North America, Europe · 14 Days · 18 Moments · June 2017

Bootsie and Byrdie's London Revisited


26 June 2017

Our last day in London! No agendas, but we were ready to be surprised. We took a bus (sitting upstairs in the front of a double decker bus really is fun) down to a fancy gallery showing Rodin, and stopped in at St. James Picadilly, where there happened to be a free lunchtime concert, part of an international acappella competition. Not your average acappella group: no beat boxing, but gorgeous choral singing. With all the concerts and services we'd been to, this was the first of this kind. After the concert we walked down through parks and squares to the Thames, then hopped on the tube to Chalk Garden. A stop in a pub, then a walk to Primrose Hill, with its wonderful views of London. Lots of people and selfies, and a great ending to our time here. London is rich with diversity, and all the folks we have met have been surprisingly warm and friendly and helpful. We arrived here in London feeling apprehensive (the fire didn't help), but we leave feeling hopeful and inspired. Cheers, mates!

25 June 2017

After returning to Chichester Cathedral for the Sunday morning service Bootsie has announced that he has had enough church. Hallelujah! We said goodbye to our friends at the Nag's Head this morning, but not before consuming an enormous breakfast. We needed it, because after church we walked miles and miles today, around town and then out through fields and marshes to a place called Dell Quay, where there was a wonderful pub with a large outdoor area. Everyone brings their dogs, and not all the dogs are well behaved. The weather was beautiful but windy, and we watched lots of small boats capsiziing and righting themselves. After a couple of hours we dragged ourselves away for the long and less pleasant walk to the train station, where we caught a train back to London. Despite London's Sunday evening grittiness, it felt good to be back.

24 June 2017

Although we're starting to drag, we woke and packed our overnight bags and boarded a #16 bus for Victoria Station, where we purchased tickets for the train to Chichester. The long lines made us little nervous, but we caught an 11:30 train, and sat next to a very nice guy who works in the learning center of an all girls' school in London. The time flew, and we arrived in Chichester, and walked to our room at a pub. The town is very walkable, the pub is definitely a local joint, but the room was simple and clean. We went to a French cafe for lunch and a Kir Royale, and then put our feet up and watched the Royal Ascot races, before heading over to the cathedral for Evensong. Wow. The best choir and the most challenging music we've heard yet, and it was a relatively small group. Stopping back in our inn, we stayed for a beer and watched the Americas Cup with some friendly locals, and then walked to the other end of town to the theatre, where we saw an amazing production of a new play.

23 June 2017

We had a nice time meeting up with Byrdie's young Buttrick cousins, in London for a few days, for breakfast (Bootsie got to have kippers). After a visit to the Steinway showroom we jumped on a double decker bus heading for Camden, the hipster section of London. Teeming with people, food stalls, and street merchants, Camden was a little overwhelming. We weren't even hungry, for once. We wandered and then headed back on a bus home for a little down time. Not for too long, as Bootsie wanted to go hear the boychoir at Westminster Cathedral, the Catholic cathedral, at evening mass. Not disappointing, as they sang Palestrina Missa Brevis beautifully, and certainly a different kind of architecture. After mass we took the tube up to Hampstead Heath to a garden pub to meet up with John Wawer, a Taftie studying international Human Rights in London for the year. Fun to talk to someone so eager to make a difference in the world. We had a drink, then took the overground back home.

22 June 2017

As Byrdie's brother Sam likes to chide, we don't miss a meal. But since we were offered a "proper English breakfast" at our inn, we couldn't refuse. Plus, we had to fortify ourselves for the hour-long bus trip to Castle Howard, the sight of which made Byrdie's heart flutter like a 20 year old. Who DIDN'T love Jeremy Irons in Brideshead?! A few hours later, after wandering through the castle and out in the gardens, we headed back to York on the same city bus, and trucked up to the National Railway Museum for a visit. This was Bootsie's heart flutter moment. All kinds of beautiful locomotives plus the Royals' private coaches. So fun. The museum was right near the York train station, so after an hour or so we strolled down the hill and jumped on the next train back to London. Returning to our neighborhood we stopped at our local grocery store for supplies and Byrdie whipped up a late dinner.

