Friday, December 23, 2011

UK Christmas - Dec. 21-22-23, 2011

The weather is so balmy--its unbelievable - and most of our clothes sit in the need for long underwear since our first day here..and, in fact, no use for our knit scarves--we found out yesterday that we were much more comfortable without them, and most of the day I carried my coat over my arms!  Who would have thought?

 Living in a real home in a neighborhood area brings a whole new set of situations to one's life--its so terribly damp all the time that fighting mold is a constant battle.  It wants to grow everywhere, and one is constantly wiping up moisture from window sills, counters, etc.l  Items in the kitchen look the same but have very different names on the packages, just enough to cause you to wonder if in fact it is what you think it is!  It would take some getting used to, I must say.

We are such pros on the tube now - what a marvelous way to travel around a big city like this!  Our brisk morning walk seems to get longer every day--and its all slightly uphill first thing in the morning.  Thats probably good because if it were reversed we might never get home at night!  We hopped our Central line and headed for St. Paul's stop to walk to the Museum of London.

This is one incredible place!!!  I wonder why we never did it on one of our previous trips?  We decided it was because we were saving it for this trip.  Its a magnificent structure just a few blocks from St Pauls, and actually has a spectacular view of the dome of St. Paul's as you walk away from it back towards the tube.

The first thing we wanted to do was see the Dickens Exhibition.  We knew there was lots to see here, but Dickens was first and then - if we had time - we could do other galleries within the Museum.  We were not one bit disappointed!  They have done a spectacular job in the way they presented their Dickens material, appealing to all the senses.  Charles Dickens is a most interesting person--its because of his writings that so much of our Christmas celebrations come about, and his strong family focus, like the Cratchitts, or Oliver and his uncle..and yet, he had a very dysfunctional life, very little family life of his own.  He and his wife had ten children...and he liked the children when they were little, but once they began to grow up, he was very distant from them and unable to show any affection.  Then enter the mistress into his life, and the divorce from his wife, and a life that followed surrounded by his friends on occasions but not his family.  In his latter years he never spent Christmas with any of his family - and this from the author of "A Christmas Carol."!  The Museum has many precious possessions--his writing desk, a writing chair, original galley proofs with his corrections, multitutudes of correspondence, and many photos and sketches from his books.  We had a fascinating time.

Following lunch in the Museum Cafe, we then had time to wander through other galleries -- everything you ever wanted to know about London from hundreds of thousands of years ago to today.  There is a time line you can follow along the wall, giving the highlights of each of the years--fascinating!

As we left the Museum, Jerry realized that we were on Aldersgate street, which is where both of the Wesley brothers were converted--and there it was.  Interesting enough, it is a Presbyterian Church now, shared with a Japanese Christian church, and--unfortunately--is only open on Sundays for worship.  But we stood on the spot and Jerry got his picture taken right there!

And now we are off to Wimbledon!  Five years ago Carla, Jerry and I went to our first Christmas Panto starring Henry Winkler "The Fonz" and we had a blast...on the spur of the moment, we decided to return, this time to see Dame Edna in "Dick Whittington", one of England's favorite children's story.  There are no words to describe a panto--sort of similar to our meller-drammers, with lots of booing and hissing and cheering.  Its full of ad-libs and off-the-cuff remarks--not at all like any play we would see in the USA.  And Dame Edna did not disappoint--she/he was hilarious and just like you see on TV!  The audience was in stitches, and we missed many lines, some due to inability to understand their English, and some due to the subject matter which was local politics!  Needless to say, it was a great way to close out our day, and we are so glad we went!

Now it is Thursday before Christmas..the sun is is quite warm...very like a spring day.  We walked to town after we finally got mobile (which took a while, let me tell you!) and did the mile walk to the heart of our town where we enjoyed an English breakfast at Ceasar's Palace (NOT to be confused with the one in the USA, let me tell you!)  There was an outdoor market set up along the sidewalk with beautiful fruits and vegetables and  a multitude of olives--it was pretty as a picture!

Our matinee was Simon Cowell with his one-man show of Dickens' Christmas Carol--absolutely stunning.  He was onstage for an hour and a half with some chairs being his only prop...he did many different characters, and his interpretation of Fezziwig was just a delight.  It was a fabulous performance, and we are so glad we were there and made it part of our Christmas.  The folks next to us had heard him do a 2-hour performance of readings from Dickens a year ago, and told us we were in for a treat...and they were right.  Another delightful experience leading us to Christmas!

  Friday had so much walking in it, I don't think I even want to think about it - I will be tired again!  The morning was much cooler and very misty/drizzly..but we walked to town to take care of a few things--like ordering the food we wanted for Xmas day from a local restaurant, The Olive Branch.  It was a good walk, and we made our order - and stood amazed at all the people in the "que" outside the local butcher shop, complete the whole turkeys hanging in the window--a site I haven't seen in a long time! 

This time we headed for Knightsbridge, with the idea of seeing more of the shopping hustle and bustle, and enjoy the walk to the area of Royal Albert Hall.  Looking in the stores was fascinating--wandered in a few--this is high-end shopping and many many folks were out doing their shopping.  Now the drizzle is coming down harder, and we decided to find a cafe with outside covered seating and people watch.  We found one that suited us, and spied a table just as another gentleman did as well, so Jerry invited him to join us.  We sat over some lunch/coffee and visited for quite some time--he was just a fascinating conversationalist, and over an hour quickly flew by.  Now it is no longer drizzling, but raining!  And we headed off in the direction of RAH and the museums.

At last - just as I was beginning to feel wet, we came upon Victoria & Albert Museum and entered--to find it was Friday night which was a late night opening for them, so they would not be running us out shortly.  We browsed the shop, and then chanced to ask a gift-wrapper for a pub nearby--her directions were marvelous and we were able to go by underground tunnel out of the V&A, past the underground entrance to the National History Museum, and on to the South Kensington tube station, where we found the Hoop & Toy pub just across the street--not even getting ourselves  wet.

Fortified by pub juice and enjoying the antics of all the young adults gathered at the bar, it was soon time to retrace our steps under-ground and proceed to the Royal Albert Hall.

The concert did not disappoint us!  This is the same concert we attended five years ago "Carols at Christmas" with the orchestra in period costumes including wigs.  The music was spectacular..and the audience participated in singing many carols.  The audience was most responsive and enthusiastic, and we truly ushered in the Christmas season in a proper manner!

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