Sunday, March 3, 2024

Sutton Hoo


Have you seen the movie "The Dig" with Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan? It's an excellent movie available on Netflix and it's based on a true story about a the discovery of an archaeological site of major historical significance.  It's an excellent movie that really touched me when I saw it several years ago.  

I wanted to take another look at the pieces from that dig that are now on view at the British Museum.  

One of the most important pieces was this helmet which dates to between 620 and 625 AD.  

In addition to the actual helmet above, the museum also had a replica made to show how the helmet would have looked all those years ago.  

It's quite magnificent.  

Also on display were some of the other treasures found at the site called Sutton Hoo in Suffolk England.  The site has been described as a ritualistic burial site of great significance.  Most likely that of a king or ruler of that period.  I'm very pleased that Basil Brown, the man who made this incredible discovery has finally been given the credit that is due to him.

If you haven't seen that movie, I highly recommend it.  

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Royal Opera House


My destination in Covent Garden was to see the Royal Opera House.  I have a very close friend who has a PhD in Collaborative Piano.  He works very closely with opera performers and he has a vast knowledge of all operas and composers.  He studied in London for awhile and spent a lot of time at the Royal Opera House so I wanted to get a closer look. 

I was a little confused when I saw this modern entrance because it looked nothing like I remembered.  I went inside to find an open atrium with champagne bar, a restaurant and a gift shop.  There were also a number of displays all around the area.

There were several glass cases with costumes from the ballet "Manon" by Georgiadis.  I was curious as to when this performance took place and was surprised to find that it's playing right now.

There was a walkway that led into the main part of the opera house and along the wall was this display of some history of the building.  Each of those little 'windows' in the wall were displays of the inside of the opera house over the years.

Above is one of those little displays.

This bust was mounted on the lobby wall.  It is a tribute to Sir Thomas Beecham who was a conductor associated with both the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic.  

After exploring all the wonderful displays inside the building, I was back outside in front of the building I remembered from past visits.  This is the third opera house that has stood on this site.  The first two were both destroyed by fires.  This building with its wonderful corinthian columns has the look of a classic concert hall and opera house.  The atrium part to the far left was once a flower market and is now part of the hall serving food, drink and lots and lots of historical information.  

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Night Visit to Covent Garden


One evening when I was in London, I took an after dinner stroll around Covent Garden.  I was surprised at how quiet it was.  On past trips to this part of London it has always been a busy place.  However, the lack of huge crowds made it easier to snap a few photos. 

It was mid-October but it looks like they are in the process of putting up the holiday decorations.

I loved the sign above the entrance at the far end of this photo.  It's for the Punch & Judy pub just on the other side of the doorway.  Apparently it's a tourist pub that has been there for a very long time.

There was a musician playing in front of St. Pauls Church and I stopped to listen along with all these other people.  A short stop for some very good live entertainment was nice treat.  

I snapped this photo along the side of St. Pauls church.  The statue was brilliantly lit but the area was closed off for construction.

I discovered that this statue was originally commissioned by the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral.  It sat on display near the cathedral for 3 months and then was moved to his location at St. Pauls Church.

It was created by Bruce Denny and depicts. St. Paul the moment when he is struck by the light on the road to Damascus.  That must explain why such a bright light is shining on this statue.  It's called "The Conversion of St. Paul".

Next week, I'll show you my destination on this trip to Covent Garden.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Land of Spies and Politicians


Further along on my walk along the Thames, I came to this building known as Thames House.  It happens to be the headquarters for MI 5, the English security services.  This building is not as eclectic as the MI 6 building that I pictured last week.  This one is much more traditional.

This building is located right at the corner of Millbank and Lambeth where the Lambeth bridge crosses the Thames.  There is a round-about there and in the center is this very full palm tree.  There are not many palm trees to be found in London so this one sort of stands out.

On my previous trip in 2016, I must have been surprised to see this tree sitting in the middle of the road because I snapped this photo of it back then.

After passing the MI 5 building, I've almost arrived at the Houses of Parliament.  The park along the river is called Victoria Tower Gardens that is where I found this famous sculpture by Auguste Rodin.  "The Burghers of Calais" is one of his many famous sculptures.

I've made my way from the Tate Britain museum all the way up to the Houses of Parliament.  Before I move on, I can't resist a photo of Big Ben.  

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Walking Along the River


Stepping out of the Tate Britain Museum in London, I am facing the River Thames where I decide to walk so I can take in the view.  Walking along Millbank road between Pimlico and Westminster, will take me past an assortment of government buildings all the way to the Houses of Parliament.  While I'm walking, I can admire the growth of all the buildings across the river.

If I look to the left in this photo, I can see the MI6 headquarters tucked into the far left of this photo.  I did a post about that building back in 2017.  See it here.  Next to the MI6 building is St. George Wharf an interesting luxury building with flats and office and retail space.  There were definitely more buildings squeezed into this space since I was last in London.

As I walked along, I was in awe of all the new buildings that have been built along the river.  Like many big cities, London is growing and growing.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Art With a Touch of Humor


I have found some very fascinating art works at the Tate Britain in London and this last trip was no different.  I was drawn to this crazy contraption and I sat watching it for a quite a while.  

As you can see from the museum description card, it was created in 1964 by the British artist Bruce Lacey.  Lacey was expressing his hesitancy about recent scientific developments.  

