Sunday, September 30, 2012

Waldo Eagle

Day 13 (9/30/12)
Finally, we have an opportunity to get back out on the water. It is a beautiful fall day. The color seems to be some of the best we have had in years. We were torn as to where to go but decide on Waldo because it is close and it has proven in the past to be one of our favorite fall spots. Things started out kind of slow. The color was ok but not great yet. We worked our way up the lake which except for the flocking starlings seemed abandoned. When we got to the river we finally saw a lone blue heron that made sure we never got within photographing distance. We worked our way up the river which was so peaceful. As we went it got sunnier and sunnier. Right before the bridge we scared up a deer who wasn't scared enough to run but sat in the woods and snorted at us. We came back down the river without much distraction except for the always splendid landscape. When we got back to the lake we were greeted by a fairly strong headwind. Where did that come from? Shortly after getting to the lake I noticed a large bird of prey heading towards us. I knew it wasn't the Osprey that we had seen the last time we were out there. This was not that slender. Soon I saw the familiar markings of a Bald Eagle. It flew right over the top of us. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t had the camera ready. Apparently we had sparked his interest because all of a sudden he flew back over the top of us and landed in a tree just ahead of us. He seemed like the attention but was probably just hoping we would scare up some fish because as we drifted past him he flew on ahead and waited for us to catch up again. Again we had our little photo session and were getting ready to leave when yet again he flew a little way ahead of us and waited again. He seemed to have no fear, just curiosity. Finally after we passed him the third time he took off and continued flying off the direction he had been headed. It was almost surreal. That is why we love Waldo, last time a Osprey this time a n Eagle. We continued back towards our Yakhauler with occasional stops for photos but we knew we weren't going to beat that experience today.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Eileen at the Gardens of Kensington Palace
Day 12 (8/24/12)
It is our last full day in London. We had already planned on spending the day walking around Kensington, the area which we were staying. Kensington Palace didn’t open until 10:00 so we ended up hanging out in Kensington Park for an hour. It was all good though, we found a little coffee vender with some great coffee. Kensington Palace was occupied by Diana, Princess of Wales until her death in 1997. It is currently being prepared for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who are expected to move in 2013. Our first impression was sort of underwhelming. The side that was considered the Queens apartments was not really furnished and seemed a little contrived. As we explored further into the Queens chambers though it got better and better. When we got to the Kings State Apartments it was more what we expected. Each room was grander than the last. Finally we made our way to the Kings staircase which was everything you would expect in a royal palace. We spent a little time in the gift shop and it was off to the serpentine gallery and the Yoko Ono show. The serpentine Gallery was perhaps a fifteen minute walk across Kensington Park. Along the path you could catch glimpses of the Prince Albert Memorial we had visited our first day in London. When we got to the gallery we found out that Yoko Ono occupied the entire interior space. It was free though so we had a go. There were some pieces that I liked and others that I found a bit superficial.
It was one of the few galleries that didn’t allow photography but I didn’t see the sign until after I got a shot of my favorite piece. Outside the Serpentine there was a large scale piece that was a collaboration between architects, Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and artist Ai Weiwei. Interestingly it is half underground and half above with a shallow reservoir of water for the roof which acts as a mirror. Next it is a short walk to the Victoria and Albert Art Museum where we spent a couple of hours perusing the art and eating lunch. One of the highlights at the V&A was the “Spun” chair. It is a plastic chair in the shape of a spindle that spins when you sit in it. We really want to get one. The other highlight was the room of plaster models. They had molded and modeled some of the greatest artifacts of history including the column of Trajan and the Northern Portal of the “Urnes Stave Church”. One can only spend so much time in one museum before you start getting a little stir crazy so after a couple hours we headed back to our hotel and got cleaned up to try one last pub that our concierge had recommended.
Kensington Palace

Queens Chamber

Kings Chamber

Eileen on Kings Stairway

Another view of Stairway

Yoko Ono Peace Piece
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwie

Spun Chair

Trajen's Column

Trajen's Column (Detail)

Urnes Portal

The Herford Arms

Eileen's Fish & Chips & my Beef and Kidney Pie

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hop on Hop off

On the Double Decker.

