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Thursday, July 28, 2011

LONDON DAY 7, July 6

We wake up to a hazy Wednesday morning in London, but I'm too excited to care about the weather. We hear laughter and footsteps above our window apartment as commuters head to work. Today is our "explore the area' day, since our 6-day London Pass won't kick in until tomorrow, and it includes unlimited transportation and entry to more venues than we could possibly visit.

We decide to hoof it to the Victoria and Albert Museum (which is about half an hour from our townhome). Along the way, the sun appears. We see that our Westminster neighbourhood is less than a 10 minute walk from the West End theatre district, where WICKED and BILLY ELLIOT are playing.
While we've chosen not to see any shows on this trip, it's still exciting to pass the huge marquees as we make our way to the V & A. (www.vam.ac.uk)
I'm amazed that London's major museums and galleries belong to the people and are therefore, free of charge. And when we get to the museum, the building itself is so beautiful, I want to cry. The museum is really made up of several Victorian structures, all connected and dedicated to art and design.

I was reading a blog about the V & A recently, and it said how the museum is like one gargantuan attic filled with eclectic and massively-scaled artifacts collected by the coolest, quirkiest grandmother you could ever have. Splash in a dose of royalty and I would certainly agree, as it was the brain-child of Prince Albert and soon became a passionate joint-venture he shared with his wife, Queen Victoria.

You can't possibly see the entire museum in one day or even a week, and things do change--new exhibits are interwoven between longstanding ones, in our case, Yohji Yamamoto frocks displayed next to Italian Renaissance sculptures. So we choose the Theatre & Performance Galleries Tour and get a glimpse of the contemporary kookiness found in the displays here, from 19th century carnival performers, to costumes worn by the Beatles.
"Feel free to take photographs," is what our guide tells us, "the museum is meant to be enjoyed." And I somehow feel that the spirits of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria are being channeled through the curators here, delighted in our delight and that they have the chance to surround themselves with such interesting pieces of art and design from all ages and civilizations, in every shape and size imaginable.

"This day is one of the greatest and most glorious of our lives..."Queen Victoria wrote in her journal upon opening the Great Exhibition in 1851."It is a day which makes my heart swell with thankfulness... The Green Park and Hyde Park were one mass of densely crowded human beings, in the highest good humour... the sun shone and gleamed upon the gigantic edifice, upon which the flags of every nation were flying... The tremendous cheering, the joy expressed in every face, the vastness of the building, with all its decoration and exhibits, the sound of the organ... all this was indeed moving."

As we round the corner in the Theatre exhibit,(which is just past the stunning Jewellery display room on the third floor,) we're face-to-face with a collage of Gilbert & Sullivan posters. The brightly-colored posters take up the entire wall.

Rich is absolutely thrilled.

He loves the wit and silliness of their plays and we've seen several productions performed in both professional and amateur theatre.
With so many pieces as big as buildings at the V & A, you really don't need reading glasses, which is wonderful, as I'm just getting used to them, and would much rather be transported to the time in which theses life-sized objects once stood, without them.
We head downstairs and go into the Cast Courts, craning our necks to see replicas of David and ancient Roman pillars, some of which are now the only remaining images of the history they only intended to replicate.
We catch the curators deep in thought amongst the casts wrapped up in styrofoam bandages while part of the room gets re-done. They're discussing how to restore the tile flooring in the courts to their original form, the way Prince Albert chose to have it look.
I want to keep staring at the plasters, but we decide to take the glass elevator up to the 6th floor where the ceramics are held, and find vessels from 100 AD, a ceramics workshop in progress, and a blue willow display that makes me want to start collecting again and Rich very hungry.
He's eager to see the dining hall for the food, but I'm just as anxious to see it for it's beauty. Since we love anything from the arts and craft movement, being in the dining Hall designed by William Morris himself is pretty special,
but it's too busy to find a seat, so we pick a table in another room that's just as grand and go hunting for sweets, Here, even the meringnes are larger-than-life and as big as strong fists.

But we go for the cakes-- a chocolate walnut cake for Rich and me with a lemon cake, knowing I've still got a cherry scone from Henderson's Bistro I'd brought back from Edinburgh. We sip green lemon tea in the dining hall wondering if we could ever be so lucky as to get locked into this place and spend the night in the cast courts, where we'd bring pockets full of meringnes to tide us over.
"Can we go see them one more time?" I ask Rich. We decide to view them from the mezzanine, Rich sitting quietly on a bench, me peering over the railing and knocking the steel boot plate every time I move until Rich joins me and clanks at them, too.
"You'd be surprised how the energy changes once the visitors leave," Jon tells us. He's one of the protectors of the plasters. "It's rather eerie."

Before we leave, we discover the gardens in an outside courtyard. There are hundred of bushes sprouting my favorite flower. Why am I not surprised? Hydrangeas are lining the entire brick exterior. Now I really want to be locked in here.
We take the tube on the way back, since I want to see Victoria station and thank her for marrying Albert, who created such a magical place.
On the way home, we spot a corner pub with pink petunias overflowing from the flower boxes and an image of a person perched on a wooden sign on top of the building.
"It says The Albert," Rich tells me.

"Are you kidding?"

"Nope."
We've managed to find the only pub in England named after my new favorite Prince and we go up to the dining room and dig into the carving station.
I load my plate with slices of turkey, pork and Yorkshire pudding--red cabbage, courgette, roast potatoes and horseradish. Then I gaze at
all the pictures of Prince Albert and his Queen lining the walls of the room.
"To Albert," I say to Rich, lifting up my heaping forkful of turkey as Prince Albert looks over me from out the window of his pub.

1 comment:

  1. That is one of my favorite museums. I've eaten at The Albert pub several times. Service upstairs is hilariously inept, but the food and beer make up for it!

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