London – Day 6 – A Big Hullabaloo

The London portion of our adventure is finally nearing an end.  So far we have The Whole of London (Day 1), East London (2), Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (3), Taking a Ride on a Big Red Bus (4), and Doctors and Museums (5).  As promised in Doctors and Museums, this post will take us back to the National Gallery, but there’s this other big hullabaloo we wanted to see first…


Day 6 – London – 4/5/2016

Our big plans for the day?  See the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace and finish walking around the National Gallery.

Those plans start and end at the same location…Trafalgar Square.  So we headed to the square, got a cup of coffee and biscuit…(and a couple of quick pictures with the lions of Nelson’s Column)…

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…and then headed down The Mall toward Buckingham Palace.

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Changing of the Guard Ceremony

Our Big Red Bus tour guide had informed us that if we wanted to see the ceremony we needed to get there at least an hour early for prime seats.  The ceremony begins at 11:30AM, and we actually got there before 10:30, but as you can see in the photo below…there were already a lot of people there…

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Without much trouble we managed to get a good standing spot (about the third person deep) near the fence, and we stood there waiting for a little over an hour.  We didn’t have any problems until right at 11:30…then everyone started trying to rush and push there way to the front.  I really, really hate that too.  I’m tall, so I naturally make an effort to stand near the back (or around a pole or something…something that’s already blocking the view), but when people wait until the last minute and force their way…not happy memories.

The ceremony itself was…okay.  There were so many people pushing and shoving, trying to get a good view of the Queen’s Guard who were…standing there…

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There were a few times when the guard would march their way into the palace (or ride in on horses), but when this happened, all those latecomers who forced their way to the front forced their way to the street side of the event…

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And then there was more standing…

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…and then more standing…

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…followed by marching a few steps…to stand some more.  Things were being said, and certain guard members were constantly moving, but I couldn’t really tell what was going on.

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Until the marching band came in.  They were fun to watch for a song or two…

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After waiting over an hour and seeing about 30 minutes of the ceremony, Brittany and I had decided that we had been pushed and shoved entirely too much and decided it was time to go before everyone else decided it was time to go.  Overall, I’d say if you do want to see the ceremony, get there early enough to sit on the steps of the fountain or stand pretty far back.  We watched a bit more of it from way back, and had a much more pleasant experience…

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It also gave us time to get a better picture of the Victoria Memorial in front of the palace.  This is Winged Victory with Constancy and Courage.

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And another view of the mass amount of people at the ceremony…

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Walking back down The Mall, we stopped to get a photo of the statues of the Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth II’s mother).  “Standing next to the bronze statue of her husband, King George VI, this national memorial to The Queen Mother, who died in 2002 aged 101, was unveiled by Her Majesty The Queen in February 2009.” (Royalparks.org.uk)

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And King George VI .  “This bronze memorial features a statue of the king dressed in naval uniform, standing on a plinth of Portland stone. It was unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen in 1955.”  (Royalparks.org.uk)

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Trafalgar Square and National Gallery

The Mall led us back to Trafalgar Square for our reentrance to the National Gallery.  I don’t think I mentioned this in my previous post about the museum, but it’s free to get in, which is very nice since most other things in London are relatively expensive.

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A close up of one of the fountains, which were added in 1845. The mermaids, dolphins, and tritons (the male figures with tails like fish) were installed later.  (London.gov.uk)

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And a better shot of the Fourth Plinth.  The sculpture on this plinth is changed periodically by a city commission.  The current statue, Gift Horse, has been on display since March 5, 2015, but will be changed later on this year.

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A view of Nelson’s Column and the two fountains of Trafalgar Square from the National Gallery entrance…

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Back inside the National Gallery, we continue with some of our favorite pieces.  The wings missed on the previous day turned out to contain much more modern artists…


Title:  Princess Pauline de Metternich

Artist:  Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Date:  about 1865

Info:  Oil on canvas.  From the painting’s placard, “Degas based this portrait of the princess, a fashionable figure of the day, on a photograph of 1860 showing the sitter and her husband.  Literally translating the effects of photography into painting, Degas slightly smeared the princess’s face to suggest a lack of optical focus.”

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Title:  Portrait of Greta Moll

Artist:  Henri Matisse

Date:  1908

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Margareta (Greta) Moll (1884-1977) was a sculptor and painter.  She and her husband, Oskar, were students at Matisse’s Academy and eventually acquired an important group of his works.  Greta posed over a period of ten days although Matisse reworked the picture after seeing a portrait by Veronese in the Louvre.”

