Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Emirates Air Line!

Yesterday I was approached to be a hair 'model' while shopping.  Basically someone for a hair styling student to practice on.  I said yes, given the current state of my hair, I figured that I had nothing to lose. The stylist was a very lovely (albeit slightly nervous) young lady named Rainey.  I had an excellent hair cut, but it took 2 hours...  Coffee was served, magazines were offered and I didn't have to pay anything. Overall I would do it again.  Here's a shot of the new do!  

This morning I went to the Geffyre Museum (pronounced Jeffery).  It is the museum of the home, with rooms showing how a typical middle class home would have looked from the 1700s onwards.  I didn't take any photos, but here's what the gardens look like.  The building was originally build as a home for pensioners, which meant that it was one step up from the workhouse if you were poor, old and had nowhere to go.  The lovely grounds meant that in the early 1900s it was saved from demolition.

In the afternoon I check out the new Emirates Air Line, which is a raised gondola over part of east London, it's officially part of the tube network, so you can use your tube pass (Oyster card) to go on it.  It's perhaps a bit over-rated, but here is the view.  

Up we go!

The view...a bit lacklustre.

Crossing the Thames, O2 Stadium on the south bank.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Democracy (In)action

Late in the afternoon on Monday, I paid a visit to the House of Commons to listen to some good parliamentary debate. I was warned when I arrived that it would take about 1 hour to get through all the lines, but I was undeterred and in the end it was only 30 minutes before I was sitting listening to the House of Commons debate.  There were a series of queues, I am in Britain after all.  The first of which was outside in the cold, brrr.  Then there was a wait in Westminster Hall, which is the largest medieval hall in Europe.  Churchill was laid in state here after he died.  
Large stained glass in Westminster Hall.

Beautiful wooden arched ceiling in Westminster Hall.  The hall was build between 1097-1099, originally the roof was supported by two lines of columns.  The present hammer beam roof was reconstructed in 1401, making it the largest timber roof in Europe.


Big Ben up close, from inside the secure area of Westminster.

Somerset House and Twinings

After the Tower I went over to the small art gallery at Somerset House, as it had received excellent reviews.  The gallery is small, but full of excellent works of art.  There was a special exhibit of Picasso's 1901 works which was excellent. The highlight was Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.

This is the best type of art gallery, only containing really good works, no "filler".  The way you don't waste energy looking at things that aren't that good.  

Looking up the spiral staircase at the gallery.
Then I walked over to the Twinings Tea Shop, which has occupied the same premises since 1706.  

Inside Twinings, it's only this wide!

Outside of the shop.

Tower of London

Dan has been telling me that I should definitely go to the Tower of London since the day I arrived.  Today I finally went, the first attraction that I have had to pay for!  Here are some photos.  Obviously I was not allowed to take any of the Crown Jewels, which were the highlight.  

White Tower in the centre of the Tower of London, full of armour, cannons and the like.

Looking down from the wall, baboons are sculptures as the Tower used to house a variety of animals, including lions!
The animals were all moved to a zoo in the 1800's, although, not until a lion had torn a strip off a lady's arm while she was petting its paw.  Initially there weren't enclosures to separate the public from the wild animals.
The ostrich met an unfortunate end when members of the public fed it iron nails, believing that ostriches ate metal!

Looking over at Tower Bridge from inside the Tower of London.

One of Henry VIII's many suits of armour. He was never able to wear this suit as he was too obese and old (49 yrs) when the occasion to wear it came up.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday, Part 2.

Looking out at from the Guildhall.

After the Guildhall, I walked around a bit of the city.  The ancient Roman walls were definitely a highlight.  It was too cold to walk around so I took the tube over to Canary Wharf.

Portion of the ancient Roman wall.

At Canary Wharf I went to Docklands Museum which describes the history of the City of London as a port.
At Canary Wharf

Ancient barrel lid of Lebanese cedar from Roman times!

Docklands museum housed in old storehouses at the Wharf.

Old cranes at the East India Wharf.

Tower bridge.

Tower bridge.

