Saturday, May 27, 2006

Wednesday 24/5: London

Our first morning in London dawned grey and miserable. The forecast for the week was showers, clearing by Sunday (we leave on Saturday night).

We soldiered on regardless and headed off to Buckingham Palace to begin our touristy sightseeing. Of course, by the time we got there, the weather had already cleared - this became a theme of the day, with the weather cycling from sunny to cloudy to rainy approximately every 15 minutes.

The palace held our attention for all of five minutes and we quickly decided to wander off through the park towards Westminster and the parliament buildings. Along the way we got glimpses of Big Ben and some sort of practice parade by the Royal Guard.

The trip towards the river took us via Trafalgar Square, where Nelson’s Column was regrettably covered in scaffolding.

We eventually reached Parliament, but unfortunately things all turned rather gloomy and most of our pictures didn’t turn out very well.

We crossed the bridge towards the south bank of the river and wandered past The London Eye. Even if it wasn’t expensive and busy, there was no way Cindy was going up in it, so we just strolled by.

The weather, having briefly turned pleasant again, started to look pretty threatening, so we hurriedly found ourselves somewhere to shelter and eat lunch. Pizza was the order of the day and we enjoyed a mushroom pizza, salad and garlic bread as the rain and wind really picked up outside.

The next stop was the Tate Modern , a short walk along the river from our lunch spot. The museum is housed in an old industrial building (a power station of some description) and is spread across five floors. We started with the free collection on level three and thoroughly enjoyed almost everything. The floor was split into three sections: photography, surrealism and abstract expressionism – each of the sections included works that typified the style of art in a main room and a series of smaller rooms containing various related movements or artists. The layout made it easy to see the connections between artists. Some of my favourites were Andreas Gursky's '99 cent', Mark Rothko's 'Four Seasons Murals', Jackson Pollock's 'Summertime: Number 9A', Cindy Sherman's 'Untitled Film Stills' and Juan Muñoz's 'Towards the Corner'. By the time we’d made it through the third floor (which represented only half of the main collection) it was after five and we were tuckered out, so we promised that we’d return later in the week and headed out.

From the south side of the river there are some pretty impressive views of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Of course, as we got closer, we realised that the entire bottom half of the building was covered with scaffolding, with a tricky drop cloth to fool unsuspecting tourists.

A short tube ride later, we were back in Marylebone for dinner. The venue for the evening was Eat and Two Veg, which tagged itself ‘the world’s first meat-free diner’.

We started with cocktails and nuts as it was only just after six, probably a little early to dive straight into dinner. I opted for a mojito and Cindy had an appletini.

It was nice to find a vegetarian place with a few different options on the menu and, after knocking back our drinks, Cindy went for a ‘chycken’ BLT, while I chose a proper British meal – Lancashire hotpot with mash. The hotpot was great – just like the real thing, but missing the gristle and fat, and the mash was creamy and delicious. Cindy’s BLT was tasty as well – the chycken patty was moist without being soggy and the mayo was liberally applied. The fake bacon was adequate, but there’s really no substitute for the real thing. And of course there were chips. Lots of chips.


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