Today is my last day. Tomorrow morning it is back the way I came. This has been an unbelievably enriching experience. Enriching in ways I didn’t expect.
Today, I went to the Museum of London. I took some pictures but they are on my other camera so sorry, no pictures save one.
This afternoon, the class met for the last time and had tea at a beautiful restaurant. This evening, I am attending my last theatre performance, Matilda which is a musical based on the Roald Dahl children’s novel.
I have to be up early to catch the train to Heathrow. Thanks for reading and following along. Thanks for the wonderfully positive comments on this effort. I feel very blessed and am grateful.
Yesterday we went by train to see Hampton Court Palace. For me, this was another trip to Mecca. The Tudor period is one of my favorite, although not one of the easiest times, especially if you had displeased the king. I took a lot of pictures since we could photograph within most of the palace. Rather than talking, I will just let you look.
We returned to the city, took a brief rest and headed out for the evening production at The National Theatre, A Small Family Business by Alan Ayckbourn. One the way, we had to stop by the backstage of The Book of Mormon to see Gavin Creel. Christina, being an old friend, needed an autograph for someone. He was gracious enough to oblige and I snapped a quick photo for her.
The play was a farce. I have heard Ayckbourn referred to as the British Neil Simon. He certainly is an institution like Simon. The production was very good but, I must confess, I had difficulty watching. Perhaps a combination of tired and the realism of the play. This is the first uber realistic production we have seen. It took me awhile to adjust. The set was incredible – six rooms on one set, two floors with working bathroom and kitchen. If nothing else, it was worth seeing for that.
After my day of recovering, I was up and at it again. It was yet another exhausting day. However, I feel I have gotten my final wind for the last two days.
Yesterday, it was back to the Globe Theatre for another grueling stand with the groundlings performance, this time Julius Caesar.
We headed out a little early in order to go by Waterloo station and re-purchase train tickets to Hampton Court. (As I write this, we have just returned from there but, that is tomorrow’s entry.). After securing the tickets we walked up to the theatre. On the way, we came down this beautiful little street. Roupell Street. It was the row houses I have come to recognize but these had a simplicity that was charming. The doors were the only thing that set the apart individually. My favorite was a red, then orange, then purple and on. Christina loved the pale blue so that was the one I photographed.
Once we got to the river, we went into the Tate Modern Art Museum to look at some of the galleries before class met. We decided to meet on the lawn in front of the museum. I got through a couple of galleries and include a couple of my favorite paintings. The museum is another good example of how the British re purpose buildings. The building was the old oil fired power station for the city. The museum spaces are quite wonderful. Large and spacious. You never feel crowded no matter how many people are in the galleries.
After class we moved up to the Globe Theatre in order to get in line early to secure good spots in the courtyard. I, of course was not interested in being too close again. Once the line queued into the courtyard it was a short wait but, while we waited a couple of the actors came out and we were treated to a puppet show (comic-they were quite brilliant) about Caesar.
The doors opened and I secured a good spot at the back. Everyone else went to the front this time. I soon realized this might not be a good thing. I was standing in the sun and judging from its position it seemed unlikely to be obscured during the performance. I was joined by two charming ladies and we struck up a conversation. They wanted to know where I was from and how long I had been in London etc. They were friends who liked coming to theatre and they were so excited to be at the performance.
The performance, again, was excellent but, not as strong as Titus. The act break for this performance came after Caesar’s funeral and Act II becomes basically battle after battle as they try to round up the conspirators. There were some strong performances but, they were much more uneven. Mark Antony and Casca were particular standouts. The design was standard practice which means they employ Renaissance costumes (with Roman suggestion) and staging. This allowed the audience to see what it might have looked like in Shakespeare’s time. It allowed you to see the weakness in the play. He wrote this for the opening of the original Globe Theatre and the commentary in the program explains he wrote to ensure success. As a result he took no risks concentrating on long speeches with no humor to offset the tragedy.
At intermission, I was feeling the heat and my two new friends sought cooler area with no sun wjile I stuck it out. For my trouble, I got a little too much sun but, I survived until the end.
Vikki had invited us up to Walthamstow to have dinner. This was a long ride on the tube. We had just enough time to stop for frozen yogurt and change (I needed to after standing in the heat for 3 hours). We needed to by an extension for our tube passes since we would be going into zone 3. The ride up was packed tight – rush hour.
