Last month we returned from a 12-day vacation to London and Copenhagen, and I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since. But where do you begin? A general recounting of the narrative feels dull, and yet it’s impossible to recount all the details.
If I’ve been tongue-tied about how to talk about the trip, at least I have photos. A lot of photos. Over the course of the trip, I took about 1,3000 pictures. Each day I’d come back to the hotel and upload a couple hundred more onto my laptop. Since arriving back home, I’ve spent much of the last 40 days going through them all.
So instead of trying to recount highlights from my memory banks, maybe I’ll just talk about some of my favorite pictures.
This one was taken in London at the top of The Monument, a skinny cylindrical tower not unlike the Washington Monument, only round. The Monument in London was built to commemorate the lives lost in the Great Fire of 1666. I took a lot of pictures of the skyline, capturing nearby buildings of note like Richard Rogers’ legendary Lloyd’s of London building, Norman Foster’s new office tower unofficially dubbed ‘The Gherkin’, the Tower of London, or Foster’s City Hall. But my favorite shot, seen here, was looking through the bars of The Monument with a blurry St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. St. Paul’s is such an icon that it’s easily identifiable even just in silhouette, and the bars have a great texture in addition to how they bisect the frame in a cool symmetrical way.
As it happens, out of those 1,300 photos another favorite shot was taken just a few seconds later – on my way down the very claustrophobic winding staircase. Anytime somebody else would pass by, one would have to practically do a spread-eagle against the wall to let them pass by. But I managed to steal a view looking straight down, which has a surreal visual effect but also, as with the bars, has a cool old material texture.
One of my other favorite shots was taken in Copenhagen. The area you see in this photo, Nyhavn, is one of the more popular and probably tourist-oriented areas in the city. But it’s such a striking scene, set upon one of Copenhagen’s Amsterdam-like canals with a host of multi-colored buildings. I also like the street lamp that shows up in the foreground. If I end up framing any of these vacation photos, so far this would be the leading candidate.
Another favorite Copenhagen picture was taken the day we flew home. It was that in-between time where we had to check out of our hotel, but had a couple hours to kill before it was time to go to the airport. So we went for a walk in a residential area nearby, and along the way came across a store that was selling all kinds of used knickknacks, including lots of silverware. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures of storefront windows that incorporate both aspects of what you see through the glass and what’s reflected onto it.
While in London, we made a day trip to the nearby town of Richmond along the Thames and the adjacent Kew Gardens, also known as the royal botanical gardens. I’d wanted to see Kew Gardens for a few years, although ironically it was not to see the plant life so much as the massive old greenhouses there, at least one of which is an architectural world heritage site. The biggest structure, called Palm House, was my favorite, but I couldn’t get any pictures inside because the simulated tropical environment fogged up my camera lens within just a couple of seconds. And outside, somehow none of my photos did enough justice to how impressive Palm House and some of the other buildings at Kew really were.
As it happens, though, by the time we returned to Richmond to take the train back into London, the light was spectacular, and I got a couple shots of the buildings along the Thames bathed in that golden illumination.
Ironically, one of the photos from the trip that I still enjoy seeing is a totally unsuccessful one. While staying with our friends Neil and Bridget in south London’s Wandsworth Common area, one night I was lying awake in bed and noticed their motion-sensor porch light coming on constantly. I got out of bed to look, and saw it was a fox. It seemed like a major fluke at the time, but he was back the next night and the night after that. Turns out urban foxes in London are very common. Some neighbors of Neil and Bridget even had a family of them living in their garage. But to us, it was an extraordinary episode.