Last Days in London

I packed a lot into my last days in London. I had a nice one on one with the CEO Friday, and after work, took advantage of the National Gallery’s extended hours to pay a visit after work. I spent about 90 minutes wandering the galleries, looking at the paintings. I found the lighting in this one to be remarkable:

Painting with dramatic lighting

The painting depicts an experiment demonstrating the effect of a vacuum on a bird.

I wandered through the museum for about an hour and a half, and then found my attention flagging; I was tired, and my eyes were tired, and having trouble focusing. So I left a little early, taking a walk through Trafalgar Square, and down to the Embankment for supper and then the ride back to the apartment.

Saturday morning, I decided that since I knew how to get there, I would go to see Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap. I’ve read about the play, and its twist ending, and decided to go for it. I’d planned to see the British Museum on Saturday, so I opted for the evening performance.

I then got directions from Siri for the British Museum, and it directed me to the bus; the first time in the two weeks I’d been there. The directions were good, and it was great just riding around the city above ground.

Unfortunately, for me, the British Museum was just not my cup of tea. I was glad to see the Rosetta Stone, and the exhibit of the Sutton Hoo burial dig was interesting, but I find looking at artifacts in isolation to be pretty dry. It was much more interesting at the Tower of London, seeing things in context. It could also be that after two weeks I was just museumed out. For whatever reason, I decided to cut my visit short after a couple of hours.

It was now shortly around 1, and I decided to try the London Eye again. I got over there around 1:30, and was able to get a ticket for 2:30. So I whiled away the time with a hot dog and ice cream, and got in the line to get aboard.

The Eye is a essentially a Ferris wheel, with a couple of important differences. First, and most important to me, is that it moves much slower than a normal Ferris wheel. You only get one rotation of the wheel, but it takes about 20 minutes to make that rotation. Second, rather than an open pair of seats hanging from the wheel, it has an array of glass capsule bound by rings to the wheel. The rings go around the circumference of each capsule, and the capsule slowly rotates as the wheel moves, so it always faces out and always stands straight up.

The view was worth the wait. You can see the curve of the Thames downstream, and the wheel is actually taller than the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, so at the top of the wheel, you’re actually looking down on them.

I then had a bit of a dilemma – I hadn’t expected to finish this soon, so I’d bought my ticket for 7:30 rather than 4, and I had some time to kill. I ended up deciding to visit Green Park and Buckingham Palace.

From there, I walked down to Piccadilly Circus; once I found my bearings, I had dinner , and then set off for the theater.

The Mousetrap has been running continuously for 65 years. It’s classic Agatha Christie — all the action takes place either off stage, or on the one set, of the drawing room of guest house. Christie carefully points out how little is known about each character by the other characters, and how suspicious each one is. It ends with a twist which the audience is asked not to give away.

I had to check out of the apartment by 11 AM this morning,  but the flight didn’t leave until 4:50 PM. Even allowing for transit time, and checking in and security, that still left some time left to burn. So, once I got to Victoria Station, I carefully made a note of my surroundings, and went for a walk through the local neighborhood. I stopped in the tiny little Grosvenor Park, and then walked down Buckingham Palace Road until about 12:30 and turned around. On the way back, I saw this older house in the middle of newer urban construction. It seemed emblematic of London, somehow.

Old House

Then it was time to head for Gatwick, and home.

Piccadilly and Leicester Square

With the trip drawing to a close, I wanted to do some more sightseeing after work. Mark and Ben recommended Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square so I decided to take them up on it. I got there at dusk, right when the lights of the buildings were starting to match the light from the sky. It was mobbed.

There were street entertainers there, and big screens across the buildings, and lots of shops and restaurants. I walked along for a bit grabbing pictures. The two areas are not that distinct from each other; “Piccadilly Circus” is a big plaza, and if you walk down one of the streets from the plaza, you end up in Leicester Square. The whole area has the same vibe.

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