Tuesday, February 14, 2012

36 Hours with Amy


David's next younger cousin, Amy, is living in Aberdeen and doing a master's degree in Medieval history. We've been chatting since September when she moved there about the possibility of her coming down to London for a visit. As January whooshed by we all realised David and I won't be in London much longer, and quickly put a plan together. Amy hopped on a plane to come stay with us - a late night arrival on Friday and a morning flight back to Aberdeen on Sunday meant we would have to make the most of the time, but we were game for a challenge!

David went to collect his cousin at London Victoria and got her safely back to our place. We enjoyed a late-night catch-up and a sleep-in with a slow breakfast on Saturday morning. Then, we bundled ourselves up again the cold February weather (we've definitely had a cold snap in London in the last couple of weeks) and set out to explore the city.

Cousins.

Check out those icicles! Brr.
Cousins!
We made our way around "David's Greatest Hits Walking Tour of London," chatting and catching up along the way. It was great to have the chance to hear in more detail what Amy is working on in her master's studies. With close to ten years' experience in campus living between us, we had lots of stories to swap about community life.

This was another great opportunity to get a good look at Westminster Abbey (though we didn't go in for a service this time), and I got some pictures that had turned out blurry last time.




Dr. King, Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John - 20th cent. martyrs above the  west entrance.

Modern sculpture displayed in front of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
We had a tasty lunch in the Crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and David and I had the chance to introduce Amy to the St. John's Bible project and drool over the handwritten manuscripts together. 

After that, we hit up the National Gallery (first time for all three of us) and David skilfully took us around to all the most famous holdings. This was high on my list of tourist destinations to catch before we left, so I can now cross one more thing off my to-do list. I was particularly taken with a painting by Sassoferrato called "The Virgin in Prayer." It is a very simple icon/portrait, but - as David explained to us - the virgin's blue cloak is painted with ultramarine, a pigment that contains crushed lapis lazuli. This gives it what I can only describe as a mesmerising quality, which seems almost lit from within. David pointed out part of the impact comes from the red shade of the garment underneath which peeks out around the blue veil, creating a sharp contrast. I kind of wanted to buy a print, but realised quickly that no reproduction could really do justice to what is most attractive about the piece, the electrifying blue colour. In a room full of masterpieces, this painting was impossible to look away from. It was amazing!

We also took in The Ambassadors, Van Gogh's Chair and Sunflowers, and the famous Arnolfini Portrait. Only the most ridiculously famous paintings will do for THIS day of tourism!

I also took us on a whirlwind tour of the Tudor section of the National Portrait Gallery - I really wanted to make it there one more time as I really enjoy the collection. Let it also be known that it was around then I started droning on to Amy about The Tudors the show, and she tells me she went home and started watching it and is now addicted. You're welcome!  David took a time out on a bench and Amy and I wandered around taking in all the monuments to old men and discussing the female condition in the 19th century.

After all that culture, it was time for a snack. We went for one more visit to nearby Cafe Vergnano, our favourite cafe discovery in London. You know you've found a good espresso bar when most of the patrons are speaking Italian to each other. I had a wonderful latte and David splurged (allergically speaking) on their amazingly rich hot chocolate.




So great to have family come to visit!

After that we explored a really cute, tucked-away shopping arcade that David has been wanting to show me. We were window shopping for sure (cashmere sweaters, vintage Tiffany diamonds and leather steamer trunks were on offer in abundance) but it was very enjoyable and you couldn't beat the company.

After fighting our way home in the rush-hour tube, we cooked dinner and had a great chat. David and I have both really been missing our Eberlin family so this was a wonderful dose of cousin time. Before we knew it it was Sunday morning and David was bringing Amy back to London Victoria to get the coach to Luton. Good luck with your year of studies, Amy, and we'll catch up again somewhere else in the world!

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