Returning to London we stepped comfortably back into a familiar routine, staying in the same flat in Cumberland Terrace Mews which we had occupied in March and April, and visiting the same genealogical libraries for our research.
We really like this area of London. Albany Street runs from the Great Portland Street Underground Station to the edge of Camden Town, the vibrant View from our window punk-rock centre of town. Along Albany Street are a few pubs and stores, a large enclosed military barracks, and lots of housing, including the backs of the Crown Estate properties facing Regent's Park. Our flat was convenient to all the London sights yet generally quiet, except for the occasionally police or fire vehicle which would come screaming down Albany Street. There was a leafy green shade tree outside our breakfast window, and the birds sang sweetly. It was warmer than April, of course, but never unbearably hot all the time we stayed there; the European heat wave didn't strike until a couple of weeks after we left.
Our neighborhood grocery was run by an Indian family, the father glumly counting every penny that crossed the counter, but the son genially greeting us as old customers. We stocked up and set up our computers on the extra table in the living room. For some reason we could not make our telephone connect to the internet; we decided not to bother.
We had a short list of unfinished genealogy tasks, but didn't want to start any large new inquiries, saving that for a return trip to England. We knew the hours of the various libraries and archives, and were pretty familiar with their collections, so all went smoothly. The Society of Genealogists is a good starting point for London research, especially because of the excellent and growing computer databases in the basement of the rather crowded building that houses the Society and its library.
We returned to the National Archives in Kew, where we experimented with photographing documents. Weeks later, our son Bryan patiently walked us through testing our camera's capabilities and we learned there are settings which make document photography a cinch. In Regent's Park
A distant cousin served on Royal Navy destroyers in WW II; we used the recently declassified archives at Kew to find out when and where his ships had been stationed, then had an idea to combine sightseeing with genealogical research. We returned to the Imperial War Museum, which was recently named the outstanding English museum. Formed after World War I, this museum has accurately recorded the activity of British Commonwealth forces from that time forward, as well as the effects of war on the civilian population. Using some books in the bookstore we determined that in 1941 our cousin's destroyer had captured the U-110, along with its critical cryptographic equipment, which enabled Bletchley Hall to decipher the German Enigma ciphers throughout the War, and arguably was essential to victory.
We couldn't leave London without stocking up on books. Foyle's bookstore on Charing Cross Road is just across from Blackwell's and down the street from Borders, amidst perhaps a dozen other good-sized shops, but Foyle's has them all beat! Comprehensive collections on just about any subject, from religion to history to science, and of course a lavish collection of fiction of all kinds; we took as much as we felt we could reasonably carry. We even brought back a supply of books of British cryptic crosswords, which are apparently no longer being imported into the U.S. Polished naval guns
Using our book of London walks, we went again through Regent's Park to Marylebone, through an interesting residential neighborhood and ending up at the Wallace Collection, a museum we had missed on previous trips to London. In the early years of the twentieth century Lord Russell amassed a magnificent collection of 18th and 19th century European art, and stored it all in his London home, Hertford House, which was enlarged as the collection grew. His collecting habits had similarities to those of William Randolph Hearst. Today the walls of Hertford House seem overcrowded, the collections repetitive. We thought the strongest points were the outstanding pieces of furniture, and the weakest the rather large set of landscapes and hunting scenes which have become jigsaw puzzle subjects. But there are major items here, including the Laughing Cavalier and an incredible snuffbox collection.
We found we were anxious to be back in the U.S. We've been reading books and making notes on of our impressions of England and the English, which will be the subject of our final report on this trip.