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Day #15: London

Per my discussion of yesterday about picking what to do while in London, we knew that we wanted to head out of central London today, but we couldn’t easily decide whether to go to Hampton Court Palace or Windsor Castle. Everyone but Emerson has been to both at least once, though not in many years. Collectively, we’ve been to Windsor less often and less recently than HCP, but we ultimately opted for Hampton Court mostly for logistical reasons (I learned you can use the Oyster card for short train trips from London and they apply to the daily caps, making travel really convenient and cheaper vs. individual tickets)… though it was a coin toss kind of decision. 

We started our tour in the kitchens of King Henry VIII, which had the fireplace roaring. This gave the kitchen a wonderful aroma and atmosphere:

From there, we toured the Tudor state apartments, including the Great Hall and Chapel Royal. 

Next, we visited the Georgian Rooms, which none of us recalled from prior visits:

We then moved on to the apartments of William and Mary. 

After touring the grounds, Emerson frolicked in the palace’s playground, which we also didn’t recall but also didn’t have a reason to recall either. 😉

Done with Hampton Court, we took a mid-afternoon train back to London Waterloo. From there, we walked over the bridge to Charing Cross… just in time for the end of a protest by England’s answer to our deplorable Trumpets, which I understand turned mildly violent. 

In any case, I navigated around all of this and up to Foyles for some time book shopping, which Emerson has come to love as much as we do. We then crisscrossed Mayfair and through Green Park to Buckingham Palace (which Emerson really wanted to see). 

We took the tube back to Kensington and had dinner at Nando’s for some tasty chicken and then to Four Winters, where they make ice cream to order using liquid nitrogen:


Day #14: London

Ahhh… London. It’s good to be back. Although it’s always oddly difficult to figure out how to spend our time during a short visit (same issue two years ago). Ironically, I think it’s because we’re so familiar with the city and have spent so much time here. 

As a result, we’re usually picking between things to see and do that we’ve seen and done previously… sometimes recently (because they’re a fav), sometimes not (because we only liked them “well enough” to not warrant a rapid return). Of course, as years have gone by the gaps have increased, which makes the decision-making a little more difficult: oh, what to do?

Today we opted mostly for a return to old favorites, starting with Tate Modern that’s undergone a significant and wildly successful (IMHO) expansion. Essentially they added an adjoining tower to the old power station building:

From the top of the new tower, you’re given  panoramic views of London:

I was really struck by the amount of skyscrapers (existing and under construction) that are starting to dominate the London skyline. Indeed, from this vantage point, you can now hardly see “the gerkin,” which used to stand out like a giant pickle on the horizon. 

While Mom and Emerson explored the permanent collection, Libby and I focused our visit on the solo show of the Turkish-born artist Fahrelnissa Zeid. Like other female abstract artists of her generation (like Carmen Herrera), her work was overlooked and under appreciated for years relative to her male peers. Her abstractions–which look hard edge from a distance–are actually quite painterly. We really enjoyed the show. 

Afterwards, we headed to the Borough Market–one of out other favorite places–for lunch. Sadly, the Borough Market area was the recent site of a terrorist attack. That made Borough Market an easy choice: terrorism is not an existential threat. We, as free people of good will, shall not be deterred from living our lives. Thus, today’s lunch visit was not just about eating. It was also a show of solidarity and support, as well as a middle finger pointed at Islamic Jihadists (and really any fundamentalist who let’s their perverted faith term them toward hate and violence). It was good to see the Financial Times staff that showed up in support too:

After lunch, we took the London Underground to Westminster and walked up Whitehall to see the Houses of Parliment, Downing Street, Whitehall Palace, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, etc. We did a little window shopping (and actual shopping) along the way, especially on Regent Street. 

From there, we hopped on the Central Line to Queensway and walked across Kensington Gardens from Bayswater to Kensington High Street. We stopped at the memorial playground for Princess Diana and also walked around Kensington Palace. 

We then headed down High Street Kensington to see the Allen House, our home away from home in London for 15 years. Allen House is now used as serviced apartments for “long stays” (90 night minimum). That’s kind of good news as it leaves open the door that we might stay there again one day. 

Overall, High Street Ken hasn’t changed too much. It now has a Five Guys (positive addition), but it lost the Sainsbury across the street (not a huge loss given Whole Foods and Waitrose only a short walk away). A few other shops have folded (none of great significance to us), which isn’t shocking as I suspect high street shopping here faces many of the same pressures as retailers in the States. 

We grabbed a quick dinner at the good and affordable Whole Foods food court before walking back to our hotel to drop off Mom and Emerson. Libby and I then headed out to the late opening at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, which was delightful as they had live performance art, a cash bar serving London summer-themed cocktails, and a show that was really well selected and hung relative to what I recall from some recent prior years. 

These will give you a sense of the dynamism show:

Here are the performance artists at work “plank snugging” (what else to call it?) in harnesses:

Here are a few works we especially liked, including…

this striking Donald Sultan,

this really smart, conceptual work,

this Gilbert & George,

and this arresting, highly textured piece that just “really worked” in a surprising way:

We also purchased this Paul Huxley edition to add to our collection of hard edge, minimalist, and op art:

After the show, we walked around Mayfair a bit absorbing the “poshness” of it all before heading back to our hotel in Kensington. 

