Saturday, August 22, 2015

What I did on my Summer Vacation: England Day 5: London, Part One

  On day 5 we had to get up at 4AM to catch the train to London. We were all still sleepy, but excited.

I look like I'm still asleep.
The girls had never ridden on a train before,and it was something they had been wanting to do. It's not like it was the last time I was there. The trains are much more modern now. They're not even British Rail any more. The trains are owned by private companies. It's confusing.

But they still sell egg and cress sandwiches! Yeah. I had been waiting for this.

I used to always get an egg and cress sandwich on the train or in the station. (You can NOT make the same thing at home. I've tried.) There was no Appletiser though!
  The girls slept part of the way.

I think I had just managed to nod off when we got to London.

When we got into King's Cross station we, Harry Potter nerds all, had to stop at Platform 9 3/4. They have a spot set up for that now. There's half a trolley sticking out of the wall. Apparently they didn't always have the trunks and the owl on the trolley.

Emma, Potterist extraordinaire. She considers herself a Ravenclaw, the house of intelligence and creativity.
They have a photographer there, and an assistant to loan you a Hogwarts school scarf of your choice and hold it out for you so it looks like it's flowing.

Ken chose Gryffindor. Either he values bravery and courage, or hes just not creative enough to pick a house other than Harry's...
They kindly let you take your own pictures, but of course, they are willing to sell you a copy of your official portrait.

And then there's Ivy, who chose Slytherin. She's just evil. I didn't pose with the trolley, because I belong to the house of old fat ladies...
It's available at the Platform 9 3/4 gift shop, which is just a few feet away.

Emma making her purchase. Ivy looks suspicious in the doorway.

It's made to look a bit like Ollivander's wand shop.  

Ivy tried to tell me the boxes were empty, but they really do contain wands.
There are a lot of neat things there, and some of the stuff is exclusive to the 9 3/4 shop.

Ken pointed out that this is the kind of school bag he carried as a kid, and I said, "Me too!"

  Here is where things started to go wrong. The girls and I thought the next stop was the hotel, to get rid of our bags. We knew Ken had been arranging with his best friend Robert to meet in London since before we left America. But we didn't understand that he was meeting us at the station before we got rid of our bags. I thought the disagreement between Ken and Emma was how to get to the hotel: walk or tube. The girls have a tendency to just charge off on their own, and they were particularly bad about this in London. They wanted to go off on their own all the time. My fear was that they had no idea how to get to the hotel, had no map on them, and were two young girls alone in a big city. I was a bit unfair about it, since Emma is the age I was the second time I went to England alone. but I'm her mother. I worry, ok? So I was afraid of them getting out of sight. I charged after them, trying to keep up, trying to get them to stop.

Got them to stop long enough to pose for this.
There was some problem with Robert. Ken kept texting him. At no time did he actually say, wait, Robert is coming here. He says he did, but we don't remember hearing that. He didn't say to Robert, 'When you get here, wait. We'll be back when we drop the bags off and check in.'  The next thing I know is Robert has left the station and gone somewhere else.
This was sort of strange. Who was expecting the Tardis to just be sitting there on a London Street? The doctor is wrong: people DO notice it...

We have to arrange a place to meet Robert. My friend Cheryl is meeting us in London too. They were both going to meet us for all three days we were to be in London.We have to arrange somewhere to meet them both. I think of meeting Cheryl in Trafalgar Square, the very first place we met. Cheryl had been my pen pal, and when I came to England the first time, in 1985,we arranged to meet at Trafalgar Square.
Me at Trafalgar Square. Photo by Cheryl, 1985.
Besides, I know something about the area around Trafalgar Square, because when I lived in London in 1986 I lived in Greenwich, (the place with the Meridian.) and my train came in to London proper at Charing Cross. Charing Cross is sort of across the street from Trafalgar Square. Every day my train came in to Charing Cross station, and I crossed Trafalgar Square to go to the bank, or, if it was raining, to spend time in the National Gallery, or passed it to go to the theatre, go to the park to eat my lunch or meet friends. So we arranged with Cheryl and Robert to meet in Trafalgar Square. Of course we arrived on the tube, so we came out on the Square side of the road,which threw me off for a minute!

Emma and Ivy in Trafalgar Square. National Gallery in the left background, St. Martin's in the Fields background between their heads.
Tammy World is glad to get out of the purse.
Trafalgar Square with Big Ben in the background. I dragged Ken over to show him because I had told him you could see it from there. Yes, I see the sign Ken...Wait. What?! What do you mean 'don't feed the pigeons'?! This is Trafalgar Square! What about this?

