Brussels Bound

Kristine here – it’s about 8 in the morning and we’re packing up for Brussels. Meeting the tour at St. Pancras station at 10 and then it’s off to three days of Artie-ness. Speaking of which, went to lunch with Brooke yesterday at a pub called the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, as it’s near Waterloo Station. There was a mural on the barrel vaulted ceiling of the Battle – of which I took pictures. We also walked Regent Street and Piccadilly and then we walked the River on the South Bank from Waterloo Station to Tower Bridge. The tide was out and there were stairs frrom the Queen’s Walk down to the sand beside the river and Brooke and I went down and turned into mudlarks, picking through the stones and shells to find the good bits, in this case lots of shards of blue and white pottery. I found one with the picture of a Chinaman and some decorative embellishment still intact and picked up enough shards to fill a small baggy. My souvenier of the River Thames. Thank goodness today entails the Eurostar and a private coach, which means that we won’t be walking too terribly  much until tonight, when we walk Wellington’s Brussells. A good long ride and some much needed rest for the feet! We continue to go at a mad pace, trying to get in as much as possible each day, but needless to say, we are quite happy and more than a little content. More soon . . . . .

Rude Britannia

That’s the name of an exhibition at the Tate Britain and it is lots of fun, a collection of caricatures, cartoons, and all sorts of insulting material — at which the British excel. No one is sage — the church, politicians, the aristocracy, the royals — everyone takes their hits.

Our old friends Cruikshank, Rowlandson, and Gillray are there, as well as some of their predecessors and successors, including some current cartoons about the new PM and the Deputy PM (Cameron and Cleeg), the fumbling of BP executives — but NOT about that World Cup passion everyone seems to have. Who’d dare make fun of that?

Victoria and husband Ed here — relating our day at the Tate then on a London Walks tour of Old Westminster, in which we saw some fascinating things we never knew were there — like a lovely little neighborhood of Georgian houses and cobblestone streets right in the shadow of Parliament and the Abbey. Soon I’ll share some of the pictures I took — and some of the stories David, our guide, told.  We were exhausted after the long walk so we stopped for a quick half-pint at the Westminster Arms — then attended the sung Evensong at the Abbey, something we always enjoy.  The choir is wonderful. And even for heathens like us, it is a calming and relaxing 45 minutes.

We’re about to head out for dinner now — and tomorrow we set off on our adventure to Brussels and Waterloo via the Eurostar.  More soon!

A London Whirlwind

Kristine here – No doubt this post will read as though I’ve been doing crack for the past week, but I’ve so much to tell you that I’m just going to go for it and spit it out, disjointed or no. Apsley House was our first stop – Yippeee! From there on, there’s so much that’s happened that it’s all running together. Walked down Picadilly to St. James’s Street (paid hommage to White’s Club), went to a veddy British concert in St. Martin’s in the Fields, strode past the Horse Guards and discovered that Wellington’s Office, still preserved, is not generally open to the public, so I’ll have to write in advance for admittance next time I come over. Sunday was our garden walk day, which we fit in between going to the National Army Museum (saw the saw used to amputate Angelsey’s leg, and the surgeon’s bloody glove), went to the Grenadier Pub for dinner with Carrie Bebris and her dad. Yes, ladies, I went back into the mews where the ghosts were previously seen, but it being light here till about 10 p.m., saw none.

On Monday we went to Cecil Court and Charing Cross Road for bookshopping Saw a lovely Staffordshire figure of the Duke in an antique store, but shop wasn’t yet open. Bought gorgeous color print of the Duke and then we walked to Grosvenor Prints in Seven Dials and Vicky bought two fashion prints, while I bought an invitation issued by the Duke from Aspley House. On to Gray’s Antiques market, where I found another color print of the Duke sitting on a bench with another man, whom I don’t recognize and which will require further research. Went to Lansdowne Club for drinks then on to dinner at Just St. James, in St. James’s Street.

Tuesday to Windsor to see Hester Davenport, who asked us as we left the station if we wanted to see the Queen – as if there’s a really a question. Of course we said yes, so at 1:30 we went over to the long drive and watched their cars leaving the Castle – saw the Queen, Phillip, Andrew and I was waved to by Camilla. NO sight of Chuck – rats. Had a fabulous day with Hester, who took us back to her home for tea and showed us the original Vauxhall prints she has on her walls. Gorgeous.

