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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Bird, a Tourist and a Camera

There once was a rather shy bird named Francois, who lived in a beautiful park by the Eiffel Tower. One day, Francois heard a pesky tourist coming closer, so he ducked behind some flowers.

Eh, it's only another American lady with a camera, thought Francois.  

Francois decided that he might as well climb out onto the rock beside his lake and take a closer look.

Pish! Do ze tourists have nothing better to do? Why don't zey go and sit by a lake instead?

Perhaps, thought Francois, if I turn my back on her she'll get ze hint and go away.

Paris - Beyond the Eiffel Tower

An allee at Le Jardin du Plantes

Iconic view of Montmartre

Er . . . one of the bridges over the Seine.
More Montmartre below - we took a "Paris Walks" of the area.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There is an Eiffel Tower

Okay, alright, I admit it - the Eiffel Tower exists. And I became as enthralled by it as everyone else, as evidenced by the multitude of photos included here. Brooke and I were allowed only a fleeting glimpse of the Tower during our taxi ride to the hotel. Next day, we boarded one of those hop on, hop off, double decker tourist buses and set off on a tour of Paris. At one point, we rounded a corner and there, in all it's glory, was the Eiffel Tower. As Brooke remarked, actually seeing it in person, and rather unexpectedly, takes your breath away. These are photos from my camera - and I hardly took any snaps at all, leaving the bulk of that duty to Vicky and Brooke. I can only imagine how many images of the Tower Brooke has on her camera. Without a doubt, we have 360 degree views of the Tower. From every angle. At any time of day or night. Wallpaper anyone? As promised in my previous post concerning the Eiffel Tower, I apologise to the French people for ever doubting it's existence. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tea Time in London, and more London Libraries

Victoria here. Before I finish my tea, I will tell you about several other London libraries I have used for research. After my day in the reading rooms of the British Library, I took the train to Hertford, a little north of London, and worked at the Hertfordshire Archives.  I took a taxi to the County Hall, where in addtion to the archives, they perform weddings and all sorts of other governmental business.

I had accessed their archival catalogue on line and pre-ordered a number of papers related to the Melbourne and Cowper families who had country houses and large land holdings there. The archives had more material than I could use in just one day, so I had to sort through a lot of things I wished I had time to look at -- and tried to concentrate on the most significant materials for my needs. 

Darn if that isn't a frustrating thing -- when you have all sorts of letters, from ones telling the bailiff to do something about a certain field, or an account of a church fete organization, it's hard not to read the whole thing.  But by 2:30, my eyes had glazed over and I headed back to London.  If I need the material again, they will copy some documents for me -- or for you -- more for a fee, but a few without charge if you have the specific numbers.

I got to the VandA National Art Library on Friday afternoon just an hour before it closed. Again, I had preregistered on line and asked for a certain sale catalogue I wanted to see.  Even though I doubted I would finish with it that day, at least I would have an idea of how much more time I'd need. 

Luckily, the material was brief: sales of rugs, bronzes, and a few other items.  So I had it copied (again, without charge) and I was done!  Amazing.  

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Return to London

Victoria here --  This morning (Sunday) our ship arrived in Basel, Switzerland, and we disembarked, heading for London.  The Rhine Cruise was wonderful, a congenial group of mostly Americans, a goodly number of Brits, and a few Australians. Quite a few of us were returning to London via train (I guess when we made the arrangements we were all considering the possibility that Icelandic volcano could have spoiled our plans).

So we boarded the French high speed train, the TGV, to Paris. It made several stops but was indeed fast. Lovely views of the summery countryside of France most of the way.  We arrived at the Paris East Station and took a taxi to Paris Gare du Nord -- not very far. But it was HOT!! Must have been  in the 90's.

We got on the Eurostar and sped off to London St. Pancras, which was also pretty warm. The trains were fantastic, efficient and why don't we have them in the US????? Clean. Comfortable. Smooth. I really could rant about it, but I won't.  I'll just add that both trains were entirely booked with reserved seats.

We taxied to our hotel for two nights, the Radisson Edwardian Kenilworth, half a block from the British Museum. Left, the British Museum in 1811.

 London is also in the 80's, but breezy and not as humid as Paris. It's supposed to be like this all week, so if you aren't busy, get yourself over here to enjoy the Great British Summer. Yeah.

We strolled around in the early evening and stopped at a little Italian restaurant with four tables  outside -- delicious and very friendly. We talked with a couple of writers from Orlando and a German woman who lives in Durham. 

London was rather quiet tonight, with a lot a disappointment all around at the loss to Germany in the World Cup. Long faces.

Now we are resting up and hoping to put in a busy day tomorrow.  I have only one required stop, at the Buckingham Palace Shop, to buy a few goodies.  Maybe the Museum of London, but maybe just some strolls since the weather will be perfect. Sorry this post is information-less, but I am  just happy to be here!!

Back in the U.S. of A

Kristine here, back in the land of television shows in English and computer keyboards with all the keys where they should be. I did try to post while in France, but honestly, it was too frustrating. As Vicky has posted, once she is also back in the States we'll be posting blogs and pics of our trip, but for now I'll give you the highlights of the Wellington tour once Vicky and I parted ways. Vicky and Ed left us on Sunday morning, Battle of Waterloo day, in order to make their cruise connection. Brooke and I went on with the tour to the re-enactment site.

