Last Day and Home

This post is for Thursday, 28 July and Friday, 29 July

It’s the last day in London and there is still much to do.  First up, this morning we have our last class and today’s final speaker is Marion Nancarrow.  She is a director of radio plays for the BBC having directed over 200 productions and conducts workshops all over the world.  Ms. Nancarrow comes to speak as a result of director a production originally produced by Christina’s theatre company.  Christina went over last winter and played in the drama called North.  Her talk was well received by the students and she was quite inspirational and passionate about her work.

 

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Marion Nancarrow of the BBC Radio.

I left to meet Kerri.  She wanted to do some errands and see a couple of things in the morning.  Our afternoon plans were to do some shopping.  We met outside and headed to Waterloo station to take the tube to Picadilly Circus.  Alighting onto Regent Street we headed up the several blocks to Liberty of London. On the way up Regent Street we passed Carnaby street and the section known as Carnaby in Soho.  This is one of those iconic areas that gained notoriety during the sixties.  Carnaby Street was the cool destination in swinging London of the time.  Many designer boutiques sprung up including Mary Quant.  It is one of those places I keep meaning to get to but, both times have failed.  I’ll hope for 2018 when we return.  Today it is a high end shopping area.  In the 70’s it was turned into a pedestrian mall.

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Entrance to the Carnaby shopping district viewed from Regent Street.

Liberty was just around the corner and we went on to the task at hand.  Liberty is a department store since 1875 and is known for luxury goods and Kerri was looking for a piece of fabric for quilt she and her colleague are making.  Once in the store we browsed for time and a located the fabric and Kerri found the piece she wanted.  We looked a bit more and I tried to find something but, I guess by this time I was shopped out as well as museumed out.

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Liberty of London.

I had one desire this afternoon and that was a walk down Savile Row.  That’s really all you can do.  Savile Row is the mecca for men’s tailoring in London.  The street has a long and varied history but, tailors first began setting up shop in this area in the late 18th century landing on the street itself in the very early 19th century.  Walking down the street, you can look in the basement windows to view something of the workshop of each shop.  On the main floor you can find models of suits and someone to take your order for a bespoke garment.

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A view down the street. The flag is the shop of Hardy Amies, now deceased. He was a designer and best known as a dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth for many years. He established her style from the beginning of her reign in 1952 until his retirement in the 80’s

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The end of the street. We crossed over Regent Street onto Maddox, down to Mill, turned left and Mill becomes Saville Row.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this small adventure, we headed back to the dorm.  This afternoon, the last official meeting of the class is tea.  We are meeting up the class at the Orangery near Kensington Palace.   Christina wanted to walk Kerri and I through a section of Kensington.  She walked this when she attended LAMDA.  It was indeed beautiful.  Below are a couple of buildings that caught my interest – two of many.

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Loved these buildings on the way to tea.

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We arrived at Kensington Palace.  Remember, the Orangery is next door.  We passed by the back of the palace and was able to see the statue of Queen Victoria.

Arriving a little early (our reservation was for 3 pm).  We found a few students already there waiting and the rest soon joined up.

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The statute of Queen Victoria. It was designed by her daughter Princess Louise and sits on the east side of the palace. She is depicted in her coronation robes.

 

 

 

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The exterior of the Orangery where we had tea.

We had a great time.  The tea was perfect and the students enjoyed themselves very much.  We had two tables and it made for a wonderful time to debrief and talk about what we had experienced and just relax before we begin the journey back.

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My table with four of the students. You can see the great things we had to eat.

 

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We had one more group shot thanks to Kerri. We have truly enjoyed this adventure. I am especially proud of all the students and grateful to be able to have this time in London.

After tea, I had one more event. I spent the better part of the last two days packing so, I might join Vikki and her partner , Adam for dinner down at Picadilly Circus.  They had made reservations for a 9 pm dinner at a french restaurant called Brassiere Zedel on Sherwood Street.  I met them a little early for cocktails and then we enjoyed a delicious meal and a bottle of wine.  It made the perfect ending to a perfect journey.

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Time for one last selfie, Adam, Vikki and myself. BTW, Adam is a soloist at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

 

Friday, 29 July

Flying home is never easy.  The trip is long and arduous.   This time was no exception.  Delayed flights made for quick layovers and unfortunately, too short goodbyes – Kerri.  Also, lost luggage which eventually showed up but, nevertheless creating unnecessary stress.  Thanks for coming along on this journey.  I apologize for not keeping up as I went along but, I am certainly grateful I have been able to finish documenting my travel.  Once home, it was good to sleep in my own bed and see my kittens who, by now are starting to get along.  Suri, however has become a little terror and Sheba and I are having to train her.  I think Sheba is better at that than I.

