Saturday, 23 April 2016

Looking round Orlando.

Florida.  It seems like a year ago we were there but actually it was about six weeks.  You might enjoy this Floridian scene below ....


....well, once you realise where it is supposed to be.  If you have watched the Harry Potter films you might recognise Grimmauld Place, N.1, the ancestral home of Sirius Black and family. And you know what, forget about Florida, it really could be London. There are hundreds if not thousands of houses that look just like this in London. 

Grimmauld Place is part of the Harry Potter area at Universal Studios, Orlando, which I visited for the first time in many years.   


In the years I've been away, Universal has improved so much. Like in that old Avis car ad, you get the feeling they are trying harder simply because they don't want Disney to call all the shots.  There's such care and detail in the landscaping and buildings.  The rides are excellent, and merchandise and decor of the shops (specially in the large Harry Potter area) are such fun. I liked this collection of wizardy writing instruments snapped through a window in Diagon Alley. 


There are two parks at Universal, linked by a Hogwarts Express ride.    The  elaborate"Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" ride takes place in a towering Hogwarts itself with a fabulously gothic interior. You almost feel you're riding with the characters -  although I'll be honest and say that all that swooping around on broomsticks made me feel seasick. But T and Young A loved it so much they did it all over again, and would have done it a third time except that they ran out of time.


It is not all Harry Potter, of course. There's a colourful Dr Seuss section for younger kids, among many other things,  and as a Simpsons fan I was utterly thrilled at the chance to play in the Springfield funfair, drink in Mo's tavern and gloat over merchandise in the  Kwik-e-Mart, where I was tempted to buy this chocolate bar for Young A's big brother back in London.  I didn't, but you know, the boy's growing fast and eats anything and... it genuinely has bacon bits in it.  Wonder if he'd have eaten it.  


So Universal was a big success.   Young A recommends everything to do with Harry Potter, including the uncannily realisticl Hogwarts Express which takes you on a mysterious trip between the two Universal parks. We all loved the hilarious Minions virtual ride, the Simpsons rickety rollercoaster ride and the De Lorean car and train from "Back to the Future."   And I was keen on creepy Knockturn Alley, with its Bellatrix Lestrange animated "Wanted" posters.


As well as this, Universal has plenty of  places to sit and people-watch, imaginative play areas where  kids can let off steam, good places to eat, a sensible fast pass system and wasn't nearly as crowded as Disney.  

Oh yes.... Disney.    

Now, I always was a Disney fan. For about ten years I wrote about so many aspects of Disney in all kinds of magazines. At one point, I was spending so much time there that the Magic Kingdom started to feel like my second home.   I love Disney and have some incredibly happy memories. But....

....this year, for the first time ever, I didn't enjoy it.  It was just so stressful.  First, long lines because the entry gate system was flaky, then reduced transportation links so we queued for 3/4 hour just to get inside the park. A fastpass system helps you skip long ride lines, but it only does three rides a day, unless you plan carefully in advance via smartphone (which we had no chance to do).   Several rides were shut, there were many hoardings up.  By noon, I'd had two of my fast pass rides, but the last one wasn't for another eight hours!    The sun was beating down, everything was packed, and the prospect of little else but hours standing in lines stretched ahead.  

 Disney was always so good at handling large numbers of people without making them feel like cattle. But this was frankly awful, and park entry is very expensive, too.  Major Toy Story and Star Wars experiences are opening fairly soon, and will probably offer better value.  But really, if it is like that offpeak, now, I shudder to think how it must be at busy times.  


Oh dear!

Don't let me put you off Disney if you have never been.  If you can visit in low season, it will still feel amazing, and it has some awesome rides and much pretty landscaping.  And the four theme parks are only a tiny part of the resort.  There are water parks, nice restaurants, shops, entertainment and sports, while the Disney hotels are lots of fun for families.  Families, after all, are what Orlando is about.    

