And Culture

We take the bus to St. Paul’s Cathedral again and walk across the Millenium Bridge to the south side of the River Thames.

The Millenium Bridge opened on June 10th 2000 and became the first new pedestrian crossing over the Thames for more than a century. It connects St. Paul’s Cathedral with the Tate Modern. (cityoflondon.gov.uk)

The Tate

Tate is a network of 4 art museums that houses the United Kingdom’s national collection of British, international, modern, and contemporary art. It is not a government institution, but it’s main sponsor is the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). This department was responsible for bringing the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to London.

The original gallery was founded in 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art. In 1932 it was renamed the Tate Gallery. Henry Tate was a wealthy sugar merchant and philanthropist who donated his collection of 65 contemporary paintings to the government in 1889 on condition that they be displayed in a suitable gallery, for which he contributed £80,000 toward its  construction.

By 2000 the Tate Gallery evolved into 4 museums: Tate Britain situated in Millbank, home of the original National Gallery of British Art/Tate Gallery, Tate Modern in Bankside, Tate Liverpool founded in 1988, and Tate St. Ives in Cornwall founded in 1993. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

This marble bench with its simple but pithy message rests against a window overlooking the outside courtyard displaying Franz West’s punk sculptures.

Got couscous?

This display is created from cooked couscous, a coarse-ground durum wheat used in preparing pasta.


Argentinian artist Judith Werthein designed a shoe, branded Brinco, to help migrants cross the border from Mexico to the United States. She distributed these gym shoes free of charge to people attempting to pass the border illegally in Tijuana.

At the same time, in San Diego, she sold the shoes as limited edition art objects for over $200 a pair, donating the money to a shelter helping migrants in need. (plaque on museum wall)

The shoes feature a flashlight, compass, and pockets for money and medicine. Printed on a removable insole is a map of the border around Tijuana. The sneakers also contain an image of Saint Toribio Romo, the patron saint of Mexican migrants.

The Brinco trainers were produced cheaply in China where labor is cheap and often poorly regulated. Werthein hopes to draw attention to how easily goods move between countries, compared with the strict regulations around the movement of people. (plaque on museum wall)

My attempt at an artistic shot… The Shard through a pattern of stacked masonry blocks in front of the window…

The same view…

Did I forget to mention that there is no admission fee to visit the Tate Modern?

Heading toward The National Gallery, we take the Blackfriars Bridge across the Thames.

Do you recognize the 3 famous landmarks in the photos below?

Victoria Embankment

We walk along the Victoria Embankment, a section of the larger Thames Embankment, a road and river-walk along the north bank of the Thames.

We pass Temple Avenue, a main legal district of London and home to many barristers’ chambers and solicitors’ offices.

Temple is the name for the area in the vicinity of Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar and consecrated in 1185. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

A City of London Dragon boundary mark…

Embankment Cafe

flickr.com courtesy of John King

We stop for fish and chips and try not to share our meal with the pigeons.

Victoria Embankment Gardens

This popular public park is part of a chain of open spaces along the Embankment, designed by Sir Joseph Bazelgette and opened in 1865. (westminster.gov.uk)

The historical Watergate was built in 1626 as an entrance to the Thames River for the Duke of Buckingham. The gate is still in its original position, but since its creation the Thames water line has moved and the gate is now some 328 feet (100 meters) from the water. (westminster.gov.uk)

We head to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery via Villiers Street. We pass by Gordon’s Wine Bar where Andy and his brother John took their oldest brother, Brian, for his 40th birthday.

Gordon’s Wine Bar


Established in 1890, Gordon’s is the oldest wine bar in London. As you enter the bar you find yourself in a room with old wooden walls covered in historical newspaper cuttings and memorabilia faded with age. (gordonswinebar.com)


Enter the cellar and you need to stoop to make your way to your candlelit table.




You can also sit outside in Watergate Walk.

This bar is situated in Kipling House, home to Samuel Pepys in the 1680s and in 1820 occupied by Minier & Fair, a firm of seedsmen who used it as a warehouse. In 1864 the river was embanked and the warehouse became landlocked. It was subsequently turned into a living accommodation and wine bar in 1890 where Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) lived as a tenant and wrote his first novel The Light That Failed in 1891. (gordonswinebar.com)

Tennyson (1809-1892) and G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) also penned literary works at a table in the candlelit cave-like cellar, perhaps sipping a glass of wine or two.

Alfred Tennyson was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign. Two of his famous poems are ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and ‘Ulysses’. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

G. K. Chesterton is well known for his Father Brown character, the fictional priest-detective. Perhaps you are familiar with the BBC series of the same name broadcast on PBS. I am a fan of this show.

Last summer I helped weed the Pacific High School Library collection in Port Orford, OR. Look at this gem that I found:

Next stop… Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery

The National Gallery


Founded in 1824, this art museum on Trafalgar Square houses a collection of over 2300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.

