Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Travelling Hopefully - Time Filler Edition

I found myself in London with a couple of days to kill before I get on a plane and return to my real life.  Once again I had skilfully selected a hotel convenient to Paddington railway station since this is where the express to Heathrow leaves from.  The Pilgrm Hotel has a modest frontage on London Street which belies the lunatic rabbit warren of rooms and corridors beyond.  I was informed that breakfast would be served in the lounge.  For a while it looked like I wouldn’t find my room much less anything as rarefied as a lounge.

One advantage the Pilgrm had (apart from geography and a relaxed attitude to spelling its own name) was its shower.  Showers are something the British or at least British hotels don’t seem to do well but at the Pilgrm I gloried in a hot spray that came from a shower head instead of a lukewarm dribble that seemed to emanate from a repurposed garden hose.  This alone was worth the very real danger of getting lost on the way to your room and starving to death before a rescue party could reach you.

Freshly showered I wandered from Paddington down to Holland Park for little better reason than I had already planned to go there and like a lot of indecisive people I have difficulty changing my mind once it’s finally made up.  So to Holland Park I went strolling past Kensington Gardens in the general direction of Notting Hill and St John’s Wood.  Strangely I didn’t get lost on the way although I tried quite hard.

Holland Park has childcare facilities, an adventure playground, a cafe and a baby changing area although the signs were silent on what you could change your baby for.  Also a lot of the trees are fenced off to prevent them leaping out and frightening visitors.  I had an apple juice at the cafe as experience has taught me not to risk coffee at such establishments unless I’m utterly desperate.

Being disinclined to do any more walking I caught the tube back to my hotel and, giddy with my success at navigating London’s premier transport facility, I decided to do it again the next day.

This is the good thing about London, there are so many things to see that you can find them just by sticking pins in a map at random (the map does have to be of London though).  I did the modern equivalent of this by bringing up my immediate vicinity on google maps and looking for attractions.  On the spur of the moment I decided to visit Marble Arch and the Wallace Collection.  Marble Arch is as its name implies.  A large arch, presumably of marble which serves the purpose of preventing Hyde Park from leaking into the adjacent streets.

The Wallace Collection is a museum/art gallery containing paintings, armour and weapons from previous centuries.  For reference it’s just a block away from Asian Erotic Massage London and the Spanish Evangelical Church.  I shall leave it to your imagination as to which of these I spent most time in.

Anyway the Wallace Collection is housed in Hertford House, former home of the Marquesses of Hertford and later one Sir Richard Wallace (likely an illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess) who collectively built up the collection.  After Sir Richard’s death his widow bequeathed it to the nation probably seeing the loss of a gorgeous home in the middle of London as a small price to pay for not having to clean out all her late husband’s junk.

The Wallace Collection is free to enter so you know what that means.  Increasingly hysterical signs demanding “donations” met you at every turn.  Unfortunately I had given all my available cash to a woman earlier in the day in exchange for her not selling me a flower.  When I left the Collection I could feel the hate filled stares of the staff following me down the street.

The Collection itself is well worth the price of entry.  It may be the first time I laid eyes on porphyry which was interesting as I keep reading about it in histories of Byzantium but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.  There was armour, there were weapons and paintings by people such as Rubens and Canaletto among others.  There was also porcelain and wildly over decorated furniture.  I spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering around ignoring the strategic coughing of the staff and meaningful glances at the collection boxes.  

The first floor housed much of the artwork but was also home to a repeated banging noise which had no visible provenance.  The staff studiously ignored it and, fearful that they had bricked the last non donating visitor up in the walls, I made my escape while they mustered their forces.

Tomorrow I get on a plane to return to the land of my birth and officially declare my holiday over.  Which probably won’t stop me milking my experiences for a couple more blog entries.

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