I've always thought, though, that one of the best places in Orlando is not a family-style attraction but the rather cultural Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. It is devoted to the life and works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, interior decorator and creator of the famous Tiffany glass, and it sits in N. Park avenue, in the centre of the classy, cobbled-street suburb of Winter Park.  A large and illuminating  collection of  rescued Tiffany material, it is also a poignant reminder of how much has been lost.    


This is Laurelton Hall, the Long Island mansion Tiffany built and lived in as a celebration of his life's work. He intended it as a permanent education centre to offer help and inspiration to future generations of applied artists. Sadly, it didn't work out that way.  Financial problems meant that it ended up deteriorating, and it was eventually consumed by fire, destroying most of its astonishingly lavish and imaginative interiors and decorations.

The museum's unrivalled collection of photos, art and artefacts fills in so many of the details of Tiffany's life.  It has his early sketchbooks and much material on his fascination with flowers and the natural world. You see how he built his business and worked to translate his obsession with nature into glass, and you learn, too, exactly how he created some of his pieces.  

.  Parrots lend themselves very well to Tiffany windows, I think.


and some of the windows show Tiffany's genius at creating extraordinary effects of light.



He was originally an interior designer, and I wondered what became of the millionaires' mansions he designed, surviving here only as black and white photos. However,  parts of some interiors have been  painstakingly reconstructed - here is a section of a chapel which caused a sensation in the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.  It is almost entirely made of fragments of glass.


There is also a surprising amount of jewellery.  I'd kill for some of this, though I'm not sure I would actually wear it.


The museum building is plain, elegant and modern, a good contrast to Tiffany's ornate style. If you have the slightest interest in the decorative arts, or in Tiffany, it's very well worth taking the trouble to visit the Morse Museum. 

From Winter Park, we drove on to Maitland.  Maitland itself is run down but it's home to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, a fascinating place if you're into wildlife.  Docents and conservationists are there to tell you anything you might want to know about, and you can get very close up to the birds, mostly ospreys, kites, bald eagles, and various falcons and owls. Most of them are rescued or unable to live in the wild.  And if you don't feel like looking at more birds, you can always sit peacefully in in the gazebo and just look at the waterlilies and butterflies.. 


By the way, whatever I might say about Disney World's stress, crowds and fastpass system, the fact is that the Audubon is one of the organisations quietly supported by Disney's Worldwide Conservation Fund - read about their work here.

On another evening we drove to Kissimmee and saw Medieval Times.  I know it's a franchise, and you can see it at other places than Orlando, but it was new to us and we all thought it was very good. Basically, it's a riding display presented as a kind of musical story, and is both eyecatching and curiously magical at times, as when the horses gallop out of the mist. 


Both riders and horses are beautifully dressed, as you might be able to see below. I  could have done without quite such a hard sell on the photos and souvenirs, but perhaps the profit on the souvenirs goes on the terrific costumes. Anyway, we had a very good evening immersed in an action packed event that completely involved everyone watching, and, most importantly, it got the thumbs up from Young A.


On another day, we revisited Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, one of the region's biggest attractions.  A little hint: as soon as you go in, head for the bus tour, because the final bus tour each day seems to depart very early, and it would be a shame to miss it.  Volunteers drive you round a flat, weird, gator-filled natural landscape full of historic NASA buildings and then drop you in the huge Apollo/Saturn 5 hall, from which you can progress to all kinds of interactive technology areas or see IMAX space movies, explore a rocket playground or even go on a simulated shuttle launch. You'd have a job to fit it all into just one day.

Our trip was marred by getting food poisoning in what must be the worst catering I've encountered since... well, since the last time I went to the Kennedy Space Center, actually. In fact, I'd give their catering one of my special Black Knife Awards for terrible food, except that there was so much to see, and it was so cool to be in the actual shuttle control room and Space Shuttle Atlantis was so evocative that, well,  I'd just say take your own sandwiches and enjoy the place, and don't even let the idea of buying their food cross your mind.


