As I mentioned briefly in my first post this month, I went to Las Vegas for a convention for work (the same conference I went to in 2011). The trip out there was uneventful, and I made it to the hotel fine.
The hotel I and my co-workers were staying in this time was the Luxor. Yes, it’s the big, black pyramid:
At night it has that huge beacon shining up toward space from the apex. In a city that’s well known for its light pollution, this place may be the worst offender.
Some statuary out front (click any picture to enlarge):
Similar features are found on the interior:
Looking up at the apex from the ground level:
I ended up with a room on the 26th floor (there are about 30 floors total). Getting up there was kind of neat, as the elevators in the place travel diagonally in the 4 edges of the building (you can’t see outside the elevator while you’re in it, but you can feel that the movement is partly horizontal). On each floor, there are walkways which are open to look down, with the rooms all on the exterior of the structure. Here’s the view across the interior from outside my room door:
And looking down:
Here’s the room itself:
There were heiroglyphs on the bureau (not sure whether they’re real ancient Egyptian letters):
The hand soap in the bathroom was also part of the theme:
You can see by the angle of the window that the room is on the side of a pyramid:
Here’s the view, looking northward at the Excalibur:
Looking slightly to either side are the Luxor’s adjacent towers, which hold more guest rooms:
Here is the view at night:
It was a comfy room, and the Internet connection worked well, though I was a bit surprised that the rooms only offer wired Internet. Wireless is only available in the public areas on the lower floors. At least they provided an ethernet cable on the desk, given that I had not brought one.
After flying from Heathrow to Keflavik, Iceland, I prepared for an overnight stay in the terminal, as my next flight was at 10:30am. I sat down near a power outlet with my laptop, but though I could get my laptop on the airport wi-fi, I could not connect to the Internet. For some reason, it would not pop up the little “login, accept our terms” page, and without completing that I think it would not let me through. So I had to content myself with connecting on my phone (fine for e-mail, not so much for web browsing).
After a little while, an airport worker came by and informed me, and the couple of other people sitting nearby, that we could not be in that section of the terminal overnight. We would have to go up to the main level for the night. This involved going through passport control, which seemed odd to do given that I would not be leaving the airport. Doing so was complicated, though, by the fact that passport control was already shut down for the night when we got up there, so we could not go through. Another trip or two back downstairs was made before we were finally told that someone was on their way to open up a booth and scan our passports to let us through. In total we waited around for more than 30 minutes.
Finally in the main portion of the terminal, I made a another attempt at the wi-fi with the laptop, then gave up and lay down on gate area seating to try and get some sleep. Though not very comfortable, I did manage to sleep – about 4 hours or so. By that time some of the food places were opening, so I went to get some breakfast.
I got some bland eggs, toast, and potatoes around 6:30am, and then shortly after 7:00, passport control and the downstairs section opened again. I was able to go down and find my departure gate, where I sat and read for a while (still couldn’t get my computer online). The flight was my longest of the whole trip, 5.5 hours, and I spent a bunch of time watching The Sound of Music, which I had never gotten around to seeing before. (It seems kind of like 2 different films trying to be one story)
We got into Boston shortly after noon, and getting through customs was not too bad (it was no hassle, but did involve somewhat of a wait). Some bus and car rides later I was home, in time for dinner, and with one more day off from work to recover from any jet lag.
On my last day in London I got to spend half the day in the city. I left the apartment I’d been staying in and took the bus up to King’s Cross station again, and stored my luggage there. I then walked to the British Museum again to go through more of its galleries (stopping on the way for one more full English breakfast – the first one I got that included toast).
I went through a few Asian galleries, the remaining Greek ones, and Assyrian ones. I also went through a large library that had display cases summarizing the history of the types of collecting done for the museum and what was learned from various categories of collected objects.
I left the museum, having been through pretty much every gallery, around 4pm, and took a quick subway ride back to King’s Cross. I picked up my bags and got on the Underground’s Picadilly line, which goes all the way to Heathrow.
