Saturday, June 30, 2012

Scènes de rue du jour

Forgive me if the French titles annoy you. I'm not trying to be chic. I was too lazy to study any French before we left the US, so this is my way of groping around the local vernacular. We haven't made it to the Paris pictured on postcards yet but, with no further adieu, I give you the street scenes of the day.

Graffiti art dog, rue Ordener
Graffiti art dog on rue Ordener

Most of the dogs I've seen in both London and Paris are small and, yes, in Paris I have already, in four short days, seen many French poodles. None in London. So this lovely Shepherd was a unique site.

Art dog on rue Caulaincourt
Art connoisseur dog on rue Caulaincourt

Friday, June 29, 2012

Divan rouge de la rue Caulaincourt

Red couch on rue Caulaincourt
Red couch on rue Caulaincourt

Thursday, June 28, 2012

La lampe très rose à Paris

La lampe rose
The very pink lamp in Paris


Once again, no measuring cups or spoons. Our London flat didn't have them either but we assumed Greg and Shareen just didn't cook at home. Their kitchen had all the amenities except measuring devices. But it's the same here. Is this a Euro thing? This is a great flat, four fire places, high ceilings, lots of huge windows, bright decor, hard wood floors, tiny balconies for potted plants. The kitchen is tiny but clever, Ikea style,  but no measuring cups or spoons. And no water glasses (plenty of wine glasses). A French thing? Already M. Lee is in deep withdrawal from London, "The best of all possible worlds", while Paris is "a pinched purgatory" so no measuring spoons is insult to injury. Plus, his mom went out early this morning for a nice fresh loaf of bread but nothing was open. We were shocked to see that business close so early and open so late. And to top it off, unlike London stunning multicultural cuisine, Paris seems to be a one-horse town for vegetarians.

My corner in Paris
My Paris corner

But hey! It's Paris and I'm half French. I'm feeling right at home. I woke up in a great mood. For whatever reason, my hands are much more limber here. In London I woke up with wooden claws affixed to the ends of my wrists. And I have set up a nice little corner base of operations which has a great view of the flat. A pigeon is roosting next door. And I saw a woman feeding birds in the train station. That would be a £500 fine in Trafalgar Square. Luckily, I did not get caught slipping the occasional bread crumb to the occasional bird. I realized, being forced into stealth mode, that pigeons take eye-contact to be an invitation to lunch.

So today, we're going out now in search of a natural food market. We had camembert cheese sandwiches for lunch. Such a desperate luxury.

Bonne journée Henri, mon petit ami en dépit de tout cela. (translation)

More Henri, if you can bare it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tooting Bec to Paris

Fond farewells in Tooting Bec.

Minerva, Ellie, Monkey Dude and Swami
Minerva, Ellie, Monkey Dude & Swami in Tooting Bec

We've come to regret bringing bikes on this trip.

Eurostar to Paris
Leaving London. Moving is a nightmare.

Home for the next five weeks.

Our residence for the next five weeks
M. Lee and his mom entering Paris residence

In Paris the first floor is called Ground.

Elevator to our flat
Elevator to the 3rd (4th in US) floor

John, this one's for you.

Partial cheese selection
This is only half of the cheese selection at the grocery store

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lonesome George, RIP

So sorry, Lonesome George.

I really hate to see you go. Forever.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Swami in Tower of London
Swami at Tower of London

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Poetry Unplugged

I finally got around to reading at Poetry Unplugged, the weekly open mic night at the Poetry Society's Poetry Cafe. Very good group. Friendly. Enthusiastic. Ten years running. London is a poetry friendly place. Once again, I think it's the difference in history. England has a grand history with some very great poetry while the US, well, we just don't have much history at all so, when it comes to poetry, not much to refer to or venerate. And West Coast poetry, especially Beat poetry which I inherited, was a lot about discovering there even was a world beyond America and protesting America's ignorance of it. Anyway, sadly not much time to write these days, even this blog. Time to hit the Tube, which does by the way, include poetry. Thank you London.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Napoleon's toothbrush

Napoleon with red toothbrush
Napoleon and his beloved red toothbrush

In the way that ordinary items sometimes do if they happen to survive just long enough, one of Napoleon's toothbrushes has taken on a life of its own. But it is not in France. Like so many items of historical interest, it is in a British museum, in this case the Wellcome Collection where we were the other day. They call themselves "a free destination for the incurably curious" and that they are. It's a fabulous place.

