Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wagon Train, Forward Ho!

Last evening, I returned safely from Baltimore, and my brothers and my older brother’s family arrived safely from New York and Denver.

All of us arrived later than expected—late Friday afternoon/early Friday evening is just about the most unfavorable time to fly, and Northwest has been having lots of problems of late, which only added to an already-bad situation—but my parents were prepared for that eventuality. They kept checking our flight statuses online, and we kept calling them, and we kept sending them email messages, apprising them of our progress. As a result, my parents did not have to go to the airport until shortly before our arrivals, which saved them lots of unnecessary waiting.

We had a late but grand dinner last night in honor of everyone’s arrival—stuffed roast chickens, homemade butter noodles, mashed potatoes, fresh peas, glazed carrots, fried okra, and homemade cranberry-orange relish, with homemade apple pie and homemade ice cream for dessert—and my uncle had his first opportunity to see my brothers in many, many years. We had a lovely and long dinner, sitting around the dining table and talking long after everyone was done eating.

Today my brothers and Josh and I went to play racquetball, and then we went swimming, but otherwise we remained home all day, playing with my nephew and helping my mother get everything ready for our trip up to the lake.

There is a lot of food to get ready and packed, because it will take a lot of food to feed nine persons and one dog for seven days. We have the hampers packed, but we will not pack the coolers until tomorrow, shortly before we depart.

Because of the number of persons and the amount of provisions involved, we will be driving three vehicles up to the lake tomorrow--in what Joshua has termed “a wagon train”. My parents and my uncle will go in my father’s car, my older brother and his family will go in my mother’s car, and Joshua and my middle brother and I will go in my car.

We three will take the dog with us.

I think we will let the dog drive, as surely he knows the way by now.

We will leave early tomorrow afternoon, after church and after lunch.

I cannot wait.

London Itinerary Completed

After much deliberation and much planning, my parents and my middle brother and Joshua and I have our London itinerary for September fully prepared.

We believe that we have prepared an itinerary that will be pleasing to everyone: plenty of art for my mother to enjoy, and plenty of historical and military things for my brother to enjoy. As for my father and Joshua and me, we three will be happy to do anything as long as it does not involve shopping.

On this trip, we will be focusing mainly on London attractions that hug the northern bank of the Thames, from the Adelphi area of London (near Waterloo Bridge) to Chelsea. This will keep us from running here, there and yonder, in a breathless fashion, spending a very short time at each of a plethora of attractions.

However, we have not totally restricted ourselves, geographically, to a narrow strip of the northern bank of the Thames. We will visit most attractions within walking distance of our hotel in Kensington, except for the South Kensington museums, which are so overwhelming that we will, by and large, avoid them on this trip. We will spend only one hour in the South Kensington museums, and that hour will be devoted to viewing The Raphael Cartoons at The Victoria And Albert Museum.

In addition, we will spend one day exploring a few attractions on the South Bank, and we will spend another day exploring a few attractions in the King’s Cross area.

Otherwise, however, we will be visiting virtually everything there is to see and do in Chelsea, Westminster, and the very center of London south of Leicester Square. We shall save other areas of London for a future trip.

My brother and I have already seen everything on our itinerary--in many cases, more than once--with a lone exception: he and I have never visited Leighton House. However, he and I are happy to go back to each and every one of the attractions we plan to visit, and show them to Josh, and enjoy them with our parents, who either have not visited these sights recently or have not visited them at all.

We have tried to arrange our days so that they involve several different--and contrasting--things to see and do. We have also tried to arrange our days so that most days are spent in one fairly-constricted geographical area. This has been done, among other reasons, in order for us to minimize the number of subway journeys we must endure.

One item beyond our control is the fact that all concert-going will occur in the first week of our stay, and all theater-going will occur in the second week of our stay. This was a function of Proms scheduling more than anything else, and there is nothing we can do about that.

From a theater-opera-ballet perspective, we will be visiting London precisely at the wrong time. From a Buckingham Palace-Palace Of Westminster perspective, we will be visiting London precisely at the right time.

Day One In London

Friday, August 31

Leicester Square
The Church Of Notre Dame De France
Trafalgar Square
The Church Of Saint Martin-In-The-Fields
Horse Guards
Horse Guards Parade
Banqueting House
Downing Street
The Cenotaph
Parliament Square

We will arrive in London very, very early in the morning. Once we clear customs, and retrieve our luggage, and take the subway to our hotel, it should be 9:00 a.m. or so.

We will check our luggage at the hotel, because our rooms are unlikely to be ready so early in the day. We will remain at the hotel for an hour or so in order to eat a full breakfast—according to my parents, the hotel has a very, very fine breakfast, with everything from eggs and ham and sausages and English bacon and American bacon and Canadian bacon to a full array of pancakes, toasts and waffles—and then we shall set out on our first day of exploration.

Most of this first day will see us outside, out and about, moving around, in order for us to ward off fatigue.

We will take the subway to Leicester Square Station, and walk to Leicester Square, an excellent starting point for a first day in London. Leicester Square is in the center of the theater district, and the location of London’s half-price theater-ticket booth. It is an historic square, and features statues of William Shakespeare and Charlie Chaplin, as well as busts of Isaac Newton and painters William Hogarth and Joshua Reynolds, all three of whom once lived on the square.

Immediately north of the square is an interesting church, The Church Of Notre Dame De France, London’s French-language Roman Catholic Church. The original building was circular, purpose-built to show panoramas. Once panoramas fell from fashion in the 1850’s, the building was turned over to London’s French population for Roman Catholic worship. The original building was destroyed in 1940, but a new structure, in a modern Beaux-Arts style, was built in the 1950’s. The rebuilt church was designed in a circular shape, too, in order to pay tribute to the church’s heritage. The church is very beautiful, inside and out, and very unique, and well worth a visit. We will go inside, and enjoy the interior, and examine the sanctuary and side chapels, one of which is decorated with a Jean Cocteau mural.

When we are done visiting the church, we will walk south until we reach Trafalgar Square, the most famous of London squares. One of my favorite views in the entire world is from the north side of the square, looking southward and westward toward the spires of Westminster Abbey and The Houses Of Parliament. We will enjoy this awe-inspiring view, and walk around the square, and examine the many surrounding buildings, and observe the giant column with the enormous statue of Admiral Lord Nelson at its peak. We will examine the other statues on the square, too, and we will locate the busts of Admiral Beatty and Admiral Jellicoe, of The Battle Of Jutland, for my father and Josh.

Then we will cross the street and visit The Church Of Saint Martin-In-The-Fields, an English Baroque church. We will explore the interior, and then we will explore and encircle the entire exterior. Afterward, we will explore the crypt, which may or may not have a small exhibit on display. We will rest for a while in the crypt café, and have some coffee, and a light lunch, before we continue our sightseeing.

When we leave the crypt cafe, we will cross Trafalgar Square and walk the length of Whitehall, the street that connects Trafalgar Square with Parliament Square.

We will stop at Horse Guards, the symbolic entry to Saint James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace, and view the horse-mounted guards, and examine the Whitehall facade of the building.

Then we will explore the interior archways and courtyards, and walk through the building to the other side to examine the facade facing Saint James’s Park, and to explore Horse Guards Parade, the public parade ground that separates Horse Guards from Saint James’s Park.

When we are finished, we will retrace our steps to Whitehall, and cross the street, and visit the main feature of our day: Banqueting House.

Banqueting House, once part of Whitehall Palace, long the largest palace in Europe, is one of the greatest buildings in London. It is the only portion of Whitehall Palace that survived the 1698 fire that destroyed the great complex, a series of buildings that occupied what is now the entire south side of Whitehall, from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. Banqueting House is the greatest Classical building in London proper, and perhaps architect Inigo Jones’ greatest masterpiece.

We will first visit the museum on the first floor, viewing the exhibits and viewing the film. Afterward, we will go upstairs to visit the magnificent hall, perfectly proportioned, with rows of double Corinthian and Ionic columns, and a ceiling painted by Peter Paul Rubens on commission from Charles I. This is the only place in the world where visitors may view a large-scale Rubens project in its intended, original setting.

We will spend an hour or so in the hall, looking at the Rubens ceiling panels, and marveling at this magnificent space, and then we will look out the particular window from which Charles I stepped onto a scaffold for his 1649 execution, exactly twenty years after he had knighted Rubens for the artist’s work on the ceiling.

After we complete our visit to Banqueting House, we will return to Whitehall, and continue walking toward Parliament Square. We will pass Downing Street, closed to visitors, and try to catch a glimpse of Number 10.

We will stop at The Cenotaph, one of my favorite war memorials anywhere. Erected in 1920 in the middle of Whitehall to commemorate the dead of World War I, The Cenotaph now honors those sacrificed in both World Wars. It is a memorial of the most remarkable simplicity and dignity and beauty, and I have always found it to be immensely moving.

Continuing down Whitehall, we will examine the Whitehall facades of The Foreign Office and The Home Office, two buildings in entirely different styles, but both the work of architect George Gilbert Scott.

Our final stop will be Parliament Square, which provides one of the most dramatic views in London, surrounded, as it is, by Westminster Abbey, The Houses Of Parliament, and Saint Margaret’s Church. We will explore the square, and explore the many statues, including the statue of Abraham Lincoln, as well the statues of Oliver Cromwell, Winston Churchill, William Gladstone and others. There is no statue in honor of Benjamin Disraeli in the square, despite the fact that numerous guidebooks assert, incorrectly, that Disraeli is among those whose likenesses are represented in the square.

After our exploration of Parliament Square is completed, we will go to Westminster Station and take the subway back to our hotel, where we will check in and eat dinner in the hotel’s dining room. After dinner, we plan to turn in very early. We hope to be in bed by 7:00 p.m. or so, and we should be able to sleep twelve hours or more, and wake, fully rested, at 7:00 a.m. the following morning.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Day Two In London

Saturday, September 1

Saint Mary Abbots Church, Kensington
The Royal Albert Hall
The Albert Memorial
The Wellington Arch
Hyde Park Corner
Apsley House

Our second day in London will be spent within walking distance of our hotel.

