Visiting galleries in London

Our morning train journey to London was uneventful and the first stop was Somerset House. I had seen the Courtauld Gallery’s exhibition of Georgina Houghton’s work, Spirit Drawings, reviewed in a newspaper when it opened and was keen to see it. She was an early abstract artist who was a spiritualist and said that this was where her inspiration came from. Most of her works are in watercolour and ink, media I have also used. I found it possible to gaze at her intricate works for a very long time. Here is one entitled ‘The Love of God’
Georgina Houghton the Love of God 3 Sept 2016-1
Many of the works in this exhibition are owned by a Spiritualist Society in Melbourne, Australia so if you are not from over there and want to see them, the exhibition is on until 11th September. Somerset House is a wonderful building with some fantastic ceilings.
Somerset House 3 Sept 2016-1
Somerset House 2 3 Sept 2016-1
There were other galleries and in the one devoted to drawing, an collection entitled ‘Regarding Trees’. I particularly liked this drawing from 1504, thought to be the earliest depiction of a tree in its own right.
A tree in winter 1504 Somerset House 3 Sept 2016-1
After fortifying ourselves with coffee, we crossed over to the South Bank via Waterloo Bridge and had a browse in the book fair there. On Saturday there are fewer stalls than in the week and I did not pick up any books but we found a map of New South Wales from 1824 to add to our collection. Further along on Bankside was the annual exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. It is free and also on until September 11th. The annual event ‘Totally Thames’ is currently underway with various acts and displays along the riverside. One I found quite striking is ‘Floating Dreams’ by a South Korean artist. It is constructed from 500 drawings and commemorates the people who died in the Korean War.
Floating Dreams S Korea 3 Sept 2016-1
Our next stop was the Tate Modern to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. When we were last in New Mexico three years ago, we visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, only to find the gallery closed for re-hanging. We did get a tour of her studio however. Having experienced the landscape there, aided our appreciation of her New Mexico landscape works. Over 100 works dating from her teenage sketchbooks to the 1960s are included and also photographs by Alfred Stieglitz whom she married and their friend, Ansel Adams. Photography was not allowed. The exhibition continues until the end of October and is definitely worth seeing. Afterwards we walked back over the river on the Millennium Bridge where these pigeons were resting.
Pigeons Thames 3 Sept 2016-1
The bells were ringing at St Paul’s Cathedral for a wedding but we continued on towards Covent Garden. Once we were there, the warm, humid day called for a cold beer in Philomena’s pub which has so many TV screens that James could catch up with football and rugby at the same time. It turned out to be the London base for the Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club. He had been wondering where that was for a while. We popped into Stanfords to pick up a New Zealand road atlas for next year’s trip and then slowly made our way to Euston Station. Unfortunately some signal problems near Wembley were causing total chaos and although our train left Euston only two minutes late, it took us five hours to get home.

Goodbye New Mexico, hello Arizona

Today began by driving the six miles of R66 which takes you from the Rio Grande in Albuquerque to the junction of the interstate where it switches to the frontage road. This, along with R124, takes you most of the way to Gallup. We passed the Continental Divide – everything ahead of us drains into the Pacific and everything behind into the Atlantic. After a coffee stop in Gallup we left R66 for a detour to the canyons. The road climbs up to Fort Defiance plateau where we drove through a coniferous forest. At Window Rock just past the Arizona border we stopped for lunch and to look at the hole in the rock. We are now in the Navaho Reservation and there are strict rules about photography so I snapped the rock and no people or homes. The road then descended onto the Arizona desert and we had quite a few miles of this before we reached Chinle. The sunflowers, our roadside companions since Illinois were getting fewer in western New Mexico and I thought we had seen the last of them but there are still a few stragglers if there is a roadside ditch. We’ve just had dinner in the hotel and as we are in the reservation – no alcohol can be bought or sold. Fortunately I have my supplies with me. Early night planned tonight so we can fit in a 2 hour walk into the Canyon de Chelly tomorrow morning before heading off to the Grand Canyon. At least I am hoping for an early night as I have to keep giving James tutorials on his iPhone update and switching my PC over to him.

Leaving New Mexico 2Window Rock ArizonaRailrod and rocks NMDead man's bend R66 NM


We drove back into town on old Route 66 and our first stop was at the botanic gardens. There is a wonderful butterfly pavilion, several different gardens and glasshouses including a Japanese garden and a 1920-1940s working farm. The trees provided welcome shade on another hot day. We had yet another storm last night and several places in the state are now flooded. The rest of the morning was spent in the old town around the plaza. There was a guy playing a three-string guitar made from a cigar box and an elderly gentleman pushing his dog around in a pushchair. There were several galleries to browse in and I can’t wait to retire and get back to doing some more painting and other art stuff myself. We visited the Rattlesnake museum and saw a huge collection of snakes, a few other reptiles and spiders. The guy uses the money he makes from the museum and shop to fund conservation and rescuing abandoned snakes. The afternoon was spent back at the hotel lazing by the pool as tomorrow is another driving day.  We are over the Rio Grande and will soon reach the Continental Divide and a new state: Arizona.

