Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My kinda trouble...

I probably need to update my idea of what trouble is, because when I walked down the street from the hotel what I wanted most was food. There was this thing called a Garfunkel's restaurant, which seemed like a quaint name for a pub, so that is where I stopped to get food. Turns out it's a quaint name for, what I can tell, is the British version of Denny's minus a grand slam. Eh, food is food.

While getting food I took some time to check my email, more free wifi!, and have a lot more coffee than is healthy for a human being after politely explaining to the waitress that I was there because the sign said free coffee. The food was passible enough and the free wifi gave me a chance to see what might be nearby. My phone insisted on telling me that I was near museums and that I like museums. Assuming my Google-overlords know me as well as I think they do, I figured I'd give this nearby museum a shot. And of course, the overlords know me well.

It turns our that I was quite literally around the corner from the National Gallery and the National Portrait gallery. I am vaguely aware of the National Museum, but that seemed like a fine place to while away the few hours while I was waiting to get into my room.

And boy, was it.

Honestly, the building itself was lush, and the entire plaza was a bit of a site, that site being Trafalgar Square. People were everywhere, draped over any exposed place that could be used as a seat. There was a row of buskers performing levitation illusions in various types of customs. There were magicians, and at one point there was DJ Grandpa, outlining a dance floor and broadcasting music to the tourist crowd. It dawned at me at this point that I had no British currency and only a credit card, but I figured it would be worth trying to see if I could get into the museum anyway.

In the front lobby was a large box for donations. Otherwise it was open to the public. The donations appeared to be in all currencies, so I dropped in 20 bucks USD and went on in.

My immediate feeling was to feel absolutely, completely, and immediately in love with this museum. The layout is much like a maze in that I was often doubling back on myself to see various works I had seen before. And what works. What art. The art...it was one of the most beautifully curated collections of old and new pieces I have ever seen. The work going back long before the Italian renaissance, centuries before. Old art, beautiful art, art by so many varied authors, with so many names I recognized that to say that I was overwhelmed would be the politest of understatements. This wasn't just a museum, this was a museum. I thought of the Art Institute of Chicago and started to feel like I was cheating on the museum after my own heart.

I tried to explore all the varied twists and turns of the maze that was the first floor, eventually finding what felt like a secret passageway that lead me to a small room in the basement that magically was only open one Sunday a month and Wednesday. It just happened to be that Sunday. I stood in a room with paintings that were literally multiple hundreds of years old and just allowed myself to be absorbed by it. The entire place was beautiful, so many amazing pieces from so many artists that I simple didn't know what to do with myself in the end. Somehow it wasn't until almost the end that I managed to stumble into the impressionist room, and that was where I was forced to stop. The sense of cheating on AIC was too much when confronted with Monet and Manet, and Van Gogh, so that I had to excuse myself back to the paitnings of Saints from the 16th century and eventually back towards the Square.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lost in London

The train, or is it the tube (I try not to stress about these things) disgorged me essentially where I needed to be, and now it was just up to me to figure out how in the world to get from where I had just landed to where I needed to be.

I had the address for my hotel, and my phone was still picking up the wifi from the underground well enough to let me use my map program. I was fairly confident I was walking in the right direction when I came to a five way intersection.

Because, of course.

A this point it was 11 a.m. on  Sunday morning, I was hungry, and I had no real idea where I was at, expect I knew I was theoretically not that far, my options were to pick a direction and walk in. With a bit of resignation, I did that and went left, as that seemed to be the direction I should head in.

Left was nice. The St. Martin's lane area is very pretty, and quite, and has lots of restaurants, and apparently boarders London's version of Broadway. All very interesting things. So I enjoyed taking in the scenery, the location of different restaurants, noted some bars and pretty buildings and then realized that there was a kiosk on the street with a map.

Map is good. Map is friend.

After about ten minutes of standing in front of the map with my bags, and my phone out, and my utter confusion, I realized I was going the wrong way and should have gone right. So I turned back down the street and headed that way, looking now for the St. Martin's Lane hotel. Fortunately, this was on the map. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, the St. Martin's Lane hotel was a sort of fancy Boutique hotel that was specially redesigned to be difficult to find, all while being smack dab right in the middle of London. Thanks to the most excellent camouflage I walked past the damned thing five times before I actually  managed to really locate the hotel and walked in to find smiling Brits with happy accents all very happy to help me.

Except with check-in. Check-in wasn't until 3.


After a few minutes of Q&A we finally agreed I could leave my bag and come back and check in later. This meant I would have some time to get some food, maybe do some sight-seeing, and be back in a room at some point in time in the afternoon to get a shower and feel more human. I decided this was a worthwhile plan and went out into London, free of bags, to see what trouble I could get into.