MaiTaiTom Gets The Royal Treatment…Two Weeks Exploring London and Scotland
DAY TWO: Line In Wait, Sargent Major, Anchors Away, To Pee Or Not To Pee That Is The Question, Short Stop, The Big Cheese, By George, A Dickens Of A Time, Bridge Of The Millennium, That’s The Ticket, How The Hell Did We Wind Up In Florence, The Dark Side Of The Tourist, Art Deco Paradise and Book ‘Em
Greeted by a drizzly, gray morning, the four of us, rested and ready to face London, walked across the street to the Pret a Manger for a quick breakfast egg sandwich with prosciutto on a croissant. Bring these to L.A.!!!
Tate Britain London
Our first stop of the day would be the Tate Britain, which was founded in 1897 by sugar refiner Sir Henry Tate. He made a sweet fortune, and now there are four Tate sights, of which we would visit two today.
When Kim told me the tube stop would be Pimlico, I replied, “Great, we can watch the Preakness.” I told you it was going to be a long trip.
The notes furnished to our group by Tuscan Tom Tours (see 2005 Italy trip report) stated the Tate was free and opened at 10. We got there right at 10 a.m, and there was already a long line queuing up on the left. Being free, this made little sense to us and a few other oblivious patrons of the arts. I was sure I hadn’t made a mistake…well kinda sure. In a couple of minutes, people started walking in on the right, but our line was still not moving. Finally, after five minutes, Tracy decided to skip the line, go into the other entrance to the right and find out what the heck was going on. Seconds later she beckoned us to come inside, explaining that the line we had been in was for a special David Hockney exhibit. Others quickly followed suit.
After our trip to London and other parts of England in 2013 (for that trip report, which also took us to Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath and the Cotswolds…click here), Tracy witnessed John Singer Sargent’s painting “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” in some publication. When she realized she missed it on that trip, she has been obsessed with coming to London to see that painting ever since.
According to the Tate website, Sargent used as his models “Polly and Dorothy (Dolly) Barnard, the daughters of the illustrator Frederick Barnard, because they had the exact hair color Sargent was seeking. Dolly, aged eleven, is on the left; Polly, aged seven, is on the right. He would place his easel and paints beforehand, and pose his models in anticipation of the few moments when he could paint the mauvish light of dusk. As autumn came and the flowers died, he was forced to replace the blossoms with artificial flowers. The Tate purchased the painting in 1887.
When we ran into this creature, it was time to go. I knew I recognized this guy from somewhere.
The only thing missing from the Tate was Larry Tate from Bewitched, which left me bothered and bewildered.
Shakespeare’s Old Globe Theatre
The gates were adorned nicely…
…and LOVE was in the air…or at least on the building.
We needed a quick bathroom break, so I blurted, “To pee or not to pee, that is the question.” Tracy gave me “The Look,” but I thought she was making much ado about nothing. We did make a pit stop at The Old Globe, and while exiting the bathroom ,Kim quipped, “All’s well that ends well.”
The original Old Globe was constructed in the 16th century, but according to my good friends at Wikipedia, “In June 1613, the Globe Theatre went up in flames during a performance of Henry VIII. A theatrical cannon, set off during the performance, misfired, igniting the wooden beams and thatching. According to one of the few surviving documents of the event, no one was hurt except a man whose burning breeches were put out with a bottle of ale.”
We were all tempted to take the £16 tour, but we moved on. On our next London trip, we’d like to return to watch a play that is lit by candles (unless the play is Henry VIII).
Next on our agenda was a quick (and I mean quick) stop at the Tate Modern. I know a lot of people will think we’re crazy (which I guess goes without saying), but we just wanted to see the building, which is very cool (modern art is not our thing).
We did stop in the gift store where we saw a condensed version of an Andy Warhol creation…
One never knows…
…what you’ll see wandering the streets of London, but we had the courage to press on.
Park Street London
Before the Borough Market, we walked on a pretty, little street (Park Street) full of colorful buildings…
…including the Little Dorrit. There was no sign of Charles Dickens here, but we’d catch up with him later.
Neal’s Yard Dairy
At 6 Park Street, we wandered inside a slice of cheese utopia, Neal’s Yard Dairy. Do you want a picnic in London? Come here for your cheese and bread.
We sampled some of the cheese varieties, and they were wonderful. The only bigger wheel in London is The Eye.
Walking by a colorful pub…
We were at the Borough Market in search of Kappacasein’s incredible toasted cheese artery-clogger. I’d had one in 2013 and convinced the gang they needed to try one on this trip.