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At home, Sheba on my lap and Suri waiting her turn.

British Museum, Last Performance

This post is for Wednesday, 27 July.

WOW.  We are coming to the end quickly but, we still have a few things left to do.  I must confess, I am getting tired and am beginning to look forward to my own bed and seeing my kittens again.  But, first we have class today which includes another guest speaker, Matt Wolf.  Mr. Wolf is an American living in London.  He is also a theatre critic and a very knowledgeable part of the London theatre community.  He came to London 20 years ago to do an internship and has been there ever since.  Just goes to show, those internships can pay off.   Today he spoke very generally about the theatre scene in London but, he did talk about the longevity of the critic and how he has had the opportunity to observe the careers of actors who come onto the scene.  Sometimes those who show great promise fizzle out and disappear and sometimes there are those who no one notices and suddenly they are everywhere and last.  He spoke specifically of watching actor Ralph Fiennes who is currently appearing as Richard III at the Almeida Theatre.  Mr. Fiennes came onto the scene when Mr. Wolf first began his life in London.  We are fortunate to have speakers like Matt Wolf talk with out students.  For me, it is an education as well.

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Matt Wolf speaks to the class.

After class, we each had things to do.  I wanted to go back to the British Museum and Kerri had to go to a show.  I decided to run back to the dorm and grab some lunch since I was meeting Christina at the museum at 2 pm.  I finished quickly and decided to walk to the museum early and look for some items in the gift shop.  I arrived a little before 1 and the crowds were very large.  Once inside, I realized this may not be the best plan.  It is afternoon and it seems the entire of London has decided to explore the museum today.  I managed to find my way to the gift shop and make my purchases.  It was still early so, I went to the Assyrian galleries.  I don’t know why but, since grad school when I first saw the sculptures and bas reliefs from this ancient culture, I find myself attracted to them.  They are magnificent in their power and majesty.  The exotic quality is also very apparent.

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This was a section from The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III. This is two Assyrian officials and three tribute bearers from Israel.

 

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I believe this is a depiction of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC). Didn’t take a picture of the description. Sorry.

After exploring some of the items from Assyria, I wandered into the Egyptian sculpture room.  By this time, my feet and ankles were already beginning to ache.  The crowds in the museum seemed to have swelled even larger if that was possible.  I wandered down the long gallery and about halfway down, I suddenly came to the realization that I was no longer looking at the sculptures.  Well, I was looking but, I wasn’t taking in anything.  I noticed the people walking around and coming toward me.  Many of them, probably more than half had glazed expressions on their faces.  There were a number of them that seemed to be here for no other reason than they were required to be there and not the least bit interested.  Then there were a number probably like me that were suffering from museum fatigue and nothing was penetrating their brains any longer.  The people were more interesting than the  exhibit.  The enormous crowds were, for the most part, not participating in the museum experience, they were, like me, wandering.  by now it was almost two and time to meet Christina.  I made my way to the atrium and eventually found her among the hordes.  As soon as we saw each other, it almost come out at the same time.  “It was time to leave.”  We were both exhausted and couldn’t handle the large crowds and for my part, I wasn’t seeing anything anyway.  There is a reason, she always brings us to this museum in the morning.  With that, we escaped and headed back to the dorm to rest because we were seeing a show that evening.

This was our last production, not a part of the class.  Sunset at the Villa Thalia is a new play being performed in the Dorfman Theatre at the National.  This is my first time in this theatre.  It is an intimate thrust theatre primarily for newer, perhaps more experimental works.  The cast includes Elizabeth McGovern from Downton Abby.  The play takes place on an island off the coast of Greece.  Act I in 1967 and Act II in 1976.  The playwright has problems decided what story he’s telling.  Is it about the politics of Greece and other countries (USA) involving themselves in local politics or is it about the relationship of these two couples?  The first act was very engaging and Act II went nowhere.  It seemed the portrayal of a CIA operative (for lack of a better word because, we never really know his function within the CIA) is somewhat naive. I don’t believe for instance his wife would know he works for the CIA let alone know what he is doing for them which she talks about incessantly.  Relationships are muddled and I quickly lost interest in these people during Act II.  The performance and the design were again first rate.  McGovern shed Cora’s image in this role which I am certain is what she wanted to do except for one moment when she looked at her husband and it was Cora looking at Robert incredulously.  Well, I guess you can’t expect her to completely change everything.

