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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Greenwich - A Delightful Day Out

I've been meaning to go to Greenwich for decades and on our last trip to London I finally made it. The great thing about Greenwich is there's just so much history. There's so much to do, which makes it fun for a day trip - but it also means you won't cover everything in one visit. Just as I won't cover the place in a single blog post! In fact I've already discussed a couple of the great things to see in Greenwich including the Werhner Collection at Ranger House and the delightful Fan Museum. And despite making three recent visits to Greenwich I still haven't seen the highly rated Martime History Museum or the restored clipper ship the Cutty Sark, which you can see below. It's remembered fondly by all Brits of my age as it was a required part of the history curriculum in the UK in the 70's and 80's.

Greenwich is of course famous for it's place in naval history and  for its role in the history of longitude and the establishment of a standardized time, the eponymous GMT or Greenwich Meant Time. All of which is covered in the museum at the Observatory where D. was mesmerized for hours. Needless to say I was more interested in the Fan Museum which really was more interesting than it sounds!
Because of the maritime connections I thought it would be fun to get to Greenwich by water and so I took the Thames Clipper from Tower Pier. This is the service where you can use you Oyster card for a discount, and it worked well. It was lovely to be out on the water and it's great for viewing both the modern architectural developments and the repurposing of old factories and wharfs along the river. When I got out at Greenwich I opted for a guided walking tour which went from the Information Center. I have to say these walking tours are a good deal at £8. The tour took in many of the famous buildings, their occupants and their histories ending at the Observatory. Obviously, there are lots of naval connections here and I'm looking forward to returning to see the Maritime History Museum. Apparently you can see Nelson's bloody Jacket complete with bullet holes and who doesn't want to see that?!!
The "Ship in a Bottle" above is a wonderful piece by Yinka Shonibare who we saw speak at SOAS (the School for Oriental and African Studies) and who I've blogged about here. He is a contemporary artist who works in a variety of media and this work was originally part of  the rotating exhibition on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square, right below Nelson's Column. A replica of Nelson's Victory, the ship's  sails are made from African fabrics that draw from Indonesian batik designs. This confluence of different influences and competing narratives is typical of Shonibare's work and it's worth noting that it ended up at the Maritime Museum after a massive public fundraising campaign by the Art Fund, the first time they've ever raised money to keep a contemporary piece in the public sector. I like Shonibare's work so I was happy to see it, look for it as you head up the hill to the Observatory, it's just behind the museum.
It's worth visiting the Observatory and there's a lovely view from the top of the hill  (above) with Canary Wharf's behind all the wonderful Maritime Hospital buildings.  I was interested to learn that the building in the foreground above, known as the Queen's House  (below too) was the first Palladian building built in England. Designed by Indigo Jones, it was commissioned by Anne of Denmark (the wife of James I) in 1616. Having visited Palladio's original villas outside of Vicenza we are always interested to see how long it took for his revival of classical proportions to spread throughout Europe
One of the interesting things about the house is that it was designed for horses and carriages to come right into the building. The covered portico you can see on either side above, goes right into the building which is hollow as you can see below, it's astonishing but you can see right through it!
I believe the porticos were added later, as you can see they have a lovely repetitive form.
For architecture fans there are quite a number of lovely buildings to visit in Greenwich, including the Maritime Hospital pictured at the top and below. It's a magnificent building designed in 1694 and it was supposed to rival the French court's construction of inaugurated  Les Invalides in 1678. There are a whole series of building in the complex opening into a number of colonnaded courts, including a chapel and a wonderfully painted dining hall below. The dining hall is particularly impressive, designed by Wren and Hawksmoor who rebuilt so much of London following the fire, the painting is by James Thornhill. It's interesting historically as it shows the triumphant William and Mary (who came from Holland to take the  crown) in a celebration of British naval power with their feet resting on the French King's head!
Below is the neoclassical chapel completed in 1789 and famously featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral. It was initially designed for the naval pensioners housed at the hospital and therefore there is quite a bit of marine symbolism including an anchor design on the floor. It's a fascinating place to explore the extent of British naval power on which of course the Empire was built.

The chapel is a very beautiful space with a highly decorated ceiling and floor. 
 I also loved this wonderful staircase and the window below.
There's really far to much to cover in either one day or one blog post. D. J and G loved the restored Cutty Sark Museum and I loved crossing the river by the Victorian pedestrian tunnel. Another day we  went mudlarking on the banks of the Thames at Greenwich searching for seventeenth century clay pipes, but all that will have to wait for another post!

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