When we'd visited the day before to see the military camps, La Belle Alliance and Hougemount, someone had asked me if I were going to walk to the top of the Lion's Mound, the great man-made hill erected to commemorate the Battle and I responded, emphatically, no. It's an almost verticle hill with many, many steps to the top. Well, dear reader, never say never. It turns out that there were so many visitors to the battle that if you'd stayed on the ground, you'd never see a thing, being five or six deep in a crowd of spectators. It was absolutely freezing on the day, and had rained the day before so Brooke and I bought commemorative Waterloo blankets (not kidding) and began the long climb up the mound. We got about half way there and found ourselves spots from which to view the action. Once you left the stairs, you had to crouch down in order to walk to your place, the slope is so steep. Also, it's covered in slippery grass, with no footholds to speak of. Talk about harrowing. Brooke later told me that she'd never before actually seen terror in anyone's eyes as she had when she was helping me to our place. The fact that people above us kept losing their personal items - cameras, umbrellas and such - and that these kept rolling down the hill past us did not offer us much comfort. At last we found purchase, digging our heels and butts into the hillside in order to gain a bit of purchase, and settled in for the show. . .

And what a show it was. It was absolutely thrilling to be in the thick of the Battle, so to speak. The  formations, the cannons going off, the rifles being fired, the smoke enveloping the field as mounted calvary cantered across the field, all of it was fabulous. And to add to the authenticity of the thing, it began to bucket down rain. So now I'm precariously perched on the side of the Mound, watching the battle, holding an umbrella over us and trying to film the Battle. It was at this point that Brooke told me she wasn't into Wellington as much as I was and this was all more of a sacrifice than she was prepared to make and that she was going down the pub to wait for me in the dry, with a drink. Thank God one of fellow tour members, an exceedingly nice man who was a retired police detective from Surrey, was with us and able to help me back down the Mound at the end or I'd still be sitting at the Battlefield.

Vicky and I took masses of photos all along the way and we promise to post them soon - shots of the military camps, the battle sites and lots of re-enactors in various uniforms. I also took much video - including footage of "Wellington" on horseback, galloping between regiments - and if I can figure out how to edit these, I'll be posting them in the near future. It's grand to be back and we look forward to sharing our trip via our posts here soon.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Do You Know About The National Trust and the Royal Oak Society?

Victoria here...a loyal member of the Royal Oak Society for quite a few years.  This is the U.S. organization that supports the National Trust in Britain. If you live in a major U.S. city, or visit one from time to time, you might find that one of the Royal Oak's lectures could be on your agenda.

They bring historians, decorators, architectural critics and gardeners to the U.S. for programs in New York City, and several other cities, usually chosen from Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. Sometimes Miami, Charleston, San Francisco and others. The programs I have attended are marvelous.

To learn more about the Royal Oak, click here. There are many other worthwhile activities, too. But the very best thing is that you are part of the British National Trust and you are admitted free to all NT properties, not to mention getting a discount at their shops.

Here is the connection to the NT. As you probably know if you are an Anglophile, the National Trust is a fantastic organization that works to protect the land and the heritage of Great Britain. I have this dream that someday I will get to all of the places run by the National Trust, particularly the stately homes.

While the NT is an exceptionally well run professional organization, with a wonderful list of publications, most of the guards/guides in the buildings are volunteers, well-trained, but nevertheless, volunteers.  I have heard some wonderful stories from these worthy souls about their experiences -- and most of them are only too glad to chat with guests, especially when they find out you are a member of the Royal Oak -- then you are really someone special.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Napoleon's old territory

Victoria here.  We have reached the spot in our Rhine Cruise where the river is the border between France and Germany. Today we toured the city of Strasbourg, home of the European parliament aand other EU institutions.

So I shouldn't have been surprised to find the first Place we encoutered was Place d'Austerlitz, where the Corsican general and his troops stopped on their way to the important battle of the same name, which thoroughly whipped the Austrians, IIRC. Hmmmm.

But despite that little reminder, the town itself is charming -- parts of it are very French and parts monumentally German. It has passed back and forth, as has its whole region of Alsace a number of times. Here is some of the French part.

Many canals and the river Ill flow through and around the town center.  We saw lots of storks which live at the top of specially trimmed trees and quite calmly stared at us from their large nests.  Around the town I also saw evidence of the geese the region is famous for, but not a single one on the  river -- just swans and ducks.

Of course the city is renowned for its ancient cathedral, combining Romanesque and Gothic features. It has a very complicated astrological clock that keeps the time, date, month, year, sign of the zodiac, lunar phases, etc.--all so old you would never guess they had the ability to fine tune such a huge instrument.  Some of the windows are extremely old and quite beautiful. The large rose window was destroyed in WWII bombing, so it is a new creation.

We finished off our stay with a lovely luncheon of French specialities: Quiche Lorraine and Flambe something, which was a very thin-crusted pizza aith local cheeses. And lovely wine from nearby vineyards.

Tomorrow we cruise further south, which is upstream, since the Rhine flows from Switzerland (Lake Constanz) to the Niorth Sea. Our curise direction,  from Amsterdam to Basel, has us moving south but upstream and the current is very very fast.  The boat must have a good strong engine to push us along, while going the other way, you'd hardly have to use any power at all except to stay in the channels.

Our off-boat trip will be to a section of the Black Forest.  Then on Sunday morning Ed and I leave the Viking Sun and take the train to Paris where we merely change stations to return to London by Eurostar.  I am busy making plans for a few last minute visits on the one day we have in London before going home.

I believe that Kristine and Brooke are soon to be back home, so next week, we will try to fill you in on all our London activities (we didn't have a computer until Ed arrived), and sift through our pictures and video. I hope some of them, at least, will be worth the wait.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

London Libraries

Research in London is really a redundant term for those of us who love the place and want to learn more about it. Just walking in the streets is a worthwhile experience...however, sometimes we want to dig deeper.  I had that opportunity last week. 

The British Library catalogue is easily accessible on line and you can set up a log-in account and save titles you are interested in looking at.  It is all explained on their website and since I was able to manage it, I am sure others will find it user-friendly too. 