We will have breakfast at our hotel, and try to start out at 9:00 a.m.

Our first stop will be a nearby church, Saint Mary Abbots Church, Kensington, a beautiful and large Neo-Gothic church designed by George Gilbert Scott. This church is filled with many interesting monuments and murals and paintings and sculptures, and it is a very pleasant and gratifying church to visit. It is situated in the middle of a city block, with peaceful gardens surrounding the church on two sides. My brother and I happened upon this church once by chance, and we both instantly loved it.

After visiting the church, we will stroll the entire length of the street that borders the southern end of Hyde Park, along which are several key London monuments.

Our first stop along the street will be at The Royal Albert Hall, in which we will attend four Proms concerts later in the week. We will walk around this 1871 monstrosity, and examine the architecture, and the friezes, and the exterior terra cotta decorations.

At the rear of The Royal Albert Hall is a beautiful, terraced plaza, surrounded by several beautiful Victorian buildings: The Royal College Of Music, The Royal College Of Art, The Royal College Of Organists (which no longer occupies its original building), The Royal Geographical Society and Imperial College, London. At the top of the plaza, near The Royal Albert Hall, is a memorial to The Great Exhibition Of 1851, with a statue of its organizer, Prince Albert, at the top.

When we are completed exploring the plaza behind The Royal Albert Hall, we will cross the street in front of the Hall and examine another, much more imposing statue of Prince Albert, the statue that is part of The Albert Memorial, a very peculiar but magnificent shrine to The Prince Consort, planned and erected after his early death.

The Albert Memorial is another Neo-Gothic edifice designed by the ubiquitous George Gilbert Scott. Scott’s inspiration for the monument was, oddly, medieval miniature shrines, the shrines that often cradled mummified corpses or body parts.

The Albert Memorial is one of the very greatest sculptural achievements of The Victorian Era. It is also an over-the-top, almost indescribable, eyesore. For sheer scale, opulence and complexity, it is hard to find a match anywhere in the world. Even by the standards of the time, contemporary Victorians thought that The Albert Memorial was a brutal and tasteless conceit on the part of the Queen.

The Memorial is amazingly complicated. There are several levels of the monument, which is 180-feet tall from base to peak. The monument is constructed of granite, marble, cast iron, lead, bronze, glass, mosaics and gold. At its center, a fourteen-foot statue of Albert stands under a canopy, with the statue and canopy encased in a vast Gothic shrine.

Each of its four pillars is made from a single stone, each weighing seventeen tons. The base is decorated with 169 different life-size figures of poets, architects, composers and sculptors. At its four inner corners are marble groups representing agriculture, manufacturing, commerce and engineering. At its four outer corners are tableaux representing the four continents of The British Empire, then at its zenith.

The whole thing is crass. It is also riveting.

When we are done exploring The Albert Memorial, we will proceed to The Wellington Arch, London’s answer to The Arc De Triomphe.

The Arch was originally erected to serve as a grand inner entrance to Buckingham Palace during the reign of George IV, but it was moved to its present location in the very center of Hyde Park Corner, a small park, in 1882. Britain’s largest bronze statue—depicting the angel of peace descending upon the chariot of war--rests atop The Arch.

The interior of The Arch was never opened to the public until 2001, but it now houses three levels of new and interesting displays. The displays—one on each level—address ceremonial arches throughout the world, London’s statues and monuments and memorials, and London’s “Blue Plaques” scheme. We will visit the displays, and we will also go to the viewing platform at the top of The Arch, and enjoy the marvelous views of London.

After we have completed our visit to The Arch, we will stroll through Hyde Park Corner and examine the many statues and monuments that line the park’s edge.

We will try to find a nearby take-out place to buy sandwiches for a light lunch, which we plan to take back with us to Hyde Park Corner, where we will eat on one of the many benches in the park.

After lunch, we will cross the street for the main event of our day: a visit to Apsley House, the former home of the first Duke Of Wellington. Apsley House is one of London’s very, very greatest attractions, and we will spend the remainder of our day there.

There is so much to enjoy at Apsley House that it is almost overwhelming.

First and foremost is the painting collection. While masterpieces adorn the walls of the entire mansion, the very finest paintings are hung in the magnificent Waterloo Gallery, specifically built to display the most renowned works from The Duke Of Wellington’s great collection.

Two hundred of Wellington’s paintings were formerly part of The Spanish Royal Collection. During The Peninsular War, in the midst of The Battle Of Vittoria, British troops came upon a train of wagons carrying paintings northward from Madrid to France. The paintings were masterpieces from The Spanish Royal Collection, stolen by Joseph Bonaparte, who was transporting them to Paris. Wellington requisitioned the paintings and had them shipped to London, into his personal care, and Wellington kept the paintings himself after the conclusion of The Peninsular Campaign (with The Spanish Crown’s belated and grudging consent, given many years after the fact).

Most of the paintings at Apsley House are Spanish and Dutch Old Master paintings, but there are a few Italian and French paintings as well. Some of the works are simply breathtaking, such as Velazquez’s masterpiece, “The Waterseller Of Seville”, Goya’s great equestrian portrait of Wellington (painted during The Peninsular Campaign), and one of the very greatest Correggio paintings in existence.

There are also many legendary British paintings on display, including David Wilkie’s masterpiece, “The Chelsea Pensioners Reading The Waterloo Dispatches”, and Thomas Lawrence’s famed portrait of Wellington, painted immediately after Wellington’s return to London after The Battle Of Waterloo. In the Lawrence portrait, Wellington positively sneers and gloats with self-importance and pride—and yet the Lawrence portrait reveals Wellington’s great charm, too.

The paintings in Apsley House are worth several hours.of examination, but they are not the only reason to visit Apley House.

Wellington used his home to entertain on the grandest possible scale, and he owned one of the world’s very greatest collections of dinner and dessert services, as well as an astonishing number of porcelain and silver commemorative pieces, almost all of which were given to him by grateful European ruling houses, restored to their thrones after The Napoleonic Era had ended.

Wellington, for instance, was the owner of The Egyptian Sevres Service, one of the world’s very greatest dinner and dessert services. The Egyptian Sevres Service was Napoleon’s gift to Josephine to commemorate their divorce (Josephine refused to accept the gift). After The Battle Of Waterloo, The Egyptian Sevres Service was presented to Wellington by a relieved France, happy to be rid of the Bonaparte clan at last.

The Egyptian Sevres Service is of the most amazing beauty and complexity. The centerpiece, alone, makes a visit to Apsley House worthwhile. The centerpiece is over twenty feet long, and it recreates Egypt’s pyramids, sphinxes and other landmarks on the most lavish scale. It is so large and so detailed and so elaborate that, from a practical point of view, it makes a most unsuccessful centerpiece for a dining table—there is no way that diners would be able to eat, or to converse with each other, with such a jaw-dropping work of art immediately before their eyes.

Wellington was also the owner of The Prussian Service, one of the two greatest Meissen porcelain dinner and dessert services ever created (the other is The Furstenberg Service, owned by The British Royal Family). Each item of The Prussian Service is hand-painted with a different scene from one of Wellington’s many military campaigns during The Napoleonic Wars. The Prussian Service is so beautiful, and the painting so fine, that it almost defies belief.

Wellington further owned The Portuguese Service, a vast dinner and dessert service made entirely of silver, and presented to him by the rulers of Portugal. It is the greatest silver dinner and dessert service ever created. Its elaborate centerpiece is almost twenty-five feet long, and almost as impressive as the centerpiece of The Egyptian Sevres Service.

While most of Wellington’s porcelain is on display in the porcelain gallery on the first floor of Apsley House; The Portuguese Service is on display upstairs in the dining room, where it rests on the grand dining table, laid out as if a banquet is scheduled to be held that very evening.

Wellington was a great collector of Napoleonic memorabilia, and much of this collection is on display throughout the mansion. Wellington owned many, many notable items formerly belonging to Napoleon, including Napoleon’s sword and including Antonio Canova’s great colossal nude statue of Napoleon, eleven feet tall, which rests at the base of the grand central staircase at Apsley House. (A bomb exploding nearby during World War II dislodged Napoleon’s fig leaf, causing great consternation at Apsley House, according to the current Duke Of Wellington, a child at the time of the event.)

Apsley House was the grandest private residence in London during its day, and the interiors of its grand State Rooms, alone, warrant a visit. The interiors were restored to their original splendor, consistent with designer Robert Adams’ original plans, in the 1990’s. Ten of the magnificent second-floor State Rooms are open to the public, in addition to the first floor’s museum-like display galleries as well as the galleries in the basement, which are devoted to Wellington’s personal memorabilia.

Apsley House is one of the finest attractions to visit in London, and it is never crowded. My parents and Joshua will love visiting Apsley House, what with its plethora of art and history.

We shall probably remain at Apsley House until it closes for the day, at which point we shall walk back to our hotel. On our way, we shall locate a nice restaurant at which to have an early dinner.

We plan to get back to our hotel no later than 7:30 p.m., so that we all can turn in early for a second consecutive night. By the following morning, we should be entirely free from any vestiges of jet lag.

Day Three In London

Sunday, September 2

Saint Mary Abbots Church, Kensington
The National Army Museum
Carlyle’s House
All Saints Church
Crosby Hall
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

We will, again, have breakfast at our hotel, and we will leave the hotel at 8:30 a.m.

We will attend morning service at Saint Mary Abbots Church, Kensington, the church we visited and examined the previous morning. After service, we will take the subway to Sloane Square Station.

From Sloane Square, we will walk over to The National Army Museum, our main visit of the day. We will visit this museum three times during our stay in London, and we will see almost all of the collection.

My mother will enjoy this museum, in part because the historical displays are so excellent and in part because so much art is on display throughout the museum. Paintings with military themes are hung in the exhibition rooms, in the hallways, in the stairwells, and in a special art gallery devoted exclusively to great painters of the Hanoverian Period.