The Gallery is an exempt charity and a non-departmental public body of the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport. In other words, this collection belongs to the government on behalf of the British people as an institution of further and higher education. The bottom line is this… admission to the main collection is free of charge. (nationalgallery.org.uk)

Andy and I head to the Sorolla Exhibition which is housed in the Sainsbury Wing.


The Sorolla Exhibition is entitled, Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light, and is the first UK exhibition of this Spanish impressionist in over a century.


Known for his iridescent canvases, this is a rare opportunity to see the most complete exhibition of Joaquin of Sorolla y Bastida’s (1863-1923) paintings outside of Spain.

From the vivid seascapes, garden views, and bather scenes for which he is most renowned, to portraits, landscapes and genre scenes of Spanish life, the exhibition features 58 works spanning Sorolla’s career. (nationalgallery.org.uk)

I am so mesmerized by the art, that I don’t take any pictures. The artist’s ability to paint sunlight amazes me!

Here are some highlights (hehe) from the exhibition courtesy of Lizzie Thomson from Go London, an online newsletter, posted on March 19, 2019.

Ms. Thomson explains that

Sorolla’s career was a tale of two halves: his earlier works depict themes of social consciousness, whereas the turn of the century saw him turn to less serious subject matter, instead using the beach and his family as inspiration. (standard.co.uk)

Strolling along the Seashore (1909)…


Sorolla painted his wife and daughter Matia on a windy beach in Valencia.

Sad Inheritance (1899)


Sorolla made history with this 1899 piece, as it was the first time an artist had painted children with polio. In it he captures a number of children bathing in the Mediterranean Sea under the supervision of a monk. The polio epidemic that struck Valencia in the the late 19th century means that a few of the boys are crippled due to the condition. Sad Inheritance marked a turning point in Sorolla’s career and instantly gave him more recognition as an artist, but despite the painting’s success, he had already turned his sights to less intense topics. This was the last time his art focused on social issues for its subject matter. (standard.co.uk)

My Wife and Daughters in the Garden (1910)


Sorolla is often inspired by his own family. Here he painted his wife Clotilde and daughters Maria and Elena.

Sewing the Sail (1896)


This work is part of his series of Spanish folkloric art. Notice how extensively Sorolla captured the sunlight coming through the railings and plants and onto the material and people. (standard.co.uk)

Running Along the Beach (1908)

the guardian.com

Sorolla is noted for his dazzling seascapes of Valencia beaches. Notice how the sun glistens on the skin of these exuberant children and casts shadows in the folds of the girls’ dresses. (artandantiquesmag.com)

Homeward bound… and a pint or two

We head back home and stop for a pint at the Earl of Essex pub in Islington, Andy’s favorite local hangout, where we meet up with one of his mates, Mike, a lovely chap.

google maps 

The Earl of Essex was founded in 2012 as Islington’s first brewpub with an ever-changing list of local and international beers. (earlofessex.net)



The first day I arrived, Andy and I drank Aperol Spritzes in the beer garden.



On our way back to Upper Street, I find this sweet sidestreet…

We still have an heirloom tomato from Borough Market so we pick up some meats and cheese from Sainsbury’s Local (a mini-version of the supermarket with the same name) and prepare a charcuterie plate.

Another great day in London!

Resting On My Laurels… (hehe)

A Lazy Ass Day in Islington

Andy has scheduled the week off from work while I visit him in London. A few work-related issues, however, need attending to on Friday… No problemo with me… I sleep in, read my book, and spend time with Dewey in Andy’s flat.

Andy lives in a flat on Upper Street above a restaurant near St. Mary’s Church.


It’s quite lovely…

The steps are covered with non-slip liners for Dewey who is recuperating from back leg surgery (both legs).

The tiny cupboard below houses a washing machine… really!

The hallway leads into a large bright sitting room with tall windows.

Appropriately, I am reading a mystery book by British author, Anthony Horowitz, Magpie Murders.

As a school librarian I am very familiar with the author’s young adult Alex Rider and Power of Five series, but it wasn’t until Tom, a friend and volunteer from Thousand Palms Oasis, suggested a binge-worthy Netflix British murder mystery series (Midsomer Murders) to watch that I found out about Horowitz’s talents as journalist, screenwriter, and adult “who-done” it books.


After I return to the States and continue reading this novel, I recognize places and street names referred to in the book and understand some subtle references made by the author.

Late afternoon, we walk up and down Upper Street as I search for souvenirs for the grandkids in Jernigan Land.

Andy takes me to After Noah, an eclectic curiosity shop filled with toys, homewares, and restored furniture.


How do gasoline prices here compare with the U.S.? I have no clue…

The spire in the background is St. Mary’s Church where Andy takes Dewey for his morning and evening walks.

We actually spotted the steeple from the open observation deck, level 72, from the Shard yesterday. I took a picture but you couldn’t see it.

