For years I kept journals -- in composition, spiral bound, and French graph paper books. This blog is an attempt to get back to writing and documenting the world around me using photos, newspaper headlines, and other articles.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Of Walking and Sculpture Safari

I walked today for six hours.  I left the flat around 9:00 and took bus #13 to Aldwych.  The route ends at the half-moon area, just above Strand.  When Selim and I took the guided bus tour, we rode past the Royal Courts of Justice and I knew that I wanted to go back and photograph the building.  So I did.  Twinings has a shop right across the street and I popped in and bought ten teabags for a pound.  They had a really cute teapot, but I knew that I didn't want to carry that around all day.  Wise choice on my part.

As I walked, my destination was the Tower Hill underground station where I planned to meet up with a group called London Walks (a must).  They were conducting a tour called The City Sculpture Safari and it began at 10:45.  While walking and taking pictures, I tried to keep an eye on the time.  On my way I passed St. Paul's Cathedral.  That is a surprisingly difficult building for me to photograph.  I had trouble getting a focal point on something other than the dome.  There are so many statutes and carvings all above eye level and for some reason, I couldn't find a shot on the cathedral as a whole that seemed to convey anything.  I kept moving.

In the garden behind was a lovely statue called The Lovers.  I kept walking and trying to decide if I should ride the tube or hop on a bus as Cannon Street seemed to take forever to traverse.  Finally at the Monument station, I caught a bus to the Tower Hill station.  I arrived with two minutes to spare.  Just enough time to document the Tower of London.

And then we started on our walk.  There were 13 of us -- a mix of other Americans, Brits and a mother/daughter duo who spoke a language I didn't recognize.  Our guide was fantastic.  She led us through a maze of city streets from Trinity Square to St. Paul's stopping to show us old statues statues, busts, carvings, monuments, modern commissioned art statues, and some of the new buildings.  We ended on the rooftop shopping center behind St. Paul's in time to hear the bells and take in a panoramic view of the city.  Absolutely marvelous.

We started in Trinity Square looking out at some of the sculpture that is ornamental to the buildings.  The buildings were built for the Port Authority and other shipping/commerce/tea trade related activities. 

Then inside the Square is the World War II Memorial that it evocative of a ship with a compass in the center, and seven carved pillars surrounding.  There area panels in between the carved pillars that list the ships that were lost during the war and the names of those that died.  Quite moving.

We spent some time with the recently unveiled sculpture/monument that was commissioned to  commemorate the anniversary of the abolition of slavery.  There is a lectern/pulpit/auction block piece and then 17 thin up right pieces that have a few words carved into them.  They can represent the sugar cane stalks, shipping barrels, figures that have chain marks around their necks -- whatever works for the observer.  The significance of 17 is that is the number of years it took to pass the bill abolishing slavery.

The next area that we spent quite a bit of time at, was the Lloyd's building.  Holy cow.  I was supposed to be paying attention to the carvings that were part of their older building but I couldn't take my eyes off of the building.  There were aspects of it that reminded me of the Pompidou in Paris, and upon getting back to the flat and doing some research, there is a good reason for it.  Both buildings were designed by Sir Richard Rogers.  Nearby the building we stopped to admire a ship sculpture where the streams of water seem to curve around the ship before falling down to the base.

Somewhat kitty corner to Lloyd's is the Swiss Re Tower or the Gherkin (or as Selim and I called it, the Egg).  According to the guidebook, "it is Britain's first environmentally sustainable high rise, making maximum use of recycled materials, natural air and light, while the building's second skin manages temperature control." Who knew?

But what I loved about that area, was the contrast between the different centuries and the silhouettes that presents.  Glass against stone.  Steel against brick.  Gherkin behind St. Helen Bishopsgate. There was a bowl shaped sculpture that reflects the buildings just beautifully. 

From there we moved on to the area around the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange.  While our guide was talking with us there, we were seeing teams of three, dressed in really silly costumes on some sort of scavenger hunt.  And also there were runners whizzing past, all running with maps in hand.  So much activity going on all around us.  There is a statue of the man who developed the technology to tunnel deep enough for the tube system.  I liked that one.

We ended by taking a glass elevator to the sixth floor of a shopping center and coming out to a gorgeous view of St. Paul's in time to hear the bells.  It felt magical.  I asked one of the tour participants to take my picture.  The wind was so strong that I have really bad hair, but otherwise, I think it shows that I was very happy in that moment.

The other aspects of all the walking that I enjoyed were weather vanes or other golden toppers:

The unexpected glimpse as I passed a narrow alley:

and the cobbler lady statue:

After spending some time looking out at the view, I made my way down and to the north side of St. Paul's where I picked up bus #8 and rode it to the junction of Oxford Road and Tottenham Court Road.  I wanted to go to the HMV store and see if I could pick up some music that I have trouble finding in the States.  No luck on that, but I did pick up a compilation of John Martyn that I don't have and a John Rutter. 

I kept on Oxford headed west, trying to navigate the hoard of shoppers on that street. By this time, I really wanted a cup of tea.  I went back to the Indian place that had the glucos biscuits and drank a great cup of chai.  Fortified, I hopped on my regular bus and came back to the flat around 4:30.  Big day, followed by a nice two hour nap.

I'm watching the men's semi finals of the US Open.  I really want Federer to win. It looked good at the beginning.  But right now, Djokavic has taken control and the match is headed to a fifth set.  Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal are up next.  I'm not sure that I will be awake for all of their match.

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