|From left to right on Angel Louise, Ed, Sue, Tony, Scott, Heather and Hilary|
|Tony, Hilary, Scott and I all dressed up for the Opera|
|This jaunty ship was bottled up in Trafalgar Square|
Ed and Sue sailed across the Atlantic this summer stopping in Bermuda, the Azores and the Channel Islands before cruising the south coast of England to London. "Angel Louise" is tied up at St. Katherine Docks on the Thames. We were part of the honorary crew team that followed their adventures on the high seas.
|A Van Gogh painting being recreated in front of the National|
Gallery in plants.
Months in advance we booked tickets for the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit at the National Gallery for the next morning. The opening had just been days before and was such a big event it was broadcast live to theaters around the country. He was not a prolific painter so most people have only seen one or two of his works. This was a historic opportunity to view most of them together, along with those of many of his students and contemporaries. His two Madonna of the Rocks were displayed opposite from each other - a rare opportunity to compare them. I found the Lady with the Ermine especially beautiful.
Afterwards we had lunch at the new cafe in the crypt of the St. Martin of the Fields church nearby. Fantastic. Whoever thought of this has struck gold. It was packed. It was cafeteria style but good interesting food at a somewhat reasonable price (it is the pound).
A walk through Covent Garden helped our digestion. Huge colorful Christmas decorations and street entertainers vied for our attention (and I thought we in the U.S. started the Christmas theme early) there. The outdoor markets and restaurants here don't close down in the winter.
We met Tony and Hilary again at the theater for a matinee performance of the Pittman Painters. This hit show portrays a group of actual miners that began art lessons in 1934, the Ashington Group. The Workers Educations Association (WEA) had had been running classes for the miners since 1927 (the first one was on Evolution). Robert Lyon, artist and teacher was their instructor and after realizing they had basically never seen any art, suggested they paint themselves to develop appreciation for art. It was a huge success with these miners and later with critics and the public. They exhibited their work many times and continued to paint as a group until 1983 when their meeting hut was finally demolished. The play was written by Lee Hall after the book by William Feaver, writer of Billy Elliot, and was wonderful.
|The theme and original painting|
|Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery|
|The Crypt restaurant at St. Martin in the Fields|
Those are "head"stones in the floor.
|Giant Christmas bulbs hang in Covent Garden|
|Typical English pubs with floral decorations|
|The superstructure of the London Eye with the Thames in|
|Our neighbor pod reaches the top looking like a space ship|
|A few of the desserts at Ottolenghi restaurant|
|The handsome 20 foot high Octagonal Room at the peak|
of Flamsteed House
It was a relaxing day following; laundry, bridge and a lovely walk down to Greenwich Park. That evening was dinner at Ottolenghi, a really delicious tapas style restaurant from Israeli born Chef Yotan Ottolenghi (1968). We went to their main location at 287 Upper St. Islington, London N1 2T2 (020 7288 1454). Our little plates of food were wonderful and left us enough room for the really gorgeous desserts piled up by the front door.
Then it was off to the Sadler Wells Theater for the Taiwan contemporary dance troup, Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan. The absolute control these dancers have over their bodies is amazing. The minimalist sets, lighting and costumes focused on the designs and patterns the dancers create. Somehow we got to talking to the couple seated in front of us and enjoyed a lot in commen. They lived nearby and invited us over afterwards to see their stunning penthouse apartment - very contemporary, two levels each with it's own terrace/roof garden. Another memorable evening altogether.
Many ships and thousands of men had died due to errors in navigation due to inability to properly map where they were. Hipparchus in the 2nd C BC had already proved that accurate time knowledge could determine longitude but no one had every been able to build an accurate clock that could function at sea. Latitude had been resolved some time previously. You just needed to measure the altitude of the sun at noon with the aid of a table giving the sun's declination for the day. All we can say is, "Thank God for GPS". This is a fascinating subject and we had enjoyed the four part movie called "Longitude" with Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon last spring.
The Royal Observatory itself was founded by Charles II in 1675 and was the home of the Astronomer Royals. It is the location of the Prime Meridian and a "time ball" at the top drops daily at 1 PM to mark the exact time. This was once a time check for ships in the River heading out to sea. Outside there is a beautiful view down to the Maritime Museum and the Thames. We decided to come back for that the next day.
|H4 - a giant pocket watch.|
|Astride the Prime Meridian at Greenwich|
|Several soccer games at a time on Blackheath|