On this first visit to the museum, we will only visit the exhibitions covering the 18th and 19th Centuries. In particular, we will focus on the exhibition rooms addressing The American Revolution and The Napoleonic Wars, since these are the finest and most interesting rooms from this portion of the collection.

One of the highlights of the museum is the grand, scaled model of The Battle Of Waterloo. It is a very impressive model, constructed shortly after the event, and it features the entire topography of the battle area, replete with buildings, trees, soldiers, horses and cannon. The model is accompanied by sound and lighting effects that may be activated by the visitor, and these special effects enhance the visitor’s ability to trace the course of that day’s Europe-altering events. When my brother and I visited this exhibit in 2004, we spent forty-five minutes examining the model, and we activated the entire sequence of special effects three or four times in succession.

When we have completed our visit to the museum exhibits covering the 18th and 19th Centuries, we will have a light lunch in the museum café, which apparently has been greatly expanded since 2004, the last time my brother and I ate there.

After lunch, we will walk through Chelsea, examining some of the lovely historic houses that line Cheney Walk, and noting some of the many historic personages that once resided in these various homes.

When our stroll through Chelsea is complete, we will visit Carlyle’s House, home of Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle, who lived the final forty-seven years of his life in this house.

We will visit all five levels of the townhouse, in which Carlyle wrote his great history of The French Revolution and his great biography of Frederick The Great Of Prussia. Everything on display in the house actually belonged to Carlyle: the furnishings, the books, the paintings, the photographs, the china, the curtains, the personal possessions, the mementos. For admirers of Carlyle, this is a great place to visit.

When my brother and I visited Carlyle’s House in 2004, one of the vectors told us that almost all visitors to Carlyle’s House are American—not British, not Canadian, not Australian, not New Zealander, but American. This makes me wonder whether Carlyle is no longer read in other English-speaking countries. In the United States, Carlyle’s books have never gone out of print since the dates of their initial publications.

During that 2004 visit, my brother and I only intended to visit this historic residence for an hour or so. However, the vector was so enthused about our elementary knowledge of Carlyle that he veritably made us his prisoners, opening drawers all over the house and bringing out all sorts of things to show to us, from old books to old postcards to old letters to old underwear. My brother and I had to engage in military-like maneuvers in order to make our escape after three hours.

From Carlyle’s House, we will walk to nearby All Saints Church, an ancient church affiliated with Thomas More. Also known as Chelsea Old Church, All Saints Church was the More family church. One of the chapels is devoted exclusively to Thomas More, and many other church monuments are dedicated to More and his family. Several of More’s relatives are buried in the church. It is a small, but richly-rewarding church.

After visiting All Saints Church, we will walk to nearby Crosby Hall, the immense stone house in which Thomas More and his family lived for many years. The house is now privately-owned, and not open to the public, but its exterior is a wonderful example of Tudor stone architecture, and it is one of the last such buildings in London. Crosby Hall was not situated on its current site during More’s lifetime—the structure was dismantled and moved, stone by stone, to its current location in 1910.

From Crosby Hall, we will take taxis back to Kensington—it will almost be too far for us to walk back to the nearest tube station, Sloane Square Station, from which we commenced our tour of Chelsea—and we will request to be dropped at The Royal Albert Hall.

When we arrive at the Hall, we will get an early and light dinner in one of the Hall’s dining venues prior to the evening’s Proms concert, which we will attend. We will hear the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, under Michael Tilson Thomas, perform Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7.

After the concert, we will walk back to our hotel. We will find a place to get a light supper en route.

Day Four In London

Monday, September 3

Pall Mall
Saint James’s Palace
The Friary Court
The Queen’s Chapel
The Queen Alexandra Memorial
Canada House
The Admiralty Arch
The Mall
Carlton House Terrace
Carlton House Terrace Gardens
The Duke Of York Steps And The Duke Of York Memorial
The Queen Victoria Memorial
Buckingham Palace
The Buckingham Palace State Rooms
Saint James’s Park
Queen Anne’s Gate
Vienna Philharmonic

This day will be our most ambitious day by far, as it involves a great deal of walking and a great deal of standing, and a great deal of non-stop activity from 7:00 a.m. until well past 10:00 p.m. This day will also be one of our most stimulating and rewarding days in London.

We plan to leave our hotel at 7:00 a.m.--without eating breakfast--and take the subway to Charing Cross Station.

By 7:30 a.m., we should have arrived at Trafalgar Square, and we will begin walking the length of Pall Mall, the street that runs between Trafalgar Square and Saint James’s Palace, and one of the most historic streets in London. This is my very favorite street in all of London, and this is my very favorite walk in all of London.

On our stroll on Pall Mall, we will pass the famous Gentlemen’s Clubs, and the famous headquarters of The P & O Line, with ship models in the windows, and the Pall Mall frontages of Marlborough House and York House and Lancaster House. We will see the exterior of Saint James’s Palace, one of London’s greatest Tudor buildings, with its noted gatehouse still guarded by a soldier in Tudor attire.

We will visit The Friary Court of Saint James’s Palace, the courtyard that affords the public’s closest permitted access to the Palace.

Across the street from The Friary court, we will examine the exterior of The Queen’s Chapel, a Classical building contemporaneous with Banqueting House, and designed by the same architect, the great Inigo Jones.

We also will examine The Queen Alexandra Memorial nearby, a memorial and fountain erected in memory of the much-beloved and much-respected consort of Edward VII.

Before we retrace our steps on Pall Mall back to Trafalgar Square, we will explore a few of the charming side streets in the immediate vicinity of Saint James’s Palace. In the coven of small, narrow streets on the north side of the Palace are many intriguing shops and antiquaries and restaurants and cafes.

Among them is an excellent café that serves an unusual and excellent English breakfast, composed solely of English sausages, and English bacons, and English hams, and English pork roasts, all served, sandwich-style, on English rolls. The café serves what must be the finest meats in all of London. My brother and I happened upon this cafe once by chance, and we loved the food, the English pork roasts most of all.

We will have breakfast at the cafe, and have some coffee, and rest a bit. We will need to do so, because we will be on our feet for the next several hours, with no place to sit and no place to buy food or drink.

Once we return to Trafalgar Square via our second traversal of Pall Mall, we will briefly visit the sumptuous public rooms of Canada House, restored to their original Classical splendor a few years ago. Many visitors to London do not realize that Canada House is open to the public, and that visitors need not be Canadian in order to visit the many splendid interiors (although visitors must proceed through an airport-style security screening in order to gain admittance).

From there, we will examine and pass through The Admiralty Arch, which marks one end of The Mall, the great ceremonial way that leads to Buckingham Palace.

Once we find ourselves on The Mall, we will walk the full length of this grand promenade.

Along The Mall, our first stop will be Carlton House Terrace, a series of handsome Regency structures, designed by the great architect and urban designer and interior designer, John Nash. Carlton House Terrace is situated on the north side of The Mall. We will also explore the Carlton House Terrace Gardens adjacent to Carlton House Terrace.

Our next stop on The Mall will be The Duke Of York Steps and The Duke Of York Memorial, also on the north side of The Mall. The Duke Of York was the second son of George III, and he was Commander Of The British Army during The French Revolution. Clustered around the memorial is a series of statues of prominent persons, such as Queen Victoria, Captain Scott of the Antarctic, and Florence Nightingale.

Continuing along The Mall, we will pass The Mall facades of Marlborough House and Clarence House and Saint James’s Palace and Lancaster House, and this will take us to The Queen Victoria Memorial, located in the great traffic circle in front of Buckingham Palace. We will explore this enormous monument, and its many levels and statues and friezes, and sit down and rest a bit on one of the monument’s ledges, after which we will proceed to the main event of our day: Buckingham Palace.

First, we will examine the exterior of Buckingham Palace.

Following our examination of the Palace’s exterior, we will make an inside visit to The Buckingham Palace State Rooms, one of the very greatest things to see and do in London.

Late each summer, twenty or twenty-one of The State Rooms are opened to the public while the Queen is in Scotland at Balmoral. The State Rooms, of the greatest architectural and design distinction, and virtually unchanged since they were designed in the 1820’s by John Nash, are filled with some of the world’s very greatest paintings, sculptures, furniture and porcelain.

Each State Room has a different design, a different theme, a different purpose, a different color scheme, a different shape, a different ceiling. Each room is furnished with what is considered to be the world’s very finest collection of French and British furniture from the 17th, 18th and very early 19th Centuries (but there is also Italian pietra dura furniture and German furniture to die for). Each room is accented with Sevres porcelain of such rarity and beauty as to make the visitor weak-kneed. Except for The Picture Gallery (which displays only Old Master paintings), each room’s walls are lined with canvases—royal portraits and history paintings--by Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley and Johan Zoffany and Allan Ramsay and Thomas Gainsborough and David Wilkie and Thomas Lawrence and Angelica Kauffmann and Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Luke Fildes and other masters. Each room contains busts and statues by Benvenuto Cellini and Antonio Canova and Louis Francois Roubillac and Hubert Le Sueur. Each room is breathtaking. Each room is overwhelming. Each room is unforgettable.

It takes approximately four hours to go through The State Rooms, several of which are extremely large and almost all of which are filled with dozens of artworks, each one of which is entitled to the most serious and intense examination.

Happily, halfway through the prescribed route, visitors enter The State Ballroom, where visitors are allowed to sit and rest and, if they like, view a series of films. This is the only room in the Palace in which visitors are permitted to sit--and visitors always make use of it.

The Picture Gallery, alone, makes a visit to The State Rooms essential. The largest room in the palace, The Picture Gallery is lined on both sides with Old Master Paintings, double-hung, of the very, very, very highest quality. The paintings are changed each year, and Queen Elizabeth owns so many top-level masterpieces that I have yet to see displayed many of Queen Elizabeth’s very greatest paintings, such as her great Vermeer painting, perhaps the finest Vermeer painting in the world.