I managed to get us lost or not lost but a great deal of confusion and we arrived 20 min late. Vikki and Adam were the most gracious hosts and we enjoyed dinner very much. After some excellent wine and good conversation we made out way home in order to get ready for the next day (which is currently almost over but, you will have to wait for that til tomorrow.
Well, I guess it was bound to happen. I succumbed to fatigue and today became a day to rest.
This morning, we were supposed to journey out to Hampton Court. We had our train tickets and went down to Waterloo Station. We arrived a bit early and while waiting for our train it was announced that several trains were being delayed due to an accident at the Wimbledon station. We subsequently learned someone had been struck by a train. Eventually our train was canceled since it goes through that station. This morning when I woke I was not feeling well but, I couldn’t say what was wrong. Very tired and not able to concentrate. In fact coming down from breakfast, Christina said, ” Are you okay?”
Since we couldn’t make it to Hampton Court Christina decided we could flip today and Wednesday. So, after getting a refund on the tickets, we headed off to have class at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The class discussed the last play we saw and then we took them on a tour of the theatre exhibition and the historic fashion exhibitions. I got a few more pictures. See below.
After that, I wanted to return briefly to Harrod’s to pick up a gift and the we returned to our rooms by 1 pm. I have spent the rest of the day in bed and feel better so, hopefully, I will be able to stand for almost three hours tomorrow to watch Julius Caesar at the Globe Theatre.
This morning we got an early start so we could make the 9 am train to Brighton which is a seaside resort almost due south of London. The train delivered us in just over an hour. We wanted to make an early start in order to get a jump on the tourist.
Christina wanted to show me the Royal Pavilion. I hadn’t a clue what that was but assumed it was some temporary structure created for a significant event in the history of the town or country much like the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The pavilion it turned out was a royal palace built by George IV during the very early years of the 19th century while he was Prince of Wales, then Regent and finally King. The palace was his main residence and eventually went to his brother William IV and finally to Queen Victoria who felt it was not suitable for her growing family. She sold the property to the city of Brighton and removed all the furnishings to other estates. The city has over time restored it and made it available for tours.
The palace is somewhat hard to describe and I can only say it is magnificent in its gaudiness and gaudy is putting it mildly. The architecture is Indian in nature and the interior is some kind of distorted Asian/Chinese aesthetic that is luxurious but a bit unsettling at times.
I couldn’t photograph the interior but took a number of pictures of the building. Judge for yourself but trust me no photograph will ever capture the splendor of this palace. Inside, for example the grand dining room which is grand (to be expected) has a shallow central dome with a 30 foot chandelier (weighing in at a ton). The center of the chandelier is fairly traditional cut glass but there are six dragon heads coming out of the glass exhaling giant lotus lamps. The chandelier is suspended from a silver winged dragon with a 12 foot tongue. The rest of the room is just as extravagant. The music room has many serpents coiling down painted columns and sculpted ones coiling down actual columns. I did take a few photos of interior items from the guide book to give you an idea.
After our visit, we headed down to the beach, toured the pier and enjoyed an hour laying on the beach. We went up to restaurant with the “best fish and chips” in the city for lunch. I got in the obligatory fish and chips meal. Done and done.
The trip back was uneventful and I have managed to relax a little this evening. Still trying to get some laundry done. Now that the facility is fixed, the lines are long. Tomorrow we go to Hampton Court.
I am submitting another post today since in the morning we must get an early start to catch the train for Brighton (on the coast). Somehow, I thought I was going to take it easy but, I was wrong. I did get a good sleep last evening – at least 8 hours. My plan was rise, have breakfast and do some much needed laundry. However, the laundry facilities were down. Since I was out of underwear and t shirts, I had to make up trip up to Oxford Street and buy fresh. I found a department store and and bought the necessary items.
Feeling better about my clothing situation Christina suggested we leave early – today is the day we have tickets for The Crucible at the Old Vic Theatre. Basically, for me, this is unquestionably going to be one of the high points of this trip – seeing a play at one of the most storied theatres in theatre history. But, I digress.
Christina thought we could go down (by tube) to Victoria Station, buy the tickets for Brighton and the walk down to the Old Vic by way of Westminster. Accepting that it was Saturday and likely to be jammed with tourists, we figured it would be easy enough to walk by (not go in) and take a few pictures. The best laid plans……..
We came out of Victoria Station and headed up Victoria Street. This street is very modern and really felt more like, NYC. Lots of building going on and not much old or attractive. We did pass one interesting church which I, think was the Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral.
