Saturday, August 27th–London

By bus to the Wallace Collection; too crowded at Madame Tussaud's and the British Museum; iced coffee at Starbucks; by Tube to St Martin in the Fields and a mediocre dinner in the Café in the Crypt; the Festive Orchestra of London's "Baroque extravaganza"; by Tube back home; late dinner from Burger King

Best Western Cromwell



As is sometimes the case, I only went to some of the places I had intended to and at least one place I hadn't known about and decided to save a couple of the places I had planned on going until later, this time due to their being very crowded when I got there.

It wasn't supposed to get as hot today as it did yesterday so I wore jeans instead of my shorts and never felt too warm all day. Once again if you were in the sun when the wind wasn't blowing it was almost warm enough for shorts but not the rest of the time–it was rather a nice change from yesterday and was quite comfortable all day.

I did take the #74 Baker Street bus this morning on over to the Wallace Collection. I have to admit I'm always relieved that the bus or Tube train I'm on is actually going in the direction I thought it was supposed to be going, and it's always a bit of a relief when the stops are announced in the order they should be.

Anyway it was quite easy to find the Wallace Collection, which is a wonderful place full of lovely and excellent pieces of furniture and art and even arms and armor. I really enjoyed wandering around the Wallace Collection, which is in a building around four sides of a central, now covered courtyard which explains why I kept coming to new rooms while walking around the top floor. All in all it's an excellent collection, beautifully and intelligently laid out in a very lovely building. They have what looks like a very good small restaurant in the courtyard.

Perhaps the most famous painting at the Wallace, the only one I'd heard of before and didn't know was there, is the one sometimes known as the "Laughing cavalier" who apparently wasn't actually either a cavalier or laughing but still it's a very enjoyable painting.

I walked from the Wallace Collection over to Madame Tussaud's (). Right after I left the Wallace I noticed the spire of what looked like a nice church fairly nearby so I went to check it out. The church was the lovely St James' RC church and it was open so I went in and took some pictures.

When I got to Madame T's sometime between 12 and 1 PM all the lines were longer than I felt like waiting in, including the line to buy tickets and the line to get into the museum after you bought the ticket. I decided I'd wait and come back earlier some other day. Today was the start of a holiday weekend, since Monday is the August bank holiday (the last Monday in August).

To save time, I caught a cab over to the British Museum instead of taking the half an hour walk. The Museum was also very crowded, and once again I decided I could come back earlier some other day. It's not the number of people so much as it's much more difficult to enjoy the exhibits when you can't see them because of all the people in front of you and you continually have to wait for them to move on so you can see the painting or exhibit.

I had a pretty nice lunch at a small Italian place across the street from the museum. I also decided that any other museum I went to this afternoon would likely be too crowded even for me so I just caught a cab back here to the Gloucester Road Tube station across the street from the hotel. As we were passing the Museum, I mentioned I had decided to come back to the Museum and Madame Tussaud's some other day when I could get there when they opened, and my cabby reminded me I could always preorder a ticket from Madame T's.

I didn't want to come back here to my room quite then, since it wasn't much after 3 PM and I didn't need to leave for dinner before tonight's concert until about 5:30. I first tried having a pint in the Stanhope Arms, the small pub across the street from the station, but didn't see any small tables that were free. I did find one at the Starbucks instead so I had an iced coffee and picked up a couple of pastries for later.

After I got back to my room, I checked Madame T's online and decided to prepay for a ticket at 9:30 AM tomorrow. I bought the combination packet that includes Madame T's, the London Dungeon, the London Eye, and the Sea Life London Aquarium. Each of those three attractions are right next to each other at the County Hall, directly across the Thames from the Westminster Tube station which is easy to get to from here.

It's also really easy to get to Trafalgar Square, which is where the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and St Martin in the Fields are all located. The Piccadilly line includes Gloucester Road and Leicester Square, the nearest Tube station to that corner as well as several theaters, along the route.

When I had made my arrangements for this trip way back in March and April St Martin in the Fields didn't seem to have any events listed past August 31. When I picked up my actual ticket for tonight's concert I was very pleased that there are actually concerts on a couple of the nights I have free before I leave London for Paris on the 8th of September, and bought them.

I had plenty of time to have dinner in the wonderful and atmospheric Café in the Crypt. Unfortunately as I remember from last year meals there can be either hit or miss, and tonight's was more of a miss. I had what was supposed to be chicken and mushroom stroganoff over rice with broccoli, and it was the oddest stroganoff sauce I've ever had and the broccoli was also fairly flavorless. The stroganoff wasn't inedible I suppose but I really didn't have much of an appetite for it. The creme brulee was very good, though.

I love going to concerts at St M in the Fs for many reasons, including the church itself. The building was completed in 1726, almost three hundred years, ago but looks surprisingly modern both inside and out. I think the interior is pleasingly understated compared to many of the other churches I love here in London and have loved on my travels both at home and abroad.

The acoustics in the church are also excellent which makes it a wonderful venue for performances. But perhaps the main reasons I love going to concerts in St M in the Fs are more practical–1) it's flat so I don't have the nasty illusion I often get in the Royal Albert Hall that I could fall all the way to my death on the floor below; and 2) and there is a lot more leg room in all of the pews in St M in the F. Tonight I had a seat right on the center aisle in the very first row.

Tonight's ensemble was the Festive Orchestra of London who don't seem to have their own web site but tonight's concert does. I might have heard them last year in a different lineup, but am not interested in checking my notes from last year. Tonight's music was for several different configurations depending on how many soloists there were. At the maximum there were nine musicians playing–harpsichord, concert bass, cello, one or two violas, solo violin and first and second violins.

The music was lovely, and this time all of it was familiar to me from the classical music stations I've listened to over the years: 1 J S Bach: Concerto for two violins in D minor 2 W A Mozart: Salzburg divertimento No 1 in D 3 J S Bach: Air from Orchestral suite No 3 4 A Vivaldi: Winter, from the Four seasons (I haven't heard this one on its own as much as I've heard any of the other three) 5 after intermission, A Vivaldi: Concerto for two violins in A minor 6 J Pachelbel: Canon & gigue in D 7 J S Bach: Violin concerto in A minor and finally 8 A Vivaldi: Concerto for four violins in B minor All in all it was a lovely concert in a lovely setting.

Our concert ended about the same time as several other shows at theaters in the area which were exiting at the same time as I was trying to get to Leicester Square Tube station for the ride home. The crowd waiting for the first train that came by was so thick I decided to wait for the next, hoping I'd be able to sit down then. The next train was indeed much less crowded with many seats available. There was a bit of unintended entertainment when a couple who apparently had not quite read the route map thoroughly got off at one station and before the train left came back into the train through an adjacent doorway only to get off at the next stop. (Been there, done that or something like it but not on this trip to London.)

As I mentioned I hadn't eaten much for dinner before the concert since the supposed stroganoff didn't appeal to me. I try not to eat at fast food places even at home but the Burger King across the street from the Gloucester Road station was still open and it's not any more expensive here than it is at home so I bought a burger and a fish sandwich although I don't remember their tartare sauce at home tasting as slightly odd as it does here.

It's now about 1 AM and time for bed, especially since I need to catch the bus not much past 8:45 AM if I want to get my actual ticket for Madame T's at the box office when I get there; I have to anyway to get the rest of the tickets in the combo package. The plan for the rest of tomorrow is to go to the same places I wanted to today in much the same order, and I hope and think I should get to all of them before they get too busy in late afternoon. I don't have a concert or event tomorrow night so it will be nice to have a quiet and early night for a change.

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