On the way back from the space center we stopped at the place below, which played a large role in our visit to Florida. Publix is just an ordinary supermarket for people who live there, but to me it seemed to be full of interesting and exotic foodstuffs.   Young A soon got to know his way to the hot chicken and chocolate icecream sections, which was all he felt he needed to know.



Friday, 1 April 2016

Badly Planned in Spain

I hope you had a good Easter.  Our idea was to take a few days in Spain, accompanying family members, just for fun.  We hoped to see the Holy Week (Semana Santa) processions too with their strange looking crowds of penitents in pointed hats.  (In case you don't know, there are several processions in mostly Andalusian towns and cities, each organised by different fraternities, each of which has penitents, a Crucifixion float and a Virgin float in the run up to Easter.  Go here for more information).

Since it wasn't  a working trip I didn't plan and assumed it would all be fine.  And it was fun, but still, I'm never going to skimp on the planning again! Haven't had so many disasters since a terrible trip to South Africa with a group of journalists and PR people who were literally knocking seven bells out of each other, the airline lost many suitcases and the hotel staff were stealing everything that wasn't nailed down - among several other problems. (But that's another story....)

It was the no-planning that caused most of the problems, not Spain itself.  And so despite many tears (not only mine) I'm really glad I went.     Semana Santa alone made it completely worth it, but there were many other wonderful things too. We were a couple of days in Seville, which was terrifyingly crowded (I'd broken the Planner's cardinal rule: never visit in high season. ) The crowds meant long queues, high prices, some spectacularly bad food and service and T's phone was lost or stolen in spooky circumstances. I also picked up a nasty bug,  which is still with me, and had to invoke my insurance because I was too ill to fly home.

Despite this, Seville did not disappoint.  I'm definitely going to return (off season).  Its Semena Santa processions are famous, although crowded, and I found this candle lit procession followed by an almost black Christ on the Cross rather thrilling. Although we were crammed shoulder to shoulder in the huge Plaza del Salvador, the vast crowd became quiet and attentive when the floats appeared..



A day or two later we stumbled, shellshocked, onto the Malaga train. Oh yes, RENFE, the Spanish rail network, seems to plan strikes at top holiday periods. Don't ask.  But we managed to get to Malaga, which is up there with Madrid as my favourite Spanish city.

 Malaga has a hinterland of high rise flats and hotels, but also a noble and fascinating history, some famous residents alive and dead (like Picasso and Antonio Banderas) wonderful architecture and a friendly atmosphere - not to mention good weather.

The walk to our lodgings from the station, normally about ten minutes, took us well over an hour as processions were in full swing.  We got much nearer to the floats than we had in Seville, and it seemed like a very different experience.  

Some of the men shroud or blindfold themselves when carrying the suffering Jesus (you can see one joining the back of the float in the video below). The float sways characteristically from side to side as the men march in a peculiar shuffling step. They have to lay it down every couple of hundred yards or less, for modern technology is not used- for Semana Santa, it's all human muscle power and candle light.




The suffering Jesus is a sad float, and of course the Virgin Mary is sad too. She's always a beautiful and innocent young woman weeping helplessly. But her float is an excuse to go right over the top, with dozens of huge flickering candles, (when dusk falls) hundreds of flowers and a long, long train beneath which she shelters her devotees.  As I noticed when I lived in Malta, the Virgin is a pin up of wondrous holiness.

She also tends to get brighter music, like this very Spanish sounding music below. Of all the floats I saw in Malaga, this particular Virgin probably had the most specular cloak . You can see that even getting round the corner is quite a business.  (It's filmed from the balcony where we stayed.    I got as close up as I could, but try and view full screen if you can.)  You can see the men lifting the float as the bell sounds.



 And no, we didn't get much sleep that night. I woke at 4.30 and I could still hear distant music. But it was worth it.