We got to Westminster Abbey and the crowds began to swell. By the time we fought (and I do mean fought) our way across the street to Westminster Hall (Parliament) the crowds were surging and movement became almost impossible with people blocking the sidewalk taking pictures (I had given up at this point). We literally fought our way to Bridge Street. The sidewalks were thick with people and across the street (on the side we needed to be on) there was a protest. I don’t mean a few people with signs, there were a lot of them. We had no choice so, into the swarm we went and it was the Palestinians protesting so it wasn’t real comfortable. We made it down to the bridge to cross the Thames and the tensions quickly eased.
Once we got across we moved onto the Old Vic. We were early so, we went to the bar for a sandwich and a glass of wine. We were both looking forward to seeing this production. The reviews have been excellent and we have avoided reading them. However, we do know the production runs 3 1/2 hours with one interval. We had great seats in the upper balcony and the theatre was almost full. The theatre for this season has been reconfigured into arena seating (in the round). It is interesting to note that an American (Kevin Spacey) has been the artistic director for the last ten years.
This production was beautiful, terrifying and totally mesmerizing. From the opening moments the director establishes the tone with a death march-like ritual of establishing the setting. The tensions build through out the evening until the devastating conclusion. You are drawn into the conflict and, for me, anger and tears for those wronged by the hunt. Miller wrote the play in the fifties as a reaction to the witch hunt going on in Washington with House UnAmerican Activities Committee. This production, while somewhat (can’t really be helped, it is written that way) melodramatic captures the tensions, the emotions and most importantly the fear of the community. The acting of the ensemble (24 actors) was brilliant and the design of the production was just fabulous. The spare set was created for each scene by the actors and the ritualistic nature contributed to the dark mood of the play. I could go on and on.
We left the theatre exhausted because it was emotionally draining and headed up to Hampstead. Christina wanted to take me to this crepe stand that we couldn’t go to the first time because it was closed. It was worth the wait. The line was longish but the show with the two french guys running it was worth the wait. They were charming and good-looking even though Christina said they could be a little curt with customers. Their running dialogue in French as they worked together was fun and the food was very good. We found a bench on the street, enjoyed dinner which Christina pointed out was probably not very good for us. Rich with a lot of butter and cheese. After eating we went back the the Holly Bush Pub. I enjoyed a gin and tonic and relaxed in this most British of institutions.
It has been an excellent day with many surprises and it won’t be long til I’m home. This time next week I’ll be back in my own bed.
The trip to Bath yesterday was like walking through another museum. The village/town is a walk into history. Quite frankly, I find it almost impossible to describe in words the experience. Looking back over my journal of the last two weeks, I use superlative after superlative to describe this experience. I have to ask myself at what point does that become redundant?
Bath is essentially a city of the Georgian period and you will see from the architecture that is obvious. However the ancient Romans in the 1st century CE discovered the mineral rich water warmed naturally was a source of healing which the Georgians continued in “taking the waters”. They still exist but are no longer used. The Royal Crescent was designed by John Wood and built in the second half of the 18th century. There are 30 individual houses within the structure with No. 1 a restored museum (sorry, no pictures) of a Georgian town home. It was a delightful tour. Bath Abbey was built during Saxon times around 1499. It is in the lower section of town. The main reason for my trip was to visit the Fashion Museum of Bath. The museum is an internationally recognized destination for the research and exhibition of fashion dating from the 17th century thru the present day. We also passed through The Circus on our way to the Royal Crescent which is a roundabout with Georgian town homes in a smaller version of the Crescent.
We enjoyed lunch at an excellent Italian restaurant – Carluccios.
Yesterday, I was able to return to the Victoria & Albert Museum. This post may need to be short as I have to catch the train for Bath in about 45 minutes.
Christina accompanied me to the museum for part of the day and we had lunch at the museum.
The food at the museum is excellent. I ate a lot on this day. I spent the afternoon touring and taking in as much of the museum as I could. Items I was most interested in were the clothes.
I was pleased to find one of the dresses Janet Arnold documented in one of her books.
I worked my way through several more galleries and by 4, I was exhausted. It is just so much stuff. It is impossible to take in any small amount of items. But, at least I can say I tried.
