August Bank Holiday 2019 – West London

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We always like to do something a little special for the August Bank Holiday – and this year was no different as we’d planned a two-day break in London.

The weather forecast promised a scorcher (especially in the capital) where temperatures are predicted to hit the low-thirties! Apparently another temperature-record will be broken today according to the Tabloids! (Actually, it was – we learned later that it had hit 33.2ยฐC in London!)

Bank Holiday Monday

We’re travelling light! Just two bags between us (and one of those is purely ‘tech’!), so it’ll be interesting to see how we get on… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Being a Bank Holiday, we guessed that the train schedule would be somewhat messy. In fact, there had been announcements over the previous fortnight about NOT travelling AT ALL over the bank holiday! We knew Kettering station was affected, so we drove to Bedford and travelled to St Pancras from there. Arriving for the ticket queue at just after 10 (after a bit of a wrestle with the car-park ticket machine that required an ‘AS’ level to use!), where it seemed the rest of Northamptonshire was already there – and the station was heaving! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

10.13am: With our queuing for our tickets over, the journey was happily, a trouble-free experience to the capital. It was our first trip on the new franchise that is East Midland Railways and not much has changed, but what had, was good including totally free wi-fi throughout on a train that arrived out of nowhere (based on its arrival time). ๐Ÿ˜Š

11.00am: We were soon joining a different hoard – on the Tube to our destination to Gloucester Road! And the tabloid promise was coming true – a scorcher was in the making for sure!

If it was warm above ground, imagine the joy of the Tube. Ahh, the Piccadilly Line – super-busy and every passenger (apart from the three Aussies next to me), getting more moist by the minute – there was more air coming out of the loudspeaker grille than the AC duct – what a way to travel on a Summer’s day!!! ๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“

On our list today…

The Science Museum
The Design Museum

ยฃ90 per night including breakfast! (in Kensington!!) ๐Ÿ˜

11.30am: But before the Museum visits, it made sense to dump our bags. We’re staying at the (very) modestly-priced IBIS Styles in Gloucester Road (more about that later), and after losing some weight we headed for the Museum region, a five-minute walk around the corner.

The Science Museum

11.45am: First stop was the Science Museum. We haven’t been here for a while, but we’d heard it had had a makeover courtesy of the National Lottery.

Wow! What a change! One of the first exhibits celebrated the age of steam…

‘Puffing Billy’ – the oldest locomotive in the world!
The Age of Steam

…followed by plenty of exhibits of cars through the ages…

A new take on ‘parallel parking’!

Next, examples of how machines were powered after the steam generation, including…

A Merlin engine from a Spitfire

There was also a big section on the future of transport – very thought provoking!

1.10pm: The highlight for us though was the GCHQ Exhibition on the lower-ground floor. There wasn’t that much to see, but what there was, was fascinating! It was a little like the exhibits at Bletchley Park, but in addition, it included more recent accounts of modern code-breaking.

No, not an Enigma Machine, but its successor, the Lorenzo Machine
All about early encryption methods – fascinating!

An excellent exhibition and worth seeing even if you HAVE been to Bletchley Park. All-in-all a fascinating visit with much more than we expected! Well worth a visit!

A Comprehensive GCHQ-related Shop

1.45pm: Next stop was a fifteen-minute bus-ride away (on the No. 23) to the Design Museum, next to one of the entrances to Holland Park. In all our travels in London, we’d never come across this Museum before – and amongst all the other buildings in Kensington High Street, it stood out a mile, architecturally speaking! The Museum is open daily 10 until 6 and open late on the first Friday of every month until 8pm.

The Design Museum – Stanley Kubrick Exhibition

2.15pm: Unfortunately, we’d narrowly missed an exhibition from our old employer ‘Mr Sainsbury’ (that had closed the day before) ‘From Corn-Flakes to Cola’ – or so we thought. It was still advertised… and still running! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Located around the perimeter of the first floor was a wide range of label-designs, packaging ideas and typography from ‘back in the day’ (probably best NOT to be too specific) ๐Ÿ˜Š – but it certainly brought back memories!