21 June 2017

We were up early to catch a fast train from King's Cross to York, a city with rich history and walkable medieval streets. Founded in AD 71 by the Romans, it was taken over by the Vikings, then Normans, bla bla bla. We walked from the train station to our hotel, Gray's Court, a truly OLD house/ inn (1070), which sits with its lovely garden in the shadow of the strikingly beautiful Yorkminster Cathedral. We joined all of the tourists and walked aound the city, watched a guild procession on their way to high tea, saw an exhibit of Wolf Hall costumes (Bootsie a big fan), caught an Evensong sung by the girls' choir (refreshingly different; boring unison repetoire), had a drink in the peacefu hotel garden before walking to dinner in a tasty ramen restaurant. Afterwards we strolled around some more, and tired, returned to our hotel. The longest day of the year and we wanted to go to bed, but it wouldn't be dark for hours.

20 June 2017

Understanding the bus system in London is like taking a crash course in electrical wiring. It's very confusing at first. Since our tube stop remained closed, we had to figure out how to take a bus with all of our bags to our new neighborhood, West Hampstead. Ultimately, it wasn't that complicated, but we were quite proud of ourselves. That and remembering which way to look when crossing the street. Our new area is even more culturally diverse than Ladbroke Grove, and we spent the afternoon walking around gathering various lunch items and learning the lay of the land. Our flat is nice: a study in black and white and Union Jack artwork. In the evening we took the tube from Kilburn Park, half a mile's walk, to the theater to see a theatrical version of La Strada, the Italian movie with Anthony Quinn. It was a really interesting and moving production. Not a feel-gooder, but well done. And there was unicycling, which Byrdie used to do when she was part of the circus. Heading north to York.

19 June 2017

Another unusually hot day here in London. We decided to take it easy, catching up and planning our trips this week to Chichester and York. We took our laundry over to our friends Anne's beautiful air conditioned flat and spent a good chunk of the afternoon there. Byrdie's cousin Eliza Buttrick is visiting from Berkeley, and we strolled over to the Design Museum with her. She probably wasn't too excited to see an exhibit about California, but she is a good sport and we were all in a similar state of lethargy. We showed Eliza Holland Park, and then trudged home with our clean laundry on our backs. Later we walked to a neighborhood Turkish restaurant for dinner, and sat next to a lively pair of locals. We shared thoughts about our respective government messes over Turkish bbq, and then walked home, past all the missing person signs. We've grown to really like this neighborhood, but as we move to a new neighborhood and a new flat today, it is with a sense of sadness that we say goodbye.

18 June 2017

We took a train from Marylebone Station out to Bicester Village to have lunch with Richard Cooper, who we'd met at the Taft reception, his wife Janet, daughter Hester, and her husband Charlie. Richard was an ESU student at Taft in 62, and he couldn't be more English or more charming. Besides their house in London, they own a 100 acre farm in the country, with horses, alpacas, sheep, dachshunds, and probably some other animals we're forgetting. Coopers are serious fox hunters, tennis players, arborists. We had Pimms outside and then a proper lunch with lamb from their sheep, and had time for a short walk before catching a train to Oxford, 20 min away, for Evensong at New College. Last one of the term! New College was picturesque, but Oxford was hot, and we were tired by the time we got back to London at 11. Not as tired as the mother and her 6 kids who were also on the train. Fun to get out of the city and see England's green and pleasant land.

17 June 2017

It's hard to say what the best part of today was. Even though it was sweltering, especially on the Tube, it was perfect. This morning we visited an old Middlesex friend of Byrdie's, Anne Makepeace (whose 91 year old aunt used to coach tennis at Taft) and her family. They live on the edge of Holland Park, next door to the Design Museum. We couldn't stay long, as we had matinee tickets with Paul to see The Play That Went Wrong, a farce that is so funny that our faces and stomachs ached from laughing so hard. We headed back to our neck of the woods to have dinner before going to a concert of the B Minor Mass at St. Peter's church. By chance we found an incredible restaurant, Portobello Restaurant, which had the most delicious food we've had in a long time, and we bonded with our waiter, Mauro, over our shared love of all things Italian. He did say he wished Mussolini was still around. Otherwise, we had no complaints. The concert was hot but glorious. Can't go wrong with the B Minor.