My mother will be in bliss while visiting The State Rooms, and so will my father, and so will Joshua. The State Rooms are fascinating, and exhausting, and overwhelming.

Upon the conclusion of our visit to The State Rooms, I fear that we may all be on the verge of collapse, so afterward we will all cross the street and have a grand and long and leisurely late lunch in one of the restaurants of The Rubens At The Palace Hotel. We will need a long and leisurely lunch to recuperate, given how much walking and standing we will have accomplished since 7:00 a.m., and lunch at The Rubens At The Palace should provide us with a welcome and luxurious respite.

After lunch, we will stroll through Saint James’s Park, and explore some of the monuments and statues that grace the park, as well as examine the Park façade of The Foreign Office, a fascinating (and successful) George Gilbert Scott structure designed in an elaborate Italian Renaissance style.

While walking through and around Saint James’s Park, we will take a side excursion to Queen Anne’s Gate, a charming street with 18th-Century houses and a statue of Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs.

In the very late afternoon/very early evening, we will take cabs to The Royal Albert Hall, where we will hear another Proms concert. Before the concert, we will eat dinner in one of the dining venues of the Hall.

On this evening, we will hear the Vienna Philharmonic, under Daniel Barenboim, perform Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 and Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4.

After the concert, we will return to our hotel and, no doubt, go straight to bed, a necessity after such a long and event-filled day.

Day Five In London

Tuesday, September 4

Tate Britain
The Church Of Saint James The Less, Westminster
Westminster Cathedral
Evensong Service At Westminster Abbey
The Victoria Embankment
The Victoria Embankment Gardens
York Watergate
Cleopatra’s Needle
Covent Garden
Seven Dials
Neal’s Yard

We will start our explorations a little later this day. We want to make sure that we have had an opportunity to enjoy plenty of rest, given how much we accomplished the previous day.

We will not leave our hotel until 9:30 a.m. We will first have breakfast at our hotel, after which we will take the subway to Pimlico Station.

We will begin our day at Tate Britain. This will be the first of three visits to Tate Britain on this trip, and we intend to explore the entire collection.

Tate Britain is interesting, to me, not because of the quality of the art on display, which is not particularly high, but because of what that art reveals about the British character and the British people, and because of how that art comments, unintentionally, on so many aspects of British history and British society. For me, Tate Britain is more of a history museum than an art museum--and my brother holds precisely the same view about Tate Britain. The museum utterly fascinates him.

I have never been an admirer of British art. Britain’s greatest period of painting, I believe, coincided perfectly with the Hanoverian Period, which began with the reign of George I in 1714 and ended with the reign of William IV in 1837.

This period witnessed the lives and works, in order, of Allan Ramsay (1713-1784), Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), George Romney (1734-1802), Henry Raeburn (1756-1823), Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), John Constable (1776-1837) and David Wilkie (1785-1841), all but two of whom were born and died during this period (Ramsay was born one year before the Hanoverian Period began; Wilkie outlived the Hanoverian Period by four years).

This group of painters was as good as any in the world at the time, even though it operated entirely outside the prevailing artistic movements of the time.

On the continent, during this period, three movements were in force: Rococo art, which held sway in France and Italy; Neo-Classical art, which swept aside Rococo art in France from 1790 onward; and Neo-Romantic art, which dominated German art from 1800.

During the Hanoverian Period, British art held itself separate and apart from these continental trends. This turned out to be a good thing, because Britain enjoyed its greatest flowering in the field of painting during this century-and-a-quarter Hanoverian Period--but never before, and never since, has British art been anything other than of provincial quality and of local interest.

Prior to this group of Hanoverian painters, Britain had no important painters at all, relying entirely upon foreign artists to provide the monarchy and the ruling classes with the portraits and landscapes and “conversation pieces” they so loved. Subsequent to this group of Hanoverian painters, Britain suffered through the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and the Victorian painters working in a realist style, and a pallid group of 20th-Century painters offering watered-down versions of French and German and American art.

As a result, apart from the Hanoverian-Period paintings, much of the art on display at Tate Britain is simply meretricious—and yet this meretricious art is fascinating for historical reasons. In fact, Tate Britain is one of the most rewarding art museums in the entire world to visit, if one examines the artworks purely from an historical perspective and if one is not looking for purely artistic rewards.

In 2005, my brother and I went through the entire Tate Britain collection, and we were completely captivated by this museum. It took us four three-hour visits to get through everything, but our visits in 2005 were lengthened due to the fact that we began each visit with a one-hour guided tour of the particular section of the collection we planned to visit that day.

We will not repeat that mistake this trip.

First, the Tate Britain guided tours were not particularly good.

Second, on one of our four guided tours, I narrowly escaped being murdered.

The particular guided tour that nearly cost me my life covered British art between 1800 and 1900, and this period included, of course, the group of Pre-Raphaelite painters, whose work I abhor (and whose most prominent current collector, fittingly, is Andrew Lloyd Webber).

In 2005, while the Tate Britain guide was discussing John Everett Millais’ “Ophelia”, considered to be one of the key works of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, I turned to my brother and I involuntarily uttered the word “kitsch”. The guide heard me, and I thought that she was going to execute me for my offense.

She was livid, with a frightening look of hatred on her face, and she stopped her presentation and glared at me. I am 6’1”, and my brother is 6’2”, but she was much taller and much heavier than either one of us, and she could have dealt both of us lethal blows any time she wanted. I was truly frightened--and the guide’s unflattering lime-green pants suit only added to her aura of maliciousness.

She stared at me for the longest time, and then she grandly proclaimed “Not everyone appreciates the Pre-Raphaelites” and returned to her presentation, at which point my brother whispered into my ear “Try not to get us killed, OK? You be a good boy, now. If you’re a good boy, I’ll get you some ice cream.”

This made me laugh, of course, which only made the Tate Britain guide even more infuriated. She halted her presentation again and she glared at me, for at least a full minute. Finally, she asked me “Is there anything more you would like to say before I continue?”

A question deserves a response, quite naturally, or so I have always believed. So I asked her, very innocently, and very sweetly, “What did Charles Dickens have to say about the Pre-Raphaelites?”

Of course, I already knew the answer to that question. And so did she—and she was enraged.

She looked at me like a maddened bull preparing to charge, with blind hatred in her eyes. She would happily have killed me, I believe, if she thought she could have got away with it. Finally, she gritted her teeth and she snarled at me “He didn’t like them. Is that enough for you?”

“Yes, and thank you” I politely answered, and she continued, once again, with her presentation, while my brother, from behind, put his arms around my waist and very slowly pulled me to the very outer edge of the group participating in the guided tour.

From that point, members of the tour group started to wander away, one by one. It was in a room devoted exclusively to the paintings of G. F. Watts—“the Rothko of the 19th Century”, according to the Tate Britain guide—that most of the members of the group abandoned the tour. (The Watts room is no longer on view--it was installed only for a few months in 2005. It recreated an installation from the World War I years, when Watts reached the zenith of his popularity.) Despite the fact that I despise Watts, I behaved myself perfectly in the Watts room, primarily because my brother kept his hand over my mouth much of the time.

My brother wanted to leave the tour, too, but I firmly believed, under the circumstances, that it would have been pointedly impolite, if not outright unforgivable, for us to have walked away while the guide was still in the midst of her presentation. Accordingly, I stuck it out, and so did my brother, to the very end. By the time the group had reached the final room of paintings on the tour, there were only four members of the original group remaining: a married couple from Texas, and my brother and I.

The final room was filled with maudlin Victorian paintings, some of the most sentimental claptrap to be seen anywhere, and the final painting the guide discussed was Luke Fildes’ 1891 “The Doctor”, one of the most famous and emblematic of all Victorian paintings.

I swear that I was not making faces, but the guide stopped her presentation, and she said to me “I see that you do not like this one, either”.

Actually, that was not true, because that painting is very good—of its kind—and I said “I am happy to see this painting. Our grandfather had an old print of this painting, and I am pleased to see the original at last.”

This was not enough for the guide, however. She wanted to know whether I LIKED the painting, and she pressed me on this issue.

“It’s a fine example of late-Victorian realist narrative painting” was the best I could get out, to which she retorted “Aha! I knew you didn’t like it!”

Shortly after, she completed her presentation to the group, after which the two Texas visitors departed, leaving the guide and my brother and me together, uncomfortably, in the middle of the room.

The guide looked at us for a while, with contempt plastered all over her face, and then she said, acidly, “I am always so happy to explain art to you Americans”, after which she swiveled and started to walk out of the room. When she was a few steps away, I said to my brother, loud enough for her to hear, “Well, the 19th Century was not a TOTAL loss for British art—at least Whistler and Sargent were working here some of that time.”

The guide stopped in her tracks for a moment, clearly trying to decide whether or not to turn around and blast me, but she thought better of it, and she resumed walking from the room.

I think we will skip the Tate Britain guided tours on this visit.

For our first Tate Britain visit, we will explore the rooms that address British art from 1500 to 1800. Many of the greatest paintings from this period are not at Tate Britain—they are at the nearby National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery—but these rooms are nonetheless of great interest. Portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, “conversation pieces” and historical paintings line the pertinent rooms, and almost all of these paintings are fascinating for their historical content.

Furthermore, Tate Britain owns so many works that its paintings are changed every few months, so there should be lots and lots of paintings from this period that my brother and I have not already examined.

Happily, most of the major, major paintings owned by Tate Britain are kept on more-or-less continuous display, and I look forward to seeing again John Singleton Copley’s giant and grand 1783 history painting, “The Death Of Major Peirson 6 January 1781”, as well as Allan Ramsay’s “Thomas, Second Baron Mansel Of Margam, With His Blackwood Half-Brothers And Sister”, Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Baillie Family” and George Stubbs’ “The Haymakers” and “The Reapers”.

After we have completed seeing this day’s rooms at Tate Britain, we will have lunch at the Tate Britain café, the museum’s informal eating venue.

After lunch, we will make the short walk to one of London’s very greatest churches, virtually unknown and virtually never visited, and one of the greatest masterpieces of 19th-Century ecclesiastical architecture: The Church Of Saint James The Less, Westminster.

