On our way back from out son's wedding in Mauritius, we stopped over in London and spend two weeks in my parent's London flat. They had bought the place some 30 years ago but after my dad passed away and my mom's stroke the flat had been rented out most of the time. I had stayed there briefly a couple of times, but this time it was available for as long as we wanted to stay.
It's a small one-bedroom apartment, but what a great location and view.
After a month of lazing around on the beach in Mauritius, I was ready to get out and explore. It had been many years since I had been to London and now without a job to report to, I could spend as long as I wanted to. I have lived in Paris, Cairo, Los Angeles and Brussels and each of those cities is fascinating in its own way. Paris, where I spent six months as a university student and which is the headquarters for the Agence France Presse which I worked with for 17 years, holds a special place in my heart and life story.
August 3 | Day Two
This time I set out each day to discovery this sprawling city that has existed since Roman times. I learned that a good friend and photojournalist colleague was in town and Day Two started with a rendezvous with him and his girlfriend. I knew him from LA where he worked with AFP. Like me, he left the wire services, and was a free agent - to wander and stay for as long as he wanted. From Australia and stationed in China many years, we met up at a Chinese restaurant in Westminster not far from the flat.
As with big historic cities there are statues galore and there will be plenty posted on this blog. But this one of British general Bernard Montgomery has special significance to me. He led the British forces in North Africa and defeated the Nazis at the Battle of El Alamein which I visited many times for anniversary commemorations where British, German and Italian World War II battle veterans would gather. In Tunisia, where I was born, Montgomery faced German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel again and eventually was victorious and rode into Tunis at the head of Allied Forces after battling Axis armies for two years.
Illustration from an old copy of Vanity Fair has the following inscription reflecting British humor which can be a bit odd, subtle and too British.
A Successful First Speech: "Moab is my Washpot" and underneath that was this
"F E Smith took to using these facilities when walking between Temple and Westminster. In response to complaints from member, on his next visit the porter pointed out that 'This is a private Club'. To which F E Smith replied, 'A Club? I didn't know it was a club as well!'"
August 4 | Day Three
We headed north to Muswell Hill to visit an Egyptian friend of my wife.
On the way back we took the first of many double deck bus rides. It's a great way to see London and an interesting perspective from the upstairs seating.
August 5 | Day Four
We headed south to Tooting Market where we found a hardware store and to do some shopping for the flat. On the way back we got off the bus at the London Eye.
August 6 | Day Five
I headed out on my own to visit the Imperial War Museum and then hooved it back to Whitehall.
August 7 | Day Six
Mona and I headed out together, but she wanted to go to Herrods department store. I'm not big on shopping so I headed off to visit a museum or two nearby. A great thing about London is that most of the government museums are free.
Mona was disappointed with Herrods. It was previously owned by Egyptian-British businessman Mohammed Al-Fayed, the father of Dodi Fayed who died in the Paris car crash with Princess Diana.
August 8 | Day Seven
I think we did shopping and took it easy, so I'll post a few photos I took from the window of double decker buses and Thames River scenes - some using creative filters on the Fujichrome xPro-2.
August 9 | Day Eight
We walked along the South Bank to Borough Market and then road a bus back,
August 10 | Day Nine
I made ticket reservations to visit Churchill's WW II underground bunker office. I had visited the place with my father some 30 years ago and it now has a museum and was very crowded.
Churchill was an avid and accomplished artist. Following the Casablanca Conference with US President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943, he invited Roosevelt to visit Marrakesh and take a welcome break from the war. Churchill stayed in the La Mamounia Hotel and painted the Katoubia Mosque scene. When my father was posted in Casablanca, we lived in the villa where Churchill stayed during that historic visit to plan the invasion of mainland Europe after the successful Operation Torch landings and North African campaign that resulted in the conquest of the Axis armies in Tunisia.
We took the 88 bus route north to its end at Parliament Hill and then rode it back downtown.
August 11 | Day Ten
My wife likes to check out thrift stores and in London they are called charity shops so we set off to King's Cross where a Google Map search located a number of them. In a guide book at the flat, I had read about the Wellcome Center, and so we made a stop there as well as at The British Library which my daughter, Nabra, recommended after her visit a week earlier.
August 12 | Day 11
I remember Nabra telling me about a Nubian exhibit at a museum that she visited on her recent travels, so I decided to visit the British Museum. I also wanted to see if they had anything on Carthage or Hannibal as well.
August 13 | Day 12
Off to Greenwich where the world's observation-based time standard is located and where I was going to meet my friend and fellow photographer Peter Brooker. Peter and I go back a long ways - initially LA and then Burning Man and now London.
August 14 | Day 13
Finally it rained in London after baking dry days, so we stayed in and met up with our neighbor, Mehmet from Turkey and when to the Sherlock Holmes pub nearby for dinner.
August 15 | Day 14
Headed to Camden Town to do some shopping and walk the locks.
Back home and leaving in a couple of days, I decided to do a night walk and to photograph Parliament and Big Ben all lit up.
and on the way back home.
August 16 | Day 15
Last day in London. The rain storm was coming to an end and it was a drizzly day, so I headed out to the National Army Museum.
On the way back I pass by the Saatchi Gallery and decided to check it out.
and a night stroll for dinner. Wanted to go to a recommended Indian restaurant, but line outside was too long so ended up in Chinatown at an Indonesian restaurant.
August 16 | Parting shots