As for the penitents, they are very, very disconcerting for someone like me who is not brought up in the tradition. They just look so weird, striding around the city streets, like groups of wizards.





Many children marched in the parades, which must have been very demanding for them as they went on a long time and required perfect behaviour - and we never saw anything less.


From Malaga we took the local train to Fuengirola, where the in-laws have a holiday home. This time, we stayed by the church door, where the floats arrive, position themselves so that the holy ones can look down the entire length of the open church and pay their respects.  


After viewing the processions, it seemed the natural thing to do to go and have a coffee and a cake. 


If you haven't had enough of processions, this clip is perhaps my favourite. I love those Spanish looking faces. Some of them could be straight out of those 17th and 18th century paintings in the Prado.  It also gives me a feeling of how heavy and difficult it must be to carry those huge floats for hours and hours.



If I haven't yet got round to commenting and visiting your blog, I will do it very soon.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Iceland

I'm back from Iceland, and from Florida, too - what a contrast. I'll write about Iceland first and apologise in advance because my photos don't do it justice. But then photos don't do it justice. I think this might be because Iceland is the only place I have been where the weather is an active, living part of the landscape.  It is violent, unpredictable and moody, as if under the control of a none-too-benign god of nature.   If you've watched the utterly gripping and fantastic Icelandic detective series "Trapped" you'll recognise the kind of freezing snowy weather we encountered at times, and I felt inspired to record it in a short video clip to give an idea of it.



Although the snow had stopped for most of our trip, the wind was still hurling it almost horizontally as you can perhaps see in the distance of this lonely road, and our 4 x 4 was rocking around.


I had visited Iceland once before, years ago,and went some way into the interior then, but this time, with young A in tow, we confined ourselves to  the Reykjanes peninsula, where the scenery is fairly gentle by Icelandic standards - no towering volcanoes, huge waterfalls or glaciers, just a curious monochrome landscape of oddly shaped black lava,  and an icy blue-grey sea beating against the shores.  Sometimes in the snow it felt like being in a black and white photo.


The small valley shown below is where the continental plates of America and Europe meet, with what I suppose is a frozen river at the bottom.



 It was hard not to believe something supernatural was at the bottom of this cliff, because sulphurous steam was pouring out at top speed and being blown along by a furious gale.   I didn't dare go too near the edge.  The ice has been melted by the heat of the steam.


There were gigantic icicles larger than a person.


 We'd planned to walk around the headland on the coast  (below)  but it was actually too windy, and although you can't see in this film, snow was being picked up and hurled by the wind into great drifts over the path round the rock, making it impassable, so we didn't manage our walk.   I wish I could have taken a better film,  but after a few seconds I was afraid my little camera would be blown out of my freezing hands.



Most visitors take bus tours in winter, although some hardy souls do drive themselves through unpredictable weather along gravelled roads. We hired a guide, Thorsteinn Ragnasson and we were glad we did. Thorsteinn took us wherever we wanted in his 4 x 4 and he was great - good company, knowledgable and very calm and competent,  I was glad not to be in charge when blizzard conditions suddenly set in on a narrow mountain road. Ever had that experience when the car windows seem to have suddenly been replaced with illuminated white glass?


With young A sitting in the back it didn't seem like a good idea to try and make it the next few kilometres,  even though the snow would probably have stopped - so we  took a different route, and within twenty minutes all was clear and the sun was shining.


Boiling magma from the earth's centre forces its way near to the surface at some places in this highly volcanic island, and friends have told me how they have swum in summer in the hot water of remote country lakes,  miles from human life  - something I would love to do. But not in winter, when an urban setting seems a better bet for outdoor bathing.

The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland's major tourist attractions, created from a huge blue lake which had been excavated in the making of a geothermal power station.  Many years ago, on my only other trip to Iceland, I passed the Blue Lagoon on a January night. I gazed longingly at it but didn't have time to go in, so I resolved to come back one day in winter, and float in the water and admire the snow on the distant hills.

