Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day Two – England/Paris Trip

Sunday, May 15th

Looking at the date, it seems like we lost a day, but we really didn’t. We left Richmond on Friday, flew all night and spent Saturday in London. Today was our first full day in London and full it was!

With only 2 1/2 days in London, we had to be very choosy about what we did. We just couldn’t see everything. St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey were both on the list, but touring both wasn’t going to work. So we decided that since we were in London on a Sunday anyway, we’d attend a service at St. Paul’s and tour Westminster Abbey another day.

We got up bright (in London, on that particular Sunday, just an expression) and early Sunday morning and walked through Hyde Park to the Tube:

The two folks in the bottom right are Craig and me. Hyde Park is gorgeous and a place I wish we’d had more time to explore. It’s very near Craig’s flat, so we walked through parts of it each day.

We got lots of pictures of bits and pieces of St. Paul’s but not a full picture, so I’ll borrow this one:

We were lucky enough to be able to attend a sung Matins service. I am one of those new-fangled Episcopalians who happen to adore a sung service and the SOUND of that choir in that edifice is truly astounding. Here is a little youtube snippet for an example.

You know, we went to a LOT of cathedrals and churches and were concerned that we’d get ‘Cathedral-itis’. It happens to me sometimes with museums – you just stop seeing the beauty and grandeur and sort of glaze over (kinda like math class). This really didn’t happen at all. The cathedrals all had their own brand of grandeur and the churches were so charming and personalized that it was seeing each one new. But with St. Paul’s we were not only seeing a huge, European cathedral for the first time, but actually experiencing it as a house of worship. A very special encounter. Of course, me being me, the experience wouldn’t have been complete without a moment of weirdness. One young lady sitting near us with her family texted throughout the entire service. She somehow managed to sing the Apostle’s Creed while texting – divine multi-tasking. I managed to overhear some conversation after the service and was massively relieved to discover that she was not an American.

A shot of us in front of the cathedral:

After the service, we wandered up Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street (I wonder if you can imagine the thrill being able to say that last sentence gives me?), seeing new sites and turning back every so often to get yet another shot of the magnificent dome of St. Paul’s:

Beautiful buildings:

Ancient and snug shops:

Umbrellas and Sticks – I so wanted a shooting stick, but doubted I’d get through US customs with such an outlandish item (plus, they cost like $220!!!).

Fantastically designed signs:

(The sign was gone on this one - only an old bracket - but I still thought it was beautiful.)

And gorgeous spires:

This one is St. Bride’s – designed by Wren (just like St. Paul’s) and is supposed to be the inspiration for tiered wedding cakes. I’m thinking of doing a collage of all the billions of ‘spire pictures’ that I took on the trip.

We had lunch at another chain that does things better than any place of the same type in the States. Pret a Manger is a London-based sandwich/salad/soup etc. shop that seemingly has a location every block or so in the city and, halleluiah, a couple in DC (road trip!!!). Just like EAT, it is better than it should be, seeing as how the sandwiches are already made and sitting there ready for you.

Next up was an experience that I’ve yearned after for probably 40 years – the Egypt exhibit at The British Museum. I have been utterly fascinated with Egyptology since I was a child. I somehow missed the Tut exhibit at the Smithsonian (I have no idea HOW, since it was there for 4 months during my senior year of high school, but I did), and since I won’t be touring Egypt anytime soon (I’m guessing that it has changed a lot since M. Poirot visited), this was my opportunity. It is a huge and wonderful exhibition – 2 floors worth that just go on and on and I had a feast! Standing in the middle of all of those incredible antiquities was my “Now I’m in London” moment. Which, when you think of it, is a little odd, considering I was looking at things from Egypt. And, yes, the whole looting of an ancient civilization did and does occur to me. And, yes, I'm a bit conflicted about it. But, hey, I was in freakin' LONDON! At the freakin' British Museum!!!! It's all already there - they wouldn't send it back because little old Kim Shook of Richmond-by-God-Virginia doesn't approve. So anyway....

