Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday 22 February - Coming Home

We left the hotel in good time and caught a no. 23 bus to Paddington station.
The Heathrow Express is a great way to get to Heathrow, a train every 15 minutes and the journey takes 15 minutes.
There was ample time to check in and the direct flight to Ottawa was very relaxed indeed.
There was a no. 97 bus waiting and we were treated to the OC Transpo Magical Mystery Tour through Hurdman.
Its good to be home after an absence of over three months.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday 21 February - Courtulds Institute and Sunday Lunch

The Courtaulds Institute is a wonderful art gallery.  The exhibits are relatively few but they are well displayed and the notes are informative and helpful.. The gallery is quite small but it certainly makes up for this in quality.  I have always liked the couple of rooms with the French Impressionists.
Pisarro - Dulwich
Manet - Folies Begeres
Van Gogh
From there we walked in the mild but cloudy and windy weather along the Thames Embankment and made our way to St. Jame's Park.
Another variation on the decorative lamp standards
The White Pelicans were all huddled together
A young heron
We had lunch at the Drayton Arms but it was not as good as in previous visits.  We will have to look elsewhere on our next visit.

The beer and wine was better than the food.  

We walked back to the hotel crossing Kensington Gardens and along the edge of Hyde Park.  A number of very noisy green parrots were flying around.  It seems there are many in the London parks and across southern England.  They are semi-tame and were taking food from people.  They have been here since the 1960s and are regarded as pests in some areas.  It was a long walk and we were exhausted by the time we arrived back at the hotel.  Check in to Air Canada was easy and packing was quickly done.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday 20 February - Didcot Raiway Centre and a Riot in Reading

The forecast for today was sunny this morning and showers later. I went to Paddington and took a train to Reading where I had 30 minutes to see the operation before taking a stopping train through the Thames Valley to Didcot.  The views over the river were good but the clouds were rolling in.  It was good to pass through the local stations and brought back memories of the short time I was holiday relief Area Manager Cholsey.

It took an inordinate amount of time to get into the Didcot Railway Centre - 15 minutes to get through a dozen or so people.  There was a stiff west wind and it had begun to rain.  A 57xx pannier tank was giving rides on the main line while a 95xx diesel hydraulic was giving rides on the branch.

Two boys and a girl were jacking upo the front of this 43xx - a tough assignment.
Diesel hydraulic on the branch
It was good looking at the array of steam locomotives under cover in the shed, especially the 61xx, a couple of Halls and Drysllwyn Castle which was being polished up ready for its next trip.

By this time it was getting pretty wet and, not fancying the fare available in the Didcot Centre cafe, I decided to go to Reading.  Reading turned into a disaster as well.  The listed station building which has been turned into a pub, was very full and there were at least six bouncers manning the entrance. As I walked into the town I found the same was the case with all other pubs.  There were bouncers galore and a large police presence.  It struck me that Reading were playing at home and the away team's supporters had traveled in by train.  Walking down in front of the Old Post Office I saw a large group of away supporters who were being shouted at by a large group of home supporters in a pub across the street - some 60 men all with glasses (real glass) of beer.  They were jeering and shouting out their supporter songs.  Then fighting broke out in the street.  This was quickly brought under control by the long suffering police - and this was well before the match had started. (it turned out that Reading beat West Bromwich Albion 3-1 in an FA Cup match - I wonder what the score was in the stands?)

I decided I had seen enough of Reading and took the next train back to Paddington where I had a pint at the Mad Bishop and Bear which was full but orderly.

Mad Bishop and Bear
I met Mary and Pat back at the hotel and we had an early dinner at the Victoria, a Fullers pub which was quite pleasant.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday 19 February - St. Pauls and St. James' Park

We went first thing to St. Pauls and managed to get in very quickly so we beat the half term rush.  It is very expensive even with the seniors' discount yet no photography is allowed.  Furthermore there are signs plastered everywhere to this effect. The interior is well maintained and beautiful.  We took the 257 steps up to the Whispering Gallery but decided to go no further - I have, in fact, been right up to the top but many years ago.
I am sure the church would have tried to ban photography of the exterior if they had thought they could have got away with it.
We then walked along Fleet Street and found our way to Lincoln's Inn Fields for the Soames Museum. Security required that all purses, handbags etc be carried in clear plastic bags although the reasons for this were not clear.  The interior of this house was dark, dingy, dirty and claustrophobic and we left as soon as possible.
Great decoration on the lamp posts
We had a drink at the old Bank of England building and then I walked to St. James Park, via Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square and then back to the hotel through Hyde Park. There were large banks of daffodils but the most interesting part was the birdlife.  There were many overwintering ducks as well as the resident pelicans, cormorants, geese and swans,

The pelicans are fed an average of 2.5 fish a day.  The cormorants presumably have to fend for themselves.

Two geese with four goslings.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday 18 February - Eltham College class of 1960 Reunion.

I walked over to Paddington this morning to find out about the Heathrow Express.  I was pleased to see that a start has been made on cleaning the roof which has been blackened by years of diesel exhaust fumes.

The 205 bus took me to Kings Cross where I took a look at the Festiniog Railway locomotive No. 1, which was built in 1963.  It is on exhibition until the weekend,  It was very popular with the small boys and some big boys as well.

We had a great turnout at the Skinners Arms.  Dai Rhys-Tyler (Treasurer), Julian Hale, Mike Fulford, Peter Gregory, Colin Bishop, Clive Grenyer, Derek Browne, Charles Smith, Dai Bamford, John Palmer, John Bingham and myself.  Ian Cunningham and Rob Carter were forced to withdraw at the last minute and regrets from Roy Bennett and Peter Holgate.   Lots of discussion, some drinking and some eating and a very enjoyable time indeed.  It was particularly good to see Derek and Clive while John Palmer and Colin Bishop travelled long distances making round trips from South Wales and Cumberland in one day.