 

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The set was quite extraordinary. A scene from Act II. We were sitting on the extreme right in the picture. The thrust stage is surrounded on three side by the audience. I would have been looking at Elizabeth McGovern’s back. This image came from the web.

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The two couple in Act I. This image was taken from the web.

 

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Act II. Elizabeth McGovern and Ben Miles. This image was found on the web.

 

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The young playwright and the CIA operative. Their relationship was most confusing of all.  This image was taken from the web.

 

Hampton Court, BBC PROMS

This post is for Tuesday, July 26

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The River Thames is one way to reach the palace of the Tudors. However, we took the train.

 

One of my favorite places to go is Hampton Court.  I don’t know why.  It is so tied up in the history of the Tudors I guess.  I was always fascinated with this time in British history.  Henry, his wives, Elizabeth I.  Initially, it was the clothes I think.  It isn’t particularly attractive but, I loved them all the same.  Once I understood that, then maybe it was the intrigue at court and the drama that played out during this time.

Last time I visited, just walking the paths and the rooms, you can feel the history.  I think it is, for me, like walking the beaches of Galveston, TX.  The history is right there and I connect with it more than most other places.  We took an early train.  Hampton Court is about a 40 minute trip by train even though it is only 11 miles or so from London.  In Henry’s day they rode the river down.  We walked across the river and through the palace gates.  There are essentially two sides to this palace.  The guide book states, ” . . .where you get two palaces for the price of one.  The rose red brick Tudor palace is indelibly associated with Henry VIII.  The baroque palace, first occupied in 1700, has some of the world’s greatest gardens around it.” 

The palace was a gift to Henry VIII from Cardinal Wolsey in 1525.  It was the mainstay palace of English kings and queens until Queen Caroline’s death in 1737.  After that, George II made only rare appearances and began the tradition of letting out unused apartments to “genteel older ladies deserving of royal grace and favour.”

 

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The entry door to the inner courtyard. Impressive.

 

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A number of these guys line the entrance leading up to the entrance to the main courtyard. They are all different and unique.

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In the courtyard. These carved wooden figures, the lady seemingly begging and the gentleman passed out drunk have been added since my last visit. There are several others around the courtyard. The fountain is a recreation of a wine fountain made for Henry in 1520.

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Carving above the entry.

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The tapestries in the Great Hall and the adjoining room, The Great Watching Chamber are magnificent. That they exist at all is amazing. This is from the Great Hall.

 

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A more detailed image of a tapestry from the Great Watching Chamber.

 

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This stained glass bay window (for lack of better term) was probably added later during William III’s rebuilding. He did retain the beautiful ceiling which you can see a little of at the top. For a more detailed view, you can see my post from the 2014 visit to Hampton Court.

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These ghostly figures have been added since my last visit. They are like the ones we saw at Kensington Palace.

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The Queen’s Privy Chamber.

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The Queen’s Drawing Room.

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This gallery on William’s side contains a number of Grecian and Roman statues.

 

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The inner courtyard. The structure is the outside of the Great Hall from Henry’s time.

 

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The beautiful gardens date from the improvements made by William III.

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Adjacent to the Privy Garden are two smaller gardens. Unfortunately, you can never walk in them. Probably fortunately. That’s why they look as good as they do.

 

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Outside the small garden from above.

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It was a beautiful day in those gardens.

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One last shot before we head back to London. This is on the staircase leading up (or down) to/from William III’s apartments.

Before leaving Hampton Court, we had lunch in the Queen’s (Elizabeth) Privy Kitchen, visited the Tennis Courts and the kitchen’s of Henry VIII.  The train ride back to London gave us a moment to decompress and relax.  In the evening, Kerri was off to see a show and Christina suggested we head over to Royal Albert Hall to see a PROMS concert.

The BBC PROMS are held almost nightly during an 8 week period in the summer.  You can buy gallery tickets for 6 pds and stand in the gallery.  We bought our tickets and went in to a magnificent space.  We stayed for only part of the concert because we were both tired by the time we got in but, I am grateful for the chance to see the inside of that beautiful space and the concert was glorious.  Next visit we committed to getting a seat so we could enjoy the whole concert.  Ironically, the piece we heard was based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest by Tchaikovsky.

 

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The outside of Royal Albert Hall.

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The inside is just as beautiful as the outside – maybe more.

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Buckingham Palace, The Seagull

This post is for Monday, 25 July.

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Buckingham Palace as we walked around to enter on the far side. This is the home of the royal family and for a few months each year during the summer and early fall, it is open for tours.

