Friday, August 31, 2007

Sitting on top of the world

The Mississippi Blues Commission unveiled the second Pines-area marker on its Blues Trail yesterday in West Point, MS after the Jimmie Rodgers marker down in Meridian. The plaque is located next to the Howlin' Wolf statue by the Growth Alliance in downtown.

Here Blues Society Program Director Richard Ramsey talks with WCBI before the event.

Governor Barbour came and made a gracious speech about the importance of Mississippi Blues as history but also as a present day tourism and economic development driver. The one slightly false note was when he told West Point's Democratic Mayor Scott Ross that Wolf AKA Chester Arthur Burnette was named after a Republican President. True, but I wonder if Lincoln or Arthur would even recognize today's Grand Old Party?

Pines-area bluesman Willie King spoke about the influence of Wolf on his own playing. That's Jackson-area blues legend Jesse Robinson with the dramatic mustache just behind King.

Wolf's daughter Barbra Marks was in attendance as well.

Finally the plaque was unveiled.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Manic monday

Had final meal out, lunch, at one of my favorite London restaurants, Konaki on Coptic Street (a block from the British Museum), a Greek place. Did alvgolemona soup, lamb souvlaki, a Greek Rotunda red wine and a plate of olives and peppers. Then, as I previously mentioned, we took a walking tour of the Inns of Court finished in Middle Temple whose Hall was the site of the first public performance of Twelfth Night. We also walked around New Temple Church, famous from the Da Vinci Code (whose willingness to pay to film there has allowed restoration, so Dan Brown is worth something after all!). Hit The Bourne Ultimatum that night at the Odeon Tottenham Court Road and then home tomorrow. Later I finished off our Sainsbury's linguine, preparing it with a red sauce and another nice bottle of Montepulciano. Tuesday at 7 AM we caught a cab for Victoria to begin the trip home. Now it's Porky Pig time for this London trip blog.

Over the weekend

Stratford Saturday

Headed to Marylebone Station (the one from A Hard Day's Night, even if it was supposed to be Paddington Station). We walked into town from the station and wandered by the Shakespeare Birthplace along with all the other tourists.

After picking up our tickets, we visited Shakespeare's burial site, Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon and then stopped into the Dirty Duck for a pint of the formerly home town Flower's along with a cheese and crackers picnic.

Then we moved along 100 yards to the Courtyard Theatre for a good performance of 1 Henry IV, which features a surprising casting against type of David Warner as Falstaff.


In the morning took the previously discussed Famous Square Mile Walk. Rode the Central Line back to Holborn and then Victoria to Covent Garden. Tried yet again to do Tapas, but another place was closed as was Konaki--which we'll visit tomorrow, so we ended up at the Pizza Express on Coptic Street. We split a Soho pizza, a bottle of Monteforte mineral water, and a bottle of the Moncaro Montepulciano d' Abruzzo. Then we tubed it to Hampstead for the Lorenz Hart revue From the Hart, featuring such classics as "Have You Met Miss Jones?", "My Funny Valentine", "Blue Moon", and "Lady is a Tramp". Caught the last fifteen minutes of the Liverpool-Chelsea Anfield fixture next door at the Duke of Hamilton pub. Chelsea got an undeserved tie due to an official's poor decision. C'est la vie or perhaps, more appropriately for Rafa, "Que Sera Sera."

Oxford town

Thursday morning we caught the double decker Oxford tube bus at Marble Arch on Park Lane for the 2 hr bus ride west and north. The last 30 minutes involved delays in Oxford due to road construction, but eventually we made it to the Gloucester Green bus station. We passed into the Market Square proper to find the Farmer's Market on. Bought some fine rough-grained Oxford mustard. After a walk around, a visit to a few shops, and a trip to look at the newly completed Chemistry buildings, we snuck down Bath Alley to Britain's 2007 Perfect Pub, The Turf Tavern.

The Turf is where Bill Clinton famously "didn't inhale", and former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Inspector Morse both certainly DID ( beer that is)!