We flew back to London today (more on that later). Since our flight wasn’t until 6:15, we spent the morning and afternoon checking out other sights in Copenhagen, focusing on Rosenberg Castle after having a wonderful breakfast of coffee and pastries. 

This was built by one of Denmark’s most popular and (initially anyway) successful kings, Christian IV:

(Here’s a fun Christian IV fact: he was kind of a perv, having kept a collection of “erotica”–that is to say, porn–and installed a mirror on the floor in one room to enable him to look up the skirts of ladies. See… history isn’t all dates of births, deaths, and battles.) 

The architecture of the castle is pleasing, though not wildly spectacular by European castle standards. It is, however, very finely furnished with original and unique pieces.  By far, the 3rd floor throne room was the grandest:

This small picture struck us as especially unusual,  having seen nothing like it (from this time period) before. It’s like early op art–a single painting of two daughters with one visible from the left side and the other visible from the right:

We also visited the royal treasury, home to Denmark’s Crown Jewels. 

In the afternoon, we visited a few churches and did a bit of shopping before heading to the airport. 

Unfortunately, our short flight to London was delayed by nearly an hour and a half, plus we faced an hour long wait at immigration in the U.K. (thanks to austerity measures by the Tories!) and a significant traffic jam due to roadwork shutting down the M4 at night. Good grief. So, rather then arriving at the hotel by 8:30ish as I’d expected, it was well past 11:00 when we rolled into the Marriott in Kensington. 

Day 12: Copenhagen

Back in Denmark…

We left Stockholm on the 8:21 train and enjoyed a pleasant ride through the rolling hills and lakes of the Swedish countryside. 

We arrived in Copenhagen a bit after 1:30 in the afternoon. It was a short walk from the station to our hotel (same one as before). We then grabbed a quick bite for lunch and toured the interior of the splendid City Hall, which our hotel rooms overlook. 

From there, we crossed the street to spend the rest of the day at Tivoli Gardens. With the unlimited rides wristband, it costs about $50 per adult (kids 7 and under are approx $15 less, as they only need the unlimited rides portion of the fee). While clearly a money-making venture, Tivoli feels far less commercial and more “organic” in its development than Disney or Universal Studios. It’s more like a permanent fair (with better rides and food) set in a pretty park. 

Some of the buildings are geographically themed, but it doesn’t really have “lands” like amusement parks at home do. 

The girls enjoyed the rides…

I enjoyed the beer (and gourmet licorice)…

We all enjoyed the food (eating dinner at the German beer garden, where the wurst is the best)…

At seven, Emerson is now at a great age for (re)-visiting Tivoli. She absolutely loved it (would undoubtedly happily spend tomorrow there too), and we really enjoyed it as well. It’s a wonderful place. 

We returned to the hotel (only a block away from Tovoli too) around 9:30pm. 

Day #11: Stockholm

We started our day with a short walk to Gamla Stan. The weather was again beautiful, though a little cloudier and cooler (fine by me). First, we visited the Royal Palace, which we hadn’t seen before. Rick Steves throws some shade on it in his guidebook, suggesting that it’s kind of dull compared to other palaces in Europe and mostly crowded with folks from cruise ship shore excursions who don’t know that Stockholm offers better sightseeing. While the excursion point is true, we actually enjoyed the apartments, which felt a little more intimate and far more alive because they’re actually still regularly used for functions (e.g., accommodations for state visits, meal following Noble awards, etc.). 

I especially liked the paintings in the Guest Apartments’ Margareta Room by Crown Princess Margareta of Connaught:

I also laughed at the thought that this statue of St. Mathew in the Royal Chapel depicts him using an iPad:

The end of our visit coincided with the daily military parade and changing of the guard. So, we caught a glimpse of that before wandering off to look around Gamla Stan and grab some lunch. We picked the Hairy Pig Deli, a homemade sausage and tapas place that received excellent reviews online. We were not disappointed! 

We tried their sausage and pulled pork sandwiches along with a variety of tapas: baked provolone, sour roasted potatoes, wild boar salami, etc. I also had a local saison beer, which was really good too. The price was decent too, about $80, for food and drinks. 

After lunch, we did a little shopping–Libby got a cool pendant at ETENA from a gold-and silversmith who handcrafts her designs at her shop/studio near the Hairy Pig–before walking over to the Museum of Modern Art  and Architecture and Design Center. The art collection was modest but enjoyable. 

I was especially struck by this Munch…

this early Mondrian (where you can see his style evolving)…

these Soviet posters (witness to the power of art and artists to reinforce or subvert culture)…

and this late Matisse (joyful to the end):

On our way back to the hotel, we walked along the waterfront strolling past a number of interesting boats. Many of them had a colorful history (as told on signs posted on pier) of prior military and/or commercial use before being turned into what seemed to be idiosyncratic residences along the Stockholm waterfront. 

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