Once at the airport, I had a bit of a walk to get to the check-in counter, but I got through there and security fairly quickly, and then had some food while waiting for my flight. Heathrow has an unusual way of handling departure gates – they have all the passengers wait in one central area, and only announce which gate your flight will leave from about 40 minutes before departure.
The flight was full, but comfy, and I watched one more Icelandic film – this one a documentary called Ash, about the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 and the consequences that 3 farm families suffered from all the ash that fell.
I got into Keflavik around 11:30pm, and had an overnight layover ahead of me before my flight to the US. Was it a pleasant night? Stay tuned tomorrow…
On Friday, 9/12, I headed for Picadilly in the morning, to go by a small art gallery. The gallery had a showing of photographs of Kate Bush by 2 different photographers (showing that month because of the concerts). Before stopping in to the gallery, I found a somewhat fancy restaurant in which to have breakfast, and ended up ordering kedgeree. The version I was served is mostly as described in the wiki, except that it had a single poached egg on top instead of boiled eggs, and it contained salmon as well as haddock. It was pretty good.
I looked over the gallery show pretty quickly, as there weren’t a huge number of photos. Some of them were interesting, but not enough for me to want to buy the KB art books by either artist.
After that I headed to the Institute of Contemporary Arts. I was interested in looking at exhibits they had, as well as seeing a movie in their theater in the afternoon. I bought the film ticket, and proceeded to start going through exhibits – which there weren’t many of. It did not take me long to go through the place, so I had a couple of hours free before the movie was to start.
I ended up walking over to Trafalgar Square. Here is the famous column topped by Admiral Horatio Nelson:
and one of the lions around the base of the column:
The National Gallery, on the far side of the square:
One of the fountains in the square had a worker wading through and cleaning it:
And here is the Fourth Plinth, which apparently has often-changing art installations:
Blue chicken currently on show.
After taking these pics, I went into the National Gallery and looked at all sorts of paintings for an hour or so. I then headed back to the ICA for the film. I was seeing an Iranian film – Manuscripts Don’t Burn. It was a well done movie, though quite bleak.
After the movie I went in search of dinner, and chose an Indian restaurant near the West End theater district. I had vegetarian thali (always a good thing to order if you want to try a number of dishes). Afterward, I walked around some of the West End, before heading to the National Gallery a second time and going through just about the rest of it before they closed at 9pm.
From there I walked to the Thames, crossed over the Jubilee Bridge, and headed along the south bank toward Westminster bridge. I caught the bus near the bridge and headed back to sleep my final night in London.
On Thursday of my visit to London, I headed up to the Tower of London. Before entering the place, I went looking for some food, and got a mediocre partial English breakfast at a pub. The person who served me did not seem to be experienced at serving breakfast, as she had to consult with someone to figure out what was in the different breakfast offerings on the menu. She also gave me tea in a cup that didn’t match its saucer (it barely balanced on the saucer).
While heading to the Tower entrance, I saw a big field of poppies around it:
Here’s a close-up (click to make bigger):
They’re made of porcelain, and attached to wires. They’re a commemoration of World War I – more info can be found here.
I went in and waited for a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) tour to start. While waiting, I noticed interesting looking buildings across the river:
Soon, this Warder, named Moira, showed up to start the tour:
Here is the entrance through the outer wall:
Some shots inside:
Moira talked about a number of executions and other bloody stuff that happened in centuries past in the Tower (which is actually a big fortress with multiple towers in it). The tour did not actually go inside any of the buildings – we were left to do that on our own after the tour. At the tour’s conclusion, she took questions, and there were some interesting ones. For one, the Scottish independence vote was still a week in the future at that point, so she was asked her opinion (as she is Scottish). She demurred. She was also asked about the first female Yeoman Warder, to which she answered, “Yes.” The questioner then said, “When was that?” and she replied, “I started in 2007.” I later learned that not only is she the first woman to serve in the position, she is still the only one to have done so.