I took forever looking at everything and taking a zillion pictures and reading all the information cards. Mr. Kim and Craig finally wandered off on their own and when they finished the first floor found me again. I was still in the first room. They were very patient with me and let me have my fill. (This patience shown by my friend and my husband is becoming a motif of the trip .)

Some of my favorite pictures (a mere fraction of what I took):

The lobby ceiling – not the more recent and famous glass one.

Thoth – a baboon headed god:

Well, it was a MONKEY! How could I NOT take the picture? (I am very big on monkeys - one of my little wierdnesses.)

Detail of sarcophagus painting:

Cat mummy:

Poor kitties – they didn’t always wait for them to die a natural death before wrapping them up to keep the Pharaoh company in the afterlife!

I think these guys were actually Mesopotamian, but I was captivated by their chorus line anyway:

Here’s Craig and me at the museum:

Doesn’t he look patient? He will want to kill me for posting his picture, but he’s all the way over in London, so I guess he’ll have to visit us to do that.

After I returned Craig’s hospitality by wearing him out, we returned to his flat to dress for another eGullet-recommended fabulous dinner. We ate at The Wolseley in St. James. The building was built in 1921 and is gorgeous inside and out. The menu can be seen here. Everything was delicious and I had one of my best meals of the trip there, including this adorable and delectable starter:

These are quail eggs on a little raft of puff pastry with hollandaise. Couldn’t you just SQUEE!!!??? Just about a week later Ms. Hillary Clinton dined there (looking quite chic, I must say) with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Craig and I, Clintonian Dems that we are, were quite excited.

Once again, we wandered home through the incomparable London, to bed and to dream of another day in this amazing city.


  1. Yet another excellent account of what you did in London. I am still SO jealous and wish we could have been there with you all. Just reading your blog makes me miss you all even more. Look forward to the next day of the saga. Take care! Love you guys!

  2. Thanks, Gary! We miss you all so much. Just sent Steph an email and told her how much I missed my girlfriend!

  3. Kim and Mike, I love your posts. It reminds me of the first time I went to London. A magical experience and one that I will remember for ever. Can't wait to see you so "we can talk." XOXO

  4. Have to echo: Sooo Jealous!

  5. WOOO, What A Ride!! I'd have the Guinness record neck-crick from all those beautiful sights WAY above the ground.

    I'm SO pleased for you both, and can tell it WAS all you'd dreamt of.

    Sis and I just mentioned today that we went to the King Tut exhibit in New Orleans---the same year you missed it, I think. She was about seven months PG and her little tour-pack recorder gave out, so we plugged her ear-phone into the side of mine, and walked the last half of the tour with our arms around each other. Let THEM figure it out.

    When you DO get to Egypt, I'm springing for the CAMEL RIDE!!! Don't forget.

  6. Ah, how those spires take me back! All those many years ago we tracked down every single Wren church in London -- what a steeplechase!


  7. More great stuff. So enjoying reading all this.

    You went to the Wolseley -- lucky you. That's a very famous restaurant.

    As I said before, you are a terrific photographer!


  8. Thank you all for your kind words AND your patience! I hope that there is not too much detail for you, but this will function as our ‘memory album’ as well as a report, so if you like, feel free to skim! I'm working on the next day now - having a hard time doing Westminster Abbey justice - I may need Mr. Kim to pinch-hit a bit there! He and The Child are the REAL writers of the family.

    Greg – I think that this trip is going to stay with me forever. Like you said – magical. I miss you a lot and wish I could see those precious girls before they get too much older. I’m glad that you post pictures at FB, so I can keep up. I don’t think that I’ll ever change my FB picture – I love that sweet face next to mine!

    Chesapeake – well, now you know how I feel! I’m the one jealous of YOU and your freewheeling travel!

    Rachel – It WAS a ride. A dream come true. All the goofy clichés that people say are all TRUE! And I’ll hold you to that camel promise, if I’m ever brave enough to go!

    Maggie – That does sound like an adventure! I just googled ‘Christopher Wren churches in London’ and got a hell of a list. I wanted to do something similar in Italy after reading Palladian Days by Sally Gable!

    Liz – the Wolseley was just wonderful – the food, the room and the service all fantastic!