You can pre-register for a Reader's Card on line, but once at the BL, you must go through a short interview and show a passport and a  document with your home address -- I used my Wisconsin driver's license.  If what you are interested in is easily accessible at other libraries, you might not be allowed to get the card. So be sure whatever you seek is relatively rare.  I asked for two documents which I 'd never seen in any other library catalogues.  

Once you have the Reader's Card (it's good for several months and can be renewed), you have to put all your belongings in  locker except for your notepaper, pencil and/or computer, and maybe your wallet.  Though they said they had clear plastic bags available to carry these things, they'd been all used when I was there, so I filled my pockets.  This is the same system at many libraries to protect their collections -- so if you want to carry much, have your own clear bag with you.

Then you proceed to the room you had indicated in your on-line request as your reading room of choice (I picked Humanities 1), choose a seat and note the number, then present your Reader's Card at the desk for your materials.

In my case the two documents I had requested were only 21 and 12 pages long.  I was amazed --- although I am sure if I had read the catalogue info more carefully, I would have known.  Anyway, I finished in about an hour and was most pleased with the experience.  I had lunch in the library cafe, filled with other researchers.  I could have requested something else to study, but they warn it takes up to 24 hours for many old things kept off-site, so being a bit jet-lagged, I decided to take a walk in the fresh air (as if there was any along Euston Road).

The next day I did research at Hertforshire Archives an hour north of London and also at the Vand A Museum Art Library, but I'll give you the details of those experiences another time. Both have their catalogues on line -- and will copy things for you for a small fee.

We are recently back from the tour of charming Heidelberg and a delicious lunch of wurst and beer -- that reminded us exactly of home in Milwaukee. Now I need a nap -- cheers, Victoria, who is really sorry she can't include any of her photos yet. Stay tuned.

Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch

David Wilke's famous painting, Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch, was commissioned by the Duke of Wellington and completed in 1822, when it was shown at the Royal Academy and was so popular that railings had to be put up to protect it. The painting celebrated the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Duke asked Wilkie for a picture of old soldiers outside a public house. It was Wilkie who chose the Royal Hospital at Chelsea as a setting. Nothing could have been more fitting - by 1815 there were more than 30,000 Chelsea pensioners, soldiers who were discharged as unfit for further duty because of injury. Most received cash payments and did not live at Chelsea. Many had served with the Duke of Wellington, whose body lay in state in 1852 in the Great Hall of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

As the Royal Hospital Chelsea website says: There are few institutions in the United Kingdom with an unbroken three centuries of service and none of them is so close to the heart of the nation as "The Men in Scarlet", the Chelsea Pensioners, and their home, the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Founded in 1682 by King Charles II and intended for the 'succour and relief of veterans broken by age and war', the Royal Hospital, with its Grade 1 listed buildings, still serves its original purpose and intends to continue to further its role well into the 21st Century.

The painting still hangs at Apsley House and is on public display.

The Student Prince

Victoria on the Rhine Crusie here --- Today we go to Heidelberg, the setting of that great romantic operetta and film, The Student Prince.

I heard on CNN that France is going on strike -- so Kristine and Brooke are probably in the middle of it. I suppose they'll just have to go shopping...

Yesterday we cruised the middle Rhine and saw dozens of castles, and many, many vineyards. I am surprised at how agricultural the shores are -- though there are many big cities too. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for sitting outside until we finally decided we were getting burned and needed to go into the lounge. In the afternoon we stopped at the village of Rudesheim, center of the wine growing region, and we strolled the quaint town, full of souvenir shops and restaurants. Stopped for a glass of Rhine wine and it was delicious -- ordinarily I find it too sweet, but they can make it quite dry too apparently.

Loved the World Cup results -- both England and the US into the sixteen. And SO happy that So. Africa beat the French. Good heavens, I have turned into a sports fan. But you can't escape it in England, Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany. Crazy.

Today we go by bus 30 mins from the Rhine to Heidelberg which I am eager to see. Student Prince and all that. Remember the movie with Edmund Purdum acting and lip syncing to Mario Lanza's Voice?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Windmills in my head

From Victoria:  We are cruising down the Rhine toward Koln, aka Colonge, after visiting Kinderdijk in Holland.   We saw a group of 19 windmills dating from the mid 18th century which helped hold back the sea -- or as the guide said, "kept our feet dry." Now diesel and electric pumps do the job. The windmills are a UNESCO world heritage sight, and one is working to show how they pumped the water.  We saw the little kitchen, bedroom and living room where the miller raised his family.  I decided not to try the steep stairs up any higher. All very picturesque.

Kristine and Brooke are in Paris I assume and must be loving it. For me, it is quite relaxing on the ship after the mad flurry of activity that was our first week in London  and Waterloo.  Believe me, I need the rest!!  After all, I have that one full day left in London on our way home and my list of things to do is growing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Death of William IV

William IV, the Sailor King, died on 20 June 1837. He was the third son of George III and younger brother and successor to George IV and was the last king and penultimate monarch of the House of Hanover. While William's reign was much more sedate than that of his brother, George IV, with less scandal and spending and more attention being paid the business of running the country, William IV did have one bane to his existence - his sister-in-law the Duchess of Kent, mother to Princess Victoria.

King William's problems with the Duchess began early in his reign - in fact, at his coronation, as related in a book called When William IV was King By John Ashton:

During the procession to the Abbey (for the Coronation of William IV) the weather was fine, and the sight a brilliant one; but, soon after one o'clock, a very heavy rain descended ; the wind, too, blew with great violence, and occasioned rattling and tearing among the canvas canopies of the newly erected stands. It ceased for a short time, between two and three, when it broke out afresh, and was particularly lively when the ceremony was over, at half-past three. It quite spoilt the return procession, some of the carriages driving straight away, and those that fell into rank had their windows up.

