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Report 2023: Two Weeks in the Cotswolds and London

By Deva from USA, Fall 2012

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Page 11 of 15: Day Eleven: Highgate

I spent my solo morning exploring Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. I had not planned to visit the latter but ended up so glad I did! I wish I had been able to come back with Bob -- I enjoyed it much more than the Tate Britain, actually! The rooms themselves are beautiful, and there’s such a glorious range of art. Sometimes I wonder whether seeing the art in person is really any better than seeing it on a computer screen or in a book, but I was so grateful to have the opportunity to see Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Cypresses, Delaroche’s The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, and Vermeer’s The Guitar Player in person.

I walked back through Piccadilly, stopping at Fortnum & Mason and Burlington Arcade, and to peer through the window into the Ritz. All of it is so glitzy and overwhelming! Everywhere you turn in London there seems to be some beautiful bit of architecture, or some other lovely thing.

Once Bob was up, we headed out to Highgate, where we had reservations for the tour of the West Cemetery (only one a day, during the week, and only ~12 people allowed. I called the week before to make our reservation). We followed the directions from the Cemetery website to take a bus from the Archway tube station, then walk across the (lovely!) park. We brought more Pret a Manger sandwiches with us, which we ate in the park, watching local dogs romping on the rolling grassy slopes.

The cemetery itself was striking and (again) very atmospheric. It was moving to see the beautifully carved angels and crosses, growing over with ivy, with trees sprouting up everywhere, setting things askew. Nature taking over from humanity and mortality, green and inevitable. Perhaps not every tourist would enjoy this, but we loved it. Though again, the glorious weather probably helped!

We rested up afterward with tea and cakes at a cafe in the park, then headed back into the city to Westminster Abbey where we attended the 5pm Evensong service.

This was magical! And also, free! It was (in my opinion) so much more awe-inspiring to see the space being used in service, with the glorious voices of the choir lifting us all up. There was a large crowd, and clearly many of them were fellow tourists, carrying backpacks and shopping bags and ogling the architecture. We were (understandably) not allowed to sight-see as it was a religious service, but even so the route in and out passed by many of the sites. I was satisfied by this visit and had no yearning to return and pay to see the rest.

Back home we had a dinner of Indian food from Waitrose. We are not cooking as much as I had expected, partly because there is so much good prepared food, partly because we have been out in the evenings so often, and the city is so spread out we don’t have time to come home for meals.

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