By the way, that pulley on the leg would periodically exercise the leg.  It was fun to watch.  

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Art & Architecture Go Hand in Hand


As I stated in last week's post, the Tate Britain is one of my favorite museums to visit anywhere.  From the outside it's a Neo-classical building complete with a row of Corinthian columns.  It's stately position looks out over the Thames with a view of all the modern towers growing skyward across the river.

On the inside it's a combination of classical and post-modern styles.  

I love how the black and white tile on the floor of the entrance, mimics the lacy design of the wall surrounding the stairwell.  

That same black and white color scheme continues as you go down the the spiral staircase into the lowest level of the museum.

This low level is where the cafe is located along with other amenities like a coat check, classrooms and offices.

All those curves and black and white trim continue through the lower level.

I went down to this area to check my coat and to get a snack at the cafe.  The area is a perfect prelude to a day of art exploration.  And as you can see, I was happy to admire (and photograph) all understated symmetry of this utilitarian space.  

Sunday, January 14, 2024

People Imitating Art


One of my favorite London museums is the Tate Britain. It's not as well known as the Tate Modern but it's been around longer and is a beautiful place to spend a rainy day.  I had been exploring the many galleries when I spotted the fellow in the photo above.  He caught my eye because I thought he looked like he had just stepped out of one of the massive paintings in this gallery.

I stealthily took several photos hoping I'd get at least one that would show how impeccably he was dressed but for a different era.

I wondered if he was a time traveler who just slipped in from 1890.  Then he pulled out his cell phone to take a photo so I guess not.  I do wonder why he was dressed that way.

There is always something interesting to see in any museum and many times there is more to see than the art on the walls.  

Sunday, January 7, 2024

All "Dolled Up"


The architect for the Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel in London was a man named Charles Fitzroy Doll (1850 - 1929).  Learning this helped me to understood how the Kimpton hotel group chose the name "Fitzroy" for the hotel.  As I said last week, the hotel's original name was the Russell Hotel, named for the beautiful Russell Square garden right across the street.

After the hotel was completed, Doll was asked to "smarten-up" the facades of some of the houses around Russell Square by adding some of his terracotta ornamentation.  This gave rise to the expression "dolled-up".  I think that "dolled-up" fits this hotel perfectly from the ornate, terracotta exterior to the marble details in the lobby to the beautiful mosaic floors below my feet.  Every inch of this hotel was beautifully designed to be as palatial as possible.     

My room was located on the second floor and that's where I met Lucky George.  

The restaurant Doll designed in the original hotel served as his inspiration for the first class dining room on the RMS Titanic which he also designed. 

When the design work was in progress, he  commissioned two brass dragons to be cast.  One of the dragons was to reside at the hotel, the other was to sit aboard the RMS Titanic.  It's easy to figure out why this one is called "Lucky George".  

I was also lucky to stay at this beautiful hotel and to see George every day as I passed him in the hall.  


Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Signs All Pointed to One Hotel


The decision to stay at this hotel was made years before my trip to London in 2023.  In 2016 when I stayed in London, I stayed at the Imperial Hotel just across the street. The nearest tube station was the Russell Square station located around the corner from this building.  Every time I took the tube I had to walk past the building pictured above which was surrounded by construction covers and scaffolding.  I could always hear the hammering, sawing and grinding going on inside.  I finally asked someone at my hotel what that building was.  They told me it was the Russell Hotel and it was in the process of full remodel.

After that, the Russell Hotel's name kept popping up in conversations or articles I was reading.

A few months later and back at home, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while.  He said "how funny to run into you today, I had a dream last night that I was in London and was rushing to meet you at the Russell Hotel."  That was the moment I knew I was going to have to stay at that hotel.

I kept checking the internet for information on the hotel and not finding any news about when it would reopen.  Then the pandemic hit.  All travel came to a stop and I lost track of what was happening at the Russell Hotel.  When I finally returned to checking its progress, I learned it had new owners and a new name.  It became The Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel.  I have always enjoyed Kimpton hotels and now this place that had been occupying my mind for so long, was one of them.  It almost seemed predetermined that I should stay there.

Since then, I've learned a whole lot more about the history of this grand old building and its colorful architect.  I'll share some of those stories and other stories from London in the weeks to come.  

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Streets are Paved in.....Water!


Scenes from Venice Italy where the streets are made of water and transportation is done by foot and boat.  

My first glimpses of the city were breathtaking.  It looked just like in the movies only with a lot more people.  The watery streets and the Moorish architecture caught my eye immediately.

To someone who lives in the desert, all that water seemed so strange and frankly, dangerous.  How do all those fabulous buildings stand with such soggy foundations?

Venice is truly one of the most unique cities on this planet.  The city was a joy to visit.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Overlooking Construction


That last time I was in New York, my hotel room had a pretty spectacular view to the north through a jungle of extremely tall buildings.

I realized quickly that I also had a Birds Eye view of a new building under construction.  

It was kind of fun to watch the progress of this new building for the seven days I had this view.

I used my telephoto lens to zoom in on certain areas to try to figure out what was happening.

I could even zoom in to see what was in a worker's tool belt.

By the end of my stay, it was looking like some progress had been made in those few days.

I will have to make another trip to New York to see how the building is looking today!