In spite of the weather, London was brilliantly illuminated, and the theatres and Vauxhall Gardens were thrown open free. There was a display of fireworks in Hyde Park, at which many were more or less hurt by the falling rocket-sticks, six so seriously as to have to be taken to St. George's Hospital. Throughout the country the festivity was universal. One little thing marred the universality. The Duchess of Kent was not present at the coronation, neither was the Princess Victoria. It was an open secret that the King and the Duchess were not on friendly terms, but it was thought very bad taste on her part not to be present.

Though more contretemps between the King and the Duchess were to come (as will be shown in future posts), for the time being, all was well in the land. In his Memoirs, Charles Greville included the following entry for July 18th.— King George had not been dead three days before everybody discovered that he was no loss, and King William a great gain. Certainly nobody ever was less regretted than the late King, and the breath was hardly out of his body before the press burst forth in full cry against him, and raked up all his vices, follies, and misdeeds, which were numerous and glaring enough.

The new King began very well. Everybody expected he would keep the Ministers in office, but he threw himself into the arms of the Duke of Wellington with the strongest expressions of confidence and esteem. He proposed to all the Household, as well as to the members of Government, to keep their places, which they all did except Lord Conyngham and the Duke of Montrose. He soon after, however, dismissed most of the equerries, that he might fill their places with the members of his own family. Of course such a King wanted not due praise, and plenty of anecdotes were raked up of his former generosities and kindnesses. His first speech to the. Council was well enough given, but his burlesque character began even then to show itself. Nobody expected from him much real grief, and he does not seem to know how to act it consistently; he spoke of his brother with all the semblance of feeling, and in a tone of voice properly softened and subdued, but just afterward, when they gave him the pen to sign the declaration, he said, in his usual tone, "This is a damned bad pen you have given me." My worthy colleague, Mr. James Buller, began to swear Privy Councillors in the name of "King George IV.—William, I mean," to the great diversion of the Council.

A few days after my return I was sworn in, all the Ministers and some others being present. His Majesty presided very decently, and looked like a respectable old admiral. The Duke [of Wellington] told me he was delighted with him— "If I had been able to deal with my late master as I do with my present, I should have got on much better"—that he was so reasonable and tractable, and that he had done more business with him in ten minutes than with the other in as many days."


Victoria here with time for just a note.  Yesterday, we roamed the various sites of battles here, at Ligny, Quatre Bras, Wavre, etc. Also visited Napoleon's headquarters at Caillou, then La Belle Alliance, and numerous vistas of the battlefield known as Waterloo, well south of the village where Wellington spent the night before the fight. 

Finally we arrived at the Lion Mount and Panorama, already exhausted and in definite need of spirits and food!! We had seen the reenactors for the French army in splendid unniforms, camped (bivouaced) near Caillou.  All around the various memorials, etc. were more unifored men and women, some in men's uniforms, others as wives and/or camp followers, cooks, provision-cart drivers and so forth.

So nature's necessities being what they are we stopped for an Italian (!) late lunch at the battlefield and then went to -- you guessed it -- the Gift Shop! It was also the Visitor's Center --- and you will be appalled to know that Napoleonic trinkets ( and there were thousands) filled the shelves -- hardly anything was devoted to the British victors and Wellingon might as well have stayed hone for all the homage he gets here!!!

Eventually we slogged through a muddy field (it rained on and off, just to prove its authenticity) and reached the Chateau of Hougoumont where the British and Allied forces were bivouaced. We finally saw OUR redcoats, along with the Black Watch, the Hanoverians, lots of Belgians, etc. with their horses tents, fires, and dogs.  

We hope some of the pictures turn out.  Kristine is off today to the reenactment and the Wellington Museum -- which ought to have some memorabilia worth seeing -- while Ed and I must get a train north.  Hate to miss this morning, but there are thousands of people and wild traffic jams, so Ed and I are foregoing the reenactment in favor of making our cruise this afternoon.

More soon!!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Brussels Bound

Kristine here - it's about 8 in the morning and we're packing up for Brussels. Meeting the tour at St. Pancras station at 10 and then it's off to three days of Artie-ness. Speaking of which, went to lunch with Brooke yesterday at a pub called the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, as it's near Waterloo Station. There was a mural on the barrel vaulted ceiling of the Battle - of which I took pictures. We also walked Regent Street and Piccadilly and then we walked the River on the South Bank from Waterloo Station to Tower Bridge. The tide was out and there were stairs frrom the Queen's Walk down to the sand beside the river and Brooke and I went down and turned into mudlarks, picking through the stones and shells to find the good bits, in this case lots of shards of blue and white pottery. I found one with the picture of a Chinaman and some decorative embellishment still intact and picked up enough shards to fill a small baggy. My souvenier of the River Thames. Thank goodness today entails the Eurostar and a private coach, which means that we won't be walking too terribly  much until tonight, when we walk Wellington's Brussells. A good long ride and some much needed rest for the feet! We continue to go at a mad pace, trying to get in as much as possible each day, but needless to say, we are quite happy and more than a little content. More soon . . . . .

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rude Britannia

That's the name of an exhibition at the Tate Britain and it is lots of fun, a collection of caricatures, cartoons, and all sorts of insulting material -- at which the British excel. No one is sage -- the church, politicians, the aristocracy, the royals -- everyone takes their hits.

Our old friends Cruikshank, Rowlandson, and Gillray are there, as well as some of their predecessors and successors, including some current cartoons about the new PM and the Deputy PM (Cameron and Cleeg), the fumbling of BP executives -- but NOT about that World Cup passion everyone seems to have. Who'd dare make fun of that?

