September 15, 2007

London Open House Weekend with Richmond Arts Link

During London Open House Weekend, the doors to over 700 buildings of architectural interest are opened to the public. Richard from the Richmond Arts Link ( led a group of us on a tour that started at Baron's Court Station (itself a Grade II listed building) and included three Open House buildings with tours.
We walked through the Hammersmith Cemetary (opened in 1869) to reach Voysey Studio, now a Hungarian Reformed Church (the very nice minister sold us much needed coffee and cookies). According to the Voysey Studio Restoration website, C.F.A. Voysey was one of the leading architects of the Arts and Craft Movement in Britain during the late Nineteenth Century. Voysey Studio is one of his first and best buildings, designed in 1891 for the artist W.E.F.Britten and completed in 1892. Our tour guide pointed out the silhouette on the wooden overhang over the front door.
Our next visit was to the Richard Rogers Partnership, an architectural firm responsible for such buildings as Centre Pompidou, Lloyd’s of London headquarters and the Millennium Dome. We were given a comprehensive tour that showed how architectureal firms work. The people who showed us how to build the models were especially memorable. The only pictures I took here were of the former Harrod's Depot across the Thames, now Harrod's Village (where we almost chose to live).
After lunch at the Crabtree Pub, Richard pointed out sights along the river such as Bishop's Park, Craven Cottage (1880) which is home to the Fulham Football Club, and an odd boat on the river.

Our first sight at the Hurlingham Club was a black swan. The manager took us for an extensive tour around the grounds. We also admired the interior of several buildings and I took a picture of one especially exquisite embroidered scene. We learned that the last new member had been on the waiting list for 17 years.

Richard directed us to the nearest tube station. This was a great day at a perfect pace.

September 08, 2007

Oslo - Walking Tour Back to the Ship

In the afternoon, we took a walking tour of Oslo which included the Town Hall (opened in 1950), Royal Palace, University, Parliament, famous mural (with Munch & Ibsen) in the Grand Hotel / Café, and a Church.

We stopped to check e-mail in the Central Train Station (very cheap but 90 minute minimum) before heading on to Akerhus Castle and the Resistance Museum
We enjoyed one last sculpture before boarding the ship.

Oslo - Princess Docks, Vigeland Sculpture Park, Kon-Tiki & Fram Museums by Ferry

The Star Princess docks very close to town in Oslo and you get another view about how large this ship is. The straight-on view made me feel part of a horror movie where the ship is moving in to crush the crowd-filled dock.

Our mission was to get off the ship, buy our Oslo Pass and get to the Vigeland Sculpture Park before the crowds. The park features 212 bronze and granite sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland (wikipedia). We took pictures of almost every one but have included only a sampling.

As the crowds arrived, we set off in search of the ferry to take us to the Kon-Tiki and Fram museums. The sunny and glorious day made the ferry trip itself a great outing.

We had all read about Thor Heyerdahl and his Kon-Tiki voyage as children but Thor's other explorations were more far-reaching than I ever would have guessed. The Fram Museum, named after the most famous polarship, celebrates polar (North and South) explorers - especially Norwegian polar explorers. Both museums were fascinating.

September 07, 2007

Storebaelt - Largest Suspension Bridge in Europe


The highlight of this Day at Sea was passing under the Storbaelt (Great Belt) Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in Europe. This road and rail link spans an 11 mile stretch of water to connect Copenhagen (Sjaelland Island) with the rest of Denmark (the car toll is €29 one-way). It has the 2nd longest span in the world at 1624 metres. It was remarkable to feel that we were just squeaking under the bridge (the Star Princess is very tall).

September 06, 2007

Gdynia and Gdansk

We docked in Gdynia (2nd largest port in Poland) and took a bus to the medieval town of Gdansk. Much of Gdansk was destroyed during WWII and is slowly being restored. Our guide reminded us that at times Poland was not even on the map but was split into Russia, Austria, and Germany.

The human-powered "Great Crane" was completed in 1441 and was used to load cargo from ships.

St Mary's church and its 7 gates are another important landmark. St Mary's church, the largest brick church in the world, was started in the 1343 and finished in 1502. Our guide told us merchants (including their wares and animals) used to take a shortcut through the church to get from one gate to another to save the effort of going all the way around the church. St Mary's was damaged and looted during the war, but many pieces were saved and restored. The calendar clock (one of 2 in the world) was built in the 1470's and was our favorite.

We spent the afternoon strolling through the "Long Market" shopping and enjoying the sun and quaint buildings. The Mayor of Gdansk strolled out of Town Hall without body guards and said "Welcome to Gdansk" to us.

We stopped for a moment to view the Freedom Solidarity Anchor Monument on the road back to our ship.