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Title:  After the Bath, Woman drying herself

Artist:  Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Date:  about 1890-5

Info:  Pastel on wove paper laid on millboard.  “Aided by photography, Degas was able to capture the female body in awkward contortions.  In the late 1880s and 1890s he produced many such nudes.  Here he has exploited the flexibility of the pastel medium, creating sumptuous textures and blurred contours that emphasize the movement of the figure.”

This piece is one of my favorites, but it also holds a special place in my heart because a copy of it hangs on my wall when in the States.  The copy is not a Degas copy, but rather one that my mother, Connie, did in class.  It’s really interesting to see famous pieces of art in museums when so many of those same pieces hung on my walls growing up…replicated with extreme precision.  It also really makes me appreciate just how talented of an artist my mother really is.

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A close up to emphasize the use of pastels…

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Title:  Emile Bernard

Artist:  Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Date:  1886

Info:  Oil on canvas.  Toulouse-Lautrec’s fellow art student Emile Bernard sat 20 times for this portrait.  It was common for students to sit for each other.  Bernard also drew a sketch of Lautrec.  This portrait, which was subsequently give to the sitter, was probably painted in 1886 when Lautrec moved into his studio in Montmartre, Paris.”  We found this piece interesting because it’s so different from the Toulouse-Lautrec pieces you normally see.  Also, it’s funny that a classroom sketch ends up hanging on a museum wall.

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Title:  Long Grass with Butterflies

Artist:  Vincent van Gogh

Date:  1890

Info:  Oil on canvas.  Van Gogh painted this in the gardens of the asylum at St-Rémy near Arles where, he noted, ‘the grass grows tall and unkempt.’  Single black strokes on top of patches of bright green highlight the most untidy areas of vegetation.  The unusual vista is framed by a white path and a line of trees, which are abruptly cut off from view at the top of the canvas.”

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Title:  Sunflowers

Artist:  Vincent van Gogh

Date:  1888

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Van Gogh associated the color yellow with hope and friendship.  He suggested that his four Sunflowers canvases, painted to decorate his house in Arles, express an ‘idea symbolizing gratitude.’  He seems to have been especially pleased with this picture, which he hung in the guest bedroom in anticipation of the arrival of his friend, the artist Paul Gauguin.”  It really is spectacular to see some of these paintings up close, especially the works by Van Gogh.  This piece is bright, vibrant, full of life, and amazing to look at…

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A close up of his signature…

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An extreme close up for brush stroke detail…

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Title:  Farm near Auvers

Artist:  Vincent van Gogh

Date:  1890

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Van Gogh loved the ‘mossy thatched roofs’ which he saw near his last home at Auvers, close to Paris.  A row of dilapidated farm buildings dominates this picture, made a month before the artist’s death.  Their shapes are mimicked by the fields and hills behind.  The hasty brushwork and blank sky suggest that the painting is unfinished.”

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Title:  Music in the Tuileries Gardens

Artist:  Edouard Manet

Date:  1862

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Manet’s first major painting of modern life depicts a fashionable Parisian crowd.  It includes Manet himself on the far left and such friends as the poet Charles Baudelaire and the painter Henri Fantin-Latour, gathered in the Tuileries, apparently for a concert.  Several figures engage with our gaze, as if we too are part of the social throng.”

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Title:  The Gare St-Lazare

Artist:  Claude Monet

Date:  1877

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “This is one of 12 pictures of the train station in Paris that Monet painted on the spot.  The view is from inside the station, looking west.   Two locomotives make steam as passengers disembark.  A third train disappears under the bridge on the left.”

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Title:  The Beach at Trouville

Artist:  Claude Monet

Date:  1870

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Money painted this sketch of his wife, on the left, and a friend while on honeymoon in the summer of 1870.  He worked in the open air.  Grains of sand and shell from the beach are still embedded in the paint surface.”

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Title:  Bathers at Asnières

Artist:  Georges Seurat

Date:  1884

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Asnières is a suburb of Paris.  On the right is the island of the Grande Jatte and in the distance, the factories of Clichy.  Seurat reworked parts of the picture, such as the hat of the boy on the right, probably in 1886 after he had invented the technique of using dots of contrasting color to create a vibrant, luminous effect.  The work is based on numerous preparatory drawings and oil sketches.”  I have included several close ups of this image to emphasize the technique described in the placard.