Victoria and husband Ed here -- relating our day at the Tate then on a London Walks tour of Old Westminster, in which we saw some fascinating things we never knew were there -- like a lovely little neighborhood of Georgian houses and cobblestone streets right in the shadow of Parliament and the Abbey. Soon I'll share some of the pictures I took -- and some of the stories David, our guide, told.  We were exhausted after the long walk so we stopped for a quick half-pint at the Westminster Arms -- then attended the sung Evensong at the Abbey, something we always enjoy.  The choir is wonderful. And even for heathens like us, it is a calming and relaxing 45 minutes.

We're about to head out for dinner now -- and tomorrow we set off on our adventure to Brussels and Waterloo via the Eurostar.  More soon!

A London Whirlwind

Kristine here - No doubt this post will read as though I've been doing crack for the past week, but I've so much to tell you that I'm just going to go for it and spit it out, disjointed or no. Apsley House was our first stop - Yippeee! From there on, there's so much that's happened that it's all running together. Walked down Picadilly to St. James's Street (paid hommage to White's Club), went to a veddy British concert in St. Martin's in the Fields, strode past the Horse Guards and discovered that Wellington's Office, still preserved, is not generally open to the public, so I'll have to write in advance for admittance next time I come over. Sunday was our garden walk day, which we fit in between going to the National Army Museum (saw the saw used to amputate Angelsey's leg, and the surgeon's bloody glove), went to the Grenadier Pub for dinner with Carrie Bebris and her dad. Yes, ladies, I went back into the mews where the ghosts were previously seen, but it being light here till about 10 p.m., saw none.

On Monday we went to Cecil Court and Charing Cross Road for bookshopping Saw a lovely Staffordshire figure of the Duke in an antique store, but shop wasn't yet open. Bought gorgeous color print of the Duke and then we walked to Grosvenor Prints in Seven Dials and Vicky bought two fashion prints, while I bought an invitation issued by the Duke from Aspley House. On to Gray's Antiques market, where I found another color print of the Duke sitting on a bench with another man, whom I don't recognize and which will require further research. Went to Lansdowne Club for drinks then on to dinner at Just St. James, in St. James's Street.

Tuesday to Windsor to see Hester Davenport, who asked us as we left the station if we wanted to see the Queen - as if there's a really a question. Of course we said yes, so at 1:30 we went over to the long drive and watched their cars leaving the Castle - saw the Queen, Phillip, Andrew and I was waved to by Camilla. NO sight of Chuck - rats. Had a fabulous day with Hester, who took us back to her home for tea and showed us the original Vauxhall prints she has on her walls. Gorgeous.

Yesterday I went to the Museum of London, and to Hampstead to see Kenwood House and the portrait of the Brummell brothers. Back to London to walk and shop in Oxford Street. Then off to Leicester Square and China Town for duck. On the way, we again passed Cecil Court and this time the only shop that was still open happened to be the one with the Wellington figure in the window. In we went . . . Oh, boy, was I a bad girl. Once the proprietors learned of my interest in the Duke we were given brandy and fags and had a good chin wag about other Wellington collectors they know, including the present D of W, who had just been in the shop on the Saturday. Yes, the Duke collects Artie-Facts, too! As if he hasn't enough already. Well, I'm on my way to catching up with him - bought a brass wall plaque, the Duke's profile, a quite sizeable memorial coin, a pot and pot lid depicting the Duke riding at Stratfield Saye and . . . the really very large Staffordshire figurine of the Duke I'd seen in the window. It's going to look smashing on my mantle. I hate to think what my husband will say when all these packages begin arriving at home . . . . Oh, well, the Wellington Museum collection is growing.

No concrete plans for today except walking London with Brooke and perhaps lunch at the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo pub (it's near Waterloo tube station). Waterloo is still ahead for us and we're all chomping at the bit to get there. I do hope there are as many flower sellers in Brussells as there are in London, so that I can buy a bouquet to leave at the Battlefield.

Vicky and I have lots of photos to post when we get home, and video of the Queen's procession, and we've been thinking of you all at every turn. More in-depth posts on what's already been briefly touched upon when we return. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Overcome your disbelief!!

Victoria here.  Okay, darlings, we know some of you are skeptics, but the authority on all truth has spoken!!  Wiki!  Go here and read all about the WNBR 2010 ND 2011,  which to you who still don't believe, is the World Naked Bike Ride. Book your tickets for next year's world-shattering event soon, only 300+ days to go.
But speaking of world-shattering events, we can't believe the passion with which London is reacting to the World Cup -- football, a.k.a. soccer for us non-believers.  It is amazing here.  Last Sunday night, June 13 (or so my adled brain configures), we went to church. (And it didn't even collapse.)  We attended a concert while England and the USA faced off in South Africa.  We were prepared to claim we were Canadians if the USA beat England, but since it was a draw (1-1), we could be truthful.  However, it is amazing to see all the England flags (cross of St. George, a red cross on white field) on taxis and cares, painted on faces, arranged in clothing, even painted on houses. Here is a tepid example, no way close to the wild ideas portrayed but not reproduced on line.

England never fails to enchant me. While I am in raptures over an antique print of the 1st Duke of Wellington, or a view of Her Majesty, or an old book found in a dusty bin in Charing Cross Road, the English are taking off their clothes to ride bikes, sloshing a pint while watching Brazil defeat North Korea, or trying to keep sane while shepherding a gaggle of children past the nudes to see more Old Masters in the Wallace Collection. I actually  told a teacher how adorable her charges were earlier this afternoon, and she glared at me as if I had three heads. "Everyday? All week?" she sputtered.

Well, no, I must admit. But since they are English, to me they had a special charm.

I am fading. I can't wait to share some of my pictures (sadly none of the WNBR) but I have lots of gardens I am sure you will like much better than the flabby buns of those bike riders.