I left around 4 and went back to my room to lay down for an hour before we went up to Islington to see Mr. Burns at the Almeida Theatre. This is a difficult play. It has been polarizing since since it’s premier in New York and was apparently more so in London. The play is very complex and brings a lot to the table. I enjoyed it immensely but, am still trying to process what I witnessed. I’ll leave it at that for now. I have to catch the train.
Yesterday, was a relatively quiet day since I blew my mind on the National and was feeling a strong case of museum fatigue. Christina and I had a nnumber of errands that required going from one end of the city to the other. It seemed a good day to take care of those.
In the morning the class heard from Samuel West, an old friend of Christina’s from her days as a student at LAMBDA. She had also appeared in a producion of Arcadia with him at the time. Mr. West is from an acting dynasty and today regularly appears in theatres around London as well as film and TV. He most recently played Bertie in Hyde Park on the Hudson and, I believe, regularly appears on the BBC/PBS series Mr. Selfridge. He is also very involved in politics and arts funding in the UK. His talk was very interesting to me particularly his discussion on the later topic.
We got on the road quickly after that and headed first to the Wallace Collection to have lunch and reserve space on the last day in London for tea. The walk over brought out a number of lovely surprises including Nelson House and Wimpole Street.
We also passed by this small church/cathedral.
The Wallace Collection proved to be a lovely structure housing a small collection of 18th century art. I resisted the temptation. After a very good lunch in the covered courtyard, we headed for Paddington Station via the tube to get tickets for ojr trip to Bath on Friday. The line at the train station wasn’t long but we had to wait forever.
Leaving Paddington journeyed south to Waterloo station to buy tickets for the class trip to Hampton Court on Monday. Acquiring those tickets we were now free to do a little sightseeing. We went up to Charing Cross Rd to browse through the used book stores (something I definitely do not need). I am afraid I couldn’t find the book (s) on your list Rhoda. After that we went over to Covent Garden and the Royal Opera thus completing our My Fair Lady tour of the day.
By that time we were ready to call it quits since we return to the National Theatre to see Medea with Helen McCrory. We went back to the hostel and I had a short lay down and we went back to south bank for the show. We took the tube to Charing Cross and walked across the bridge to south bank. On the way I got some better pictures of Westminster and Big Ben.
The production in the Olivier Theatre of the National was stunning. Every element of the production was carefully chosen to create an intensity warranted for the ancient Greek drama. McCrory’s performance began at such a high level. I wondered how she could continue but, she did not disappoint. Her controlled and passionate portrayal was riveting. The design was intelligent with consistent nods to the ancient Greek traditions of performance and production. By the way, it was a contemporary production.
Good morning. After two days of not attending the theatre I am back tonight. Sorry, I did not get the post up last evening but I was really tired.
I returned to the National Portrait Gallery late in the morning in order to more closely observe some of the paintings and snap a few more pictures. On the way I passed by St. Martin-in-the-Fields church.
I got to the gallery and took a moment to acclimate. Couldn’t resist another look at the portrait of Princess Catherine but, was primarily interested in the Tudor/Elizabethan portraits and went as far as the 18th century.
I am fascinated with being able to see painting techniques to achieve certain effects and you simple cannot see that in a photograph of a painting. In the 18th century section I found this guy and include him for my friend Danny.
I finished up at the NPG and did a little run through the gift shop (never can resist that). While I checking out, Christina called. She had completed her errands and she joined me for lunch. We lunched at the National Gallery next door and then went through the museum. Sorry, no photography allowed. It was an intense afternoon of museum browsing. After two full galleries that included the 17th century and the 18th – early 20th century she had had enough but, there was still two more hours and while I was exhausted I still wanted to see the late Medieval Renaissance galleries. That was a mistake probably because I began suffering from severe museum fatigue by the time I left but, I didn’t think I would be able to make it back. Here is an over view of the galleries I went through from the museum guide.
I couldn’t get to the Arnolfini portrait. I did see it but, couldn’t really get close due to the crowd and I was too tired. I didn’t see the Van Gogh paintings. Just missed them.
In the evening we attended a play called Let the Right One In. It is based on a Swedish film from 2008 and novel of the same name. It was hauntingly beautiful, appropriate as it is a vampire story. The setting was stunning and it tells the story in a rather abstract manner befitting the gothic nature of the story. A good deal of stylized movement and a lot blood. The acting was first rate. I was struck by the parallel with the Curious Incident – marginalized teen-age boy. Of course this has been a bloody summer of plays with this, Titus and tonight we are seeing Medea at the National Theatre.