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Title:  Bathers at La Grenouillère

Artist:  Claude Monet

Date:  1869

Info:  Oil on canvas. “Monet and Renoir spent the summer of 1869 working at this popular café and bathing place on the Seine near Bougival.  Monet probably set up his easel on a platform in front of the café.  In the center of the picture, figures stand on a narrow wooden walkway.  In the background, bathers crowd into a swimming area.”

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Title:  The Water-Lily Pond

Artist:  Claude Monet

Date:  1899

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Monet’s water garden included an arched bridge in the Japanese style over a pond created ‘for the purpose of cultivating aquatic plants.’  In 1899, once the garden had matured, the painter undertook 17 views of the motif under differing light conditions.  Surrounded by luxuriant foliage, the bridge is seen here from the pond itself, among an artful arrangement of reeds and willow leaves.”

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A wall of Monet pieces with The Water-Lily Pond in view…

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Title:  At the Theatre (La Première Sortie)

Artist:  Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Date:  1876-7

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “A young girl and her chaperone are seated in a theatre box.  They, not the stage, are the subject of the artist’s and the audience’s attention.  The bright gold of the box emphasizes their separation from the audience.  It also makes a deliberate contrast with their blue dresses.”  Sorry…didn’t notice the blue glare while taking the photo.

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Title:  The Virgin on the Rocks

Artist:  Leonardo da Vinci

Date:  about 1491-1508

Info:  Oil on wood.  “The Virgin holds out her hand above the Christ Child.  Supported by an angel, Christ blesses his cousin, the infant Saint John the Baptist, who can be identified by his cross and scroll.  The rocky setting may refer to the world at the dawn on time, or to the desert in which Christ lived after his flight into Egypt, or both.  In 1483, Leonardo and two Milanese painters were asked to gild and paint an altarpiece for the chapel of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in San Francesco, Milan, and to provide its main panel.  Financial disputes with the confraternity caused Leonardo’s first version of the composition (now in the Louvre, Paris) to be sold elsewhere and significantly delayed completion of this second version.  Still unfinished in places, it was finally installed and paid for in 1508.”  We actually missed this on our first trip to the National Gallery and went back to see it, hence the discrepancy in time.  Also, I don’t get a chance to read all of the placards (that’s why I take a picture of them) so it was really confusing to see this piece at the National Gallery and the Louvre.

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We left the National Gallery again and decided to walk to a comic book store, Forbidden Planet.  As usual, the trek offered us some interesting sights.

Like another view of floating Yoda…

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A shot of the National Gallery and a bit of Trafalgar Square full of people…

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The Agatha Christie Memorial by St. Martin’s Cross…

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The Palace Theatre

Opened in 1891 by Richard D’Oyly Carte, producer of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, as a home of English grand opera, but quickly became a variety house.  The Marx Brothers performed at the theatre in 1922.  The Sound of MusicJesus Christ SuperstarLes Misérables, and Monty Python’s Spamalot have all played there.  Andrew Lloyd Webber bought the theatre in 1983 and by 1991 had refurbished it.  The next production houses at the Palace Theatre – JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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We decided to head back to the Buckingham Palace area so that we could walk the palace’s outer wall.  At the entrance to the Royal Mews (combined stables, carriage house, and garage) we found some nice statues.  “The Lion and the Unicorn are symbols of the United Kingdom. They are, properly speaking, heraldic supporters appearing in the full Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland. The combination therefore dates back to the 1603 accession of James I of England who was already James VI of Scotland.”  (Wikipedia)

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While in the area, we decided to head over to a pub we had seen while on the bus tour.

The Shakespeare

A classic London pub opposite Victoria train station, the pub was originally named after William Shakespeare’s father…

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…but it really didn’t matter to us…because it was closed for renovation the whole week…

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With that destination utterly crushed, we headed back to the Thames to find yet another sight we had seen on our bus tour.  We headed back to the Palace of Westminster to get our bearings.

