Thursday, August 29, 2013

The British Museum

 I first visited the British Museum when I was very young, but only in my imagination.  I read The Story of the Amulet by E. Nesbitt in which an ancient Egyptian queen comes to the museum to take back some of her possessions.  The museum has been special ever since.
The museum was first opened in 1759, a building to house the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, who wanted his artifacts to be available for everyone to see.  It was the first national public museum in the world and has never charged for admission.  Special exhibits do have an entrance fee, but the regular exhibits are open to anyone.  Of course, a donation is always welcome.
Click for full width.
 Gates to match the scale of the British museum building.

 Simple forms and shapes

 More wonderful carvings.
Click for full width.

A couple of people to help give scale to the grand columns.
People are not allowed to take photos in the museum, but the museum collection is on line . Lots of Greek, Roman,  Egyptian, early Anglo-Saxon, Arabic, etc. etc.  We saw the  Rosetta Stone, up close, and I was surprised at how small the script was given that it is chiseled into the stone.  The top third of the stone is hieroglyphics, the second third is Demotic, an Egyptian form of writing, and the bottom third is ancient Greek.  All three sections are translations of each other, and this stone was crucial in learning the meaning of the hieroglyphics.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

By The Sea -Brighton

 We couldn't go to England without a trip to the seashore so on Day 2 (yes, all those pictures last week were from Day 1) we headed down to Brighton.  Everything is so close in England.  A short one-hour train ride from Paddington Station, which happened to be close to our hotel, and we were down by the sea.  Actually before we hit the beach, we picked up some Cornish pasties at the train station.  Very yummy - a pastry turnover with a savory filling.  We tried vegetable, and chicken and vegetable.  We could have walked to the beach but my husband's knee was acting up so we took a cab down to the shore.

 Lots of people enjoying the beautiful weather.  One family was burying their mother in the pebbles - the beach is made of small rounded pebbles.  They are surprisingly comfortable to sit on and you don't get sand stuck all over your clothes and feet.  In the background, is the Brighton Pier , an amusement park.

 Brighton has been a tourist hot-spot since the 1800's and many of the buildings date back to that time.  The white and off-white colour of the hotels looks fabulous against the blue sky.

Under the walkway, there are lots of little shops and restaurants.  Care for some jellied eel?
It felt very much like going to a fair except there was the added attraction of the ocean.    We spent an enjoyable afternoon and took the train back to London. We had hoped to see some of the countryside on our train ride, but that route has many embankments and trees right by the tracks so we rarely got a view into the distance. The glimpses we got showed slightly rolling farm land, not unlike Eastern Ontario.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Some August Flowers

 This is Rudbeckia Cherry Brandy, a type of Gloriosa Daisy.  It is similar to the wild Brown-Eyed Susans that you see growing by the roadside.  Officially, it is a perennial but is not reliably hardy so it is usually grown as an annual.  However, it can self-sow and perpetuate itself that way.  I'm hoping it will appear next year as I like the unusual colour.
 It grows to 2 -2 1/2 ' tall, shorter than the Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum'.  Like all Rudbeckias , it loves full sun.
 I am super pleased with this Rudbeckia 'Autumn Sun'.  It is a hardy perennial (zone 5) so here's hoping it makes it through the winter.  The yellow is brighter than Goldstrum which leans to orange.
'Autumn Sun' grows to be 5-6' tall! and it doesn't flop.  The stems are very sturdy.  So hard to find a tall plant that doesn't fall over.  It's been blooming for a few weeks now and has more buds coming.
Wild purple asters are beside it which should look nice once they open up.

 Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' with some purple coneflowers.  They grow super well together and both of them make seeds that the birds will eat in the fall and winter.

 I've been wanting a Heliopsis for a while and finally found one that I liked this year.  I like the orangey centers and the dark stems.  It should fill out and become a large clump.  It's in the wilder garden on the side of the road so it has room to spread.

 While we were in England, the broccoli bloomed.  At first, I thought I would pick off all the flowers, but then I noticed that lots of small bumblebees were feeding on it so I left it for a week. I do want more broccoli shoots to grow though, so I had to eventual take off the flowers.

I tried to take a picture of the bees but they were too active to catch.  Instead here is a view of what the broccoli flowers might look like to the bees.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Some Details from the Abbey

 Adding to the beauty of the carvings and decorations are the subtle colour changes in the beige stone.

 So many different patterns and yet they all work well together.

 Westminster Column is just outside the Abbey and was built in memory of the men who died fighting in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny in the mid 1800's.

 The side panels probably had stain glass in them originally.  Many of the windows simply have plain glass or have been closed completely.