16 June 2017

A day with no agenda, so we spent a leisurely morning sitting in the sunny backyard and then headed to Paddington station for a train to Windsor Castle, where our Collegium scouts abroad had said we might be able to get a gig in St. George's Chapel. Also, most of the recent Royals, Henry VIII, and Jane Seymour (the only wife to give the guy a son) are buried there. We joined one of the free tours of the grounds and then went inside to see Queen Mary's doll house (plumbing and electricity! Tiny oil paintings!), plus various stately rooms. The knights' shields on the ceiling of one hall included ones painted over in white and left up to show knights who had fallen from grace. Most of the throngs of tourists left by 5, and we stayed for Evensong. Really amazing. We'd like to find a bad Evensong one of these days. We chatted with choir master, took a walk around the town (nice bocce court), and wolfed down supper, then dragged our tired bodies on to the train to head back to London.
PART TWO: The reception was better than we'd dared hope. Young and old alums, a trustee, people we knew, and people we didn't, all eager to be there. One man, a ESU student at Taft in the 90's, is now the SwordBearer of London! Google him and check out his attire. The reception was supposed to be from 7-9 but people didn't leave until almost 11pm. We ended the evening with a late celebratory supper at the club bar with Paul Parvis, and took a cab home at midnight. A great day.
PART ONE:The focus of our day was hosting a Taft reception at the Sloane Club in Sloane Square for alums in the London area, and it turned out to be a big success, but we had most of the day free.Our tube stop was back in order, so we headed for the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we planned to spend a few hours. The museum is fantastic: immense, beautiful, and varied. It houses the biggest decorative arts collection in the world. We latched on to one of the free tours and spent an hour wandering around with a charming elderly docent, then had lunch in the Gamble Room while listening to a fabulous piano player, then visited the fashion, jewelry and theater exhibits. Didn't go to the Pink Floyd exhibit. Bootsie doesn't know who Pink Floyd is. We raced back to the flat to shower and change, and then joined the rush hour commute on the tube to get to the Sloane Club in time.

15 June 2017

14 June 2017

We had a good day, although it had a shaky start with the terrible fire so near to us. Feeling draggy with jetlag we left the flat and the deafening noise of the helicopters hovering overhead, and set out to escape the neighborhood. But our tube station was closed and we were right where all the camera crews and press conferences were taking place, including one with the mayor, and we couldn't tear ourselves away. We started walking and felt better. Down to Notting Hill Gate, through Kensington Park, along the edge of Hyde Park where school boys in uniforms were playing baseball, badly, through Chelsea to Sloane Square and the Sloane Club. We had a mtg with Paul Parvis, who works for Taft alumni and development, about the Taft reception we're hosting tonight. After a mtg and a lovely dinner at an Italian restaurant across the street where the Italian waiters appreciated our sad attempts to speak their language, we bid Paul goodnight, and made the 2- hour walk home in the fading light.

13 June 2017

First of all, we are safe. The terrible fire that engulfed the apt building was near our flat in Notting Hill, but we are fine and will know more details later. Despite this latest tragedy, we are glad to be here. London is a big city, and there are a lot of neighborhoods and parks to explore. After arriving yesterday, we set out on a walk that took us down Portobello Road, over to and through Holland Park with its many gardens, and back to our flat. Along the way we made stops for falafel, coffee, Vodafone, and groceries. Bootsie has his eye on a church in Notting Hill that would work well for a Collegium concert venue (of course!). It is wonderful to hear so many languages being spoken. More Italians here than in Italy! After a glass of wine in our garden we went to a local pub for supper and a Pimms. Our lovely French barmaid told us proudly that it was her first.
Here we are again, adoring fans. Headed to London for 2 weeks! We're here in jfk hours before our flight, because that's the way Bootsie rolls.