Completed in 1861, Saint James The Less is the most perfect and successful example of Tractarian architecture I have ever seen. The exterior is of red and black patterned brick, in a unique and decorative (but understated) style. Standing apart from the main structure, campanile-style, is a large tower with a short steeple. To the rear and side of the church proper is a large and complex vestry.

It is a magnificent structure.

The interior features red, black and white brickwork, elaborate arches and vaulting, and pillars made from marble, stone and granite. Stone inlays, murals, mosaics and angled brickwork line the church walls. The church has striking stained-glass windows, a painted ceiling, and a G. F. Watts mosaic on the chancel wall. And yet all of this decoration, seemingly overwrought, is incorporated into the church’s structural elements, with the greatest possible taste and restraint and refinement. The result is one of the most beautiful church interiors in the world. This church is an essential destination for any visit to London.

From Saint James The Less we will walk to Westminster Cathedral, the main Roman Catholic Church in England. The giant exterior was completed in 1904. The Cathedral was designed in a fearless Byzantine style, inspired by Saint Sophia in Istanbul and Saint Mark’s in Venice, and its interior and many side chapels are decorated with brilliant mosaics and colored marble (over 100 different marbles were used in the Cathedral’s interior). The Cathedral is a wonderful and inspiring building to visit and explore. Edward Elgar’s “The Dream Of Gerontius” premiered in the Cathedral.

When we are done exploring the Cathedral’s interior, we will take the elevator to the top of the Campanile, and enjoy the breathtaking views over London.

After our visit is complete, we will walk to Victoria Station and take the subway to Westminster Station, and from there walk over to Westminster Abbey for Evensong Service. Evensong Service is a remarkable experience—if the tourists in attendance behave themselves--and it generally features the Westminster Abbey Choir and one of the Abbey organs.

After Evensong, we will take a leisurely stroll along The Victoria Embankment, which lines the Thames, from Parliament to the Adelphi area of London. This is a beautiful and pleasant walk, and it offers excellent views of the South Bank.

At our destination, we will walk through The Victoria Embankment Gardens, and enjoy the flowers and many statues and monuments in the gardens (everyone is honored, from Robert Burns to Arthur Sullivan to “The Imperial Camel Corps” to “The People Of Belgium”).

Inside the gardens, we will examine York Watergate, the triumphal river entrance to the former York House. York Watergate is all that remains of what was once one of London’s most notable and splendid private residences.

Near the gardens, we will examine Cleopatra’s Needle, an Egyptian obelisk carved in 1450 B.C. The obelisk is surrounded by pseudo-Egyptian benches and sphinxes added during the 19th Century. Bombing damage from a World War I zeppelin raid may still be observed on the obelisk’s plinth and on the nearby sphinxes and stonework.

From Cleopatra’s Needle we will walk to the Covent Garden area. We will walk around the opera house, and walk around the plaza, and probably sit down somewhere and have some coffee, and probably enter a shop or two, and explore the area.

From Covent Garden we will walk north to Seven Dials and explore this charming square.

Then we will explore the equally-charming adjacent area, Neal’s Yard, and perhaps enter a shop or two.

When we are done walking around, we will have dinner at a Belgian restaurant near Neal’s Yard. My brother and I discovered this restaurant in 2003, and we have eaten there a few times, and we have always liked it. The food is good, and it will be a nice way to end the day.

After dinner, we shall go to Covent Garden Station and take the subway back to our hotel. We should be able to turn in early on this day, by 10:00 p.m. or so.

Day Six In London

Wednesday, September 5

Westminster Abbey
Central Hall
Dean’s Yard
Gewandhaus Orchestra Of Leipzig

We will have breakfast at our hotel again. We plan to depart our hotel at 9:15 a.m., and take the subway to Westminster Station.

Our entire day will be devoted to Westminster Abbey.

We intend to arrive at 9:45 a.m., when the Abbey opens for the day. We plan to walk around on our own, exploring the Abbey, for an hour or so. Then at 11:00 a.m., we will take a verger-led guided tour, which provides access to parts of the Abbey otherwise closed to the public. For instance, the chapel and shrine of Edward The Confessor, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, may only be visited as part of a verger tour. At the conclusion of the verger tour, we will continue to explore the Abbey proper on our own for another hour or so, until it is time to get something to eat.

For a lunch break, we will walk over to Central Hall, owned and operated by the Methodist Church, and have lunch in the cafeteria in the basement. It is the best place to have lunch in Westminster.

After lunch, we will take a short tour of the interior of Central Hall, and visit the chapels, and visit the large, historic main hall, where so many notable and historic events have occurred. When we leave the building, we will examine the exterior, London’s finest example of Beaux-Art architecture, and one of the greatest Beaux-Art buildings in the world.

Afterward, we will return to the Abbey and explore the Cloisters, and the magnificent Chapter House, and the Museum, which is excellent. Then, if they are open that day, we will explore the Abbey’s three gardens. The gardens are very simple, and very peaceful, and very quiet, and visitors to the gardens are hardly aware that the gardens are situated in the very center of noisy and bustling Westminster.

When we have completed our visit to the Abbey, we will walk through adjacent Dean’s Yard, and see Westminster School.

Afterward, we will go to Westminster Station and take the subway back to our hotel.

On this day, we will all have a chance to rest for three hours or so before the evening’s Proms concert. Josh and my brother and I will probably go swimming in the hotel pool, but my parents will probably welcome an opportunity to rest, and to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Early in the evening, we will walk over to The Royal Albert Hall for a Proms Concert. We probably will get a little something to eat in one of the Hall’s dining venues before the concert.

This evening’s concert will feature the Gewandhaus Orchestra Of Leipzig, under Riccardo Chailly, performing the “Coriolan” Overture and Violin Concerto of Beethoven, and the Symphony No. 4 of Brahms. The violin soloist will be Sergey Khachatryan.

After the concert, we will walk back to our hotel, and we will find a suitable place to have a late supper en route.

Day Seven In London

Thursday, September 6

The Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street
Cadogan Hall
Sloane Square
The Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Hospital, Chelsea
The National Army Museum
Peter Jones

We will have breakfast at our hotel again, and at 8:30 a.m. we plan to take the subway to Sloane Square Station.

We will begin our day by visiting The Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, a large and flamboyant structure melding English Perpendicular architecture with architecture from The Arts And Crafts Movement--with architectural elements from The Italian Renaissance thrown in for good measure! It is a bizarre building, inside and out, and yet it somehow works.

The interior is a riot of color and texture, with bold and fearless statuary carving, decorative metal work and stone work, and stained glass. Much of the interior decoration was designed by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.

Holy Trinity is an unusual and rewarding church to visit, and we plan to spend an hour exploring the church interior, and walking around the full church exterior.

Behind the church, in the next block, we will examine the exterior of Cadogan Hall, long London’s principal Christian Science Church until it fell into disuse. Cadogan Hall was recently restored and has now reopened as London’s newest concert venue, home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

From Cadogan Hall, we will proceed to Sloane Square and walk around the square, viewing the many buildings that surround the square, including The Royal Court Theatre.

From Sloane Square we will walk to The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, founded in the late 17th Century as a home for old and disabled soldiers. The Royal Hospital still serves its original function.

The entire series of buildings was designed by Christopher Wren. I find the exteriors to be entirely unremarkable. Wren supposedly was inspired by the architecture of The Invalides in Paris, but the exteriors of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in no way approach the splendor and interest and distinction of The Invalides.

One of the buildings at The Royal Hospital was destroyed by German bombs, dropped from a zeppelin, during World War I. The building was not reconstructed until shortly before World War II, and the same building was destroyed a second time by a V-2 rocket in the latter months of the latter war. It was not rebuilt a second time until the late 1960's.

We will visit the various courtyards and gardens of The Royal Hospital, and then visit the only portions of the main building open to the public: the Octagon, the Great Hall, and the Chapel, which is the most beautiful part of The Royal Hospital.

The chapel of The Royal Hospital is my very favorite Wren church interior. Of unique design and unique proportions, with an unusual interior semi-dome painted by Sebastiano Ricci, it is a beautiful exploration of space and light and color, and yet it is somber and devotional. The chapel has unique and beautiful woodwork, perhaps the finest woodwork of any Wren church, and the woodwork defines and divides up the space beautifully.

After visiting the chapel, we will visit the small Royal Hospital Museum.

Once our visit to The Royal Hospital is complete, we will go next door and continue our exploration of The National Army Museum.

We will first have lunch in the museum café (this will be our second lunch in the museum café, but we truly have little choice, because this is a residential area, and there are no suitable dining venues nearby), and after lunch we will explore the museum exhibitions addressing both World Wars. The World War displays are quite detailed, and they are excellent.

Late in the afternoon, we will retrace our steps from The National Army Museum to Sloane Square.

At the square, we will enter the large department store that resides on the west side of the square, Peter Jones. We will proceed to the store’s seventh floor and have coffee and cakes in the restaurant, which provides excellent views of the skyline of Kensington to the north. The roofs of the South Kensington museums and The Brompton Oratory may be observed, as well as a large number of church spires. It is a very charming view.

After eating, we will spend an hour or two wandering through this enormous store, which occupies an entire city block. The building was recently renovated, at considerable expense (107 million pounds!), and it is a very pleasant department store to explore. We will remain in the store until closing time, at which point we will walk to the nearby home of my older brother’s in-laws, where we will be dinner guests.

After dinner, my brother and Josh and I will take the subway back to our hotel, but my older brother’s in-laws, no doubt, will insist upon driving my parents back to our hotel.

Day Eight In London

Friday, September 7

Saint Margaret’s Church
Jewel Tower
The Houses Of Parliament
Saint John’s, Smith Square
Tate Britain
Boston Symphony Orchestra

This day marks the mid-point of our time in London.

We will have breakfast at our hotel, and start out at 9:00 a.m., taking the subway to Westminster Station.

