Wednesday, August 24th–London

Shorts weather; Kensington Barbers; Leighton House Museum; Holland Park; late lunch from Pret a Manger; BBC Proms Concert with the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra performing Marlos Nobre, Grieg, Villa-Lobos & Rachmaninov; late dinner at Ask Italian

Best Western Cromwell



I spent a bit of time this morning checking out what might be worth seeing in the area between here, the barber shop, and the Royal Albert Hall since I had a concert there tonight at 7 PM. I went to some of the places I wanted to, but will have to go back to the Roof Gardens and Kensington Palace some other day.

The weather today was wonderful, and even warm by Florida standards. I was comfortable wearing shorts, from when I left until I was walking home after my BBC Proms concert and even in the Royal Albert Hall during the concert where it can be almost uncomfortably warm during performances.

It was quite easy to get to the barber shop from here. I just had to go a few blocks on Gloucester Road past the hotel, then turn onto Earls Court towards Kensington High Street. Kensington Barbers is an older shop, where I had a very good haircut at a very reasonable price. The last time I had my hair cut was back home before leaving for Nick's college graduation at the beginning of June.

From the barber shop I walked over to the small but charming and delightful Leighton House Museum, another of London's formerly private art collections. They have a no photography inside the building policy, which I adhered to, although there is quite a lot of very lovely stuff inside such a small building, both in terms of the architecture and the art inside, that are well worth taking pictures of. It was very well worth the visit.

I had a little trouble finding Holland Park from Leighton House, even with the GPS on my phones. Once again Google Maps on my Irish Android smart phone couldn't find any GPS signals, so I had to turn roaming on my Florida iPhone long enough to get from place to place. Apparently I kept missing turns because the iPhone maps software told me the street designation instead of its name, but I eventually got there, and discovered that I had walked past that particular entrance twice and had noticed a sign that said "Belvedere" with no sign indicating Holland Park.

It's a rather oddly laid out park, with a long and very narrow strip connecting the park with Kensington High Street before the park opens out into the playing fields and a larger part from there, with several different types of gardens. It was very busy today. I even saw a couple of women sunbathing in bikinis.

I had found the small but delightful Japanese or Kyoto garden within Holland Park, and had planned on walking from there over to the Kensington Roof Gardens and then on to Kensington Palace but my stomach started bothering me and I decided I'd better just catch a cab back here as soon as possible. I had to walk the few blocks out to Kensington High Street where I soon caught a cab, and had him drop me off at the Gloucester Road tube station instead of here at the hotel because I wanted to stop by the Pret a Manger to pick up another sandwich and some chips for a late lunch when I felt like eating again.

I ate about 5 PM, and then a little after 6 PM I walked on over to the Royal Albert Hall for tonight's performance.

I had done OK with tonight's tickets. I have a clock in the shape of an oval at home, which is a good way to think of the seating at the Royal Albert Hall, with the orchestra/stage/performers being between 11 and 1 on the clock. Last night I sat in row T at 6 on the clock. Tonight I was in row Q, about 8:30 on the clock dial, a few seats in from an aisle. That worked out OK, since there was no one on my right so I could stretch that leg out quite well, and after the intermission the couple on my left didn't come back so I had more room on that side as well.

Tonight's concert was very good with the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop, one of the few female classical conductors and music directors.

The first piece was the UK premiere of a piece by Brazilian composer Marlos Nobre whom I had never heard before. I rather enjoyed the piece, "Kaballah", which has interesting rhythms and use of percussion.

The second piece was Edvard Grieg's "Piano concerto in A minor". I've heard the first movement several times before over the years on the various classical music stations I've listened to and have always liked it, but I haven't heard the whole piece often enough for the other movements to be as familiar but enjoyed the whole composition. Tonight's piano soloist was the youngish Venezuelan pianist Gabrela Montero,who was persuaded to come back out for an encore when she improvised on a theme someone had hummed to her backstage.

The first piece after intermission was the prelude to the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos's fourth "Bachianas brasileiras" which was short and sweet.

The final piece was Rachmaninov's (or Rachmaninoff's, as we spell it in the US) "Symphonic dances" which was also excellent.

The road on the side of the Royal Albert Hall opposite Kensington High Street and the Albert Memorial, Prince Consort Road, is only a couple of blocks long and although it connects with Exhibition Street which is only a few blocks further along from Gloucester Road doesn't connect with Gloucester Road itself. Instead I had to cut over a couple of blocks on a connecting side street to get back to Gloucester which I followed the rest of the way back here.

It was a bit cooler after the concert, and there was a very slight drizzle at first which was rather refreshing after the stuffy warmth of the RAH. Ask Italian, which is across Crowell Road from the hotel, was still open when I got there so I had a very nice late dinner of rigatoni with a zucchini and pesto sauce, a whole litre bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water, and some gelato for dessert.

I have a ticket for "Macbeth" tomorrow night, the first of my two Shakespeare plays at the Globe on this trip. I wasn't able to get a reservation at the Globe's restaurant for tomorrow but there are many places to eat along the waterfront between Southwark Cathedral and the theater, including a Wagamama.

The play's not until 7:30 PM, so sometime after noon I think I'll take the Tube over and stop by St Clement Danes church, then walk along Fleet Street to Twining's and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, stopping by the church of St Dunstan in the West/Romanian church of St George on the way, then going on to Prince Henry's room at Ye Olde Cock, then backtracking over to Temple Church before crossing the Millenium bridge to the Tate Modern, Southwark Cathedral, and the George Inn before having dinner somewhere before the play at the Globe. And from the Globe it's a short walk to the London Bridge tube station and a quick trip back to the Gloucester Road station with one transfer–take the Jubilee line going towards Stanmore from London Bridge and get off at Green Park, transferring to the Piccadilly line going towards Rayne's Lane and getting off here at Gloucester Road.

And so good night.

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