For those of you who read my Blog and also have a connection with ‘good ol’ JS’, there’s some great memories to wallow in here! ๐Ÿ˜‰

2.45pm: Back to the main event then – the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition. We had to pre-book, but on arrival, after a quick pit-stop, we got in about an hour before ‘our slot’. We knew we were in for a treat as the media hadn’t given it a five-star review and Steven Spielberg has sung its praises too!

The Exhibition commemorates Kubrick’s life, twenty years after his passing, and is as comprehensive as it comes. Luckily for the curators, Kubrick seemed to keep everything – and his notes captured the minutiae of his profession perfectly: from camera angles, casting and story-boarding, it was all here. In short, the Exhibition comprehensively tells the story of this icon of a film-maker, exploring his unique command of the creative design process of film-making, from storyteller to director to editor.

The entrance to the Exhibition

The Exhibition illustrated how Kubrick created genre-defining worlds for his films and relived iconic scenes and memorabilia from The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more. In all, there were over 700 rare objects, films, interviews, letters and photographs – fantastic!

This had been one of the most comprehensive Exhibitions we’ve ever seen. The level of detail that Kubrick had recorded in the process of his film-making was simply amazing! And it was so good that someone had had the foresight to pull it all together for this exhibition.

A car designed by Kubrick?

4.00pm: We were all cultured-out by now and having been ‘spoilt’ by the Museum’s air conditioning, we certainly felt the heat when we came out. It was now (at least) the promised 31 degrees. We made for the nearest bus-stop – fortunately just a short walk away – where we only waited around 10 minutes for the number 49, that took us pretty much straight to our hotel! After a quick perusal around the local Waitrose for our evening meal, we checked into Room 309.

5.30pm: We were glad to be out of the heat, but there’s a full-day ahead tomorrow!


On our list today…

The Natural History Museum
The V and A Museum
The Royal Albert Hall

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Inside the main entrance to the V & A

10.15am: After our quick breakfast at the Hotel, we walked our first stop of the day: The Victoria & Albert Museum. It was already 22 degrees outside, so it was good to enjoy the relative coolness inside!

Spread across five floors, there’s plenty to see here and the gift-shop is home to plenty of quality merchandise that punches well above its weight in terms of range.

Plenty to see on the 1st floor, modestly entitled ‘Britain’. it covered the years from 1500 through until 1900 and showed-off a wide range of home interiors, where there were even complete recreations of whole rooms! Lovely! โœ”โœ”โœ”โœ”โœ”

11.15am: Lunchtime at the V and A, with a particularly enjoyable view – The John Madejski Gardens

…albeit with London prices! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Welcome to London! Two soft drinks + two pieces of cake = ยฃ16.30! ๐Ÿ˜‹

Our final stop was the area of the Cast Courts containing an amazing range of replica statues!

This had been an impressive Museum. It was quiet, mostly sprog-free and (given today’s heatwave) a comfortable temperature. Our next stop however, would turn out to be the complete opposite! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum

12.35pm: I can’t recall the last time I visited the Natural History Museum, but it seemed to have changed a lot (based on my memory!).

There is a lot to see here and for the reasons that follow, we didn’t really do it justice. First of all, it was packed! Second, it was very noisy, thirdly, there were gazillions of sprogs in attendance (the main source of the noise!) and it was much hotter than its neighbour. Why all these kids – it’s a boring Museum after all? Well, if anyone says that the craze for dinosaurs has died-down, it certainly wasn’t in evidence here. The enormous section of the Museum devoted just to Dinos was where most of the human-traffic was heading – and it was heaving!