And so I did.  The best way I can describe the experience is that it was like hovering in the sky.  It is timelessly calm as you float effortlessly in the warm, pale blue water, while mist rises around like cloud, and the sun's rays gild the mountain tops.

I didn't take my camera into the pool, but I went out onto the deck after I got dressed and took a few shots.  You will see that the lagoon is not over full - they wisely control the number of people who go in and so it is best to pre book, even in winter.


 You can enter the water via a heated indoor pool - seen here from the outside.  The indoor pool is cooler than the water outdoors, and when you are acclimatised you swim through a gate into the warmer water beyond.


There is a pontoon where you can get the white silica mud that occurs naturally and is particularly good for skin complaints.  There's also a cheerful floating bar where you pay for drinks via a wristband.  Young A, as a reward for enduring an afternoon of blizzards, was allowed to have an icecold drink with the unfortunate (to our ears)  name of "KRAP" which is apparently the Icelandic word for "slush."  (The picture below was taken in a roadside cafe where we stopped for lunch, by the way, not in the Blue Lagoon.)


The whole place is very efficient and modern, with sparkling clean changing rooms with heated floors - which are fairly easy to arrange in Iceland, for obvious reasons. There's a restaurant (which we didn't try) and they are building a hotel, too.  

Still on the swimming theme, I also wanted to go to one of the municipal swimming pools - most communities have one, and these pools too are warm. Although they look utilitarian, the town pools appear to be community spaces too, where people gather to socialise as well as to swim.

Ah well, another time.  I've now been twice to Iceland in the winter, and I'd now love to go back in the summer. When I do I hope there'll be room again at the guesthouse where we stayed. It's called Guesthouse 1x6, and the owners, Andi and Yuki (below) seem to love their work. At least, they do crazy things like rising to give guests free airport transfers at 5 AM, cook them little treats and make excellent organic coffees on request.  So much nicer than an impersonal hotel.
.

Don't you like this cool little 1950s themed seating area for guests - complete with painted birch trees on the left and free apples and bananas?  Not surprisingly, Guesthouse 1x6 has shot up the Tripadvisor ratings in its first year of existence, and is almost fully booked out for the summer already.


Just to say that apart from getting a free trip to the Blue Lagoon, I paid most of my own costs during the stopover. Actually, though, I got to travel free to Iceland simply by making a transatlantic flight via Reykjavik, and accepting the stopover offer of up to 7 days when changing planes.  It's as easy as that. (Although of course you have to make the transatlantic crossing too! )  I hope to return to the US in 2017, if I can, and I'll try to stopover again, but at a different time of year, so I can see what Iceland looks like when it's not covered in snow..

Icelandair is a pretty good airline, spacious and modern, although the inflight entertainment didn't enthral me. There's a limited choice of international films and music and I'm afraid my appetite for up-and-coming Icelandic bands and documentaries about Iceland's attractions is small. I'm sure though that I would have felt different about their inflight entertainment f they'd offered the whole series of the utterly wonderful "Trapped"!  

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Just an Update

Phew, finally I feel better, and so does T, so we've taken the chance to get out as much as possible, singly or together, cycling or walking.

One day we went to the outskirts of London to where the huge Crossrail project is underway at Abbey Wood. Crossrail is going to improve London's transport system from West to East, involving many new stations.  The areas around the new stations are expected to be transformed, although methinks it will take a long time for Abbey Wood to develop anything resembling "metro chic."


But it has a lot going for it. Just up the hill from the station are the remains of medieval Lesnes Abbey, now being done up with a Heritage Lottery Grant, and then the ancient woodland begins.   Although it was wintry, walking along these muddy tracks felt like being in the countryside. 