Our first visit of the day will be to Saint Margaret’s Church, the small church adjacent to Westminster Abbey. The church is filled with historic monuments, many of the greatest interest.

The finest feature of the church is its stained glass. One set of windows commemorates Walter Raleigh, who was executed nearby and who is buried in the church. Another set of windows was commissioned to mark the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine Of Aragon. This latter set of windows is one of the finest examples of Pre-Reformation Flemish glass in the world.

Outside the church, in a niche, is a bust of Charles I, looking toward The Houses Of Parliament and seemingly staring at the statue of Oliver Cromwell, the man who ordered his execution.

From Saint Margaret’s, we will walk over to Jewel Tower, erected in the 14th Century to house the jewels and treasures of the sovereign. Along with Westminster Hall, Jewel Tower is all that remains of the original Palace Of Westminster, destroyed by fire in 1834.

Jewel Tower is surrounded by the remains of a medieval moat and quay, and it is interesting primarily because of its stonework and its old, narrow stairways. The tower houses an unremarkable exhibit about the history of Parliament.

Hardly any tourists visit Jewel Tower. When my brother and I visited Jewel Tower in 2005, we the only visitors. After we had made our way up to the topmost level, we were approached by the ticket clerk, who had climbed up to the top to ask us whether we minded if he locked us in and departed for fifteen minutes in order to get some lunch. We told him that it was fine with us, as long as he promised to return—it would take us a while, we told him, to dig through the six-foot stone walls if we had to get out on our own.

The main event of our day will be a tour of The Houses Of Parliament, compliments of my sister-in-law’s father, who works in The Palace Of Westminster and at whose home we will have dined the previous evening. He will start at the Victoria Tower end, and take us through the entire building—in turn, The Queen’s Robing Room, The Royal Gallery, The Prince’s Chamber, The House Of Lords Chamber, The Peers’ Lobby, The Peers’ Corridor, The Central Lobby, The Commons Corridor, The “No” Lobby, The House Of Commons Chamber, Saint Stephen’s Hall, Westminster Hall, New Palace Yard—until we reach the other side. This is one of the greatest experiences in London, and Josh and my father will be in heaven. At the conclusion of our tour, we plan to have coffee in the Parliament café.

From Parliament, we will walk over to Saint John’s, Smith Square, London’s greatest example of English Baroque architecture, an absolute masterpiece of the style. This large church features four towers, one at each corner, and it is said to resemble an upturned footstool. We will examine the exterior, but the only way to view the interior--quite magnificent indeed--is to attend an evening concert (the church has been de-consecrated, and it is now home to one of London’s finest concert venues).

We will go into the church crypt at Saint John’s, Smith Square, however, and have a late lunch in the excellent restaurant. It is named, fittingly, “Footstool”.

After lunch, we will walk over to Tate Britain for our second visit. During this visit, we will view the rooms displaying 19th-Century art.

Despite my dislike for so much 19th-Century British art, I find this art to be utterly fascinating—and, in addition to the piles and piles of junk that will be on display at Tate Britain, there will be many, many fine works from this period on view.

John Constable’s last major painting, “The Valley Farm” from 1835, is almost always on display at Tate Britain, as is J.M.W. Turner’s “The Shipwreck” from 1805, the only Turner painting I have ever seen that I greatly like. Minor masterpieces like David Wilkie’s “The Blind Fiddler” and William Mulready’s “The Last In” are also generally kept on display.

Tate Britain also owns many essential James Abbott McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent canvases, including Whistler’s “Harmony In Grey And Green: Miss Cicely Alexander”, one of his very greatest masterworks, and Sargent’s “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose”, his enchanting painting of two young girls hanging Japanese lanterns in a flower garden at twilight. In the latter painting, Sargent captures, perfectly, the mixture and blending of natural and artificial light, just as Renoir did in his great “Dance At Le Moulin De La Galette”.

Tate Britain owns several paintings from Sargent’s series of Wertheimer family portraits, and I have always greatly liked the Wertheimer portraits.

“Ena And Betty—The Daughters Of Asher and Mrs. Wertheimer” is my single favorite Sargent painting. In his painting, Sargent identifies, precisely, the contrasting personalities of these two beautiful young women—Elizabeth, reticent and shy and retiring and bookish, dressed in an elegant and beautiful deep-red velvet gown; Helena, lively and outgoing and vivacious, dressed in a brilliant and equally-beautiful white damask gown—and he places them alongside an enormous Chinese vase, whose colors perfectly complement the colors of the gowns. This painting always overwhelms all other paintings in any room in which it hangs.

Sargent obviously was enamored with Helena Wertheimer—and who would not be? Helena was known to be a delightful and captivating young woman—and he painted her more than once. Sargent painted her again in another Tate Britain work, “Portrait Of Ena Wertheimer: A Vele Gonfie”, a portrait in which Helena, in mock dramatic pose, playfully models a judge’s robes left behind by another sitter, while wearing a ridiculously impractical hat decorated with what must be the largest and most preposterous feathers ever seen. It is an enchanting portrait of an enchanting woman.

I hope that all of these Sargent works will be on display, so that my mother may see them. She will love them, I know.

We will remain at Tate Britain until very late afternoon, when we will take a cab to The Royal Albert Hall for our fourth and final Proms concert. Before the concert, we will probably get something light to eat at one the Hall’s dining venues.

This evening’s concert will feature the Boston Symphony Orchestra under James Levine. The concert will consist of Elliott Carter’s Three Occasions For Orchestra, Bartok’s Concerto For Orchestra, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1.

After the concert, we will walk back to our hotel, stopping along the way for a light supper.

Day Nine In London

Saturday, September 8

Saint James’s Park
The Wellington Barracks Guards Museum
The Wellington Barracks Guards Chapel
The Cabinet War Rooms And The Churchill Museum
The National Portrait Gallery
“The Woman In Black”

On this day, after breakfast at our hotel, we will set out at 9:30 a.m., a bit later than usual.

We will take the subway to Saint James’s Park Station, and walk around Saint James’s Park again. This park is a lovely place, and well worth a second stroll.

Adjacent to the park is The Wellington Barracks Guards Museum, a small museum that traces the history of The Queen’s Guard from the reign of Charles II to the present.

We will visit the museum, and examine the displays. This is the one item on our London itinerary that I fear may be of no interest whatsoever to my mother, but she will not mind spending an hour or so there, I believe.

Afterward, we will visit The Wellington Barracks Guards Chapel, a post-war structure whose predecessor was destroyed by a V-2 rocket during the war. Tragically, the rocket struck the chapel during chapel service, killing all 144 worshipers.

The primary attraction of our day will be a visit to The Cabinet War Rooms And The Churchill Museum, the underground headquarters of the British government during World War II.

The Cabinet War Rooms have been continuously expanded since Margaret Thatcher caused them to be restored and opened to the public in the 1980’s. When my brother and I visited The Cabinet War Rooms in 2004, nine new rooms had just been opened. Since 2004, The Churchill Museum has been added.

The Cabinet War Rooms are fascinating. The portion of the complex open to the public is enormous—there are dozens of rooms, and my brother and I spent almost four hours going through them in 2004, and nevertheless we felt rushed at the end of our visit, because closing time was approaching.

The Cabinet War Rooms are of the greatest possible interest to those concerned with the history of that period. The restoration is excellent, the exhibits are excellent, and the audio guide is excellent (although the commentary cannot always be heard over the roar of almost continual sound effects, mimicking the sounds of air raid sirens and bomber engines and bombs exploding above ground).

Halfway through our visit, we will stop at the museum café and sit down and have a light lunch. The cafe is strategically placed precisely where visitors need a place to sit and rest before continuing through the maze of hallways and rooms. We will have coffee and a light lunch before we continue exploring the remainder of the complex.

When we are done visiting The Cabinet War Rooms, we are going to proceed to Trafalgar Square and visit The National Portrait Gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery is a magnificent museum. My brother and I, both great lovers of British history, slowly and meticulously went through the entire museum in 2005. It required nine three-hour visits for us to complete our traversal of the entire collection, and we loved every single minute of our many visits.

For this late-afternoon visit, we are going to concentrate only on a handful of key works from the collection: Hans Holbein’s “The Whitehall Mural”, a portrait of Henry VIII taken from life; Holbein’s miniature portrait of Thomas Cromwell, The Earl Of Essex; Lucas Horenbout’s miniature portrait of Catherine Of Aragon; Anthony Van Dyck’s “Venetia, Lady Digby”; John Singleton Copley’s grand history painting, “The Collapse Of The Earl Of Chatham In The House Of Lords 7 April 1778”, a portrayal of the heart attack and collapse of Chatham (a former Prime Minister, better known as William Pitt, or Pitt The Elder) during the House Of Lords’ single most important debate on the subject of The American Revolution (Chatham died a month later); Copley’s portrait of Lord Mansfield, the founder of commercial law; Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of the actress Sarah Siddons as well as his portraits of fellow American painters Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley; Thomas Lawrence’s great portrait of George IV; and three paintings by John Singer Sargent: his portrait of Henry James (once attacked by a madwoman), his portrait of Lord Balfour, and his grand history painting, “The General Officers Of The Great War”, once termed “Still Life With Boots” by a former director of The National Portrait Gallery who intensely disliked the painting.

When we are done seeing these works, we will go upstairs, to the top floor of The National Portrait Gallery, and have dinner in the restaurant, which is very, very fine, and which affords glorious views across Trafalgar Square down Whitehall to Parliament.

After dinner, we will walk to The Fortune Theatre and attend a performance of “The Woman In Black”, a mystery play that has been running, continuously, since 1989. My brother and I thought about seeing this play several times over the last several years, but we always identified what we believed to be superior alternatives to attend, so we never bothered to see this play.

We have no idea whether this play will be any good or not—it may be too “English”—but London’s September theater offerings are pretty slim, so we thought that we might as well give this play a try on this trip. We shall all probably either like it a lot or hate it a lot.