In the market are a number of spots to find delicious food, but I had cheese on my mind…
After a while, I became a bit alarmed that there was no Kappacasein’s stall. Were they out of business? In a 21st century moment, the four of us pulled out our iPhones and were relieved when our buddy Google gave us an address. It seemed the Kappacasein Dairy had moved seven months previously to another location (1 Stoney Street).
The Cheese Toastie
The cheese toastie was as great as I remembered.
Remember, there is no calorie counting on vacation.
Note: If you want to try this sandwich at home, Tracy came pretty close to replicating it with this recipe in MaiTaiTracy’s Kitchen.
The George Inn
Next on our busy itinerary would be our search for London’s oldest pub. After getting turned around a few times, we finally found ourselves at the George Inn (77 Borough High Street), located not too far from the Borough Market. The George Inn has purportedly been around since the late 16th century (rebuilt after a devastating fire destroyed most of medieval Southwark). The George was a perfect spot because our feet were dragon.
A sign out front said that only did Shakespeare frequent The George, but also Charles Dickens, so we had Great Expectations and fortunately, this was not a Bleak House. I half wanted to order a martini with an Oliver Twist…
Although we had already consumed more calories than our daily recommended number, for some reason we were hungry, so we decided to order a couple of orders of chips to go with our beer.
We walked back to the Tate Modern area because Kim had something he wanted to do, walk across the Millennium Bridge (photo from atop St. Paul’s Cathedral on our 2013 trip). The bridge was finished in 2000 and links St. Paul’s to the Tate Modern.
Thanks to our gluttonous behavior, we took a leisurely stroll across the Thames. I read that when the Millennium Bridge was first constructed, it was designed to support up to 5,000 people, but right after it opened it began swaying when thousands of people crossed it. It was closed for a while in attempts to make it more stable, however, some Londoners still call it “The Wobbly Bridge.”
A little foreshadowing here as we walked, since I would be uttering those exact words (minus the wine part) less than 24 hours later.
We hopped on the Tube and made our way to Paddington Station where we picked up the tickets for the following day’s short ride out to Windsor Castle. Mary had the smart idea to ask if we could pick up our tickets for our train ride to Edinburgh from King’s Cross a few days later. I couldn’t bear to look at that sign.
Victoria and Albert Museum
It was back to South Kensington for our next highlight, the Victoria & Albert Museum, a place you could wander for a week and not see everything. It is spread out among seven floors, split into 150 galleries.
According to the literature, “The V&A has the largest collection of Renaissance sculptures outside Italy, the greatest collection of Indian art outside India (in the Nehru Gallery), and the country’s most comprehensive collection of antique dresses (in the Fashion Gallery).” I believe it.
Meandering through the museum I ran into the Dacre Beasts, which no one really knows why they were created during the reign of Henry VIII.
There was a very dark room showing off Raphael’s cartoons, a series of seven very large studies for tapestries (paintings on paper) that have been on loan to the V&A for more than 150 years. These seven are the only ones left (out of ten) that were commissioned by Pope Leo X for the Sistine Chapel, which much have chapped Michelangelo’s hide because he pretty much despised Raphael. They have been dubbed, “the Parthenon sculptures of modern art.” The photo is courtesy of the V&A…they must have turned on the lights that day.
Plenty of paintings, colorful ceilings and…
…stained glass windows greeted us in many of the galleries.
Because it was hard to travel from Britain to mainland Europe in the 19th century, museums would acquire plaster casts of famous and important monuments. Some bronze doors sure looked familiar. There are electrotype doors cast by Messrs Franchi & Sons in London in about 1867. They were cast from the ‘Gates of Paradise’ doors at the Baptistery made by Lorenzo Ghiberti in Florence between 1425 and 1452. As it turns out, the Weston Cast Court contains more than 60 of the 19th-century productions of Italian Renaissance monuments. Also in this gallery is a plaster cast of a pulpit from Pisa Cathedral by Giovanni Pisano (1865), and the monumental cast of Jacopo della Quercia’s great arch from the Basilica of San Petronio, Bologna (1886) where we will visit in 2018. It’s a great room to be sure.