Yesterday I went to the Museum of London, and to Hampstead to see Kenwood House and the portrait of the Brummell brothers. Back to London to walk and shop in Oxford Street. Then off to Leicester Square and China Town for duck. On the way, we again passed Cecil Court and this time the only shop that was still open happened to be the one with the Wellington figure in the window. In we went . . . Oh, boy, was I a bad girl. Once the proprietors learned of my interest in the Duke we were given brandy and fags and had a good chin wag about other Wellington collectors they know, including the present D of W, who had just been in the shop on the Saturday. Yes, the Duke collects Artie-Facts, too! As if he hasn’t enough already. Well, I’m on my way to catching up with him – bought a brass wall plaque, the Duke’s profile, a quite sizeable memorial coin, a pot and pot lid depicting the Duke riding at Stratfield Saye and . . . the really very large Staffordshire figurine of the Duke I’d seen in the window. It’s going to look smashing on my mantle. I hate to think what my husband will say when all these packages begin arriving at home . . . . Oh, well, the Wellington Museum collection is growing.

No concrete plans for today except walking London with Brooke and perhaps lunch at the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo pub (it’s near Waterloo tube station). Waterloo is still ahead for us and we’re all chomping at the bit to get there. I do hope there are as many flower sellers in Brussells as there are in London, so that I can buy a bouquet to leave at the Battlefield.

Vicky and I have lots of photos to post when we get home, and video of the Queen’s procession, and we’ve been thinking of you all at every turn. More in-depth posts on what’s already been briefly touched upon when we return. Cheers!

Overcome your disbelief!!

Victoria here.  Okay, darlings, we know some of you are skeptics, but the authority on all truth has spoken!!  Wiki!  Go here and read all about the WNBR 2010 ND 2011,  which to you who still don’t believe, is the World Naked Bike Ride. Book your tickets for next year’s world-shattering event soon, only 300+ days to go.

But speaking of world-shattering events, we can’t believe the passion with which London is reacting to the World Cup — football, a.k.a. soccer for us non-believers.  It is amazing here.  Last Sunday night, June 13 (or so my adled brain configures), we went to church. (And it didn’t even collapse.)  We attended a concert while England and the USA faced off in South Africa.  We were prepared to claim we were Canadians if the USA beat England, but since it was a draw (1-1), we could be truthful.  However, it is amazing to see all the England flags (cross of St. George, a red cross on white field) on taxis and cares, painted on faces, arranged in clothing, even painted on houses. Here is a tepid example, no way close to the wild ideas portrayed but not reproduced on line.

England never fails to enchant me. While I am in raptures over an antique print of the 1st Duke of Wellington, or a view of Her Majesty, or an old book found in a dusty bin in Charing Cross Road, the English are taking off their clothes to ride bikes, sloshing a pint while watching Brazil defeat North Korea, or trying to keep sane while shepherding a gaggle of children past the nudes to see more Old Masters in the Wallace Collection. I actually  told a teacher how adorable her charges were earlier this afternoon, and she glared at me as if I had three heads. “Everyday? All week?” she sputtered.

Well, no, I must admit. But since they are English, to me they had a special charm.

I am fading. I can’t wait to share some of my pictures (sadly none of the WNBR) but I have lots of gardens I am sure you will like much better than the flabby buns of those bike riders.

One more whole day in London.  How lucky can a girl get?

The Latest from London

The sun is shining on Kristine and Victoria here in London.  We have so much to tell and so little time!! But we will relate all the details when we get back and catch our breaths.  It has been a dream visit so far — garden tours, research visits, bookshops, print shops, plus, of course Apsley House!  And — would you believe — the naked bike ride?  Not us of course, though we were witnesses — huge crowd with police escort. But we’d say most of them should have kept their clothes on.  Not a pretty sight.

Also visited the Victoria and Albert in Love exhibition — which was jolly good.  And the Army Museum for the Waterloo model.  Yesterday we toured Windsor with Hester Davenport who was kind enough to take us to visit the Queen.  We sat on her lawn.  Well, really she only drove past but she waved at us.  And you too. We will tell all soon.

Cheerio for the moment — so much to see, so little time.  Luv, K & V