Buckingham Palace

The D&O Diary was on assignment in Europe last week, with first stops in Dublin and London. Late January may not seem like the ideal time to visit Ireland and England. Though the weather was chilly and darkness gathered early in the afternoon, it turned out not to be a bad time to visit after all.

The first item on the itinerary was a short stop in the Irish capital city of Dublin. Though the primary purpose of the Dublin visit was a client meeting, we did have the chance to see some of the sights, albeit briefly, before heading off to London.

Right in the heart of central Dublin is Trinity College, whose campus is surprisingly attractive despite its urban location
There are two main attractions at Trinity College, the Book of Kells (an ancient illustrated bible) which we saw but were not permitted to photograph, and the Long Room at the college’s old library. The Long Room is undergoing a renovation and the books have been removed and are being cleaned. Even empty it is still a remarkable space.
Dublin is of course located on the River Liffey. A number of bridges cross the river, with perhaps the most famous being the pedestrian Ha’Penny Bridge, which affords great views up and down the river.

Just on the North side of the Ha’Penny Bridge is a locally famous bookstore, the Winding Stair, which I recommend in and of itself, as a bookstore, but also because of the excellent restaurant upstairs, above the bookstore. The restaurant has great views of the river and of the bridge, and the food is great.
The National Gallery of Ireland, which has a compact but interesting collection of Irish and European art, was located just a few steps away from our hotel. We spent a very pleasant afternoon there. We were fortunate that the Museum’s collection of watercolors by JMW Turner, which the Museum only exhibits in January each year, was on display while we were there.

Always interesting street art in Dublin. I took this picture in the Temple Bar district (located on the South side of the river, just across the Ha’Penny Bridge).
More Dublin street art
Acquainting myself with the local specialty.

After an all too brief visit to Dublin, we took the short flight across the Irish Sea to London. The primary purpose of my visit to London was to participate as a speaker in an event that had been scheduled to take place in London last week. However, due to rail strikes that threatened to disrupt travel into the city on the planned day of the event, the event’s sponsors decided to postpone the event one week. I was able to adjust my travel plans accordingly, and I will be participating in the postponed event during the upcoming week. However, as a result of the extension, I will have to return back to London for a few more days, meaning I will have a few bonus days in London this upcoming week — which is great as far as I am concerned.

Despite the late January date of our London visit, we did enjoy generally pleasant weather, including even a few glimpses of sunshine. We started off on sunny Sunday morning with a walk through St. James’s park. After a few intervening stops we ended the afternoon at Kensington Palace, at the far end of Hyde Park.

A sunlit view of the royal pelicans in St. James’s park.
Kensington Palace in the late Sunday afternoon sunshine
A bonus picture of a European Robin (apparently the original Robin Red Breast), taken in Regent’s Park, a few days later in our visit. My English friends likely will tell me that this is a common bird but it is the first one I had seen.

While we enjoyed the unexpected pleasure of walking outdoors in the sunshine in January, we did make time for a number of cultural activities as well.

One of the more interesting things we did during this visit was to attend a Saturday afternoon concert at Wigmore Hall. A violin and piano duo performed a Beethoven violin sonata and a number of other works. (The violinist was Sayaka Shoji, and the pianist was Gianluca Cascioli; they were both brilliant.) It was really enjoyable. A high point of the visit, actually. The acoustics in Wigmore Hall are so amazing.
Before the Wigmore Hall concert, we also took some time to visit Daunt Books, on Marleybone High Street. It is a quirky interesting bookstore; the books in the rear of the store are arranged geographically. We walked out with an armful of books.
We also make time to visit Hatchard bookstore on Picadilly. It is reputedly the oldest bookstore in London. The history books section is one of my happy places, and a must-see location every time I am in London. (I bring an extra bag with me to carry home the books I buy in London.)
Our London tour also encompassed some of the well-preserved historic homes in the city. In a wild coincidence, Jimi Hendrix lived in a flat partially located in the same house where George Frederick Handel had lived in London a couple of hundred years earlier. The two structures are now preserved as Handel Hendrix House, a museum that preserves artifacts from both musicians. I have been to the museum before but it recently reopened after an extensive renovation. I highly recommend it.
This is the room in the Handel portion of the museum in which Handel wrote the Messiah. The room incorporates some multimedia features that emphasize the music.
Another of London’s well-preserved historical homes is the Dr. Johnson House, where Johnson lived during many of his most productive years. It is really kind of amazing to me that after all these years and after so many London visits, I finally got around to seeing Samuel Johnson’s house. As an English major in my university days, I was overdue for a visit, especially given my long-standing interest in Johnson himself.
The room where Johnson composed much of his famous dictionary. Johnson was quite a figure and this visit to his home was quite interesting.
Another thing for which we made time for an overdue first time visit on this trip was the Afternoon Tea on Sunday afternoon at Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly. (I have been in the Fortnum & Mason store many times, but never in the formal tea parlor in the store’s Fifth Floor.) Notwithstanding what the expression on my face in the picture might otherwise suggest, it was a surprisingly enjoyable experience, albeit a little on the pricey side. I would recommend it for anyone wanting a full London teatime experience.

We enjoyed our London visit immensely — and for that matter, we enjoyed Dublin, as well. It turns out that — at least for us and at least on this visit — late January is not at all a bad time to visit either place. All too soon we were off to other destination, but with a long list of places to visit the next time we are in town.

Ah, man, can’t I just drop them off and come back and pick them up later?
What part of “do not dump” don’t people understand?