One more whole day in London.  How lucky can a girl get?

The Wellington Connection: Vauxhall Gardens

In the course of my never ending research into the life and times of the Duke of Wellington I often run across random bits of interesting information linking the Duke to a myriad of people, places and things with which one would not ordinarily connect him. In the past, I’ve squirreled these morsels away because I had nowhere to air them – until now. So, a new series to be called `The Wellington Connection’ is born. If for some ungodly reason you are not a Wellington fan (!?!) I urge you not to skip over these posts, as they will contain much information on subjects beyond the Duke.

The first post in the series is Wellington’s connection to Vauxhall Gardens, and the Gardens' connection to the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo - June 18th and just two days away. The Gardens, known for it’s dark walks, supper boxes, fireworks, balloon ascents and other assorted amusements, also regularly cashed in on events that captured the public interest, including the Battle of Waterloo. As best as I can discover, a recreation of the Battle was held each year, the event attracting thousands to the Gardens.

The Latest from London

The sun is shining on Kristine and Victoria here in London.  We have so much to tell and so little time!! But we will relate all the details when we get back and catch our breaths.  It has been a dream visit so far -- garden tours, research visits, bookshops, print shops, plus, of course Apsley House!  And -- would you believe -- the naked bike ride?  Not us of course, though we were witnesses -- huge crowd with police escort. But we'd say most of them should have kept their clothes on.  Not a pretty sight.

Also visited the Victoria and Albert in Love exhibition -- which was jolly good.  And the Army Museum for the Waterloo model.  Yesterday we toured Windsor with Hester Davenport who was kind enough to take us to visit the Queen.  We sat on her lawn.  Well, really she only drove past but she waved at us.  And you too. We will tell all soon.

Cheerio for the moment -- so much to see, so little time.  Luv, K & V

Monday, June 14, 2010

The London and Waterloo Tour - Musée Carnavalet

As I’ve said in a previous blog, I have very few concrete plans for my time in Paris, other than a champagne cruise down the Seine and a Paris Walks tour of the Montmartre district. At our leisure, I’d like to stroll the streets of Paris, do some shopping, see Notre Dame and the Île de la Cité and the Île St-Louis and visit the iconic book and print seller’s stalls along the River. Otherwise, I'd like to show my duaghter the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and I’d like to see the Musée Carnavalet.

Nestled within the Marais district of Paris, the Musée Carnavalet chronicles the history of the capital from its origins to the present. Opened in 1880, this museum is devoted to the history of Paris and occupies two adjoining mansions- the hôtels Carnavalet and le Peletier de Saint-FargeauIts. 100 rooms are housed in two mansions built in the 11th and 17th centuries, with a gallery now leading from one to the other. The Hôtel Carnavalet, after which the museum is named, was once the home of Madame de Sévigné, who wrote a series of famous letters to her daughter. It now hosts the museum’s collections from pre-historic times to the reign of Louis XVI, while the Hôtel Le Peletier Saint-Fargeau contains pieces dating from the French Revolution to the present day.

The museum contains fascinating displays, with each room decorated to reflect a particular historical period through the paneling and furniture, evoking a different feeling with each exhibit.

Many wings of the museum are less like museums than the stately homes they once were. There are rooms dedicated to Chinoiserie, others starkly medieval, with enormous fireplaces occupying most of one wall, and yet more reflecting the tastes of the nobility during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. There is also a reconstruction of Marcel Proust’s bedroom.

The displays include memorabilia from the French Revolution, paintings, sculpture, furniture and 'objets d'art that recreate the atmosphere of private residences from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The orangery at the hotel le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau was built at the end of the 17th century and renovated in 2000. The small courtyard at the entrance of the Musée Carnavalet is home to a sculpture of Louis XIV and the manicured gardens follow the classic 18th century French style.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Do You Know About The Royle Family?

The BAFTA award winning Royle Family is more Seinfeld than Seinfeld – it really is a show about nothing. And it’s a scream. All of the episodes take place in the Royle’s middle class Manchester home, usually in the shabby and hardly chic living room. As each episode opens, you’ll find Jim and Barbara on the sofa in front of the telly, Jim having lots of time for telly watching, as he’s on the dole. His wife, the scatter brained and chain smoking Barb occasionally works in a bakery. Speaking of smoking, the ashtray on the coffee table is almost a character in itself, as close shots of it appear regularly, showing it fill with the butts produced by Barb and her lazy, self indulgent daughter, Denise. Who is married to henpecked Dave. Poor Dave. Each night, Dave and Denise make an appearance at the Royle home, plopping themselves down on the couch in order to report to Barbara on what they had for tea. Or what Denise did that day (typically nothing). Details are exchanged as all eyes are glued to the telly in the Royle living room.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bon Voyage!

From Kristine: As you read this, Victoria will have arrived in London and I'll be heading for New York in order to rendezvous with my daughter before our flight out to Heathrow late tomorrow night. There will be just a few changes to the blog while we're away, one being that the blog may look a bit different since we won't be able to shorten up the previous day's posts as consistently as we do now. Also, while we're away we've scheduled posts to run every other day, instead of every day as usual. Of course, we'll also be randomly logging in via internet cafes to report on our progress and doings during our trip. Really, I don't know what I'll do without blogging everyday . . . . . .

We've made a few adjustments to our itinerary. For instance, we are now having dinner at the Grenadier Pub on Sunday evening and are going to be joined by Carrie Bebris, author of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series.  Carrie is doing some last minute research on her next book, which will be based on the characters from Jane Austen's Persuasion, and we are eager to hear about her visit to Lyme Regis, below.

