[from two weeks ago- still playing catchup]
Finally got in touch with our friends Lori and Gideon, who had been down at the reunion in Frome, and they reiterated their invite to come stay with them in London, which I happily accepted. I uneventfully got myself to the Brighton station and took the train to London, which was mercifully less expensive than the cross country adventure I had taken a few days earlier. I arrived at the Victoria station and couldn't contact Lori for a while, so I went straight away to the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham, which I knew I wanted to see, and was only a short walk from the station. As a bonus, they had a coat check that could take my travel bags (a lot of them don't, as I learned later) The funny part was that they had to do a security check like you'd get at the airport, seeing as how close to the Palace they are, and the girl there was quite thorough in her inspection of my dirty socks etc, to the only slightly stifled annoyance of a couple of blue hairs waiting in the queue. Mostly I had come to see the architecture and the statues by Sandy Stoddart, who had been at the Classical Traditions Conference last year. I was not disappointed by those, though the collection was a bit thin, despite a nice Rembrandt biblical painting.
|Queen's Gallery at Buckingham, architecture by John Simpson, sculptures by Alexander Stoddart.|
After that I went down the street and saw the bear hat guards out in front of the Palace, sat by the fountain, then walked down to try to see Apsley House, which would not allow my bags (or photography- so forget them!) Went to the Hyde Park rose garden, which was hitting its stride and had a number of unusually beautiful flowers and combos, then heard from Lori and got on the tube to follow her directions to their house, on a lovely little park called de Beauvoir in NE London.
Next day got up and went in to see the Soane Museum, where Sir John Soane had assembled a packrat's collection of ancient architectural fragments and molds, paintings by Hogarth, a Canaletto, and amazing watercolor renderings of his projects by his compatriot Joseph Gandy. The house is a fun glimpse into the kind of accumulative mentality of the early 19th century, with items piled and hung one on top of the other in dusty profusion. The pictures gallery has giant swinging doors that allow pictures to be hung on both sides, thereby maximizing the amount of art that could be hung. Many of the rooms seem larger than they are by virtue of their designs, and the whole house has light channels that flood the interiors with amber light through tinted skylights all the way to the subterranean level. The library is of course very enviable, with notebooks of thousands of original Adam brothers drawings from their Grand Tour of Europe (what I'd give for a week or two to look through those!) I hear I just missed the reopening of some of his personal rooms by a day or two, so if I make it back to London, it might be worth another visit. Especially since they also ban photos (boooo!!) so i could take another shot on sneaking a few more.
|John Soane's museum, a packrat's delight!|
After a quick lunch I walked over to the nearby British Museum, where I was pleased to learn that it's FREE, and they do NOT prohibit photos. Featuring a cornucopia of artistic gleanings from around the world, including the Elgin Marbles taken from the Parthenon, the museum is an encyclopedic look at the world's physical cultures. Despite my four hours of intensive scrutiny there, I need to go back again, as I entirely missed the prints and drawings collection, and a bunch of other things I'm interested in. This is not a one day museum! It's all housed in a great building too, with polychrome neoclassical Greek ornaments, designed by Robert Smirke in the early 19th century. Hall after hall opens up, with bits you'll recognize and many you won't. And then there's the recently glassed over central court, by Norman Foster, which allows a nice amble in climate control, but appears to be aging rather badly after just 15 years.
|Ceiling of the BM addition looks pretty cool- until you look closely at the pigeon debris!|
After they dragged me out of there (kicking and screaming "no!!") I walked about for a bit in central London, trying to get any semblance of familiarity from the last time I was here, in 1978. I couldn't. It all seems so much more commercial than my memories of it, with so much street level activity everywhere. Restaurants, shops, adverts, kiosks, walkstreets, and general crowds seem so much thicker than I remember. I'm sure the same thing would be true of New York or even LA if I hadn't been there in the intervening years, but it's strange to be somewhere you know you've been before and not recognize a single thing.
|Not quite sure what they were thinking with this modern addition to town. Total disharmony.|