But we had to see what all the fuss was about. ๐Ÿ™„

Impressive doesn’t begin to describe what was on show. Anything, and probably everything, you ever needed to know about dinosaurs was covered here. But, forget the facts, because most of the attention (and noise) was from around the life-size dinosaur exhibit that moved and roared! Literally scores of people all squeezing into the (smallish) space to grab a shot of this animatronic marvel – including me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Not a real dinosaur
A real dinosaur

The other major attraction here was ‘Museum of the Moon’ – and the area surrounding it was rammed with onlookers! ๐Ÿค” It featured an inflatable installation artwork by Luke Jerram – a spherical replica of the Moon, with a diameter of 7 metres. Several copies tour the world for temporary exhibitions, often accompanied by music. There are also copies in museums in Barcelona and Sydney. Ann liked it, but because I’d seen the word ‘interactive’ somewhere in the promotional material, as clever as it was, I was expecting it to ‘do’ more than just ‘hang there’ accompanied by ethereal music. Beautiful though!

‘Museum of the Moon’

1.30pm: Although there was still plenty to see here, it (‘it’ being the noise and the heat) was all a bit too much for these two old codgers (a sign of our age?), so we retreated back to the safety of the now familiar Waitrose, Gloucester Road (opposite our hotel) for the bits-and-bobs for our late lunch.


2.30pm: With Lunch sorted, there was just time for a short siesta before getting ready for tonight’s main event…

The Royal Albert Hall

6.20pm: Now refreshed, we took the short(ish) walk direct to the Royal Albert Hall. It only took us about 25 minutes from the Hotel.

No photos allowed!

7.00pm: The highlight was seeing our favourite Opera, Mozart’s The Magic Flute where tonight’s performance is part of the 2019 BBC Proms season (‘Prom No. 51’, if you’re counting!) The last time I was at the Royal Albert Hall was for a very different kind of the music: the culmination of Camel’s World Tour in 2018 back in September last year – and the last time we enjoyed the Magic Flute in London was almost six years ago in April 2013 at the Royal Opera House. We love this Opera!! ๐Ÿ˜

Well, seating-wise, we couldn’t have got much higher, and to say our ‘backs were against the wall‘ for this performance was literal. Any higher, and we would have needed a parachute – and oxygen! Still, the seats were comfy, but we also felt the temperature rising with all the bodies from a (near) sell-out performance (I only saw four empty seats). Ann had thoughtfully packed a fan, whilst other less fortunate souls were frantically waving their Programmes to create a breeze! ๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“

But what of the 155 minute Glyndebourne performance itself? In a word: ‘Superb’. Everyone (see the full cast below) was at the top of their game tonight, and even at the distance we were from the stage, combined with the RAH’s challenging acoustics, the sound travelled well – and sounded fantastic. More especially, Caroline Wettergreen who sang her heart out as ‘Queen of the Night’, judging by the enthusiastic applause completely wowed this audience.

Creatively, it was a visual treat. It’s probably the only time you’ll see rubber babies, LED-powered chefs’ hats and where a Bake-Off based backdrop completed the picture!

The Cast

David Portillo – Tamino
Sofia Fomina – Pamina
Bjรถrn Bรผrger – Papageno
Alison Rose – Papagena
Brindley Sherratt – Sarastro
Caroline Wettergreen – Queen of the Night
Jรถrg Schneider – Monostatos
Esther Dierkes – First Lady
Marta Fontanals-Simmons – Second Lady
Katharina Magiera – Third Lady
Michael Kraus – Speaker
Martin Snell – First Priest/Second Man in Armour
Thomas Atkins – Second Priest/First Man in Armour

supported by the Glyndebourne Chorus
and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth

10.10pm: As we exited the RAH and followed the other 5538 heading for the Tube, we smiled as we knew we only had a short walk back to a comfy bed, whereas the crowd were heading for a bake-off of their own in the shape of the Tube!

10.50pm: Back in our room, all that was left to do was to lighten our load going home by emptying the half-bottle of Pinot before crashing-out! ๐Ÿฅฑ

It’s been a great break! We’ve travelled light (and it worked well!); we’ve walked more than usual (hurrah!) and best of all, we avoided the high restaurant prices of the local area by eating from Waitrose! ๐Ÿ˜. Thanks to Ann’s forensic pursuit of the best hotel-deals, our Hotel – the IBIS Styles, Gloucester Road – was a real find. For a budget brand, it exceeded our (very fussy) expectations and I’m sure we’ll be using them again on our travels.

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