After the play, we will go to Covent Garden Station and take the subway back to our hotel.

Day Ten In London

Sunday, September 9

The Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street
The National Army Museum
The Raphael Cartoons At The Victoria And Albert Museum
The Brompton Oratory

We will have breakfast at our hotel and leave the hotel at 8:30 a.m.

We shall begin the day by taking the subway to Sloane Square Station and attending morning service at The Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, the church we will have visited and toured, in depth, the previous Thursday.

After service, we will walk over to The National Army Museum for our third and final exploration of the collection.

We will first visit the large art gallery on the top floor, which contains dozens of magnificent portraits of historic military figures by Allan Ramsay, Benjamin West, Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, and Henry Raeburn. No one ever visits this gallery, whose portraits are superior to comparable portraits by the same artists at Tate Britain and at The National Portrait Gallery. This is one of the great rooms of art in London, and no one seems to know about it. The best Benjamin West painting I have ever seen is in this gallery.

We will next visit the museum’s special exhibition on the Falklands War, which opened not long ago. It is supposed to be excellent.

When we have completed viewing the special exhibition, we will send my parents in a cab to The Victoria And Albert Museum. My brother and Josh and I will take a long walk through back streets to The Victoria And Albert, seeing neighborhoods no one but locals ever visit. While we are making our way there, my parents will have an hour to explore the giant Victoria And Albert on their own.

We will meet up with my parents in the large café of The Victoria And Albert Museum, and we will all have a late lunch there.

After lunch, we will visit one room, and one room only, of this overwhelming museum: the giant hall in which hang The Raphael Cartoons.

These are the giant paintings Raphael painted, on orders from the Pope, to be used as models for Flemish tapestry-weavers, who created giant tapestries (now lost) to line the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Only seven of the original ten Raphael paintings survive, and these seven paintings, all owned by Queen Elizabeth, have been on loan to The Victoria And Albert Museum for over 140 years. They are among the greatest masterpieces of Western Art.

We will spend an hour with the paintings, time truly necessary in order to enjoy them fully. The light levels are kept deliberately low in order not to damage these masterworks, and it takes some time for eyes to adjust to the light levels. Happily, long benches are placed before each of the giant paintings, so visitors may sit and examine the paintings at leisure and in comfort.

When we have completed our time with the cartoons, we will leave The Victoria And Albert and go next door to The Brompton Oratory.

The Brompton Oratory is the second-largest Roman Catholic house of worship in London--only Westminster Cathedral is larger. The Brompton Oratory was founded by John Henry, Cardinal Newman, and it is a purely Italianate Baroque marble structure, inside and out. It reminds me of countless Baroque churches in Rome.

Many of The Oratory’s treasures were imported from Italy, with the Siena Cathedral providing much of the statuary, including twelve marble apostles sculpted in 1680. The Brompton Oratory is a great building, entirely atypical of London, and well worth the visitor’s time.

When we leave The Oratory, we will walk to a nearby Polish restaurant, which my brother and I discovered, and which is truly excellent, and have a nice dinner.

On this evening, we will have dinner guests--a musician friend of my parents, and his wife, visiting from the continent, will be joining us for dinner.

After dinner, we shall walk back to our hotel, and make it an early evening.

Day Eleven In London

Monday, September 10

The Queen’s Gallery
The Royal Mews
“Awake And Sing”

We are going to leave our hotel, without eating breakfast, at 8:30 a.m., and take the subway to Victoria Station.

Upon our arrival, we are going to have breakfast at a café midway between Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace, a cafe my brother and I discovered and liked in 2005. It will be a welcome change from breakfast in the hotel dining room.

After breakfast, we will walk the short distance to The Queen’s Gallery, a wing of Buckingham Palace separate and apart from the main body of the Palace. The Queen’s Gallery is a year-round museum, housed in the portion of the Palace that was bombed during World War II and later rebuilt. It presents temporary art exhibitions taken from the Queen’s hoard of artworks.

One of the best exhibitions I ever saw was at The Queen’s Gallery. My brother and I visited the stupendous 2004 exhibition, “George III and Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting And Court Taste”, an unbelievably rich exhibition, spectacularly displayed, that addressed the artworks collected during the long reign of George III.

My brother and I loved that exhibition, and we had wanted to buy the exhibition catalog for our mother. We could not do so in 2004, however, because the catalog was too large—we had not allowed enough room in our luggage for it—so we had to wait until the next year, when we deliberately HAD allowed enough room in our luggage for the catalog, to buy it and give it to our mother as a much-delayed gift.

That catalog is the best exhibition catalog I have ever read. It is comprehensive, detailed, scholarly and beautiful. The catalog is a work of art in and of itself, and our mother loves it.

British art critics frequently remark that art exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery are perhaps the very finest in all of Europe. Exhibition artworks are imaginatively selected, splendidly-well displayed, and meticulously documented. The Queen obviously has a very large and very talented staff of curators.

The special exhibition we will visit is “The Art Of Italy In The Royal Collection”, a selection of paintings, drawings, statuary, furniture, objects d’art and illuminated manuscripts collected by the Stuart Kings, Charles I and Charles II.

Charles I was the greatest royal collector in the history of the British monarchy—among other things, he purchased, outright, the collection of the Gonzaga dynasty of Mantua—and The Royal Collection’s assortment of Italian paintings and drawings may, in large part, be traced back to Charles I. It is one of the greatest such collections in the world.

There will be 90 paintings and 85 drawings in the exhibition, and all of the major names in Italian painting, from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, will be represented: Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Sebastiano Del Piombo, Pontormo, Bronzino, Correggio, Parmigianino, Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Lorenzo Lotto, Jacopo Bassano, Veronese, Annibale Carracci, Caravaggio, Cristofano Allori, Domenichino, Guido Reni, Domenico Fetti, Guercino, both Gentileschi’s and Bernardo Strozzi.

A handful of these works my brother and I saw in 2004, when they were hung in The Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace—we have already seen one of the Lorenzo Lotto paintings, and one of the Annibale Carracci paintings, and the Cristofano Allori, and the Guido Reni, and the Guercino, and one of the Gentileschi paintings—but most of these paintings will be new to us, and all of them will be new to my parents and to Joshua.

We will love this exhibition, I know, and I cannot wait for my mother to see this exhibition.

When we have completed viewing the exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, we shall walk back to the same café at which we had breakfast, and have a light lunch.

After lunch, we will walk back to Buckingham Palace, and visit The Royal Mews. The Royal Mews houses the many royal carriages—including the magnificent Gold State Coach—used by The Royal Family for assorted functions and occasions. We shall see the carriages, and the stables, and the Windsor Greys and the Cleveland Bays, as well as some of the motorized vehicles used by The Royal Family.

Once we complete our visit to the Mews, we will go back to Victoria Station and take the subway back to our hotel. My parents will rest for a couple of hours, and my brother and Josh and I will go swimming in the hotel pool.

In the early evening, we will take the subway to Angel Station and find a restaurant in Islington for dinner.

After dinner, we will attend a performance of Clifford Odets’ “Awake And Sing”, with Stockard Channing, at the historic Almeida Theatre.

We will take the subway back to our hotel after the theater performance.

Day Twelve In London

Tuesday, September 11

Saint Pancras Old Church
The British Library
Saint Pancras New Church
Saint Aloysius Church
The Petrie Museum
“The Last Confession”

This day will be devoted to exploring several attractions that my brother and I visited in past years, and described in detail to our parents. Our parents were so intrigued by our descriptions of these attractions that our parents wanted to experience these same things themselves, just as we experienced them. My parents will be able to experience these attractions on this day. I hope they will not be too disappointed.

All of these attractions are in the King’s Cross area.

This day will also be a very early day for us. We will leave our hotel at 7:00 a.m., without breakfast, and take the subway to King’s Cross Station.

From King’s Cross Station, we will take a pleasant but long walk through a residential neighborhood to Saint Pancras Old Church, an ancient church situated on one of the oldest Christian sites in Europe. The present church building, a small and simple stone structure, is almost a thousand years old. It is filled with ancient monuments and relics, and it is seldom visited by tourists. The church is only open very early each morning, when local residents use the church for prayer.

The church building is in the middle of a large and beautiful churchyard. The churchyard is notable for its large variety of monuments, as well as for two other prominent features.

The first of these features is the mausoleum of Sir John Soane’s wife, in a unique shape of Soane’s own design, which later was to become famous when it was adopted as the model for London’s public telephone booths (now in the process of becoming extinct).

The second is a giant and ancient tree, around which centuries-old tombstones have been artfully arranged, the handiwork of Thomas Hardy at the time Hardy worked as a construction laborer. While groundwork was being laid for the railroad tracks leading into Saint Pancras Station, then under construction, Hardy was assigned the task of disposing of old headstones (the new railroad track was being laid over the site of an ancient cemetery). Hardy’s solution was to arrange the gravestones around an ancient tree on the church grounds.

From Saint Pancras Old Church, we will walk to The British Library, the British equivalent of the Library Of Congress. On the way, we will locate a local restaurant in which to have breakfast.

The treasures on display in the main gallery of The British Library are overwhelming—The Diamond Sutra, the manuscript of Beowulf, The Lindisfarne Gospels, The Luttrell Psalter, The Sherborne Missal (my personal favorite), The Sforza Hours, the notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Shakespeare’s first folio, the original score to Handel’s “Messiah”—and these historic treasures are among the most important such works in the world. My mother, especially, will love examining all of these things.

The British Library also houses the great library of George III, on display behind glass walls, as well as an unexpectedly interesting series of galleries on the history of printing, which my brother and I visited in 2005 and, to our surprise, found to be fascinating.

From The British Library, we will make the short walk to Saint Pancras New Church, London’s most remarkable Greek Revival building. This is one of my favorite London churches. The building is an architectural masterpiece, inside and out.

Saint Pancras New Church was inspired by the Erectheum, although the church’s octagonal tower was modeled after The Temple Of The Winds. At the rear of the church’s exterior are two caryatid porches, one on each side, of great beauty and distinction. The caryatid porches somehow heighten and complete the structure’s perfection.