According to en.m.wikipedia.org, a church has stood on this site since the 12th century. The original church was rebuilt in 1483, 1754, and again in 1956.

In the 18th century the Islington Church Act of 1750 was passed by Parliament to authorize appointed trustees to pull down the old church and steeple and rebuild the same as, recorded in the Act’s preamble, the church “is now in a very ruinous condition”. Fees charged for funerals, bell-ringing, and the use of coffin cloths were to be used for rebuilding. The trustees were also authorized to raise up to £7000 by selling annuities. (Campbell, S. Allen Jr.,  History of St. Mary Islington.  St. Mary Islington , 2007.)


We pass by Islington’s City Hall building.

Andy does a bit of shopping at his favorite store in Angel Central, Muji.

We end our lazy day at Franco Manca, the popular sourdough pizza restaurant chain.




We share an appetizer.

And we each order our own pizza. Delicious! So delicious that I forget to take a picture…

I borrow this one from the Internet:


Yummy and fun!

And finally, I leave you with Some Itsy Bitsy Bits About Islington…

During medieval times Islington was just one of many small manors in the area. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

A manor was an agricultural estate composed of tracts of land, a village whose inhabitants worked that land, and a house where the owner of the land lived. (thoughtco.com)

Variant spellings of what is now ‘Islington’ first appear in 1005 when the Saxons named the village ‘Giseldone’ then later, in 1062, ‘Gislandune’. The name comes from the Old English meaning Gisla’s hill, Gisla from a personal name and “dun” meaning ‘hill’ or ‘down’. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

Further variants include Ysendon, Isendune, Yseldon, and Eyeseldon possibly meaning ‘hill of iron’ or ‘lower fort’.  From 1559 onward, on the Calendar of Proceedings in Chancery in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, ‘Islington’ became the preferred spelling. (Campbell, S. Allen Jr., History of St. Mary Islington. St. Mary Islington , 2007.)

These are the only clues as to when this first town north of London was established.


Upper Street used to be called High Street and before that it was named High Road. Similarly, Essex Street used to be called Lower Street, Lower Road, and Low Road.

These 2 streets, Upper (High) and Essex (Low) converge at Islington Green, now a small triangular green space that was once where farmers had grazing rights. Today there is a statue of Sir Hugh Myddelton at this junction. Myddleton was responsible for designing the New River, an artificial waterway or canal that supplied fresh drinking water to London from the River Lea and an assortment of springs. It opened in 1613. (en.m.wikipedia.org)


Perhaps you can guess where this is going… High Road, Low Road, Islington’s location just north of London leading further north to the greater part of England and beyond to Scotland? It was in Islington, so the story goes, where one had to make a decision that led to the song, You take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland a’fore you!” (Campbell, S. Allen Jr., History of St. Mary Islington. St. Mary Islington , 2007.)


Upper Street is the main shopping district of Islington and part of the A1 road, the longest numbered road in the UK at 410 miles. The A1 connects London, the capital of England, to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

Another unique feature of Upper Street is that it is one of the few streets in London to have a high pavement or sidewalk, as we call it. Constructed in the 1860s, the purpose of the high pavement was to protect pedestrians from being splashed by the large number of animals using the road to reach the Royal Agricultural Hall. The Hall was home to the Smithfield Club which held annual exhibitions of livestock, agricultural produce, and agricultural implements from 1862 until 1938. (en.m.wikipedia.org)


Hopping Off…

Piccadilly Circus

It’s a bit busier than earlier in the day…


A Pleasant Pub in Soho

Back in Islington…

We share appetizers for dinner at Pasha, a Turkish restaurant a few doors down from Andy’s flat.

Oh, soooo good!

An After Dinner Walk Through the Neighborhood

And later… St. Mary’s churchyard, aka “Dewey’s Walk”

Dewey and Andy

What a lovely ending to a full day of sightseeing!

Mind the Gap


I arrive late morning at Heathrow Airport. Andy sends me a royal greeting and meets me at the airport.


My seat mate on British Airways gave me a cryptic piece of advice about getting around London and the UK. As I purchase my ticket for the Heathrow Express and board the train, I understand what he means.

Getting around London is easy… Taxis, trains, the tube, and buses…

We take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. (Yep, the same one as the bear…)

From here we take a taxi to Islington where Andy lives.

And there’s Dewey, the wonder dog, my Dewster…

I drop off my stuff…

…and we head out for a walk through Islington…

…along the canal.

Folks live in these houseboats and can “park” here for 2 weeks at a time.

Islington just off the top edge of this map where the blue circle encloses Upper Street and the canal.

Here’s the bigger map, though not a good picture, showing where Islington is in relation to the rest of the city.

We stop for a pint and some food to share… a charcuterie board and trifle chip at a pub called The Narrowboat.

The rest of my first day is a blur from jet lag. All I remember is that Andy took Dewey out and picked up some beer, wine, hummus, and nibbles from the local grocer and I fell asleep.

I can’t believe I am in London!