Leaving the Turf by its alternate alleyway, you emerge on New College Lane adjacent to the Bridge of Sighs.

After Cambridge, Oxford isn't much to look at so I skimped on the pictures. We did take the 2 pm walking tour offered by the Visitor's Information Centre. Highlights included visiting Christ Church Meadow and the Bodleian Library.


Shopping in the morning. Went to see the hilarious The 39 Steps at Criterion in Picadilly Circus, which finds the humour in Hitchcock's version of Buchan's adventure yarn and adds a sentimentalist Christmas with child coda. A four person show, with literally dozens of characters (not counting the necessary dummy!).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In between days (part 2)


After a lie-in and a leisurely breakfast watching the BBC 1's Breakfast show, we headed to St. Lawrence Jewry-next-Guildhall for a free Tuesday concert. Two graduates of the Guildhall Academy played violin and piano peices: Yuki Hayakashi (v) and Kanae Furomoto (p). The 45 minute concert consisted of Koichi Kishi, Taketor's Story (1933); Benjamin Britten, Three Pieces for Violin and Piano from the Suite Op 6 (1934-35); and Johannes Brahms, Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major Op 78 (1879). We intended to have a tapas lunch at Tendido Cero, suggested by a NY Times' piece, but we arrived just after 3 and they were on siesta. Walked back up the Old Brompton Road toward South Kensington station and stopped at Abbaye, a cool Belgian brasserie. I did moules et frittes of course and washed it down with a nice Pauwel Kwak in the traditional beaker-like glass. Then we headed to the Science Museum for the frankly overrated Plasticity exhibition.

That evening we wandered down Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue to Picadilly Circus/Leicester Square to catch Mamma Mia! Given the Greek isle setting, I rapidly figured out that there would have to be an Abba-esqe encore to fit in "Waterloo", their first big Eurovision-Song-Contest winning hit. Score one for me.


With the exception of the Wednesday evening Bloomsbury pub walk completed in our first real rain of the trip and discussed earlier, we made our second Wednesday an unscheduled free day. spent much of it visiting famous and not-so-famous Rock and Roll sites and snapping photos. Here goes

3 Savile Row, former Apple Corp HQ; yes that is THE ROOF.

Here some German tourists do the wacky Abbey Road zebra walk.

The unprepossessing frontage of the most famous music studio in the world.

In the 1960s, the basement of this building was Regent Studios, where the Beatles did their first day of recording for Sgt. Pepper's.

This office on the west side of Soho Square is Paul McCartney's; a large room on the second floor displays many of his gold records.

The most famous phone box in London (Heddon Street off Regent Street); seen in Antonioni's Blow-Up and on the back cover of Ziggy Stardust.

Perhaps Warren Zevon had Peking Duck in this Soho establishment?

And finally, one for all you Floyd fans.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cambridge song.


The afternoon tour took in a few more colleges finishing just off the Market at Sidney Sussex College, where old boy Cromwell's head is secretly interred. But our real focus was the legendary Cavendish Laboratory where Rutherford first split the atom, Watson and Crick worked out the double helix structure of DNA, and the first modern computer was built.

Lord Rutherford was Director of the lab and is memorialised through his nickname of "Croc."

We finished the afternoon in the Eagle Tavern lifting a toast of Greene King's Abbott Ale to Watson and Crick, for this is where they announced their discovery to the world some 50 odd years ago.

Then a quick walk through the Backs to our bus and home to London by train.

From Cambridge with love

For our Explorer Day outing to Cambridge, we met Simon near Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station, but we actually took the Muggle 90 minute non-stop train from platform 9. This tour consisted of a 1 hour bus tour round the Backs and to the famous American Cemetery, two two hour walking tours around the center of town, an hour for lunch in between, and a little bit of free time for shopping, drinking, or punting before a quick bus ride back to the Brit Rail terminal.

After touring the Backs by bus and seeing the Science Park and location of the new Cavendish Laboratory, we finished at the famous American Cemetery, where amongst others Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. and Alton "Glenn" Miller are memorialized on the marble wall.