I just felt like we should have at least one picture of the Underground sign.  This one is from the Westminster Station…

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And of course, you can’t pass up a chance to snap a picture of Big Ben while you’re there…

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We started our river walk down the Thames on the Victoria Embankment (part of the north bank that runs from the Palace of Westminster to Blackfriars Bridge) and quickly ran into our fist item of interest…The Royal Air Force Memorial.  The memorial was officially unveiled on July 16, 1923, and is “dedicated to the memory of the casualties of the Royal Air Force in World War I (and, by extension, all subsequent conflicts).”  The stone pylon is “topped by zodiacal globe bearing a gilded eagle, taken from the RAF’s badge, with raised wings, facing east towards the River Thames and nominally towards France.” (Wikipedia)

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Both sides of the river embankments (Victoria Embankment and Albert Embankment) are lined with these lions.  According to SecretLondon.co.uk they are called the Thames Lions, “These lion heads line both sides of the Embankment, staring out over the River Thames. Their mouths hold mooring rings and it is said that if the lions drink, London will flood. They were sculpted by Timothy Butler for Bazalgette’s great sewage works in 1868-70.”

Kylriverthames adds, a rhyme helps to remember how to keep watch on the lions – “When the lions drink, London will sink. When it’s up to their manes, we’ll go down the drains.”

As you can see, the water line is well below lions while we were there…

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I’m also working on a blog post that contains as many of the statues and gargoyles found on our trip that I can fit onto a page.  As you can imagine, there will be lots of lions.

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Eventually we reached our destination, Cleopatra’s Needle

The obelisk is “made of red granite, stands about 69 ft high, weighs about 224 tons and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC. The inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories.”  (Wikipedia)

“Cleopatra’s Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century.  The obelisks in London and New York are a pair, and the one in Paris is also part of a pair originally from a different site in Luxor, where its twin remains. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime.” (Wikipedia)

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On erection of the obelisk in 1878, a time capsule was concealed in the front part of the pedestal containing: a set of 12 photographs of the best-looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in the erection, a 3′ bronze model of the monument, a complete set of contemporary British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the Bible in several languages, a copy of John 3:16 in 215 languages, a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers.” (Wikipedia)

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“Cleopatra’s Needle is flanked by two faux-Egyptian sphinxes.  These sphinxes appear to be looking at the Needle rather than guarding it, due to the sphinxes’ improper or backwards installation.” (Wikipedia)

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This plaque also gives some interesting information…

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The shrapnel damage seen in the photo below (on the pedestal of the obelisk) can also be seen at the bottom right in the first photo of Cleopatra’s Needle.

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The close up shrapnel damage on the right-hand of the sphinx can also be seen in the above full photo of the sphinx.

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With no further destination in mind, we set out looking for food, but before we could find any, the bard himself stepped forward and led us to the Shakespeare’s Head pub.

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“The Shakespeare’s Head was built in 1735. It was originally owned by Thomas and John Shakespeare, distant relatives of the poet William Shakespeare. The pub overlooks Carnaby street, once the site of an 18th century street market and now one of the world’s most famous shopping precincts. Dominating its northern end is the pub’s inn sign which is a reproduction of Martin Droeshout’s portrait of Shakespeare when the poet was at the pinnacle of his genius. On another part of the building is Shakespeare’s life-size bust which appears to be gazing down on the busy street below.” (Taylor-Walker.co.uk

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Where we were able to get a pint of London Glory, as well as some very interesting (and awkward) conversation from an older drunk going from table to table asking for 1) money to buy a pint or 2) a sip from your pint.  He was quite the story-weaver and told us all about how Brittany reminded him of his sister…he also serenaded us a bit…he was actually quite good.

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Also according to the aforementioned Taylor Walker website, “Close examination of the bust will show one of the poet’s hands is missing. This was lost during World War 1 when a bomb was dropped nearby!”

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After our pint we did manage to find food.  We ate at a place on Villiers Street.  Apparently Rudyard Kipling (author of The Jungle Book) lived just down the street from where we were.


And because Brittany and I apparently never know when enough is enough, and because our London experience was drawing to a close, we went back to Piccadilly Circus…

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And since I got a floating Yoda picture for Taylor, I thought I’d get something for Josh too.  So, Josh, enjoy the Yellow M&M as Chewbacca (sorry it’s dark, but…it was dark…because it was night…)

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And the only decent picture we got of the statue of the Greek god Anteros (the statue is often mistakenly called Eros) which is part of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Circus.  It seemed like every time I tried to get a picture of this guy a giant bus would drive by, or the Piccadilly screen lights would glare too much, or something else would keep it from turning out…

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Well Day 6 is done…now on to our last day in London…Day 7.

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