London and in fact England as a whole is hot. Although temps are only around 90F, this is not to be taken lightly in a country that sees this heat perhaps less than our Seattle home. Today we learned via the newspaper that 796 people have died from the heat in the last 10 days! These are not people used to sunblock, drinking lots of fluids, and staying out of the noonday sun.
Despite the sun and heat today we decided to go on one of the double decker bus tours. Of course we sat in the top in the sun! I did this two years ago in May and Jean wanted to try it as an overview of the city. I failed to account for the fact that May is, well, May and July is tourist season. The traffic was terrible. In May I did the entire tour in about 2 1/2 hours. Today we spent about 5 1/2 hours on the bus. However, it is a great way to get oriented to London and the sights to be seen. We’ve added a few to our agenda as a result.
We broke the day into two halves by stopping midway in the tour to take in the Courtauld Gallery, part of the Courtauld Institute of Art in Somerset House. This institute is one of the foremost institutions in the world for art history and restoration. The gallery’s collection is small, but well worth a visit any time you are in London. In addition to many old favorites that we had seen previously, a Gauguin exhibit is currently featured. I have not included any photos of the artwork because my photos don’t do them justice. Renoir, Manet, Monet, Seurot, Gauguin, Rodin, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Toulouse Lautrec, and many others are represented. My photos will provide me with inspiration on grey winter days in my Seattle studio. A little lunch in the museum’s small cafe, a stop for tea after the art, and we continued our bus tour.
London can be displayed in many ways. People are a wonderful study in this most cosmopolitan of cities. There may be no other city in the world where so many languages can be heard on each street corner. Public art abounds with sculptures and other public art around every corner. It was impossible to photograph all of them as we drove around. I love spying pubs with their unique names and decorations. (Our studio apartment about a mile from The Churchill, dedicated to the Prime Minister himself.) However, London to me means architecture. This city takes design of buildings and public spaces quite seriously. From ancient buildings to those just under construction London displays art, whimsy, beauty, and strength. Therefore, I put together a small show of some architectural highlights of the day.