This portcullis is in the bottom of the “Bloody Tower”:
and here is the top of it, inside:
In another building, graffiti carved by people held prisoner there:
A guard outside the residence used by the royal family, if they are ever staying at the Tower:
and this guard is outside the building which houses the Crown Jewels:
The White Tower, at the center of the complex:
A narrow window:
There are ravens kept at the tower:
You can tell they’re used to people, as you can get quite close to them:
This is the Traitor’s Gate, where prisoners were brought in directly from the Thames (safer than bringing them in by land):
A cannon decorated with dragons:
I exited the Tower on the river side, and was able to see the sort of moat there:
as well as the other side of the Traitor’s Gate:
And here is the Tower Bridge:
From there, I took a bus west, and got off by St. Paul’s Cathedral:
I then walked south, to head over the river on the Millennium Bridge:
The view from the bridge:
Looking back toward St. Paul’s:
The bridge as seen from the south bank:
I was headed for the Tate Modern museum, which is pictured here from the bridge:
I spent a few hours there, especially interested in their surrealist exhibit (they had at least one Dali). It’s also generally fun to see cubism and other 20th century stuff.
After the Tate, I went to a pub just downriver, and got takeaway fish and chips (with mushy peas). It was quite good, and included a big slab of fish.
After dinner, I headed into Shakespeare’s Globe, a recreation of the original 16th century theater, to see The Comedy of Errors.
I had bought a ticket to stand in the yard, as it was cheap, and why not be right up by the stage? My feet were a bit sore from days of walking, but I got in early enough that I was able to get a spot right at the stage and could lean on it.
Here’s the interior of the place:
and the exterior when I left later:
The play was quite funny. I had never seen it before, but this is the Shakespeare play that involves a huge misunderstanding, and mistaken identity…
The Millennium Bridge was lit up after dark:
I walked upriver to Blackfriar’s Bridge, and just south of there I was able to catch a bus back to my lodging.
Second day in London: I took the bus to Westminster, getting off right near the houses of Parliament. I first walked around looking for breakfast, and ended up getting pastries (including a pecan roll) in a sandwich shop. Then I took pictures of some oft-photographed stuff.
Like this place:
I took pictures of it from the other side, as well, standing on Westminster Bridge:
Here’s the view upriver, alongside Parliament:
And here is the London Eye, on the downriver side of the bridge:
There are various statues in this area. Of course, in England you would expect to find a statue of Abraham Lincoln:
There seem to be a few leaders from other countries there, actually, such as Mandela:
And there is the obligatory statue of Mr. Churchill:
This memorial has an interesting way of depicting its subject (click to enlarge):
I also wandered by Westminster Abbey, and thought about going in, but it would have cost £20, so I contented myself with taking pictures of the exterior:
This column was near the abbey:
After walking around there, I took the underground a few stops west, and then walked to the Museum of Science.
On the way there, I spotted this sign:
which I thought was an odd name for a hotel.
I spent most of the afternoon at the Science Museum, as there was plenty to see. It included several early steam engines. This is an early locomotive:
This began a long hall that followed the development of technology over the past 2 centuries. Also in the beginning of that hall was a piece of Charles Babbage’s difference engine:
(more Babbage stuff later)
A lighthouse lens:
Planes and cars:
There were a few computer exhibits near the end, including an Apple I:
The NeXT machine that was used as the first world wide web server:
and a Cray supercomputer:
On an upper floor was a hall of math and computing, and it included a larger difference engine model:
As well as a model of the analytic engine:
with punch cards for programming it:
In another display case was a portrait of Babbage, some of his notes…and his brain:
When I had finished at the museum, I got dinner at a nearby Mediterranean place (lamb with couscous, and an orange-almond cake for dessert), and then rode the subway back to Westminster. I walked north to look around St. James Park, since it was still light out. This park has a small lake in it, and has many, many waterfowl, some of which were imported to it by the royal family.
Here are a number of the denizens:
There were black swans:
and gray swans:
And coots, which have neat feet:
I don’t know what these red birds are (and did not get a good picture of them):
I thought this bicyclist was topiary at first:
but it’s actually some kind of vine on a frame.
As it got dark, I saw a fox bound across the path I was walking on, so I followed it for a bit, but could not get a good photo.
