looking for a few good ideas

  amongst the irregular verbiage

Finding Neverland

At Victoria Coach Station yet another person stopped me to ask directions. This time I said, "You're about the 4th person to ask me directions, but I'm a visitor here myself. Do I look especially knowledgeable or something?"

"Well, you're holding a map..." he replied.

"Hmm. Ok, you have a point. I'll allow it." I said.

M and C look out across the Serpentine in Hyde ParkElizabeth Street eventually crossed over Eaton Square and turned into Sloan Street, which had a lot of designer clothes shops on it. We turned North and crossed over Knightsbridge and through the Albert Gate into Hyde Park. What a change from the town! As we walked towards the Serpentine, the sun came out briefly and gave everything a wonderful glow. It was still fairly cold, though, and the wind picked up at one point and it started raining. We had to shelter behind the wide trunk of a tree. I wished I'd brought my hat - in just a minute my ears were already beginning to ache.

Dew on pink leaves in Hyde ParkPast the Lido tea rooms and under a bridge, we saw signs pointing to the Serpentine Gallery, but we didn't follow. We were on a mission to find Peter Pan. There were a lot of interesting plants growing up around us as we came out from under the bridge. The park had turned into a garden. I kept playing with the macro focus mode on my camera trying to capture some of the dew-on-leaf action that was taking place around me. Sometimes I really wish I was a talented photographer instead of an amateur.

We saw the new Diana Memorial Fountain. It is basically a big concrete circular artificial stream bed with what appears to be a continual stream of water circulating around in a kind of perpetual flow, encountering various kinds of stream topology to demonstrate all the different kinds of rippling turbulent water flows that you might find in nature. That sounds very clinical, but the actual effect was quite nice. The surrounding grounds were quite boggy and recently re-seeded with grass, so I think they've been having some problems with it.

C photographing ducksThe statue of Peter PanAs we followed the footpath around the curve of the Serpentine, suddenly there he was in his own little meadow. Blowing his pipes and watching the children feed the ducks since 1914. Speaking of ducks, there were many different kinds - of ducks and other webbed-footed relatives - swimming around the railing and talking to the people who had gathered to enjoy the view of the water and the trees in the sun. There was an information plaque in front of the railing where children could read about the different species of birds and see how many they could actually see swimming around. It was a lot of fun, but we wanted to keep moving.

At the Italian Fountains we took a diagonal path towards the Round Pond. More Squirrels. More swans, geese, and other birds. If the day were only a bit warmer... Kensington Palace didn't look as grand as I expected, but maybe I was getting used to all the famous buildings appearing smaller, yet more concentrated than I expected. I wondered whether a more comprehensive knowledge of the history of these places would enhance my enjoyment of walking around them. It probably would.

The Albert MemorialAt the end of the Board Walk we had the option of going back out to Kensington Road but we stayed inside the park boundary and walked towards the Albert Memorial. The sun came out again and lit it up splendidly. "Yup, Victoria sure was fond of her Albert," commented L. Opposite the memorial was the Royal Albert Hall. I'm embarrassed to admit that my knowledge of this arts venue is pretty much limited to that gleaned from an Emerson Lake & Palmer record.

Lame or not, it was still a thrill to be standing at the top of Albertopolis. Serious museums awaited us. But before we ventured too far down Exhibition Road, we were feeling a little peckish. A little place across the road caught our eye: Hugo's Cafe. It was a little early for lunch, but the items on the menu looked so good we kind of looked at each other, said "what the heck" and went for it.

 I'm glad we did, because, early or not, that was one of the nicest meals I've eaten to date. I ordered a smoked haddock on mashed potatos with hollandaise sauce and a poached egg. It was pretty fantastic. The back of the restaurant had a big mural on the wall that must have been an enlarged black and white photograph of Queen Anne's Lace plant, or something similar. The tables were all plain wood, and reminded me of a junior high art classroom, but comfortable.

Inside the earth gallery at the Science MuseumAfter we had stuffed ourselves with a completely needless dessert, we paid our bill and rolled out on to Exhibition Road towards the museums. I was hopeful of seeing some dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum, but that's a big place and as soon as we walked past the Science Museum, we saw one of the entrances to the Museum of Natural History, and ducked in. It turned out to be the entrance to the Earth Gallery. This was pretty cool. We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the lower level looking at semi-precious minerals and stuff before ascending the escalator, through the big globe, into the upper level where the volcano and techtonic stuff was. We spent a lot of time exploring it.

