A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

Well within the city limits of London is Greenwich (GREN-ich and NOT Green-witch :). As this was our second visit to this outer borough, we forwent visiting the Cutty Sark (the last of the great China tea clippers) as well as the Royal Observatory. Instead we walked around enjoying the small shops lining the streets of the town centre, and strolled through the magnificent Greenwich Park. It was such a beautiful day, we actually laid down, right on the grass, and read our books looking up now and then at the calm cloudless blue sky through the hanging branches of the large English plane tree under which we were huddled. It was a truly wonderful moment.

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On the cruise ship on our way to Greenwich

Coming back on the DLR (Docklands Light Rail), we stopped at South Quay in order to walk through the old Docklands. The Docklands used to be the world’s largest-of-its-kind harbour organizing the shipping of English goods throughout the empire. Bombed in WWII, it was completely destroyed and remained useless marshlands for decades. As is always the case, some investors saw the potential this site had to offer and transformed it into a vibrant urban economic hub surrounded by elegant condominium living and rows of hip restaurants. We quite enjoyed our walkabout and fervently wish we could afford a small pied-à-terre in this part of the city.

Coming back to yesterday, which already seems so far away, we found another little gem in the city: the British Library. I can’t believe we had not visited it the first time we were in England. Here is my TripAdvisor review:

The King George IV 65,000-book collection behind glass is quite impressing as you walk inside the building. The actual room open to the public (The Sir John Ritblat Gallery) is quite small but contains many treasures. From the Magna Carta to early editions of the Bible, from Mozart’s music sheets to the Beatles lyrics, from a letter written by Anne Boleyn to a tale written by Chaucer, and early designs by Leonardo Da Vinci, there is something to everyone to admire. Well worth the trip to King’s Cross Station when in London!

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I’m sitting in the Library Café looking up at King George’s collection

From what I have read in Rick Steves’ London 2016 guide book, King George IV in 1823 gifted this collection of 65,000 books to the people with the express condition that it be on display for all to see. Well, the condition in itself has certainly been met in that the collection is certainly on display. However, it sits behind glass in a 50-foot-tall wall (as you can see from the picture on the left) and not accessible to commoners. You probably need special permission from a university or a research facility of some sort. I was dying to have access to it and peruse through some pretty extraordinary books.

But talking about extraordinary, the folios on display in the Ritblat Gallery were certainly magnificent, and did their part to appease my strong desire to infiltrate the secret vault.

Stay tuned for more adventures from London.

So much to see, so much to do in London, but also in the beautiful surrounding countryside. Before I speak about the last few days in London, I have to write briefly about our amazing journey to Bath.

Early this morning we made our way to Paddington station and embarked on a train stopping at Bath Spa (what was known in Roman times as Aquae Sulis).

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Bath falls – supposedly where the scene from Les Misérables (2012) of Javert jumping to his death in the rivert was shot!!

 

Upon arriving, we were instantly struck by its medieval Georgian beauty and amazed at the vastness of the city. We are told 80,000 people live in and around Bath even if the core itself is a heritage site, and therefore mostly deserted in the evenings.

We opted for the free two-hour walking tour of the city hosted by the Mayor’s Corps of Honorary Guides; volunteers who share their love and knowledge of Bath. Our guide Jack Smith, a true storyteller, kept us going with fascinating facts and stories about the city. It was our most entertaining bit (apart from the Globe, of course) in England thus far. The stories told of the high aristocrats sojourning in Bath during the winter months were most amusing all the while learning about the town’s architecture and medieval lore.

After the tour, we went to visit the Roman baths. This sight was a bit disappointing and at an especially high entrance fee. Of course, I’m saying this after having visited Rome, soaking in Budapest thermal baths and gone under Istanbul city for a view of the Basilica Cistern…

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Roman Bath level

Coming back to the last few days in London, we walked endlessly around the city, visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, toured the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery (which was a first for both Justin and I).

With no specific entrance fee for museums, we are free to roam around for as little or as long as we want, leave and come back to view our favourite spots at another time when we are just walking about. We always leave a few pounds to support these wonderful institutions though and I must once again encourage everyone else to also do so.

Now, another one of our most thrilling outing last week was our attendance to The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe Theatre. From the musician-entertainers to the acting, from the venue to the energy of the crowds and the atmosphere all around, it was one of the best performances I attended (and I attended quite a few!). We were so enthralled by it all that we booked another play at the end of the week… A Midsummer Night’s Dreams.

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A pre-show shot of the crowds and theatre as pics are not permitted during the play

And as an ending note, the British seem to be news people always reading posts, articles and local news channels on their phones and iPads while waiting for the bus or the tube. I have rarely seen people (even young adults) texting or playing games…. A most wonderful feature in my opinion.

Cheerio for now!