I made my way back to the Thames, and took a night picture of the London Eye:
As well as this walking bridge (the Golden Jubilee bridge):
I’d had enough walking for the day at that point, so I hopped on a bus and headed to the airbnb apartment and bed.
I arrived in London by train from Didcot in the early evening of September 8, disembarking at Paddington Station. I was feeling hungry, but wanted to get my luggage to the place I’d be staying before seeking food.
It took a little bit of time to find the correct bus stop, but I did manage to fit myself and my 3 bags onto a bus, rode it a ways south and east, and transferred to another bus to go a bit further. I had booked a room in an apartment for 5 nights, again through airbnb, and I got there a bit after 8:00. The couple who lived there were very nice, offering me some leftover stir-fry that they had made for dinner, so I had no need to go out for a late meal.
The next morning, I took a bus north up to King’s Cross Station, and then walked southwest toward some museums I planned to visit. The bus system in London seems to run pretty well, as there are frequent buses, and most of them are double-decker, so there’s often plenty of capacity.
I had been told I should try a full English breakfast, so I stopped in at at a pub, but it turned out to be an Irish pub. I got their “Irish Breakfast,” which involved most of the same foods. It contained:
- 1 fried egg
- 2 pork and leek sausages
- 2 rashers of bacon
- a piece of potato bread
- baked beans
- grilled tomato
- grilled mushroom
- 1 slice of black pudding
- 1 slice of white pudding
I had not even heard of white pudding before, but it and the black pudding were not bad. The other items were pretty good.
From there I headed through the Bloomsbury neighborhood of the city, where I happened upon a little park called Tavistock Square. The place seemed somewhat dedicated to peace, as at the center of the park there is a statue of Ghandi:
and in the north end of the park was a monument to conscientious objectors (click on any image to see it bigger):
The park also had a monument to a famous literary figure of Bloomsbury’s past:
From there I headed to the Cartoon Museum. It’s a small place, so I expected to spend only an hour or so – maybe 2 hours there. I ended up being there for about 3.5 hours, as I wanted to read most of the cartoons and comic pages that were on exhibit. This being 2014, the museum had a large exhibit of World War I art, which was very absorbing.
Once I was finished at the Cartoon Museum, I walked a couple of blocks north to the British Museum. At this point I only had a bit over 2 hours to spend there, and it’s a big place, but it’s free admission, and I could always come back later in the week to see more.
Here is the front of the place:
Which is bordered by this ornate fence:
And then the interior courtyard, looking back toward the entrance hall:
This area was in the past open to the air, but now has this interesting roof:
This is the center section of the courtyard, with stairways going upward around both sides of it:
I managed to see a number of Mesopotamian, Greek, and Roman artifacts, as well as an exhibit of clocks and watches, and early Anglo-Saxon items.
Upon leaving there, I took the Underground for the first time, heading out to Hammersmith. There I got a quick dinner at a falafel place (and cheap for London – a sandwich and drink were only £4 total), and then went to the Apollo theater for the Kate Bush concert (the motivation for this whole trip).
The place was quite crowded, but that’s not surprising for a sold out concert. I visited one of the merchandise booths to get a couple of things, and then made my way to my seat, way up in the balcony. Photography was strongly discouraged, as this was supposed to be treated more like a theatrical show than a rock concert. I did take a picture of the venue before the show started, though:
And here’s one at intermission (the feather on the curtain was related to the second act content):
After that performance, I saw an announcement that some of the nights would be recorded for a DVD release, so I don’t want to say too much about the content of the show, as some folks reading this might watch the video of it at some point. The show was mostly made up of 2 themed song sets from her albums (one of these sets in each half of the concert), and those involved dramatic content, neat costuming, and even special effects. But there were several songs performed in a more straightforward manner, as well. I had a great time, and still find it a bit hard to believe that I actually got to see her perform live after all these years.
Leaving the venue at the end, I noticed it was lit with color-changing lights:
It had still been light out when I went in, 4 hours or so earlier (the show itself was about 3 hours long).
A combination of subway and bus got me back to my lodging, and I headed to bed soon after.
