London Diary – More of Thames and Van Gogh

Jan 30, 2016
The weekend is coming and my husband would ask what we are doing for the weekend. And I would have the answers. Really it’s been an easy job for me, there seems to be endless possibility here.
Having tried a small part of Thames Path between Richmond and Ham, we are to go back to Thames Path for Kingston today. Waking up to a dismal grey sky wasn’t the tonic for the day, I dragged myself out of bed and started to get ready anyway. Unexpectedly, but oh so happily for me, things took a 180 degree turn, the over cast was completely wiped away and it became a brightly sunny day and it stayed that way until the sun set.
We started from Richmond Hill, which can be reached by District Line or Bus 65. At the bottom of the hill is Petersham Meadow, where the surrounding starts to look rural. A path across the meadow will take you to Petersham which is a neat historic village between Richmond and Ham. In about a mile southward along the river from Petersam Meadow is Ham House on Thames. It is a Grade I listed building and currently managed by National Trust. An elegant house with a refreshing style, I could not have guessed it a 17th century house. Almost right across the river, is Marble Hill House, a white 18th century Palladian villa.
We traveled by the eastern bank of the river. The river was still mostly quiet but here and there we would see seagulls and ducks bobbing and some groups rowing. While there are cottages and low rise buildings along the way on the western bank, the eastern side of the river is mostly woods and fields. In about 3 miles, we passed the town of Teddington and its river lock and dam. Once in Kingston another 1.5 mile later, the environment became that of an urban scene. Kingston is apparently a large town. We made it to Kingston Bridge just as the sun was setting. After beer and a snack at a pub near the bus stop, Grey Horse, we headed home.

Jan 31, 2015
It had been more than 4 weeks since I last visited National Gallery, finally I was going back to finish my viewing, Rococo, Impressionism and post Impressionism collection. Save the best for last indeed, that was my favorite part of the museum.
So many great works, the painting of a girl by Madame Le Brun, The Market Cart by Thomas Gainsborough, Venice by Canaletto, La Yole by Renoir, Water Lily by Monet, and the list goes on. At the end, it was Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings that mesmerized me.
Once I set eyes on them, they seemed to draw me in and in. I stood there, stared, pondered and marveled at them. In comparison, they are smaller in scale than most of the other paintings there, and they are relatively simple in subject matter and composition, two crabs, long grass with butterflies, still sun flowers, wheat field with cypress and a village scene, and yet, they speak to me with intensity. The colors are striking; each brush and line effortless yet alive and fluid with energy; a dream like quality is palpable in each of these paintings, and yet you are convinced it is real. The result is that unique finish that belongs to none but Van Gogh. Not all his paintings are as happy as these, but still, considering the struggle he had in life and with his illness, it is amazing that he was able to capture beauty as he did.
I joked with my husband that I get Van Gogh probably because I have some of that “craziness” myself. Alas, not nearly enough to be the genius that he was. LOL…

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London Diary – Goodbye 2015 and Hello 2016!!

Dec 29, 2015 – National Gallery

By then, Ben had visited Natural History Museum and British Museum, and now he set his mind on National Gallery, excellent Choice.

Since it was close by, we had planned to see the Change of Guards first, which is done on the odd days at Buckingham Palace, we however underestimated the crowd, which turned out to be much bigger than the last time we visited it in Sep. of 2014. By the time we got there, there was not a decent spot left. We tried a bit but eventually turned away. Avoid the Christmas/New Year holiday season or be there early.

So we had more time for National Gallery which worked out great. National Gallery’s specialty is paintings. There are so many treasured pieces at the museum by so many masters, it is an amazing experience going through its labyrinth of rooms. First and last time I visited was more than 10 years ago and all I remembered was its Impressionist collection. Strategy this this time was covering it chronologically. I find it interesting, keeping the historical context in perspective and pondering upon the link between history and art, vice versus. By the end of the day, I went through Early Renaissance, High Renaissance and Baroque. Although I could appreciate the artistry in all these works, I enjoyed the paintings more as the subject matters turned away from being dominantly religious. The Baroque collection is by far the most interesting, it whetted my appetite and I look forward to come back for the later period, Impressionism especially.

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Dec 31, 2015 –New Year’s Eve

By now, I’ve already figured out people here love fireworks. What do they do for New Year’s Eve? One of the most spectacular firework displays in the world over River Thames. Alas, the event became ticketed since 2014 and ticket sale starts in Sep/Oct. Not having moved to London until mid Oct. and not having started to think about it even later meant that tickets were all gone. There were other alternatives of course, various parties and dinner packages, we opted to stay away from the crowd.

Instead, we planned an easy day that turned out delightfully pleasant. We visited Westfield Shopping Center, a chic and huge shopping mall at Shepherds Bush. I think it is the largest shopping mall I ever visited. There are more than two hundred shops and a few dozen places to eat, plus a movie theatre. We shopped, we watched Start War and dined at Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant, and had a feast of Mexican spirit and street food.

Champagne, noshes and sweets continued at home to accompany the count down and fireworks on TV.

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Jan 5, 2016

Somehow it is only now that I am able to say good bye to 2015, which was one of the most interesting year by far. While there were a few bad things and battles to fight, there were more good things, and we triumphed at the end.

And since moving to London, it’s been a journey full of happy experience and interesting discovery, especially the holiday with Ben. As Ben put it, All is well that ends well.

One party ends and another begin. And it is time to say Hello to 2016. I wish all a healthy, prosperous and happy 2016 and I wish all wonderful discoveries and triumphant experiences!!

Unfrogettable Ireland : Dublin (Part 1)

Dublin was our last stop on this trip. We arrived at our hotel in Dublin, Butler’s Town House, a few minutes to 9pm on Jun 19, a Friday, and left on Monday the 22th early in the morning.

Dublin is one of the most pleasant cities, attractive and genial. There is plenty to see in Dublin but it is not overwhelming. If you plan it right, it is easy to walk to the many sites. If necessary, parking, bus, taxi and light rails are conveniently available.

Being there on a weekend when there was no blockbuster event going on worked out great for us after all. It was not crowded but contagiously lively. Especially in the evenings, there was music everywhere on Temple Bar, in the cafes or on the street, where I witnessed a few bridal parties, passing by, danced rapturously to the various music from different groups of street performers, creating a parading spectacle.

The most amazing to me, is the treasure kept at Trinity College Library, The Books of Kells and other manuscripts. The books and manuscript are gospels hand written in Latin with illustrative and decorative inserts. The craft of ancient book making from producing vellums to binding books is fascinating and the vibrant colors and intricate patterns of the illustrations are stunning. It too is a miracle that they have survived more than a millennium. It dawned on me, as it was put by one Irish monk: “… I get wisdom day and night. Turning darkness into light”, that the teaching of reading and writing by the monks through the spreading of the message of the life of Christ, was quite essential to human civilization.

Butler’s Town House

Our room

Our room

I loved the décor at Butler’s Townhouse. Sibyl and staff couldn’t be more warm and friendly.

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England: London (Part 2)

Kensington Palace and Hyde Park

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

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