Day 11 (8/23/12)
We had determined that at least part of this trip was going to be self directed. We have done a couple of group trips at this point so we wanted to have a go at doing it on our own. Since we were in an English speaking country we thought it would be a good place to start. What better way to get around London than a double-decker bus. We had really enjoyed our experience in Copenhagen using the hop on hop off bus service so we decided to try it again. We had come to count on one of the concierge’s at the hotel for advice and took his counsel on which company to use. Our first transfer point was at the Ritz hotel where we transferred from the Blue line to the Red. Our first Goal for the Day was to go to the London Underground Museum at Covent Garden Piazza and shop for some souvenirs. We had been told that was the only place you could get the coveted “Mind the Gap” T-shirt. We ended up getting most of our souvenirs there. Covent Garden turned out to be a entertaining place to explore with street performers, open air markets and food purveyors of all types. Next it was off to the Tate Modern Art Museum. On the walk to the Tate we went past Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. When we got to the Tate we noticed that there was a Edvard Munch exhibit but, although Munch is one of our favorite artists, we just didn’t have that kind of time and didn’t want to spend the money if we had to run through it. It was a rather quick tour of the Tate because we had one more stop we wanted to make and that was Buckingham palace without all the people. We had been able to see very little when we were there during the changing of the guard. It was much more enjoyable this time. We had been told that the buses ran until 7:00 but when we got to our stop we were told that we had probably missed our connection back to the hotel. We asked our driver to drop us at the corner of Hyde Park and we walked back to our Hotel. It went past the commercial district with Harrods so it was actually quite entertaining. After cleaning up a little we headed for a pub that we had spied on our first day in London for some English faire and ale. Our self directed day had been a success and now it was back to the hotel for some rest before our final whole day in London which was going to be a self directed walking tour of the Kensington area.
Putting on the....

The Queen's Life Guard

Heading for the the Wellington Arch

Random sculpture

Eileen perusing the Goods

Shakespeare's Globe Theater

Eileen at the Tate

Giacometti, Can I say more?

Don Urness at the Tate

Nelson at Trafalger Square

We got quite the Welcome

Eileen at Buckingham Palace

Victoria Memorial

Our first English Pub

Eileen with some Kidney Pies and Yorkshire Pudding

Our Home away from Home

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ultimate London

Eileen playing Tour Guide

Day 10 (8/21/12)
We got up early to get ready for our first big day. We had booked “The Ultimate London Tour” which consisted of ten hours of bus travel punctuated with stops at St Paul’s Cathedral, The Changing of the Guard, lunch at a medieval restaurant (The Medieval Banquet) by the tower of London, the Tower of London, a boat tour on the Thames, and finally the London Eye. After we had started on the tour we were told that the tour ended at the Eye and we would have to find our way home from there, so we had our second experience with the Underground. At this point we were starting to wonder if we should have bought the Oyster. The Oyster, we found out, is a card which like a gift card electronically keeps track of your current balance and subtracts your fair as you go. The fairs are also much cheaper with the Oyster. Unfortunately we didn’t find this out until two days before we left. At any rate, like most European Cathedrals St. Paul’s was magnificent to observe.  Designed by Christopher Wren, who was enthralled with the Catholic cathedrals in Rome, It is as opulent as the protestant hierarchy would allow. It was completed in only thirty five years which was a major feat. Compared to Denmark the changing of the guard was a bit of a letdown. There are so many people that you can barely get a glimpse of any one part and at best much takes place behind a fenced in area so you do not get the intimacy that you get in Copenhagen. Then it was a mad rush to get out and back on to the bus. Next we headed to the Tower of London. There were only about nine of us who went to the Medieval Banquet restaurant for lunch. They say that company makes the meal and although the food was forgettable we made a couple of friends on the journey that made it worth our while. The tower of London itself is a very interesting place and seeing the crown jewels is, for most people, a once in a life time thing but like many of the attractions it is somewhat spoiled by the over the top presentation. To see the jewels you have to go through several rooms with multimedia fluff that adds nothing to the display and in my opinion cheapens the whole experience. The highlight of the Tower was getting to listen and talk to one of the “Beefeaters”. All of the Yeomen Warders (the real title of the beefeaters) have had at least 20 years of exemplarily military service and live on the grounds. Our particular Warder had thirty five years in the actual military and two service metals. From the Tower we boarded a tour boat that took us up the Thames to the Eye of London. We decided to do the Eye in daylight because we still were not that familiar with the undergrounds and wanted to get back to our hotel before too late. As it turned out that was a very good decision because when we got back to our room there was a message that our tour for the next day could no longer pick us up at our hotel and we had to use the time to find our pickup site. 
St Paul's Cathedral

Queen Anne turning her back on the Church

Changing of the Guard

The Medieval Banquet

Stairs into The Medieval Banquet

Dining Room

Tower Bridge

White Tower

Eileen with The Yeoman Warder

Changing of the Guard at the Tower of London

Eileen with the Guard

Warders Houses

Tower Bridge

Eye of London

House of Parliament from Eye

Victoria Station

Queens Tower with Big Ben