A few miles of woodland walking later we arrived in Plumstead, another forgotten place. Most people who don't live near it have no idea which bit of London it's in, but it is basically somewhere near Woolwich.   By this time we wanted a cup of tea, and spotted this - "Tony's Cafe,"  next to a kebab shop near Plumstead Common. It looked cheerful but downmarket. 

Once inside, we found it was no longer the workman's cafe it resembled but a piece of pure hipsterville.  We had some delicious tea and clementine cake, and if it had been dinner time we'd have stayed and tried some of the interesting food but since it wasn't dinner time, we decided to come back another time and give it a try.  The owners were almost insanely enthusiastic about their work, but Plumstead also has some way to go before becoming anything resembling "chic".  


Another day we took the train out to Charlton - another area about which most people (except fans of Charlton Athletic Football Club) say "Where???" 


We walked through a preserved chalk pit which is famous for its geological strata and fossils, and gives a glimpse of what a countrified place Charlton was a hundred years ago. Then we made our way round to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. 

It's a fantastic museum, even if you aren't that interested in the sea.  I fell in love with the ships' figureheads - here are some of the ones on display.  How I wish ships still had these. I once interviewed a very old man who remembered the London docklands in the early 1920s when some of the ships still had them, and he said how exotic it seemed looking up at the battered figureheads and knowing they'd faced all the oceans of the world. . 


Many figureheads have stories - some exciting, some dramatic, some rather sad.  This beautiful example, from the Victorian yacht "Sunbeam," is a portrait of Constance Brassey, daughter of the boat's owner, who died in 1873 at the age of four. Her father sailed the yacht all round the world. 


I really adored a mural in the museum by the 1940s-50s artist Alan Sorrell, it's so colourful and full of life and fun.   I can only show a tiny bitt here, where a seal*  is about to have a cup of tea spilt over it.  *(oops, I mean a shark! Thanks, Tabor and Graham!)


This museum deserves a whole post to itself, which I can't give it here - but I'll just add that we went to see its current exhibition about Samuel Pepys, the famous and very frank diarist who recorded the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London and knew just about everyone worth knowing in the days of Charles II. 

One of the things that caught my eye in the show was this pair of men's gloves, which would originally have been trimmed with brightly coloured ribbons.  They were quite preposterous.  Admittedly they were wedding gloves...., 


and the "look" in those Restoration days was pretty preposterous too, as you might agree  ....


 We made our way home past the tea-clipper "Cutty Sark," overlooking the glittering river.  It has been extensively renovated after a fire and the floodlighting showed off the intricacy of the rigging. 


Another day we went to Regents Park to see the exhibition that's mostly about some of the books which belonged to the Elizabethan magician and polymath, Dr. John  Dee.    Dr. Dee  has fascinated people for years and several well known books have been written about him, including The Queen's Conjuror and Peter Ackroyd's The House of Dr. Dee. . He seems to have been prodigiously intelligent, but since he lived in an era when magic was taken for granted, he might be thought to have rather wasted his talents on things which we now know not to be true, like alchemy and the casting of spells. 

Most of the books on show in this exhibition were actually stolen from him, but that bad behaviour meant that many of them were preserved, since many years later, they were bequeathed to the Royal College of Physicians,  which is mounting this show.  The College has also got hold of some other things which relate to Dr. Dee and his magical crystal somehow gripped my imagination.  

Recently we had Japanese friends over, and they love beer,  so we went to several pubs and also had a tour of the Fullers Brewery in South-West London, at Chiswick.  It's a good tour which offers the chance to taste 10 different beers. I am a very light drinker so that meant about 10 sips of beer for me!  

  After, we walked along the river and it looked very strange. The weather has been so warm in England that many Spring flowers are out in peoples' gardens, and it looks and feels all wrong.  The weeping willow is usually one of the first trees to come out, and flowers are never normally seen until it is showing at least a haze of green.  


Even weirder are the roses against bare winter branches. Roses are definitely a sign of summer, and yet these are not all withered remnants of last year, as you can see.


