Last month, Sten was invited by the archaeology department at the University of Durham in the U.K. to give a lecture about his research to the faculty and students. We decided to tack a few days on either side of that professional commitment in order to see a little more of England. We started in my birth place, London, and chose to try airbnb for lodging as we'd heard good reports from others. (See https://www.airbnb.co.uk for information about this.)
Choosing from all the possible listings was a bit overwhelming, but I'd say we fared very well with the home we selected. Our hosts were delightful, friendly without hovering, helpful, and interesting. The room and bath in their townhouse was immaculate and tastefully minimally decorated. We couldn't have been happier. Graham and Lev are the kind of people we'd enjoy spending time with regularly were we to live close by. Can you believe this is taken the end of January and the flowers are blooming?
For supper our first evening, our hosts recommended a wonderful restaurant in their Dalston-Kingsland neighborhood which has a large Turkish population. Our first evening, we checked it out and ended up going back the next night. They had a wonderful selection of interesting and delicious salads, soups, breads, and mains -- as they referred to their main courses.You could select any sort of combination at a set price. For example, a main and two salads or soup and three salads. Here's a couple of pictures of some of the salad selection at Cafe Route as well as the delicious lentil soup I had one evening. Perfect for a blustery English evening.
The next day, we planned to focus on seeing just a few things in central London. First off was an exhibit at the Queen's Gallery Buckingham Palace called Cairo to Constantinople -- Early Photographs of the Middle East. In 1862, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was sent by his mother Queen Victoria on a four-month educational tour accompanied by British photographer Francis Bedford. The exhibit documents his journey through Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece through the photography of Bedford. We found it fascinating to see how the region has changed since then. The first photo below is of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; the second of Bethlehem.
And then we went to see what one can see of Buckingham Palace as a commoner. It was raining and windy, so not fun to stand there for very long.
Next stop was Westminster Abbey. Though I'd been there before, I hadn't had enough time to explore it to my complete satisfaction, plus we knew there was a Choral Evensong that we hoped to attend. The Abbey allows no photography inside, and I reluctantly complied. (Here's a link to a video of the choir singing at the Queen and Prince Philips 60th anniversary service from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZN1mryHEnQ&list=PLBFAB97D2BF36A20A&index=5) Believe me, we enjoyed having time to soak in the atmosphere of this cathedral/cemetery/history book. And the evensong was absolutely glorious. We sat in the Quire (yes, that's how the words for pews where the boys sit is spelled) next to a mother of two of the boys in the choir. She comes every weekend to hear them sing. I can't say I wouldn't do the same. It still amazes me that these children live away from home at such an early age.
And finally, below are a few photos of sites right in the same area of the City of Westminster -- the red phone booths, Big Ben, the London Eye, and the Abbey.
Not too bad for one day of sight-seeing in London. The next morning our fine hosts drove us to King's Cross to catch our train to Heathrow where we picked up a car for the next leg of our journey -- the Cotswolds and Stratford-upon-Avon.