Friday, June 22, 2007

Painted Halls and the Prime Meridian

My third day in London took me to Greenwich, which hosts the Cutty Sark (closed now, of course, quite sadly), the Royal Naval College, the Maritime Museum, and the Royal Observatory. I plotzed.

View of the Thames from the Pier (semi-rainy days have made for some great clouds):

The Naval College: here, I didn't really know what I was in for, except a walk-around on the way to the Observatory, but what a treat these buildings are.

...especially the Painted Hall, and St. James' Chapel, commissioned by Queen Mary (designed by Christopher Wren. What didn't he do, again?).

The painting behind the altar is of St. Paul's shipwreck on Malta. According to the guide, the pillars and the sculptures all around the gallery are trompe l'oeil, made of plaster not marble, because of costs to execute it. See? You can have the Enlightenment extravagance of your dreams and still save!

Lunch was a cranberry, grape & brie sandwich from Marks & Spencer on the top of the hill next to the observatory. It was heaven. Just nearby was this commemorative statue of James Wolfe. (Somehow, I'm guessing the Quebec version wouldn't strike the same note?)

Prime Meridian, naturally:

The observatory museums were another geeky thrill. A great tour of Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed's life & activities (Newton thought he was years too slow to publish his star catalogues, so had them printed early without Flamsteed's permission. Flamsteed then bought up all but 100 copies and had them burned, as a sacrifice to the proud pursuit of natural philosophy). There were Harrison's clocks, and an exhibit on time pieces and measuring latitude and longitude. They had a few original instruments, like an enormous quadrant and some armillary spheres. I was more than happy to leave a donation at the end, in the absence of an entry fee.

Something I really liked was this sundial, quietly tucked in behind the Maritime Museum, with two dolphins. Their tails meet to give the reading on the dial:

After a walk downtown and up to Oxford Circus (and a yummy ice cream with Flake chocolate), I went back to meet S & C, and we walked down the wharf for dinner.

And finally, knitting status: body of the Hourglass pullover has grown about 2 inches on the Tube ride today. I'm really not pulling my weight.


Laura said...

I saw the H-Clocks when I was wee and they didn't make that much of an impression on me. Then I read Longitude, went back to see them and promptly burst into tears. *g* Naval-geek love!

See you soon!

Marianne said...

Love love the dolphin sundial!

Lady O said...

ooohh!! *vicariously enjoys naval sights*

Sarah said...

Can I mention for the seventy billionth time how great your photos are. So cool to see your vision of more familiar sights. I'm glad that you feel positively about those clouds; they make for great photos but less great walks.