Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Day in London

The more I see of London, the more I like it. So many faces to the city, so many things to see and discover. It's an amazingly diverse city, but with a strong sense of history, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to spend so much time there. Every time I go back, I come away feeling like I've experienced something different. Here's a short chronicle of my very fun day yesterday:

The world-famous Portobello Road market in Notting Hill is every bit as amazing as you'd expect it to be! The area and streets themselves are colorful and eclectic, and there's so much cool stuff for sale, from antiques to clothes to food, as well as street musicians and an incredible amount of energy. Because it is famous, though, it's swarming and crowded, and the people-watching is at least as interesting as anything else.
I made sure to stop by and see The Travel Bookshop, featured in the Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts film Notting Hill! Although the interior has been remodeled a bit since the days of the film, it still looks pretty much like you'd expect. How weird that it's a real place.

My morning in Notting Hill over, I headed over to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Coming up out of the tube station into the grand, expansive square, with its central column and lions and fountains and fine surrounding buildings, all swarming with people and life, was an experience in itself. I found the entire place too massive to photograph.

One of the fountains with the National Gallery in the background. I spent about an hour and a half in the gallery, which has an impressive range of paintings and artists, including some names that are quickly coming to feel like old friends: Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, etc. I've enjoyed seeing these artists' range of work during my travels in Europe, as well as coming to a greater appreciation of their influence. The interior architecture was interesting too: very colorful and baroque, with marble columns and gilded ceilings. Probably one of the most baroque buildings I've entered so far, excluding Blenheim. After the National Gallery, I spent an hour or so in the National Portrait Gallery next door, which I almost liked better - the contemporary photography was excellent, and I enjoyed seeing old paintings of famous Britons during the Victorian era.

My next stop: the Natural History Museum, also remarkable for its architecture. I met up with a few friends and we roamed the halls of fossils and plant/animal displays together. (And how awesome is it that virtually all of London's museums are free?!)

Wandering London at night after all the museums had closed. The Brits like Christmas, I can already tell you that, and Picadilly Circus was alight with fun displays like stars, trees, and (as here) gift boxes. Several places have already laid out ice skating rinks and hot chocolate. Plus we walked past a "Winter Wonderland" event being set up in Hyde Park. I'm excited to see what London feels like once it's really December!

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