There have been various family events too.  Today it was the twins' second birthday party, an exhausting affair for everyone, including them, although they all enjoyed it.  

 And now I have a busy couple of months coming up and am looking forward to being able to relax in the Spring.... the real Spring, I mean. Though I get worried that at the present rate, Spring will all have all taken place by the time the calendar says it should be arriving. 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Lumiere London

The "Lumiere" festival of lights has come to London!  And of course we wanted to go and see it.   But, "due to maintenance work," both our tube lines are out of action this weekend. Buses are very crowded and some are also on diversion, so it is no easy task to get into the centre.

At first we moaned about the incompetence of ... well, someone. Whoever organises these things.  "How stupid to put on a festival when so many people won't be able to get there... how disappointing.... bet nobody goes to it ...."

When we reached Piccadilly Circus, however...


we found ourselves in the most enormous crowds I have seen since the Millennium.   Luckily they were extremely good natured, but even so you can imagine how it felt being in the middle of this.

It soon became clear that the event organisers had vastly underestimated the numbers who would turn up to see these fantastic light installations.    Thank goodness so many trains were not running, is all I can say!

The installations are all over the city, and we didn't even see half of them, so we hope to return tonight (see below),  However, even if we don't see the rest, it was worth going in just for Les Lumineoles, below, in Piccadilly.



This installation of huge creatures, a cross between fish and spaceships, was created by the French company Porte Par Le Vent   When you're actually there beneath them, they seem awfully large, and they do look alive. The music that accompanies them (not clear on my video, sadly) enhanced the unearthly atmosphere.

Actually, the creatures are kites. I spotted one of the operators.


My second favourite installation, in Regent Street, was Keyframes, by the French group LAPS. This video is part of a much longer musical show, in which these little figures can be anything from ballet dancers to computer games.  Here, as the music suggests, they are being a computer game.



Onlookers absolutely loved this one.  It was so dark that I couldn't get good pictures of their enchanted faces, but this is typical.  I could feel a huge smile over my own face, too.



In St. James' Square, illuminated human figures sat on top of buildings or floated amongst the trees.


This is how they looked a little closer up.  As you walked towards them, they seemed to be moving against the dark sky. 


This installation was called "The Time Travellers", and it's by Cedric le Bourgne - check out the amazing bird picture on his website, here.  If you notice a certain French slant to the names, I think it might be because France seems to go in for light installations. We've often seen Son et Lumiere presentations on visits to France, and I think they have them in other places too. But this festival is a first for London.

It was all but impossible to get through the four small gates into St James' Square at first, but the crowds were good natured and formed themselves into the traditional tube train queuing routine - walk on the right - and in the end everyone managed to squeeze into the more spacious park through the narrow little gates. And what a relief it was to get inside. Then, all you had to do was get out afterwards....

I don't think the organisers can have been expecting anything like this number of spectators, because little thought seemed to have been given to finding sensible and practical places to site some of the installations.  We wanted to see Deepa Man-Kler's "Neon Dogs", but it was at ground floor level in a shop window past which ran a none-too-wide pavement.  What with people trying to see the installation, or walk past on the pavement, and not get knocked off into the traffic, this ended up as another one we simply couldn't manage to see.

Apparently the installations at Kings Cross had to be switched off last night because of overcrowding.    T and I want to see them though, so we might get along early this evening. I don't know how we will get to Kings Cross without the tube. There aren't any buses going there from here.  Perhaps we will drive to a tube station on a line that IS open - if you can park. Or maybe we should just walk - it is walkable (just).

Today, I'm trying to get the details of a trip to Iceland sorted out.  Iceland in February might not be everyone's cup of tea but it sounds as if my trip will be very interesting, although very short.  Hope the bug has gone by then.  T and I can't believe how it is lingering. If it wasn't both of us we would start to wonder if there was something wrong with our immune systems, but it is much better than it was a couple of weeks ago, and for that I am grateful.



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