carolbuckles (carolbuckles) wrote,

New Newport News News: Baltic Cruise: London days edition

            July 1st saw us tubing to Trafalgar Square.  That is the location of the National Gallery and, it turns out, the Canadian Embassy.  The square was tricked out for Canada Day, a sea of booths, bands, Francophiles and lumberjacks.  Well, we didn’t actually see the plaid shirts….Nelson’s column rose above it all, as well as 1 equestrian statue of the trad type and one which featured a realistic young boy aboard a rocking horse.  Wha?!?!
            The National Gallery is a museum for paintings, and is free.  We donated ₤5 and bought the guide book.  Though considerably smaller than the Met in NYC or the Louvre in Paris, it is a fine focused museum, full of works we’ve studied in our Great Courses.  [consider this an endorsement of these DVD college courses available online].
            With Ron’s typical thoroughness, we viewed the earliest works moving forward in time, throwing around such terms as Romanticism, impasto and “I don’t like it.”  We appreciated several truly fine altarpieces by both named and unknown masters.
            A mid morning tea break [Earl Grey with milk] and scones revived us for another go at it, up to 1500s.  Ron decided to splurge on lunch in the full service part of the museum’s food area.  He had a very pricey but delicious hamburger--with chutney-- and I had the very queen of mac ‘n’ cheese called “Mull cheddar and speck.”  It was made with mild white cheddar and diced ham and baked in an small iron pot with crumbs on top.  All very elegant, but still mac ‘n’ cheese for comfort.  Too bad I don’t tell you as much detail of the art as the food, but you can go online to see that stuff.
            By the six o’clock closing, we had downed another cuppa tea and only finished the 1600s section.  The Canadians were still going strong when we tubed back to Paddington.  We had fish and chips at a sidewalk joint just around the corner from our B&B that I had noticed that am.  We had to select the kind of fish we wanted.  Being uneducated about fish, we asked for whatever was ready.  It was haddock filet, skin on, no bones, simply delicious.  The chips [which are really French fries, silly Brits—chips are ‘crisps’ to them] were miserably dry so we saved many calories that way.
            July 2 we tubed to Bank Station and transferred to the Docklands Light Railroad DLR train, which runs above ground, but still accepted our Oyster cards.  Our destination was Greenwich [yes, that of ‘mean time’] and the Maritime Museum.  Stopping at a CTC place, I bought a scarf for ₤2.99; the wind off the river was quite chilly.  We passed the Cutty Sark which we had visited many years before.  The name refers to the 1791 poem “Tam o’Shanter” by Robert Burns and refers to Tom’s [Tam = Tom] shirt [sark = pronounced shark = shirt in Scots] which was cut off by a pursuing witch.  The ship has always sported a shirt nailed to the mainmast.  [Tam o’Shanter refers to Tom being a piper, using a chanter for practice]  And that’s all the Scots and/or poetry review for the entire rest of our cruise.
            Since our visit, the famous tea clipper had burned severley, but it has been restored and enclosed in a clever dry dock covered in blue glass.  Thus, from the deck, the ship seems to be sailing the blue seas.  We went into the gift shop to appreciate this building and to see the hull which was covered in a startling brassy cladding, simulating [I guess] the original copper sheathing.
            We walked on to the museum and were horrified to find arguably the greatest seafaring nation of all time had the dumbest maritime museum.  A huge building with very little in it, except school groups and families with toddlers, the only things that really snagged our attention were Nelson’s dress coat [not the undress uniform he died in] and a statue of Capt. Sir Edward Pellew of the same time frame as Nelson. So, for British naval history, visit Portsmouth!
            We were done by noon and had lunch in an ancient establishment called Pie and Mash.  I think it had a real name too, but Pie & Mash was in large letters.  Ron got chicken and mushroom and I got cheese and onion, but in fact, both were a puree of mashed potatoes and a hint of flavor.  Then mashed potatoes added on the side.  I tried the ‘liquor’ which turned out to be a white sauce with parsley; Ron had brown gravy.  An absolutely and thoroughly British place, we ate on the second floor watching a charming daddy with 2 small girls.
            We called into the Cutty Sark where Ron bought a seaman’s canvas bag, about 1/3 scale and therefore quite useful.  We used it for our laundry on the cruise, and were prepared to carry it on the airplane home if necessary [wasn’t].
          We then walked under the Thames through a pedestrian and bike tunnel constructed in 1902 and recently refurbished with large elevators at each end.  This was another of our “bucket list” items.  The tunnel runs from Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs, which used to be a labyrinth of docks, warehouses, opium dens and gheneral mayhem.  It is now a very upscale condo neighborhood called “Docklands.”
We then trained and tubed back to Trafalgar, where we finished off the National Gallery.  This alone tells you how little there was at the Maritime Museum.
            We had a lavish dinner at a steak place called Aberdeen, with steaks as big as my stomach—that is, I ate it all.

N4 59 Baltic Cruise London Days edition for photos for my blog
Tags: new newport news news

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