Today, Kerri and I are going to Buckingham Palace to see the palace but, more importantly an exhibit of Queen Elizabeth’s fashions over 90 years in celebrations of her 90th birthday.  The exhibition opening only two day before our visit.  We are lucky to be in London during the short time it is on at the palace.  We booked our tickets last night for 1:30 expecting the crowds to be large.

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This image was used for all the publicity for Fashioning a Reign.

Of course, as we found our way to the entrance we discovered we were correct.  It was packed.  I feared we might never get in even with tickets purchased in advance.  However, I underestimated the organizational skills and calm of the British.  It was amazing.  Everyone on the staff that we came into contact with was so helpful and polite and simply made the visit incredibly easy despite the huge numbers of people.  I was impressed with how well the crowds were treated and moved about with ease.  We began the process of going in at the appointed time.  We had to go through intense security and we not allowed to photograph in the palace of course.  Everywhere we turned, we were greeted warmly and kindly and with respect.  Exactly what you might expect being a guest in the home of the queen.

The walk through included all the rooms of state in the palace and the exhibition which was set up in three very large rooms – the Ball Supper Room, the Ball Room and the State Dining Room I believe.  We saw the Grand Entrance and Grand Hall, Grand Staircase, Guard Chamber, Green Drawing Room, the Throne Room, the Picture Gallery, the Blue Drawing Room, the Music Room, the White Drawing Room, the Minister’s Staircase, Marble Hall and finally the Bow Room.   I list them all so if you want to google them you can see what they look like.

I did find some image online and from the guide book I purchased so I include them here to prime the pump so to speak.

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from the guide book – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the White Drawing Room – 1966

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from the guide book – The Grand Staircase during an event of Queen Victoria’s time and on the right as it appears today.

The exhibition of the queen’s clothing was extensive and the crowds were enormous.  The audio guides slowed down the movement of the crowds.  I didn’t take one so I was able to move a little more quickly but sometimes it difficult to get very close to see what was what.  The first section was early and included the christening gown (now a reproduction for the modern royals), the gowns Elizabeth and Margaret wore to their father’s coronation in 1937.

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Elizabeth and Margaret in front with Queen Mary. These are the gowns in the exhibit.

The rest of the exhibition included a group of dresses worn to various weddings, dresses worn for state visits to other countries, dresses worn for state occasions in England, a look at her millinery and the milliners she has used over the years and some of the various designers that have dressed the queen during her life.  I found the following images on line to give you an idea of the scope and scale.

A member of the staff makes final adjustments to one of the displays. These dresses were from an earlier part of her reign, late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

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Sketch by Norman Hartnell of the coronation gown. He did eight sketches before he got to what she wanted. It was full of symbolism including silks only from England and the beading included he Tudor rose for England, the thistle for Scotland, the leek for Wales, the shamrock for Ireland, wattle for Australia, the maple leaf for Canada, the fern for New Zealand, protea for South Africa, lotus flowers for both India and Ceylon, and Pakistan’s wheat, cotton, and jute. Unbeknownst to the queen, a single four leaf clover was added on the left of the dress, just where her hand would brush throughout the day. In order to carry and distribute the weight of all the embroidery, the dress was lined in taffeta and three layers of horsehair.  This was included in the exhibition.

 

 

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Dresses from the 1960’s and 1970’s. I do remember the blue one was for the 1972 Montreal Olympics.

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Wedding Dress. Note the extensive interlinings that give the skirt those crisp folds. Typical of the New Look in 1947.

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On many of the displays, pictures of her wearing the dresses were included. This was great for giving context to the gowns.

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This image gives a sense of the size of the exhibition. I believe this is in the Ballroom of the palace.

After leaving the exhibition which was in the central part of the tour of room, we went into the Picture Gallery for one and I discovered one of my favorite paintings.  Franz Xaver Winterhalter is one of my favorite portrait painters (along with John Singer Sargent and Thomas Gainsborough).  Her painting of Queen Victoria and her young family was hanging in this gallery.  So excited to see this in person.  The detail of his work comes through even when reproduced in books.

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from on line – the Winterhalter painting of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the young family – Prince Edward is with the queen, the Princess Royale is to the far right. Year 1846

Exhausted we left the palace for walk out the back which included a gift shop.  The most unexpected part was the beautiful and tranquil setting in the back of the palace.

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Walking out – this is the back door. The white awning are set up during this time when tours are open. They include a cafe. We are standing about where the gift shop was located.