The bus dropped us off for our morning walking tour, which started with a panoramic view from the Tor that once housed Cambridge Castle. That's the multiple spires of King's College famous Chapel in the right middleground.We walked down the hill by Magdalene College (pronounced "Maudlin" just to confuse you), crossed over the River Cam, considered punting from Tyrell's, and then headed on into the main part of town.

Here Simon regales us over his semi-functional loudspeaker system about St. John's College, one of two founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother to Henry VII.

Then it was on to Trinity College, the largest and wealthiest of Cambridge's colleges, home of Sir Isaac Newton and also the famous courtyard race depicted in Chariots of Fire (but not shot on location).

Then down a little side street and around a corner to one of the glories of Cambridge, the King's College Chapel, perhaps the greatest Gothic edifice in the UK (well York Minster might have something to say about that). Still this impressive place of worship is world famous for its Christmas Eve Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. The roof is 200,000 tonnes of stone without any internal supports giving a huge airy feeling to the interior.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Walk on by

I like taking walking tours and London has some of the best ones anywhere. You only really begin to know a city when you've walked it seeing how neighborhoods connect together, something which the speed of the tube misses. We did 7 London Walks plus a discovery day tour of Cambridge, really two walks and a third bus tour across an entire day. I've already mentioned the Jack the Ripper and William Blake tours and will blog about Cambridge individually in a later post. My Dad also did the London Walks tour of the British Museum, which I didn't feel the need to take.

This is Lord Foster's redesigned Great Court which used to house miles of book shelves for the British Library's endless tomes. The circular structure in the center is the walls of the Great Domed Reading Room, where you can sit in the chair occupied by Marx while labouring on Das Kapital.

Along the Thames Pub Walk

Took this classic tour, which starts by the classic Art Deco Blackfriars Pub, crosses the Blackfriars' bridge, walks along the southbank of the Thames by the Founder's Arms, Tate Modern, Lord Foster's Millennium Bridge, the New Globe, the Anchor Tavern, the Clink Prison, the Golden Hinde, Southwark Cathedral, the Borough Market, and ending at the George Inn, London's sole remaining seventeenth century galleried coaching inn.

Here we look north across the Wobbly Bridge towards St. Paul's, the first new pedestrian bridge over the Thames in a century.

Two famous City landmarks: The Nat West Tower on the left and Lord Foster's controversial Swiss-Re building named the "Erotic Gherkin" on the right

Gilbert Scott's disused Bankside Power Station was converted into the Tate Modern as another Millennium project and instantly became one of the greatets art museums in the world.

Literary London Pub Walk

Wandered around Bloomsbury in the pouring rain: Woolf, Lytton Strachey, J.M. Barrie, Maynard Keynes and their ilk. Finished with a pint of Britain's Champion Beer, Timothy Taylor Landlord at Marx's favorite haunt, The Museum Tavern on Great Russell Street.

Soho in the Morning

First of two walks with retired Glaswegian banker Graham took us through London's Bohemia and Chinatown, aka Soho, which is situated north of Leicester Square, east of Regent Street, west of Monmouth Street and St. Giles High Street (1 block east of the incorrectly supposed boundary of Charing Cross Road and thus importantly incorporating London's "Tin Pan Alley", Denmark Street), and south of Oxford Street. Now the southern half is Chinatown, and the northern half serves a slightly different clientele as the odd door sign below suggests.

In the 18th century Soho was a newish fashionable neighborhood where Dr J. hung out and regaled others with endless anecdotes.

The Famous Square Mile

Another tour with Graham through the City featuring the Monument, the Leadenhall Market, the Bank of England, the Temple of Mithras, the site of the first coffeehouse in London now the Jamaica Wine House, and the Guildhall.

Inns of Court

A tour south from Holborn to the Thames taking in the four major London Law Schools/Inns Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, Inner and Middle Temples, the famous Temple Church (from Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code) and Middle Temple Hall where Twelfth Night was first performed.