Lions at the Tower of London.

Roman London

Sunday was a busy day!  I started out by going to church at Southwark Cathedral on the Southbank.  As it was palm Sunday the service started outside the church with the congregation singing some hymns followed and then the choir and clergy arriving.  We then continued singing as we walked back to the church.  It was really interesting as we started in the covered outdoor market nearby, the Borough Market, which is a delicious food market on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.

Where the service started from (I took this after the service was over)

Southwark cathedral, originally founded as a convent in 606 AD!

Nearby pirate ship, which was hosting a children's birthday party!

Looking across the Thames at the Gerkin.
Portion of the wall of the amphitheatre.

More of the walls
After church, I walked around the Southbank area briefly as it was freezing cold.  Then I headed to the Guildhall Art Gallery, which houses a small portion of the ancient Roman coliseum which has recently been discovered.  In the basement of the Art Gallery an area has been excavated to reveal an ancient amphitheatre!  


This is a fabulous restaurant where I went for Tapas on Friday evening with friends!  The food was amazing.  The cold dishes we tried were:
-eggplant with pomegranate ( a traditional Lebanese combination)
-prime rib with mint/cilantro sauce
-yellow fin tuna
Maria and Yasmina enjoying Friday night!

Lamb (left) and Sea Bass with mussels (centre)

The window full of desserts.

Desserts were amazing to look at, but we were almost to full to try any.

Hot dishes included:
-burrata (cheese) wrapped in vine leaves with grapes (also warm)
-tofu with mussels
-sea bass
-lamb, this was the most tender lamb I had ever tasted (and I have tried a lot of lamb)

Overall this restaurant is fabulous, it's also quite famous and we almost didn't get a seat as we didn't have a reservation, but at the last minute a space opened up at the counter and we ate there.  Dessert was a small lemon tart share between the 3 of us! 


It is freezing here!  I know that you're thinking it can't be as bad as Ottawa, but it's that everything here is not set up for snow.  I did not bring winter boots or a really warm jacket.  This has made walking around London painfully cold.  Saturday I woke up to a light dusting of snow!

Snow!  Looking out my window.

I decided that it was a day for indoor activities.  I visited the National Gallery and then the British Museum.  I have been to both of these museums several times, but there is still more to see! I have still barely scraped the surface of the treasures that the British Museum holds.  

The National Gallery always has these incredible floral arrangements.  This week it was irises  and moss, last week there were fragrant lilies.  After taking this I was told that photographs were forbidden. I understand that they don't want photos taken of the art, but of the flowers?  Really?

St. Martin in the Fields and the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square, looking very gray and cold.

At the end of the day I braved the cold to check out the Camden Town Market.  There is a cute little canal, but otherwise the market was not anything special and I was really too cold to think about buying anything, so I headed home to re-heat.  Hoping for warmer weather...

Canal at Camden Market

I was here, it was cold...brr.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

This week

This week has not been particularly eventful thus far.  Last night I went to a play near Covent Garden called Trelawny of the Wells in a tiny theatre called Domnar Warehouse. Tonight I went out for dinner with the whole palliative care team from Great Ormond Street Hospital.  Tomorrow is my last day working here in London and then I move on to 2 weeks of holidays!  I am planning to spend the next few days exploring London, then Dan will arrive and we'll spend a few days in London before taking the Chunnel Train to Paris!  More adventures await!

Sunday Flower Market

This Sunday I went to the Columbia Road Flower Market.  I met up with one of the other doctors I'm working with and some of her friends.  It was another cold and rainy day.  The flower market spreads over about 2 blocks on Columbia Road on Sundays.  It was beautiful!  I bought some lovely coral red roses.  

At the flower market, priced dropped as we approached 3pm when the market starts to close...
There were cut flowers, as well as flat of flowers to plant, small shrubs and larger trees!
Nearby "circle" park with beautiful old houses surrounding it.
Walking to the flower market, I spotted the Gerkin.

Funky retro furniture store just before the flower market.

Fox-shaped door knocker on Columbia Road