Napoleon's toothbrush
As you might guess, in real life Napoleon preferred a silver handle.

Sadly, our time in London is quickly coming to an end though the trip is not over yet. Next Wednesday we move on to Paris for five weeks. I'm really going to miss London but at least the weather outlook is much better there than here. Small compensation but I'll take it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The list so far

Brick Lane hip merchants
Merchants on Brick Lane

Here is M. Lee's list of places we've visited so far in London. Naturally, I've taken hundreds of photos a day along the way. Just the idea of sorting them out is exhausting. Sunday we went to Brick Lane in  Spitalfield, London's East End. Wild place. I loved it there. Today we went back to the V&A and the Darwin Center at the Natural History Museum. The place is also a research center. I had no idea. The Cocoon houses plant and insect collections that go back 400 years to the Museum's origins.

Graffiti w/ people
Graffiti w/ people, Brick Lane

"This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list and I've probably missed a thing or two, but here's where we've been in about 3.5 weeks. I'll start with Frommer's Top 15, of which we've visited the following.

British Museum (3 or 4 times by now)
Hampstead Heath on a rare sunny day about 2.5 weeks ago
Hampton Court Palace
Hyde Park once upon a time when there was sun
Imperial War Museum (in preparation for the Churchill War Rooms)
National Gallery (several times)
Natural History Museum incl. the Darwin Center & The Cocoon
Tate Modern (sort of hate modern art, for the most part, but some things were stunning)
Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) repeat visits

Not 3-star according to Frommer, but this list includes some pretty excellent stuff:

Windsor Castle (this brought out the inner princess in all of us)
The Mall
National Portrait Gallery
Kensington Palace
Ashmolean Museum in Oxford
Somerset House
Courtauld Gallery
National Portrait Gallery
Sir John Soane's Museum (unexpected hit, one of our faves)
Wallace Collection
Wellcome Collection
Trafalgar Square (hardly needs mentioning since it's inevitable)
Changing of the Horse Guard (more ceremony than Buckingham Guard, plus horses)
St.-Martin-in-the-Fields (mostly for the downstairs crypt cafe - you're having tea on top of the graves)
.Museum of London (again, an unexpected hit)
Museum of London Docklands (can't believe all these great museums and galleries are free)
Whitechapel Art Gallery (something had to disappoint, and this was it)
British Library (they no longer display a letter from young Elizabeth I which was half the reason I went)
Wimbledon Car Boot sale
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Portobello Market
Borough Market
Chinatown (four times so far)
Hamleys (massive upscale toy store) -L."

To which I add the Poetry Café and their Poetry Unplugged open mic night.

Man's best friend
Happy monkey guy, Brick Lane, London

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kansas City Weirdness

First there was Roy the Redeemer, then this.  It's your week, Roy.

SubTropolis, Kansas City

I didn't know your hometown has one of the 10 weirdest urban ecosystems on earth. Or at least according to i09.

Kansas City native

Quite a distinction.
 (link via M. Lee)

Ps. Sorry, I forgot to mention the one detail which adds color to this otherwise halftone post. Ninety percent of the world's underground office space is in, or shall I say under, Kansas City. Thx M. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I remember, especially on rainy days, my dad yelling, "You kids quiet down!!! It's bedlam in here!". We knew what he meant though we'd never heard of Bedlam even though it's been around since 1247. But we're going there today. Well, we're going to the original location of Bedlam. The hospital moved to its new location in the 1930s but, in a town where history goes back thousands of years, they'll be the new kids on the block for the next several hundred years. Until 1770, visitors to Bedlam could watch the lunatics through glass as a Victorian style freak show for the low low cost of one pence but no such show today. Lucky for me. Otherwise chances are I'd be in the show rather than watching it. Bedlam's old Gothic building is a museum now, and perhaps fittingly, London's War Museum which is, in my round about way of telling it, where we're going, the War Museum at the old Bedlam.