 A series of ten statues on the front of the Abbey in recognition of ten modern martyrs.  In this group, Archibishop Luwum killed by Idi Amin; Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, renowned for her work with the poor, killed by the Bolsheviks; Martin Luther King.
 Esther John, a Pakistani girl killed for being a Christian; Lucian Tapiede, a Christian from Papua New Guinea killed by the Japanese; Wang Zhiming, a Chinese pastor killed in the Cultural Revolution.  The other 4 statues are Manche Masemola, a South African girl, killed by her parents because she became a Christian; Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan friar who asked to be and was killed instead of another prisoner in Auschwitz; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who spoke out against the Nazis and was killed by them; and Oscar Romero, RC Archbishop in El Salvador who championed the poor but was assassinated in 1980.

Click on the photos for a bigger view.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Abbey at Last

 When we finally arrived at Westminster Abbey, it looked lovely with the warm evening sun shining on it.
Benedictine Monks had a community on this site in the 10th Century beginning a tradition of daily prayers that continues until today.  It has been the Coronation church since 1066 and the present church was built by Henry III in the 13th Century.
During WW2, it sustained some repairable damage and it lost a lot of its stained glass windows due to the force of the bomb blasts.
 A view of one of the side walls.

 Incredible doorways that just draw you in.

 Entrance on the side.  If you go on a tour, this is the side you line up on.  The line-ups can be very, very long.  November might be a good time to try to get inside, rather than the tourist season in August.  More about that later.

And looking way, way up.
Next time, some details of the Abbey.  There is so much photo material here that you could seriously wear out your camera.
As you can see, we had fabulous weather, too.  About 22C with sun and a breeze.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Westminster Cathedral

We hopped on a bus that was to take us to Westminster Abbey.  I was diligently watching the bus stops as they came up on the electronic notice board on the bus, but I was not paying enough attention to particulars and assumed that Westminster Cathedral meant Westminster Abbey.  Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!  However, as so often happens when I get lost in London, it turned out to be an interesting sidestep.
  Westminster Cathedral is the mother church for the Catholic church in England and Wales.
 The Cathedral is a youngster as far as London buildings go as it was completed in 1903.

 The unusual striped brickwork is considered to be neo-Byzantine.  Certainly does look Middle Eastern.

 The apartment block across the road mirrors the stripes for a matching view.

 Lots of decorative carvings along the front of the cathedral.

Looking away from the cathedral, you see some very modern buildings.  The curved roof line softens the harshness of glass and steel.
After gawking at the cathedral, we consulted our maps , made a few more wrong turns and ended up back on the bus heading for the Abbey.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Form and Function - London, UK

After our walk to the Palace, we decided we would hop a subway, I mean, the Underground to get back to the hotel.  We headed out in the direction of Green Park station .

 So many lovely buildings everywhere.

 And so many chimneys everywhere. Instead of a large main chimney, most buildings have
several chimneys, perhaps for each floor.

This is a close-up of the rounded end of the building in the second photo.  What attention to detail! And so harmonious as a whole.

A melange of rooftops and chimneys.  Wish the picture wasn't blurry.

 A handsome building with a rooftop with a railing so you can enjoy the view.

An alleyway.  Lots of  alleyways between streets or leading into the mews where they used to have the horse stables.
No picture of the Underground station which we eventually found after a missed turn. London streets take many unexpected twists and turns so it's easy to get lost.  A trusty map is a must.
 London has an extensive subway system.  They started building it in the 1800's so they've had lot of time to expand it.  It's a great way to get around but if stairs are an issue, then the buses are a better option, as many of the underground stations do not have escalators.  You can buy an Oyster transit card,usable for different lengths of time, which is good on  the buses and subways.  Very convenient.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Around the Palace

Sun shining through a railing near Buckingham Palace.

 A dramatic unicorn with a whale (fish?) in the background.  Also near the palace.

 A closer view of the Victoria memorial.  Everywhere in London there is superb sculpting.

 At first glance the trees would seem to be of ordinary height, but when you see a person nearby you realize how huge these trees in Green Park are.

 Fleur de lys ornaments.  Reminds me of Quebec.

 A not-so-picturesque view looking away from the palace.  There is lots of building going on in London.  Time does not stand still.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Buckingham Palace

  When we arrived at Buckingham Palace, I was again reminded that I don't find it a very attractive building. To me it looks like a courthouse or some other similar institution, but I suppose a palace isn't necessarily supposed to look inviting.  The geraniums were nice, though.

 The Victoria Memorial Monument stands in front of the palace.  I find it has a little too much gold for my taste - dare I say tacky?

 Old school security.
 Modern security.
Both patrol at the palace.  My son tells me that the red coated guards are highly trained and that I should not be deceived by their quaint uniform.

 An impressive crest on a gate.

 After I got home, I found out that this gate is called the Canada gate.  Behind the gate, is Green park with its wonderful big trees.