Dragonfly at Botanic Garden AlbuquerquePyrgus oileus Tropical Checkered  SkipperOld Town Albuquerque 2Guy playing cigar case guitar Plaza Albuquerque_edited-1

The Turquoise Trail and Cibola National Forest

We left Santa Fe by the Turquoise Trail heading south towards Albuquerque. It is a very scenic drive with some rock formations, great views of the mountains and interesting small towns to pass through. The first was Cerrillos where we saw the railway for the last time and then Madrid where we stopped for a coffee and to pick up some more reading material for a small donation at the Old Boarding House – a great place for a pitstop. According to the guidebook some of the old timers here model for the ‘Nude Geezers’ calendar! After the next town, Golden, we took a detour up to Sandia Crest in Cibola National Forest – the view at the top is supposed to be great. Unfortunately as the weather has been very unsettled of late, the top was shrouded in mist. Just like Scotland and mirroring my experience in La Gomera a couple of years ago: we climbed to the top as you are supposed to be able to see North Africa and had no view because of the clouds. Anyway, we had to come back down the road we drove up as the very tempting alternative was only suitable for 4x4s. We had our picnic at Balsam Grove and had a wander along one of the trails. It was lovely to be in the forest after all the plains and bare rock. There were still some late flowers but I did spot some tiny fungi just a few millimetres across. I saw some rather large non-human footprints (probably bear) but the only other wildlife seen other than birds was a rodent. We eventually arrived in Albuquerque and spent some time in and by the pool. Will explore the city tomorrow as we are back on Route 66Cibola National Forest 2.Great pitstop place in MadridWoodland Flowers 1Having his picnic same time as usRock Formations on the Turquoise Trail

Santa Fe

After a slowish start this morning we drove into town with a stop off at Camel Rock in Tesuque – a rock formation which does look like a camel’s head and has a couple of humps. In town we visited the Georgia O’Keeffe museum which only had a couple of galleries open but we had a free guided tour of their research centre which covered her life and how her work developed. We were shown the early works and colour charts she made and some of the other things she collected and was inspired by including stones, bones and shells. I could certainly connect with her love of nature and the need to create something abstract from it whether that is painting or photography. After a coffee break a little shopping. Found an antique map and antiquarian book dealer and bought a lovely 18th century map of the coast of NW America  from Monterey Bay to Washington State passing though some of the places we love. On the way back to the hotel for some relaxation and planning for tomorrow’s drive to Albuquerque, we popped into a mall for some supplies. James found a music/books/video store and while he was looking at music I discovered the extensive periodical section. I used to love Borders because they had a great selection of magazines and miss their store on Oxford St which was a regular stopping off point when in London. This surpassed even Borders. There was a whole section on magazines devoted to shooting every critter that you can think of, large and small. Another whole section on quilting and even ‘Weed World’ and ‘Skunk – the how-to issue’. In the book section was the equivalent of our ‘Idiot’s Guides’ – this one being for the AR15 rifle. And I thought Santa Fe was a fairly civilised place. Enjoying the mountain scenery and now off to decide on our route down the Turquoise Trail tomorrow.Camel Rock Tesuque NMMarket stall with skullsWindow in Santa FeCourtyard in Santa FeParapet in Santa Fe

The mountains

Last night I was hoping to get out to photograph the numerous neon signs around town but we had a huge thunderstorm just after we got back from dinner. It poured for several hours but had stopped by the morning. Breakfast was at Kix on 66 which is popular with locals as well as tourists judging by the pickups in the car park and stetsons inside. The porridge was great and the pancakes huge. When we set off from Hotel Safari and got back on the road it was not long before we had to divert from old R66 on the frontage road due to flooding and get on the interstate. Not for too long and we were soon back on the old road as it headed north into the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Glorieta Mesa was on our left but on the way we diverted into the Pecos National Historical Site. This has the remains of an old pueblo dating from 1200 and the Spanish mission. There was a short walk around it which was very welcome in the cooler mountain air and after so many hours on the road. We had left our boots in the car so that we could stick them on when needed but when James put his on, the soles fell off. Mine are leather and composite soles so were fine but I had not realised that as the temperature was in triple figures, his rubber soles had perished. After passing over the Glorieta Pass (2,286m so a bit more than Shap or Beattock) and getting into Santa Fe, the priority was new boots so that they could be broken in before the Canyons. Managed to find some and they were even in the sale!  Now having a bit of culture shock after cowboy country, we are in a town with museums, galleries, restaurants and staying at the Hilton. James enjoyed having something other than beef or chicken this evening. Will explore Santa Fe tomorrow – it has at least 3 or 4 bookshops that I have spotted alreadyCamels advert TucumariFlower in nat parkPecos Nat Historical AreaRattlesnake sign

Out of the Panhandle and into New Mexico

First stop today just outside Amarillo was the Cadillac Ranch. Lots of volatile compounds in the air as the thing to do is add some graffiti. Unfortunately everyone just dumps their spray paint can in the field afterwards. The owner (recently accused of pedophilia) has also created some whacky signs which are dotted around the neighbourhood. In big ranching country here – I even spotted a horse motel. We stopped at Adrian’s Midpoint Cafe for elevenses (his pies are famous) and although it’s not really our midpoint (we are doing the Santa Fe loop, Canyon de Chelley, Grand Canyon and Las Vegas) there was a sense of achievement. Even before we crossed into New Mexico, rocky outcrops started to make a welcome appearance out of the prairie and soon we saw Tucumari mountain appearing in the distance and I am looking forward to New Mexico landscapes. Tucumari has many motels; some looking better than others and is a town that has clearly seen better times but is trying hard to overcome this. Lots of murals around town. As we gained an hour (now on Mountain Time) we arrived here early but it was Sunday everything was shut so checked in early to rest before hunting out an evening meal. Ended up at the Pow Wow Inn & Lizard Lounge. I would patronise the local bookshop tomorrow morning but as it does not open until 11.30am and we need to be back on the road before then.

Cadillac Ranch 2Cadillac Ranch 4Ghost town 2Panhandle landscape