A pilgrimage through London reveals the beauty of the banal.
What to do with your last day in London? After twenty years of visiting, my answer hasn’t changed. Walk along the river somewhere. You can never get lost if you steer by the water. I set off from the Charing Cross—London lore defines the city as any point within fifteen miles of the spot—and I begin my journey by replicating the viewpoint of Monet’s Houses of Parliament. I had just seen the famous painting in the National Gallery, where a woman’s voice had decried the tourists for taking pictures of the pictures.
“They won’t stop them from doing it,” she declaimed for all of us silly foreigners to hear, “Heaven knows why.”
In the galleries, I snapped a picture of someone else’s phone held aloft in front of Caravaggio’s Judith, the severed head on the platter miniaturized on the tiny screen. I wanted to preserve my own subjective experience of the museum, which was about jostling for glimpses while tour guides held forth and tourists snapped away.