The Museum of Natural HistoryIn hindsight, this was a mistake. If I'd been serious about tracking down the paleontology displays, I would have done more research and realised that we were in one tiny part of the museum and we should really have walked a bit further down to Cromwell Road where the front facade of the main museum building would have made it pretty obvious that I was missing out on the Real Thing. As it was, by the time we emerged from the Earth Science gallery, we were feeling a little overdosed on museums already. At least, I was.

M and C compare lens sizesAs I stood there trying to take a picture of the building, lit up in the late afternoon sun, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in the sole of my foot. I'd been resting it on the lower part of the wrought-iron fence and I hadn't realised that it consisted of fairly sharp prongs. I'd put enough pressure on my foot to penetrate my walking shoe. Ouch! All I could think of was Babies on Spikes

We turned left and admired the atrium of the Victoria & Albert Museum. A centerpiece of the forum is a tremendous hanging glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. It was like some enormous sea creature. We tried taking some pictures of it but it was hard to capture it. None of the current exhibitions in the museum appealed to us so we carried on up Brompton Road towards Knightsbridge.

Eventually we came to Harrods. It looked like a golden castle in the late afternoon sun. We wandered in with full knowledge that we would be crazy to actually buy anything there, although there were lots of wonderful things (and wonderfully over-priced to match). We headed to the food section, to seek out Marmalade and Other Things. Well, we found them. And I found myself picking out little jars of things that sounded yummy, only to wander around with them clutched in my hands for a few minutes, before realising how silly it was and ended up putting them back on the shelves. Fun and impractical.

Coming out of Harrods, the sun was mostly down and the temperature was really dropping as it got dark. I was feeling pretty tired and worn out, but M and L were full of energy and raring to keep going - perhaps we could see a movie? We consulted a local paper and decided on trying to see Finding Neverland, which seemed very appropriate considering the whole Peter Pan thing earlier in the day. M was sure that we would find cinemas around the Trafalgar Square area, so back to the bus route map we went, to plan our next move. Hyde Park Corner was within walking distance, where we could catch a Route 9 bus to Trafalgar.  Busses in London are cool. If you don't have a day pass or whatever, you just need to have a 1£ coin to put in the machine and it spits out a ticket. Then you hop on a bus and it takes you anywhere along its route.

M was watching the streets and as soon as the bus rounded Piccadilly Circus and turned down Haymarket Street, he said we should get out at any point from then on. The bus stopped shortly after that and we emerged on to Haymarket Street in front of the UGC Cinema where Finding Neverland was showing. Good planning or Good luck? I choose to believe that M knew what he was doing, even though we were still some distance from Trafalgar Square. We bought tickets to the show and then, with about an hour to kill, we walked up Haymarket and back to Piccadilly Circus to see Eros. The Criterion Theatre had a big sign up for the Reduced Shakespeare Company, which, in an alternative universe where time has no meaning, I would have much enjoyed going to a show. (Ok, that's weird. How much more time would we have needed to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company? Less than you'd expect, I reckon.)

Back to the cinema, we much enjoyed Johnny Depp's performance in Neverland. Where does he get the talent?

By now we were feeling hungry and, having checked off all the required London dining experiences already (Fish-n-Chips, Indian, etc), we settled on Italian which both M and I were hankering for. We found three restaurants in a row in a street near Leicester Square, and after some perusing of the menus, chose one - the name of which eludes me now. We had a very pleasant meal accompanied by depressing pop songs. The restaurant sound system started with Everybody Hurts by R.E.M. and basically went on from there. L actually asked the waitress who chose the music, and she indicated that it was the bartender. Before we left the restaurant, she went over and asked him if he had just broken up with this girlfriend. He said no, but I think the evidence doesn't lie.

Walking back down Charing Cross Road, we caught a packed-full bus on route 24 to take us back to Pimlico and our little hotel. The bus was so full that we were standing like sardines, and even though he stopped at the next bus stop, the driver didn't open the front door because nobody got off. A prospective passenger knocked at the door, in vain. "Where are you going to sit? On my lap?" asked the driver.

We had a very nice conversation with a young lady on the bus with us, but unfortunately we had to get off the bus before we could arrange for M to get her phone number.