John Bingham, John Palmer, Dai Rhys-Tyler
Colin Bishop and Peter Gregory
Julian Hale and Mike Fulford
Derek Browne, Clive Grenyer and Dai Bamford
Charles Smith, Clive Grenyer and Dai Bamford
Clive Grenyer, Dai Bamford and John Bingham

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday 17 February - Wallace Collection and Borough Market

The Wallace Collection was amazing.  The house was extremely well organized and every room took our breath away.  The exhibits were well lit and well displayed and everything left the impression that it had been well restored.  Then problem was that there was so much to see and appreciate that one quickly became overwhelmed. It is not really possible to describe my feelings - the exhibits are so well displayed and preserved all I can say is wow.
This YouTube video gives a good overview of the collection with accompanying organ music by J.S. Bach.

The green wall paper was staggering
Wonderful detail evven in the tassels

Two exquisite Canalettos
Pat was absorbed looking at the paintings
The Laughing Cavalier
The main hall was stupendous
Richard Wallace had the fountains designed and made for the city of Paris.
We left the Wallace Collection completely overwhelmed - further visits are required.  Borough Market was another worthwhile visit.  There are a great number of stalls providing a wonderful variety of foods and drinks. We settled for a Dorset firm which was providing fresh scallops cooked on the spot and served with stir fried vegetables.  It was wonderful.
A great variety of edible fungus

How could they be home bred if they are wild?
We found a pub close by which had Timothy Taylor's Landlord Ale.  Not that easy to come by in London.  It was very good.
A walk along the embankment produced an excellent view of HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge.
We finished the day with a John Smith's bitter at the Anchor Tap near Tower Bridge. A visit to the Duke of Kendal near the hotel was marred by the complete lack of knowledge of the beers on draft by the ignorant barman.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday 16 February - Eurostar to London

We had reservations on the 1104 train to London from Gare du Nord so we weren't particularly pressed. Metro lines 2 then 4 took us quickly to this busy station and we went easily through French and UK border formalities then security.  I had hoped to be one one of the new trains but instead we went on sets 3001 and 3002 the first two Eurostar trains.  They had not been refurbished but looked pretty good inside.  The journey through France was pretty boring and there were a couple of surprising brake applications which led me to think we would be late,  However, both the Ashford stop and the arrival at St. Pancras were pretty much on time which suggests there is some slop in the schedule.
Pat in the tunnel under the Channel
We admired St. Pancras then went to the Parcels Yard at Kings Cross for Fullers London Pride and Fish and Chips.  We fell into conversation with a fellow from Teeside who was in London for a few days and was travelling back this evening.  He said Londoners were not very friendly but this was probably because they had a great deal of difficulty understanding him because his accent was so broad.  He was looking forward to getting home and making a good cup of tea.  At least up there he would be among people who could understand him.

First beer in London
So we are now in the land of beer, fish and chips, pork pies and Battenburg cake. No more of that French muck. We are staying at the Victory Services Club close to Marble Arch.  It is quite good although we have had some difficulty sorting out the best way to get to the floor on which our room is situated.

We had a walk around this evening and managed to score a Melton Mobray Pork Pie and some Battenburg cake at the Marks and Spencers flagship store on Oxford Street. This area seems devoid of pubs.  We eventually found the Barley Mow on Dorset Street which claims to be the oldest pub in Marylebone.  There was a passable bitter from the Vale Brewery at Brill, Buckinghamshire as well as a good selection of Fullers, Chiswick Brewery ales.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday 15 February - Last Day in Paris

 It was bright today but with a very cold wind.  Pat and I went to Buttes Chaumont where people were doing tai chi in heavy winter coats.  Mary and Pat got to the movie they could not get into yesterday.
We had to clear up many items, including wine, that had been accumulating for several weeks.
Our last meal in Paris was at Le P'tit Canon. The owners, Isabel and her husband had a family meal with their two young children and some friends.  They weren't expecting a large crowd on Monday evening, We had a good meal starting with artichoke/anchovies and continuing with turkey breast/gambas/magret de canard.  Dessert was pear tarte with an excellent nut filling.  We drank a bottle of red Bergerac but I also tried a glass of white Corbieres which is renown for its red wines.  It was quite good but rather heavily oaked.  We were given complimentary coupes de champagne with the addition.  We were sorry to say good bye to our friends at this friendly bistrot. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday 14 February - Au Pied de Cochon

The weather forecast was for rain from midday and the forecast was pretty accurate. We went to Sentier and walked down to Les Halles, Saint-Eustache and to the restaurant Au Pied de Cochon,
This green wall is very impressive

Montorgueuil was pretty busy as usual on Sunday morning.  Being Valentine's Day, the restaurant was also busy.
- onion soup au gratin/razor clams
- kidneys/coquilles st-jacques
- vacherin/la vie en rose
La Vie en Rose
It was all very good, the kidneys were exceptional - in a casserole with a thick sauce and potatoes and mushrooms. I had half a bottle of Chinon.

As we left we were given roses by the girl who acted as greeter and we hoped that her foot gets better - she hurt it playing soccer a couple of weeks ago.  Several of the staff also made a point of saying goodbye.  A very friendly restaurant.

Pat and Mary didn't have much luck this afternoon.  The queues at the Pompidou Centre were so long that they gave up.  Then a couple bought the last tickets for a movie at the Place de Clichy.  They consoled themselves with some excellent macarons from Lenotre.