So, sorry if this is all too confusing. I'm out of time. We're headed out now and down the Tube. Sandwiches are packed, camera batteries charged and the sun is out but we're not fooled. M. Lee has counseled us to be prepared for rain. He's addicted to the hourly weather report which claims "rain at noon". It said the same thing yesterday but stayed dry and even a bit sunny all day. But it didn't fool M. As far as he was concerned, it might as well have been raining rats.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Windsor Castle w/ Happy Face

Gargoyles at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle, Middle Ward
I've totally failed to keep up with this trip. Traveling with M. Lee is like being in the army. Up early, eat the porridge then march into the Tube and away. Once again, it's too late to begin anything so here are a few photos. For now, I'll have to call that good.

Arrow slits w / happy face
Arrow slits, Middle Ward, Windsor Castle

Arrow slit & happy face
Arrow slit close up

Me, M. Lee, Kathy
Perfunctory tourist shot

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle, Upper Ward

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Roy the Redeemer

Roy the Redeemer
One hundred foot Roy the Redeemer in the act of
Divinely Intervening above the white cliffs of Dover.

Hey Roy, here's one for you....compliments of Ireland’s biggest bookmaker, Paddy Power and the Metro, one of several free dailies read in the Tube. Have you been keeping something from us?

Roy the Redeemer
Article in London Metro.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday at the opera elevator

This morning we visited the home of London architect and collector Sir John Soane. It was turned museum upon his death at his bequest. Like Turner, he wanted to protect his fortune from greedy, conniving family members. Unlike Turner, he was successful. It has been a public museum since the early 19th century. Amazing place. I'm actually glad I hadn't applied for their (free) photographer's permit before going. The collection and home itself are so over the top. I would have taken way too many photos and really bogged myself down with editing. If you are ever in London, check it out. That is all.

Gothic church, London
Church across street from British Library.
How can anyone pretend that religion is not all about politics and power?

After the Soane , we went to the British Library. Their website describes the library as a "world-class cultural and intellectual resource that serves the needs of today’s researchers as well as being the custodian of the nation’s written and spoken heritage". We saw the Magna Carta, handwritten drafts by various famous authors such as William Blake, Shakespeare and Jane Austen to John Lennon's scribbled beginning for Hard Day's Night. No matter. M. Lee was extremely disappointed. The personal letter penned by Lillibet, Queen Elizabeth's name when she was a girl, had been rotated out of the displays.

After that, back to Harrods. Kathy wanted to buy a tin of cookies for a gift. A different opera singer was serenading customers on the elevator.

Another day, another museum

We're headed out in about 15 minutes so I only have time to post a few photos from yesterday, that beingTuesday. Wednesday we were at the British Museum where we finally made it to the mummy room. Of course that exhibit was packed. Photos from that later. So, have a great day. I'm off...into the rain and down the tube...

London Underground
Down the tube and off and away

Horse on London street
Inexplicable. Horse and  rider at Vauxhall Bridge

Tate Britain
Tate Britain

JMW Turner
JMW Turner, self-portrait at age 24

Turner wanted to leave the bulk of his portion to help poor painters but, after his death, his greedy conniving family members got it for themselves.

Ophelia, John Everett Millais
Ophelia by John Everett Millais.Big hair day at the Tate Britain. 

Man on the street on the street

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, Day Four

Queen Elizabeth then and now
Elizabeth, then and now. Subway billboard.

The Queen's four day Diamond Jubilee has finally come to an end. Lovely event. The Queen was Her usual regal but human self; classic and modern. She had History to make and did.

Silver hand
Silver hand, V&A Museum

The luncheons, carriage parades, concerts, horses, ships and river boats, jets (the RAF finally got to do its flyover), cheering throngs, snipers lining the rooftops. The rain. The stress put poor Prince Philip in the hospital. Today our neighbors on Huron Street started taking down the flags and cleaned up the detritus from yesterday's Jubilee block party. Done. Good.

Whitechapel High Street
Whitechapel High Street

Today, we took the tube to the Museum of London Docklands. Excellent exhibit. Wonderful life-size, walk-though dioramas to draw you in. Afterwards we went to the Whitechapel Gallery in London's East End. It has a prestigious history but I can't say much for the exhibits we saw today. Seems the place is more geared to events and projects like their writer-in-residence program and workshops. It has the only store I've ever seen that carries art books by Yoko Ono.