From Victoria: Carrie now lives in Ohio, but we are long-time friends from her days in Wisconsin where we collaborated on projects for the Wisconsin Romance Writers and the Jane Austen Society Wisconsin branch.  We were roommates last October in Philadelphia at the JASNA-AGM.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Garden Museum, London

Victoria here.  On two occasions, I have had the privilege of visiting the Garden Museum in London. It is located in a small building, St. Mary's Church before it was de-consecreated, and stands next to Lambeth Palace almost on the Thames.

The small knot garden was designed by the dowager Marchioness of Salisbury, a well known and expert gardener.  It occupies part of the graveyard of the former church and includes the graves of John Tradescant, one of history's first and most important plant collector from distant shores.  Another large memorial is for Captain William Bligh, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame.

The interior of the church has been adapted with a prize-winning plan to offer more space for displays without compromising the old walls and windows of the 14th century building.

My first visit was for an exhibition on Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), one of the gardening world's most distinguished practitioners. Of course, everyone immediately wants to know if she had anything to do with Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  The answer is maybe. Her brother was a friend of the author. But I have always heard Miss Jekyll's  last name pronounced as GEE-kull.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Parlez-Vous Français?

Well, I don't speak French. Or I didn't until a few months ago when I realized I'd better learn the fundamentals, at least, if I were going to Paris. Being extremely lazy, I went to the library and got "Learn French" cd's, which I've been listening to in the car. I can now say écouter et répéter in my sleep (listen and repeat), although as a tourist in Paris, I can't see how that phrase is going to be of much use to me.

I do believe that I now know the fundamentals of French, at least. Or un peu = a little.  I find that the biggest obstacle to learning French is the fact that I know some Spanish, which tends to get in the way as far as grammar and numbers are concerned. And it took me the longest time to substitute pas for no or not. Another problem is that I'm learning French by listening and not actually reading the language. In the past, whenever I ran across French phrases in period diaries and letters, I'd ask my pal Jo Manning to translate them for me. Maybe, just maybe, I'll now be able to suss out enough words to be able to make heads or tails of them on my own. Maybe.

Being practical, in addition to lazy, I made sure to learn the most important phrases first, beginning with
Je voudrais boire = I want a drink. Lazy I may be, stupid I'm not. I can now tell someone that, in addition to myself, my son, daughter, husband and wife would also like a drink. And I can order a specific drink - Un rhum et coke avec de la glace, s'il vous plaît.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. Brummell

" A person, my dear, will probably come and speak to us; and if he enters into conversation, be careful to give him a favourable impression of you, for,'' and she sunk her voice to a whisper, 'he is the celebrated Mr. Brummell.''

Life of Beau Brummell by Captain Jesse

Born on 7 June, 1778, Beau Brummell endures as a style icon, a matchless wit and an enigma. Was Brummell a caring friend, as experienced by Frederica, Duchess of York, or a sarcastic louse, as portrayed in the following passage from The Cornhill Magazine -

"Brummell's rise to social autocracy is the more astounding that he had no sort of family to boast of, and that in his day the fashionable drawingrooms and clubs were jealously closed to upstarts and parvenus. Making every allowance for matchless assurance and extraordinary opportunities turned to excellent account, there must have been much in a man who not only became the ami intime of the Prince of Wales, but secured the attachment of a host of friends who stood by him staunchly when in extremity of adversity. Thackeray knew the world well, and he was right when he said that the world is really very good-natured. For whatever the qualities of Brummell, he had no heart to recommend him; he had nothing of that genuine touch of nature which wins affection irresistibly, and makes all mankind akin. He was frivolous, selfindulgent, and ostentatiously selfish. He could attach himself to the dogs who were helplessly dependent; he could pet a mouse and make friends with a cockatoo; but he was cursed with the superficial wit which loved to wound, and he seldom missed an opportunity of saying some bitter thing. If the smart rankled, so much the better. He swaggered cruelly on the strength of his social ascendency, though, to do him simple justice, he spared the strong as little as the weak. Perhaps there never was a less lovable character than that of the dandy who luxuriated for years on disinterested charity and never altogether exhausted it, although he offered his benefactors the most irritating provocation."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Young Victoria - My two Cents Worth

And here I thought that spending an inordinate amount of time researching the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria was a good thing . . . it seems not, since all that I’ve learned gets in the way of my enjoying films like Young Victoria. It was a visual delight – the sets, the costumes, the interiors – but I felt that the story itself was disjointed. I followed it with no problem, but I can see that anyone who doesn’t know the full story of Victoria’s early life would be lost. Here are just a few points that grated on my nerves:

We see Victoria with her doll collection, it’s referenced in a conversation between Princes Albert and Ernst, but there’s no explanation of what it means. Why insert it into the film if you’re not going to make a point?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Visiting Saltram House with Victoria

Now that I am almost on my way to England, I will post about one of my favorite house visits from past trips. Saltram House is near Plymouth in Devon.

Saltram's first records indicate the Bagg family built a large Tudor house on the site in the 16th century. After the Civil War, the Carteret family acquired the property and did some remodeling before Parliament allowed them to sell a Crown-granted property to George Parker in 1712.

His daughter-in-law, Lady Catherine Parker and her husband John rebuilt sections of the house and filled their addition with decorations in the rococo style. The architect and artisans are unknown though Lady Catherine herself is said to have been the primary designer.  Right, a portrait of Mrs. John Parker by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1770-72.
A central staircase with a glass ceiling was created from the traditional Tudor courtyard in the center of the squarish house.
Enclosing the courtyard was a relatively new idea at the time, providing bright light to the center of the house and allowing for a grand staircase. In the photo from the 1995 film of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Fanny Dashwood peers down at Elinor and Edward, and she thoroughly disapproves of the budding romance.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen . . . .Part Two

In retirement Copenhagen must have become somewhat mellowed because he was regularly ridden by friends and children at the Duke's country estate of Stratfield Saye (above), although Lady Shelley said he was the most difficult to sit of any horse she had ever ridden. The Duchess (of Wellington) often fed him with bread and this it was said gave him the habit of approaching every lady with the most confiding familiarity. Over the years hair had been taken from the horse and made into bracelets for the ladies.