The interior of the church is splendid, beautifully but simply designed and decorated, consistent with the Greek Revival style.

In 2003 and 2004 and 2005, my brother and I attended Sunday service at this church many times. We did so because our hotel was nearby. On our first visit, we were asked if we would read the responses during service. We were very surprised that we had been asked, but we agreed to do so, and we continued to do so at each successive service we attended. Our parents will enjoy visiting this church very much. They want to visit the church where their sons, total strangers to the congregation, from halfway around the world, participated in worship service so many times.

From Saint Pancras New Church, we will walk the short distance to Saint Aloysius Church, another of London’s churches founded by French immigrants, in this case those who fled from the Revolution. The current building, from the late 1960’s, is worth visiting only for its interior. Like the interior of Notre Dame De France, which we will have visited on our first day in London, this church’s interior is circular (although the exterior is not).

From Saint Aloysius, we will walk to University College London. Along the way, we will have lunch at Friends House, a Quaker center, which my brother and I have visited many times in order to have a decent lunch. This is another of those places our parents heard us talk about, and which they want to experience for themselves.

At University College London we will visit The Petrie Museum, housed on the second floor of one of the university libraries. The Petrie Museum is one of London’s most unusual museums, because the premises are entirely inadequate for its astonishing collection of Egyptian Antiquities, one of the largest and most important such collections in the world.

The museum is dark and dim and dirty, and the displays are wretched--cramped and poorly-organized and poorly-lighted (flashlights are freely handed out to visitors, happily)--but the artifacts on display make a visit to the museum essential. Among other items in its vast holdings, the museum owns the world’s largest and finest collection of Roman-Period Egyptian Funerary Portraits.

A new building for The Petrie Museum is scheduled to open next year. The new building will be most welcome, because not only is the current museum a total mess, but it also has space to display less than ten per cent of its amazing collection.

In 2004, my brother and I visited The Petrie Museum, and my brother pretended to be “dismayed” that I had “dragged” him to such a dirty and gloomy place. In fact, he loved the museum—when I told him that we should leave if he disliked the museum, he said “No, I haven’t seen everything yet”, and he then spent more than two hours happily peering into cabinets and drawers and display cases--and he welcomes the prospect of returning. It will be our final visit before the old, inadequate premises are closed forever. The Petrie Museum is another of London’s attractions that our parents want to experience just as my brother and I experienced them.

Late in the afternoon, we will leave the museum and walk to the central theater district.

In the theater district, we will have dinner at a very, very inexpensive dining establishment my brother and I came upon by chance several years ago. It is named “The Stockpot” and it must be London’s least expensive restaurant in which the food is good. My brother and I liked the place, and we have eaten there many, many times on evenings in which we attended theater performances in the West End. Our parents want to eat at this place where their sons ate so many times in the past.

After dinner, we will walk around the corner to The Haymarket Theatre to attend a performance of “The Last Confession”, a new play by Roger Crane, a New York-based attorney.

“The Last Confession” is Crane’s first play, and it had its first production earlier this year at the Chichester Festival Theatre. The production and the play were greatly acclaimed, and the production has since transferred to the West End.

The cast is a large and distinguished one—Michael Jayston and David Suchet are the most famous names in the cast—and the play addresses the circumstances of the death of Pope John Paul I, a death which has never been adequately explained in the minds of many Vatican-watchers.

After the performance, we will walk to Piccadilly Circus Station, and take the subway back to our hotel.

Day Thirteen In London

Wednesday, September 12

Leighton House
The Museum Of The Royal College Of Music
Saint Mary-Le-Strand Church
Saint Clement Danes Church
Saint Paul’s Church
The Sainsbury Wing Of The National Gallery Of Art

We will begin this day much later than usual. We will do so because the previous day started so early, and ended so late, and because the first attraction we intend to visit this day does not open until 11:00 a.m.

We will have a very late breakfast at our hotel—we will not eat breakfast until 9:30 a.m.—and at 10:30 a.m. we will leave our hotel and walk to our first attraction of the day.

That attraction is Leighton House, home of painter Frederick Leighton. Leighton House is within easy walking distance of our hotel.

Leighton House is supposed to be one of London’s finest and most unusual 19th-Century residences. According to art experts, the architecture and interior design of Leighton House exemplify the Victorian Aesthetic Movement. The high point of the house is supposed to be the fabulous Arab Hall, with a fountain and cupola, friezes and mosaics, and Islamic tiling collected by Leighton on trips to the Middle East.

The house also has many paintings on display, including almost 100 of Leighton’s own canvases, as well as paintings by other late-19th-Century British painters.

Myself, I cannot stand Leighton’s works, but his house is supposed to be truly extraordinary, and I very much want to visit it, and so do my parents. Josh and my brother are lukewarm about visiting Leighton House, but they are happy to go for a visit--once.

From Leighton House, we will take a long and leisurely walk through Kensington, stopping en route for lunch somewhere, until we reach The Museum Of The Royal College Of Music.

The Museum Of The Royal College Of Music is small and musty, and its displays are cramped and not well-presented, but it is sort of an interesting museum, and it is only open on Wednesday afternoons. It is worth 60 or 90 minutes, and my father is certain to enjoy the museum.

On display, mostly, are musical instruments, the oldest of which dates back to 1460. The museum owns keyboards formerly owned by Handel and Haydn, as well as brass instruments allegedly once owned by Elgar and Holst. An amazing number of lutes and guitars may be viewed, including the guitar of David Rizzio, secretary and advisor of Mary, Queen Of Scots, brutally murdered in 1566 while attending the Queen.

When we exit the museum, we will walk to South Kensington Station and take the subway to Temple Station, right on the Thames.

From Temple Station, we will walk to Saint Mary-Le-Strand Church, situated in the middle of The Strand. This is a small but gravely beautiful church, designed by the same architect that designed The Church Of Saint Martin-In-The-Fields. Some architecture critics believe this church to be London’s very finest church from the English Baroque, an honor I accord to Saint John’s, Smith Square, which has far greater originality and flair, I believe. Saint Mary-Le-Strand is, nevertheless, a small and perfect masterpiece. Two very fine Mather Brown paintings are hung near the altar.

From Saint Mary-Le-Strand, we will walk The Strand until we reach Saint Clement Danes Church, another church situated in the middle of The Strand. We will make a lengthy visit to this church.

Saint Clement Danes is a large Christopher Wren church (with a steeple later added during the Baroque period) that was entirely destroyed during the war, only to be rebuilt in the 1950’s.

Saint Clement Danes is the principal church of The Royal Air Force, and it contains many relics of British and American air divisions, as well as a very moving commemorative book containing the names of the 1900 American airmen killed during World War II.

It is an extremely beautiful church, with a galleried interior, Corinthian columns and a circular apse.

My brother and I have visited this church many, many times, and over the years we have befriended the church vector, who always remembers us and who always heartily welcomes us, and we go see him every time we are in London. We hope that he is still there, so that we may introduce him to our parents.

We will explore the church’s exterior, and interior, and crypt, and examine the many artifacts on display. This is one of my favorite London churches, and I am always deeply moved whenever I visit this church.

Outside the church is a statue of Arthur Harris, on which German visitors routinely spray graffiti. There is also a statue of Air Chief Marshall Lord Dowding, on which German visitors do NOT spray graffiti, presumably because they are not as familiar with Lord Dowding as they are with Arthur Harris.

Incredibly, on two occasions, my brother and I have witnessed German visitors berate British citizens over the issue of World War II air campaigns.

In 2003, we observed a German visitor berate the vector of Saint Clement Danes over the bombing of Dresden. The vector would have none of it, telling the German fellow, pointedly and dismissedly, that the Germans had reaped what they had sowed.

In 2004, we observed a German visitor berate an old pensioner working as a guide at the museum of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea. The old Chelsea pensioner gave as good as he got, and the German visitor began screaming—literally screaming—at him. My brother walked over to the German visitor and stared the guy down. The German stopped screaming, and left the museum.

From Saint Clement Danes, we will walk over to Covent Garden and visit Saint Paul’s Church, also known as “The Actor’s Church” because of its many thespian affiliations.

Saint Paul’s Church is filled with monuments to famous actors, including recently-deceased ones, and it is a beautiful church, of great simplicity, designed by Inigo Jones. The back of the church faces Covent Garden's plaza. The church entrance is located in the middle of a city block, almost hidden from public view. There are sizable gardens at the church entrance, and the gardens are beautiful and peaceful.

From Saint Paul’s Church, we will walk over to Trafalgar Square and enter The National Gallery Of Art’s Sainsbury Wing and have dinner in The National Gallery restaurant.

Afterward, we will tour The Sainsbury Wing of The National Gallery Of Art. The Sainsbury Wing displays paintings from 1300 to 1500, and it is open until 9:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.

We will not spend our time going through the entire Sainsbury Wing, because we will already have seen a great deal of art earlier in the day at Leighton House.

Instead, we will focus our attention on a handful of key masterpieces: the legendary “The Wilton Diptych” by an unknown British or French artist; Duccio’s “Virgin And Child, With Saints Dominic and Aurea”; Ugolino Di Nerio’s “The Way To Calvary”; Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s “A Group Of Poor Clares”, a fresco painting taken from The Chapter House of Siena Cathedral; Giovanni Bellini’s “The Dead Christ Supported By Angels” and “The Doge Leonardo Loredan”; Antonello Da Messina’s “Portrait Of A Man”, which generally hangs next to “Leonardo Loredan”; Robert Campin’s “Portrait Of A Woman”; and Jan Van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Portrait”, one of my very favorite paintings in the entire world (and one of my brother’s, too). My brother and I never go to London without visiting and paying our respects to “The Arnolfini Portrait”, which has become an old friend to us.

When we have completed our concentrated tour of The Sainsbury Wing, we will go to Charing Cross Station and take the subway back to our hotel.

It will be an early evening for us, and I suspect that all of us will welcome this.