Another of Cheryl's photos from that day in 1985. It's a little hard to see, but there is actually a pigeon on top of my head.
 Gone are the days when they actually sold pigeon food in the Square and people took each other's pictures covered in pigeons. Later Cheryl tells me they stopped allowing it because the pigeons were becoming too much of a problem. Now she says, they have murderous sea gulls instead. I tell her if they researched it they would probably find the rise in sea gull problems was caused by the disappearance of the pigeons!
  While we were waiting we all went in the National Gallery. The National Gallery is amazing. It's a beautiful building full of even more beautiful artwork.
Emma and the gorgeous National Gallery

Ivy and Emma. I like the first wall paper better...

Yeah, this one. Ivy still has some strength left. Ken is getting weak from hunger, and very upset about the Robert thing. He's still texting him.
Emma between two Van Goghs.

You can't spend too much time there.

Absolutely beautiful. The detail in this painting is amazing. Check below for close ups of the lace.

I wish I could show you how real it looks. It's so three dimensional it actually looks like real lace.

 Lovers of miniaturists will get all sorts of bad ideas about cutting up this painting:
Check it out! It's full of miniature paintings!
This fantastic painting is by an UNKNOWN artist!

This thing is amazing. Not only did the artist paint all those gorgeous tiny paintings, but some of them are even ever so slightly turned to the side, so that they had to be painted with the miniature scene at an angle, and still be perfectly in scale.

After a super early breakfast on the train we were all getting hungry. I ask Cheryl if she wants us to wait lunch on her or go ahead. She insists we should go ahead.  Emma has been hoping to get high tea while she's in London, and I researched the cafe at the Gallery. They serve a fairly affordable high tea, but when we check, it doesn't start serving until later. So we have a regular lunch, which still includes some great desserts.
An amazing roasted vegetable sandwich and---HA!---some fancy version of a BAKEWELL TART! Come to me!
Plus Ivy had a pretty wonderful cupcake.
Emma had a pistachio cake that was really good too. Oddly enough, everybody kept thinking things were too sweet, and I didn't think things were sweet enough. (I mean even more than I normally do...) It happened he whole time we were in England.
  After lunch we hit the gift shop. Emma was hoping to find a copy of her favourite painting, but no luck. You can have a print done of almost any painting, but it was kind of expensive. Then, Cheryl has arrived. I leave the girls in line at the gift shop and go outside to meet her. We have written and emailed all these years, but I haven't seen her since 1989, when she came over for a visit right before Ken and I got married.Ken followed me to catch our reunion on film.

She's practically squatting because yes, I am that short.
I don't think she recognized me because I have gotten so fat, but when it's suggested, she's too polite to admit it. Thanks Cheryl. 
  So we have heard from Robert. He is in Soho, which is a 15 minute walk away. He'll be here soon. This is good, because Ken has been VERY upset. I have been actually feeling sick because I felt so bad for Ken.  So now we sit and wait for Robert.

And wait.

And wait.

A guy dressed as Sherlock Holmes keeps walking around the Square looking at his wrist watch, hoping someone will want to take a picture with him. Buddy, out of character! Sherlock Holmes, the traditional one at least, which you are dressed as, did not wear a WRIST watch. Emma texts Fuzzy to suggest this might be a job he would enjoy. (Fuzz has always loved costumes.) Fuzz texts back to say something like, 'Thanks for thinking so highly of my ambitions.'
  Emma and Ivy wander off around the corner to the National Portrait Gallery. I try to stay with Ken so I can photograph his reunion with Robert after 31 years apart. Finally Cheryl gets thirsty and we wander across the street to get a drink at Tescos.
  In the end Robert never showed up. He stopped answering Kens texts and didn't answer his calls. We haven't heard from him since.
 Since this story is so long and requires so much time, I'm doing it in pieces. Stay tuned for part 2!


  1. If I've said it a million times, I'll say it a million times more: I HAD ridden a train before. From San Francisco to San Jose. Thank you.
    So if that artist is unknown, no one would really miss it if it got cut up?
    Correction #2 I DID get a copy of that painting on a postcard in the second gift shop.

    1. SORRY. I should have said IVY had never ridden a train before. Neither of you had ridden a British train. NYah. My point about the painting was that it was really good and the artist is unknown:not fair! And I didn't know you got a postcard of the painting you liked so much. At the National Portrait Gallery? We didn't talk much about your trip through that. Remember, we were still in Robert Limbo while you did that.

    2. No, I got it in the second gift shop you were in with me.

    3. What second gift shop? I only remember the one.

    4. There was one we went in before we ate, and one after.

    5. I thought it was the same one...

  2. Oh wow! I didn't know about that platform 9 3/4 "trolley wall" and the shop! That's too cool! :D
    And the painting of Madame Pompadour looks so realistic!

    1. The photos really don't do it justice. The paint of the lace is actually three dimensional. Amazing work.


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