Lady de Ros, the last survivor of those who danced at the Duchess of Richmond's ball in Brussels on the evening before the battle of Waterloo, also the last among those who had mounted "Copenhagen," published a little volume of recollections of Wellington which contained the following extract:

"We often stayed with the duke at Abbaye, Mount St. Martin, Cambrai, and one morning he announced that there would be a sham battle, and that he had given orders to Sir George Scovell that the ladies riding should be taken prisoners, so he recommended our keeping close to him. I had no difficulty in doing so, as I was riding the duke's Waterloo charger "Copenhagen," and I found myself the only one within a square where they were firing. To the duke's great amusement, he heard one of the soldiers saying to another: "Take care of that 'ere horse; he kicks out. We knew him well in Spain," pointing to Copenhagen. He was a most unpleasant horse to ride, but always snorted and neighed with pleasure at the sight of troops. I was jumping with him when the stirrup broke, and I fell off. In the evening the duke had a dance, and said to me, "Here 's the heroine of the day—got kicked off, and didn't mind it."

This passage from a letter by Lady Shelley indicates that she concurred with Lady de Ros regarding Copenhagen's merits as a mount:  "I dined at three o'clock to-day, in order to ride with the Duke, who offered to mount me on Copenhagen. A charming ride of two hours. But I found Copenhagen the most difficult horse to sit of any I had ever ridden. If the Duke had not been there I should have been frightened. He said: "I believe you think the glory greater than the pleasure in riding him!"

The first Duchess of Wellington (left), with whom Copenhagen was a great favorite, wore a bracelet of his hair, as did several of her friends. Her daughter-in-law, the second duchess, who died in August, 1894, and who was much admired by the great duke, accompanied author James Grant Wilson on his last visit to the field of Waterloo and gifted him with a bracelet and breastpin made of Copenhagen's mane. On his last sojourn of several days at Strathfieldsaye in September, 1883, Wilson received from the second duke as a parting gift a precious lock of the Waterloo hero's hair and a sheaf of the charger's tail.

In his latter days, Copenhagen became blind and his oats were broken for him, and "the Duchess" used regularly to hand feed him bread. When the great horse died in 1836, at the remarkable age of 29, the Duke of Wellington directed that he be given a funeral with full military honors.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Beatrix Potter Rose Unveiled!

You may not know that actress Patricia Routledge, better known to us all as Hyacinth Bucket, is the Patroness of the Beatrix Potter Society and as such she was on hand at the Chelsea Flower Show to unveil the new Beatrix Potter™ rose, or Beatrix Potter a, seen below and grown by Peter Beales Roses in Norfolk. The rose was named in honour of the Society's 30th anniversary.

The rose is a delicate creamy pink coloured shrub rose with a subtle fragrance, reflecting a rose which Beatrix Potter herself painted. "This highly perfumed rose is a truly beautiful tribute for such a merit worthy name" says the breeder, Amanda Beales. The flowers are of the softest pink shade, shapely, with many petals. The rose continues to flower well into the autumn. Growth is upright and tidy to approximately 1.2m and the shrub is well endowed with dark glossy foliage.

You can watch a video of opening day at the Show here.  

               And here's a video of the Queen Mum at the 1952 Show. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Mysterious Dr. Barry

In her Memoir of her mother, Lady Rose Weigall, Rachel Weigall relates the following story about a guest they once entertained, Dr. Barrie (pictured right), as Rachel calls him. History records the name as Barry, but no matter the spelling, the story is fascinating. First some background - Rachel's mother was born Rose Sophia Mary Fane and her father was William Wellesley Pole, older brother to the Duke of Wellington, whose military and later personal secretary was Lord Fitzroy Somerset. We'll see the role Somerset plays in the following anecdote  Rachel writes about her childhood: "One of our most curious guests was the celebrated army Surgeon `Dr. Barrie,' who was then stationed at Corfu. Lord Fitzroy Somerset asked my father to show him some courtesy, and said he had done such excellent work for the troops. He came to dinner, an odd-looking little person, very small, with a squeaky voice and mincing manner, just like an old maid, as my mother remarked. She found his conversation most agreeable, but we younger members of the party suffered from suppressed laughter at his peculiarities. He was a vegetarian, and refused even eggs, `because they had life in them.' We often laughed afterwards about "Dr. Barrie"; and it was not until his death many years later that he was discovered to be a woman, who had masqueraded as a man and as an army surgeon for years." This fact was discovered by Sophia Bishop, who'd laid out the doctor's body after his death.

Indeed, Dr. James Miranda Barry had graduated from the Medical School of Edinburgh in 1812 and went on to enjoy a  successful career as an army surgeon, eventually becoming Inspector General of Hospitals. As Rachel writes above, it was only discovered after his death at a house in Cavendish Square that he was, in fact, a woman. Odder still when you consider that he'd once fought a duel over a woman, while on the other hand, rumor had it that he'd had a homosexual affair with Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of Cape Town, where Barry spent many years in his company. Charles Somerset was the son of the 5th Duke of Beaufort and brother to Lord Fitzroy Somerset. Sophia Bishop, the maid who'd laid out the body, also claimed to have found stretch marks on the body indicative of the fact that the doctor had at least once been pregnant.

For more information on this story, try Dr James Barry: The Early Years Revealed published in the South African Medical Journal in January of 2008 by Hercules Michael du Preez and
The Secret Life of Dr James Barry: Victorian England's Most Eminent Surgeon by Rachel Holmes