 

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The walk out included this small lake. It was a beautiful day and the walk (about 10 minutes to the exit) helped us recover our senses from the intensity of the visit to the palace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we exited the palace grounds, we found the nearest tube stop and headed back to the dorm to rest and get ready for the evening’s performance.  Tonight we saw The Seagull by Anton Chekhov.  This is the second of the Young Chekhov series showing at the National.  The production was first rate.  They used the base set from the previous production we saw with some hefty additions.  They retained the water element creating a strong symbolism when Nina (the seagull) walks through the water to the house.  The actors which included Anna Chancellor as Arkadina (I saw her play Amanda in Private Lives broadcast to the cinema a couple of years ago) was superb and the play while not as funny as Platanov was incredibly entertaining until the suicide of Konstanin which was a little disconcerting but appropriate.  My only issue with this production was the time setting.  For some reason, beyond understanding, they chose to set it in what appeared to be the 1930’s.  For me, this makes absolutely no sense.  I don’t see how these people could have existed after the revolution.  Chekhov’s plays proceed and tosome extent foreshadow the revolution.  I found myself trying to make sense of this choice to the point that I was taken out of the story and the events taking place on the stage.

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Before the show on the bank of the Thames River just outside the theatre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anna Chancellor as Arkadina. Photo found on line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long and Winding Road Part 3

This is for Sunday, 24 July.

On this day Kerri and I visited Bath.  Bath is one of my favorite places.  It has an internationally known Fashion Museum as well as being the home of the Royal Crescent.  The town itself is an amazing collection of Georgian architecture.

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Paddington Station where we begin our trip.

 

 

The day began early taking the tube to Paddington Station where we caught our train for the 1 hours, 40 minute trip out to the western part of the country.  Bath is located in Somerset County.  The station is very busy on a Sunday morning because a lot of people are traveling outside London on the weekend.  Travel is easy and relatively inexpensive so day trips seem common.  Arriving at the station we must wait until they reveal from which platform the train will depart.  The monitors you see in the photo are constantly changing and it’s funny to see lines of people standing and staring at the screens waiting for their cue to head to the platform.  Once the platform appears, dozens of people take off to board the train.

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The entrance to the Fashion Museum which found in the Assembly Rooms building.

Arriving in Bath, we made our way immediately to the Fashion Museum.  Looked like rain was coming and this was first on our list of places to see.  We bought tickets to this, #1 in the Royal Crescent and the Architecture Museum.  The exhibit in the Fashion Museum had been completely changed since my visit two years ago and it was great to see completely different items in the collection (which is extensive).  It is much smaller than you might expect.  I remember thinking two years ago that it was much smaller than I expected.  Some of the pieces I saw included

 

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1760’s Robe a la francaise or saque dress.

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1740 Closed Robe Gown

 

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1790, Man’s frock coat. This style might be found in our upcoming production of Sense and Sensibility at UK.

 

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These dresses date from the early 19th century. More research for Sense & Sensibility. Jane Austin lived in Bath for a number of years.

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There are several of these rooms within a room showing the extensive collection the museum possesses. You can see the cases and boxes in the background, all housing additional garments from this period. These dresses are from 1822-1838.

 

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A detail from the 1838 dress.

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Bodice detail from a dress of 1842.

After touring the museum in the basement we went upstairs to walk through the Assembly Rooms.  Below is one of them, the Ball Room.  This could be considered a community center in the day for the wealthy.

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This is the ball room.

 

Fancy Dress Ball at the Bath Assembly Rooms by Thomas Rowlandson

This is a fancy dress ball in what appears to the room above. It is a satirical drawing by Thomas Rowlandson from the period.

 

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Kerri and I at the Royal Crescent.

Leaving the museum, we walked around to the Royal Crescent which is a semi-circular structure that sets near the top of the town.  It is a collection of very large town homes in the Georgian style .  It was built between 1767 and 1774 and contains about 30 town homes.  You can tour #1 which we did.

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This is the Circus another crescent shaped group of town homes except that it forms a complete circle.

As we headed back down we walked through the Circus (see note above).  Between 1758 and 1774 #17 was the home of Thomas Gainsborough, the painter as his portrait studio.

We walked down to the Architecture Museum which was small and by then we were beginning to tire.  Along the way I saw this church.

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Think it was a catholic church as I recall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We made our way back into the main part of town starving by this time.  We found a restaurant that looked possible and collapsed.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, at little late.  It was leisurely because the service was slow but, that was okay, we were tired.  That coupled with the rain that began to fall as we went in.  It continued to rain for most of the time we sat waiting and eating.  So, again no complaints.  Finishing lunch we felt it was time to head home so we quickly headed to the train in order to catch the next one which was fairly quick.  On the ride back to London we both napped a bit.

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The train at Bath station.