Whitechapel High Street
Whitechapel High Street

It's been raining since mid-afternoon and we are home and tucked in early. The opera singer who lives across the street has been practicing again today. Her soprano voice goes well with the rain. I was going to read at the open mic at the Poetry Cafe tonight but we have to get up really early tomorrow morning to accompany M. Lee's mom downtown so we need to get to bed early tonight. I'll probably read next week instead.

Dockland walkabout

Monday, June 4, 2012

Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, Day Three

Holy cow! Day Three of the Diamond Jubilee is almost over and I am only just now beginning this post. Big day at the Palace. Ten thousand people were Her guests for a lovely basket lunch in the garden and it didn't rain. Fantastic. We took the tube to central London to visit the Victoria & Albert museum. Overwhelming.

Royal chamber
Royal chamber....or is it?

As lions watch
As lions watch

Lovely lady at the museum
Lovely museum goer

Victoria & Albert museum
The alter of fashion

London chap
Man on the street

Big concert at the Palace tonight. We enjoyed a pleasant walk around Tooting Bec.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, Day Two

Rainy day in Tooting Bec
Rainy day in Tooting Bec

A.M. It's raining in Tooting Bec. Too bad. Today is the Queen's grand river pageant on the Thames. We decided not to attend. To begin with, M. Lee's mom is 82 so we thought, with over a million people jostling for a view, we'd do better watching the broadcast from home instead. So, we're taking the tube this morning to the nearest grocery store to pick up some things for our own version of high tea and watch all the fun live online via the skyNEWS feed.

High tea & Jubilee
High tea and Jubilee

It is almost 6. Nearly the entire flotilla has now passed by the Queen as she stands in review with her entourage on the Royal Barge in furious rain. They are saying that it's cold enough to see your breath. The fly pass of military jets, the grand finale, had to be cancelled due to the weather but the Queen has stayed strong through it all. My hat is off to her. In the brief time we've been in London I have really come to appreciate the fine standard she has set during her 60 years as Monarch. We have no such thing in America and have torn ourselves apart trying to establish a reference point.

London Philharmonic Orchestra serenades the Queen
London Philharmonic Orchestra and choir's grand finale serenade.

Finally, the London Philharmonic Orchestra boat arrives before the Queen. They serenade her with several rousing numbers including a happy little sea shanty which brings smiles then laughter from Her, Camilla and Kate. And at last they sing the National Anthem which thereby brings this glorious Pageant to a merciful close.

Footnote: An especially big hit around here today was the unexpected appearance along the river of Joey, star of War Horse currently playing at the National Theater. Swami, Ella and Minerva were thrilled.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, Day One

Corgie Queen

This morning we walked over to the Saturday market and got og veggies, British pasties and eggs from hens who supposedly spend their days in an orchard nibbling soft fruit and tasty bugs. Last Saturday we went to the Portobello Road flea market instead but regretted missing the local market so today it was at the top of the agenda.

Wild Country Organics, UK
Wild Country Organics, great greens!

After bringing everything home and putting it away we took the tube to central London. Our first stop was a Salvation Army store Kathy read about online. That's M. Lee's mom. The three of us are traveling together. She read that people from the nearby College of Design and Vogue Magazine offices check the place early and often with good results. She's like a bloodhound when it comes to these things and actually did dig up a treasure, a fabulous cashmere top coat for £75 that would sell new for about £1000 but it turned out to be a heart breaker. Too small.

View from the Tate

Sleeping Venus by Paul Delvaux
Sleeping Venus by Paul Delvaux on display at the Tate Modern

But no matter. We went to a nearby park and ate our sandwiches. I couldn't help but share a tiny bit with the pigeons but very much on the down-low as there's a £500 fine for such things. After lunch, we took the tube back to London Bridge then walked along the Thames to the Tate Modern. Wow. What a great place. Like the other museums we've visited in London, we saw only a fraction of what's on display. We'll try to make it back again before we go.

Borough High St. street party
Borough High St. street party

Today is day one of Queen Elizabeth's four day Diamond Jubilee Celebration. I hear she went to opening day at Ascot. On our way back to the Tube and home, pub and street parties were well underway. I'm not sure people were celebrating anything in particular, just having a good time. Tomorrow we'll do our best to catch a glimpse of the historic Thames Jubilee Pageant. The Queen will travel in a flotilla of up to one thousand boats for what is expected to be a seven and a half mile long water parade and largest fleet of ships to be assembled on the River Thames in 350 years.