shop is on par with churches in Europe - they must be visited!! You made the rule and then to flaunt it like this - for shame. I'm v. disappointed in you right now.