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A Horse Lover's Thirty Hours in London

The tourists all around me were making low sounds of fear and wonder as they watched Isengard, a giant, black Irish Draught gelding nuzzle me, slobbering all over my coat. I was delighted. He was delighted to have someone to "talk" to, albeit just long enough for a photo to be taken. As one of the Queen's Life Guard, he and his rider would spend several hours patiently tourists came up one after another to have themselves photographed beside him...until the changing of the guard.

It was with the goal of unearthing this English love and reverence for their horses that I spent 30 hours in London taking as much in as my feet would allow, following a proverbial trail of hoof prints to works of fine art, museums, city statues and the like--collecting horse lovers destinations all around the city of London.

If you love horses in all forms:  real-life, sculpture, paintings, statues...this blog post charts an express path into several parts of London where you can find real ones and enjoy art that celebrates them. But this is also a map to get yourself into some of London's most fantastic locations. Enjoy the journey!

Mounted guard, the Household Calvary Museum, London

Located on Whitehall, the Household Calvary Museum bring tears to the eyes. Historically a military organization, this regiment of the British Army has had to adapt their role through times of war and in its aftermath to the new world of war:  dominated by technology that does not include beasts anymore. While that is largely a good thing and the Calvary have taken on humanitarian and community stabilization missions, some of the hardest missions have been as recently as during the Bosnian Civil War in the mid 90s.

It is clear the traditions of the horse human bond have remained with this part of the British military. Rider and mount relationships of lifelong service are fostered and treasured, even after the horses have retired and been adopted out to families/farms connected to the officer. The steed remains the lifelong concern of the officer, even in retirement.
The Royal Horseguards, London

Also just off Trafalgar Square, I stayed at the The Royal Horseguards, a five star hotel that goes a bit over the top at seducing you to stay in your room in the heart of such an exciting city- not a chance! They even gave me a sneak preview of a new interior design they were working on integrating into the downstairs (more horses, less aged nobility portraiture, please!)

Etched window of horses, The Royal Horseguards Hotel, London
Interior at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, 2011.

The hotel's fabulous location puts you within walking distance of the Royal Mews (Queen's stables) and Buckingham Palace, as well as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and one of my favorite public statues:  Boudica. Be sure you Google the opening hours and get tickets in advance. You CANNOT, for example, run over there the morning of your afternoon flight out of Heathrow (not that I...uh...know anything about that- DOH- I was pretty bummed.)
Big Ben and Boudica Chariot Statue, London

The National Gallery, Rooms 41, 42, 34. You can dive in here to paintings by Eugene Delacroix, Theodore Gericault, Stubbs' famous "Whistlejacket" and more. I thought this little boy's rendition of the Stubbs painting showed great talent at drawing the horse from an entirely different angle than represented in the painting. I asked him if I could photograph his picture and have "whited out" his name for his privacy.
A child's rendition of Whistejacket Painting, The National Gallery, London


Children in front of Whistlejacket painting, London National Gallery

Seeing schoolchildren sprawled across the floor of the National Gallery, drawing by great paintings made me very happy.

Roman horse bust, The British Museum, London

The British Museum,  I have a particular fondness for the Ancient Greece and Rome collections here. I got stuck down there and shooed out of the upper floors because it was closing time. :(

Bellerophon (riding Pegasus) and Chimeara plaque. 450 B.C. from Milos, formerly Melos, an island in the Aegean Sea.
Bellerophon and Chimera plaque, Island of Milos, The British Museum, London

The Tate Modern, Red Star Over Russia Room 11 on the 5th floor dedicated to "States of Flux." An incredible collection of Russian Revolution street posters that are something to behold all collected together. Many of them incorporate an angry red, the misery and persecution they were enduring and a few images were hope for freedom- the emotional tone of this collection is stunning. On loan, unknown for how long. Go!
  Russian Revolution Street Poster, The Tate Modern, London


This rearing horse is a statue in honor of the Disabled Living Foundation somewhere between Picadilly and Leicester Square.

And don't forget, if you thought you were coming to this blog to read about food or dessert or some such- London is a great city that has taken its food up to be at levels on par with the most gustatious (Shame on me for thinking I just made that up, just now! sigh.) foodie meccas around the world.

It was a cold January so I'll end with this hot chocolate which I got a kick out of. It was more than chocolate and warm milk, it was participatory food art!

Here's how it started- that's fresh, unsweetened whipped cream served on the side.

Here's what happened when you stirred:

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