Ed and I usually do the zoos together, but I’ve been to the London Zoo and it’s no prize. So we split for the day, Ed to visit animals and other things, Norah and I for some Church of England splendor and the Tate Gallery. Ed’s zoo comments follow mine.
We tried to attend High Communion last Sunday, only to learn of the marathon in central London and total lack of public transport. This weekend was perfect. We grabbed the bus and 15 minutes later were way too early for the 10:30 service. They don’t open the doors until ten, so we strolled around the beautiful buildings and spent some time admiring the Houses of Parliament. Westminster is just a lovely area of London.
We were close to the front of the line when they opened the Abbey, so were quickly ushered to the seating area inside of the Great North Door, where we took seats with a good view of the altar. There are no pews, just chairs. Some of the later arrivals sat in the Quire – next time we will know to just go and sit there. What a magnificent gothic church. Floor to ceiling measures just over 100 feet. Windows are mostly clear glass and let wonderful light down to the floor. We could not take photos inside, but I’ll include some ceiling photos from the web. It was awesome.
Most beautiful was the service. We arrived on the Feast of Dedication of the church in 1269 – 775 years ago. So it was a super-high service with two “Presidents”, six canons, lots of other folks in robes and lace colors. Best of all was the choir: 16 men and 20 boys. Celestial. God was pleased. Service was in English, all singing, except hymns, in Latin. The service is identical to the Catholic Mass, except the Kyrie was missing.
The sermon, by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, was about the Greatness of God. Well worth listening to, and you may read it on line. Best of all, you could clearly understand every spoken and sung word in this huge church.
We leisurely strolled down Millbank to the Tate Gallery, home of all British painting and sculpture. Norah is a fan of the Pre-Raphaelites and I always find something to like in a good gallery. The museum is arranged by era and you can progress from early to contemporary, or just go willy-nilly. We did the later, and enjoyed every room we visited. Tate also had the Tate Modern, and one visit twenty years ago will last me a life time. For my taste, it was terribly edited – broken toilets as art, newspapers strewn on the floor as an “installation”. Spare me. We did not return.
Had a nice lunch at the gallery. Nothing special. These gallery lunchrooms usually have three hot plates, a selection of salads and sandwiches and yummy desserts. Reasonably priced for the convenience.
Raining on the way home, and we had to switch busses at Trafalgar Square. But we were entertained by a celebration of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Light. Even on a hugely crowded Sunday afternoon, the busses move along their dedicated lanes. Home to enjoy Ed’s zoo stories, some of which he shares below – and to watch the voting results of Strictly Come Dancing.
I agree with Ann, the London Zoo wasn’t the greatest when we visited before, but that was 25 years ago, so I wanted to check it out. They have improved it considerably, so I’m glad I went.
A tube ride to Regents Park station, and still a good walk to the zoo. But it is such a nice walk through Regents Park. To top it off, my Oyster Card (the transit fare card) was too low, and didn’t let me through the exit gates. The one machine to re-charge the card was out of order. Fortunately I found a partly open exit gate and escaped. But I have a day ahead with a lot of walking, and I wondered if I would need to walk home afterward. Oh well.
I arrived about ½ hour before the otter feeding, so had time for a stroll through the aquarium. Some really nice aquatic displays but nothing especially noteworthy. These are Asian short-clawed otters, smaller than our native variety in the USA. But still, terminal cuteness. And voracious! They went after the fish feed like little tigers. Watched, took pictures, then on to other things. Watched the meerkats (more cuteness and frenzied activity). Next was the minimal exhibit of owls and the like. Very few and mostly in hiding. Then the open room with ring-tailed lemurs; a strange combination of cute and freaky.
Walked through the big free-flight aviary - almost all varieties of ibis. Also a peafowl and a common crane. Then just as I was leaving, I noticed that one of the birds perched in a tree was a hawk of some sort. Incompatible you might think, but the ibis and others were about the same size as the hawk or larger, so wouldn’t interest it as prey. I assume that the hawk was there for pest control - sparrows, starlings and rats would be attracted by the food - but don’t know for certain.
Walked some more and saw various and sundry creatures. A sad pygmy hippo in a very small room. But a bit more space for some larger African mammals. Some giraffe and zebra; a sub-species named Chapman’s zebra. It has alternating wide and narrow stripes, more dark brown than black, a pretty animal. And then a great close-in view of an okapi. This is a close relative of the giraffe that lives in the deepest forests. Rare, and only discovered in the 1940’s. Now endangered of course, like everything else. The one thing I wanted to see were the African hunting dogs, a favorite animal of mine. Well I got a good close look, but they were all asleep. These are usually very active, but all I saw today was a “dog-pile” as they huddled together for a nap. The only activity in their enclosure was a couple of magpies stealing any un-eaten food.
Now for a look through the reptile house. Ann never likes this, so even when she’s along I am always on my own. A lot of interesting reptiles and a lot of good pictures. After that walked past a large free-flight aviary for raptors, and one pair of macaws, all separated of course. These would not co-exist peacefully as the birds in the ibis aviary did. Saw an African harrier, striated caracara, griffon vulture and the blue-throated macaws. There is a huge penguin pool with glass sides for over and under water views. Lots of penguins and all active.
By then I was more than ready for some lunch; especially for a bit of sit-down Nothing special, fish and chips and diet soda. But the rest was welcome.
I always like to see the big cats, and the zoo had both lions and tigers. In this zoo there are rare sub-species of both, the Asian lion and the Sumatran tiger. But no luck for me today. Nothing out of the ordinary visible in either exhibit.
My last stop was another large free-flight aviary containing various aquatic birds. Waders and ducks; some of the ducks distinctively patterned. Finally, enough was enough. It was time to head back to the apartment. I walked a good many miles already and wasn’t looking forward to more, but one way or another I still needed to make that long walk back through Regent’s Park. The nearest tube stop is at the south end of the park and the zoo is at the far north. And my transit pass was “empty”. I finally found a station with fare machines operating at Tottenhan Court Road and re-loaded my pass. But by then I was close to Alfred Place and “home” so I walked the rest of the way.
A long day for sure, but enjoyable. Finally at home, we traded stories about our respective days and vegged out. Strictly Come Dancing – what’s that?
An assortment of noteworthy and photogenic birds.