Next: government, science, and more waterfowl.
On my second day in England, I returned to Oxford and took a boat tour of the Thames River (the waterway also known in that city as the Isis).
I walked down to the tour place a bit early and bought my ticket, and then walked around until the departure time. Here’s the river, seen from Folly Bridge, right near the tour boat launch:
I walked down near the river and saw a bunch of geese feasting on bread someone had thrown there:
I walked south from there, away from the river, and in front of a house I saw some birds I did not recognize. I found out later that these are magpies:
I noticed a path that went off the road alongside some athletic fields, and saw that the sign indicated that it was a public path that went through to the river. So I walked through there and came out on the Thames Path. Looking up river there were several University boathouses:
Here’s the view downriver from the same spot:
I followed the path upriver, back toward the tour place. On the way, I saw several houseboats that were moored by the side:
Some of which had a lot of plants on them:
Apparently there are a lot of river sections where the public can moor for a few days at a time.
Here’s a view of a park across the river:
I got back to the boat launch and soon was able to get on board the small boat. There were about 8 other passengers, and fortunately there was a canopy over most of the boat, as it was quite sunny.
First the boat headed downriver. Here’s a building near Folly Bridge:
We passed the boathouses I had seen from the shore, and a few more. These are the oldest ones, apparently:
We turned around at Iffley Lock and then headed upriver for the major portion of the tour.
This included going through a lock, where the boat pilot got out and operated the controls to close the doors and fill the lock.
Here we are heading into the lock:
As the water filled it, there was a duck floating there with us:
And here is the lock open for us to continue upriver:
At one point, a person on the shore was taking our picture. I tried to get a photo of him while he was doing so, but I wasn’t quick enough:
Some other views on the sides of the river:
The north end of the tour was at Port Meadow, which is common land in Oxford (and also a floodplain). There were a whole lot of birds there:
Also horses grazing and drinking:
That swan kept dunking its head when I wanted to take its picture.
I did get a closeup of this heron, though:
Here’s a building I thought was neat looking as we were headed back downriver:
An obelisk along the bank:
I think this is a train bridge:
After the tour ended, I walked back toward the train station, happening to pass Oxford Castle on the way:
And this is a canal that flows through the city:
I took the train back to Didcot, where I collected my luggage from my friend’s place, and then boarded another train to head to London, where I would spend the next 5 days.
Just a quick post tonight, as I’m pressed for time.
When I was in the Keflavik airport, about to fly to England, I found this postcard in the duty-free shop:
(Click the photo to see it at a larger size)
I thought it summed up the trip pretty nicely.
My first morning in England I had porridge for breakfast at my friend’s place in Didcot, and then we headed off to Oxford by train.
We first visited the Ashmolean museum, where we looked at a lot Greek and Roman items (large statues as well as tiny, intricate jewelry), as well as some South Asian and Middle Eastern stuff. After that we went by Blackwell’s book store, and got lunch in the cafe there.
Much of the city is the university, and the buildings are quite interesting (and old). I don’t recall what most of them were, but here are some of the places we passed while walking around:
Some of the buildings have statuary on them:
Or in front of them:
After lunch, we made our way to the Pitt Rivers museum, an old-style museum that is full of display cases crowded together, where the items in a given case are of similar type, though they may be from different cultures. It’s certainly organized differently from most museums one might go to.
On the way there, I saw these flowers growing out of a wall:
This is the Natural History Museum, through which one must pass to get to the Pitt Rivers:
We had time to look through most of the Pitt Rivers, but not to look through the Natural History museum, as they both were closing at 4:00.
More buildings from continued walking in the late afternoon:
Some grotesques on the side of a building:
This is apparently known as the Bridge of Sighs (not to be confused with the one in Venice):
Here’s an interesting clock:
I liked the light on the street in this picture:
We had dinner at a pub called the King’s Arms. I had rabbit pie with mashed potatoes, which was quite a lot of food. I had never had rabbit before, but found it pretty tasty.
Not long after dinner, we took the train back down to Didcot. I had plans to head back up to Oxford myself the next day to see the city by water.
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