Tuesday Apr. 11th, 2000 The Galleries and Dungeon
Woke to a rainy drizzly day. Decided our plan to do indoor things was a good
one. Didn't bother with the breakfast thing today. Spent the morning
working the kinks out of stiff muscles trying to find ways of cramming everything
into the bags. Len was able to get the boat/bottle in his case at last. It looks
like we just might make it! I decided to leave the salad dressing and taco sauce
behind in the fridge at the hotel. I'm glad we left the coffee filter with Matt.
Off we went on the tube. Lens trying to figure which lines are above and below each
other so he can make a light up 3d model of the system. We also wish we had enough time
left to map out the stations so you'd know which were easier for transferring from
one line to another and avoid things like the 400 mile change at Bank(Monument) thru
the Docklands when you're going from Central to District/Circle.
We decided to hit
London Dungeon first. We had meant to catch that last time we
were over and wanted to be sure to get there this time. There was a huge crowd
outside but it turns out they were waiting at the group entrance and not queued at
the door. First thing they do is take your picture in the pillory and then you pay
the entrance fee. It starts out in medieval history with the torture and killing.
All these displays are quite nice, gruesome and include plenty of dripping blood.
On to Newgate where you are tried and sentenced. Everyone is loaded onto an 8 person
boat for a quick 30-60 sec. journey to the execution, some backwards. You're
greeted by a shadowy monk (complete with cell phone and Converse High Tops shoes)
and shown the direction to depart. From here it's on to Jack The Ripper and move
from room to room by a series of guides. I think in some ways we learned more
Ripper info here than on the Ripper London Walks. (Molly had started by saying
she'd take them in order, and then proceeded to start on #4, then #2 a little on #5,
then #1 and so on) Then we visited The Plague, the Great Fire and finally into the the scary
Gift Shoppe era.. At last a fun souvenir for Aran! A guillotine to go with his
It was still drizzling so we tubed up to Trafalgar Square and hit the National
Gallery. There's too much to see it all in one morning, but we covered the East Wing
(1700-1900), the North Wing (1600-1700) and the special exhibit on trompe l'oeil -
Illusions: The Art of Cornelius Gijsbrechts" from the late 17th century. He
painted much of it for Christian V of Copenhagen. They were really wonderful. If
you ever run across his art be sure to check it out. He painted the most incredible
wood grain and had a real sense of fun in his paintings. Something you didn't
always see in paintings from the 1680's. The only part of the Sainsbury wing we saw
were the DaVincis. The rest was religious art - "Seeing Salvation - The Image of
Christ" and much of that we'd seen in other exhibits.
It was now pouring so we got rather damp going around the corner to the National
Portrait Gallery. They were almost done with a remodel, but a few areas were still
closed. We managed to get 90% of it I think. We'd now been standing for hours so
it was time for a sitdown and a cuppa. When we left the rain had backed off a bit
so we grabbed a few more snaps of Nelsons Column and the marauding pigeons. The one
thing we seem to have missed getting a pic of was the current Fourth Plinth. It was
displaying "Regardless of History" by Bill Woodrow, which we really liked.
Alas it had started pouring again so we didn't get a chance.
On the way home we popped off at Marble Arch to look for the site of the infamous
Tyburn Hanging Tree. There's supposed to be a plaque to mark the spot, but it
appears to be in the middle of a traffic island, and they've put in pedestrian
tunnels, so I couldn't read the most likely plaque-looking thing from the distance.
Got a picture of the traffic light anyway, and a few snaps of Marble Arch. (Once
planned as an entryway to Buckingham Palace but scrapped when the royal carriage was
too wide to get thru). Back on the tube and off again at Lancaster Gate where it
was just starting to rain again.
At the hotel we opted to just put the feet up and read for a bit. That felt quite
good until I had to put those feet back down again when we went out to the Mitre for
dinner. Len went with the pasta of the day (he was feeling very brave) and ordered
the penne with salmon in a creme freche sauce and I planned on going with the steak
and kidney. (something I have trouble find at home. At least an edible version.) I
was too late and they were out, so I had the old standby Yorkshire Pud. Met a nice
old gent from Toronto who sat next to us. He comes over all the time to do
genealogy research. We also finally got around to sending Matt his Edinburgh
postcard. Oops. It was coming down in sheets and we were knackered so we just went
back to the room and read until bed.