The outdoor courtyard was a pleasant diversion. There was a cafe, but since we were eating dinner in 2 1/2 hours we passed (with our history it wouldn’t have surprised us to eat more)
I don’t remember how many rooms we visited, but it was a lot. My Fitbit read that we were almost at ten miles of walking already, meaning we had walked off about half the 5,000 calories we had already consumed. After a few more artifacts…
However, before we left, we were “entertained” by the ugliest of Ugly Americans. At a little past 17:30, as were about ready to exit, a guy who looked in his early 30s entered the V&A toting a large suitcase and sweating profusely. “I came to see the special Pink Floyd Experience,” an exhibit dubbed as “the first international retrospective of one of the world’s most iconic and influential bands.”
“I only have a few hours in between flights, but I rushed over here to see it,” the man added. It seems he had flown here from Paris just to see this exhibition, and then he was heading right back out for more of his business trip. Tracy and I knew trouble was right around the corner, but we did not Run Like Hell because we knew this would be interesting.
There were two rather major problems with his request: (1) The exhibition was sold out for the day and (2) the exhibition was done for the day since the museum was closing very shortly. Needless to say, he was quite unhappy. Obviously, he hadn’t quite researched this event enough Timed-entry tickets are sold online, and the last entry is 4 p.m. (oops). This guy started yelling at the V&A guy. “The guidebook said you were open until 5:45. It can’t be closed!!!!” By the way, had The Pink Floyd Experience been open, he wouldn’t have made it to the room until about 5:44).
While I would have shot this screaming idiot, the V&A guy handled it properly with a courteous demeanor. After a few more minutes, the flustered (and increasingly sweaty) guy finally departed…just another angry Brick in the Wall. We needed to get home because our tired feet were suddenly Comfortably Numb.
By the time we got back, we had just enough time to shower and take the tube to a restaurant in a building that was previously an automobile showroom and then a bank. We had 7:45 p.m. dinner reservations at The Wolseley (160 Piccadilly Street). I had read about this restaurant’s art deco interior and good food, so this was my must-stop dining establishment in London. I made reservations at this grand cafe a couple of weeks before leaving (photo below from internet).
When this building was completed in 1921, it first housed The Wolseley Car Company showroom. In 1926 and on the verge of bankruptcy, Wolseley sold the building to Barclays Bank. Due to decentralization of the banks, Barclay departed the building in 1998.
In 1998 the lease was purchased by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King who envisioned this space along the lines of the “Grand Cafes” of Europe. They hired architect David Collins to transform the space, and in 2003 The Wolseley Café and Restaurant became reality.
Arriving early, we had been told by someone in the know to check out their bar before dinner (like that wasn’t going to happen anyway). Although the restaurant was packed, we were the only people in the small bar area, We chatted with the bar staff. The night was off to a grand start. Brilliant…as was my Manhattan.
We were then seated at our table, barely inside the dining area. From this vantage point, we were able to scope out the entire room from our unique position, and being a little further away from the “action” also meant we had a quieter spot to be able to talk.
All our dishes from start to finish sparkled. Kim ordered a Créme Vichyssoise (you have the choice of hot or cold…he liked it hot) and followed that up with a Middlewhite Pork Chop with caramelized apple and red wine au jus. He also downed a side of Jersey Royals. No, New Jersey does not have a queen…these were New Potatoes.
Mary started with a Super Food salad, and then returned to her fishy ways with the special Cod entree. Tracy’s appetizer was a “Wow” dish. She ordered an endive and blue cheese salad, followed by the pork chop.
I joined Kim and ordered the hot Créme Vichyssoise and then followed it up with the “Wow” entrecôte served with Béarnaise sauce, Gem Heart salad and pommes frites.
I barely had room for my Lemon Coupe (well, it was a car showroom). The Lemon coupe was actually a lemon meringue ice cream dessert that was utterly fantastic.
After dinner, the four of us got into a conversation with the Wolseley manager, Linda, who had stopped by our table. She told us a little of the restaurant’s history and then started talking about their great breakfasts. Although we had no time on this trip, after hearing some of the dishes, we’ll be taking a breakfast trip here on our next London visit. Before we left, she brought over two signed books of Breakfast at The Wolseley, complete with recipes. I guarantee we’re going to try and make that Brioche French Toast.
We didn’t stay up for long due to the fact we needed to be up very early to catch that train for Windsor Castle. After that, I would venture out on my own to check out a few dinosaurs while the others napped. Finally, we dined at a famed restaurant before we…well, I can’t really tell you much because, truthfully, none of us remember our evening after 10 p.m.
Next: DAY THREE – Slough Off, First In Line, The Incredible Chapel, Apartment Hunting, Eton Lunch, The Wrong Tube Turns Out To Be The Right Tube, Ivy League and Night Of The Living Dead