London attractions we enjoyed
by artslover on October 8, 2010
We went to see a Saturday afternoon performance of Henry IV, Part 1. It was delightful. The story is basically a coming of age story of Prince Hal, who must mature to become King Henry V. Over the two plays, he changes from loveable madcap to charismatic martial hero with unselfconscious ease, leaving others to marvel at the suddenness and subtlety of the transformation. What makes Part 1 such a crowd pleaser is Falstaff, played by Roger Allam. Falstaff is a shrewd old soldier, disreputable but quick witted. He tries to get the most out of life with the least amount of effort, fooling almost everyone but himself.We ordered our tickets, as well as seat cushions, online before leaving for London and picked them up at the theatre. The queue for ticket pick up was rather long and we missed the first few minutes of the play. We had seats on the lower level rather than stand in the yard, which turned out to be prudent since it started raining just as intermission started and continued to rain lightly for the rest of the performance.After the performance, we visited the shop to buy a Henry IV t-shirt as a memento.
My DH is a long time, often long suffering, Arsenal fan. We decided to buy tickets for the Arsenal match against West Bromwich Albion, a newly elevated team, thinking it would be a less popular choice that the other matches in September and October when we were planning to visit. But to ensure we got three tickets, my son and I bought Arsenal memberships although neither of us are die hard Arsenal fans. As soon as the tickets were available online, we purchased our tickets. It was not a cheap method to secure tickets but it worked.The entry system is very slick. The plastic membership card allows you into the stadium gates and reads whether or not you have tickets for the particular match which is on that day. I brought our email confirmation but it really wasn’t necessary except to remember our seat location.The new stadium is very spacious and access to food and drink, and more importantly, the toilets was excellent, no queuing at all, even during half time.Our seats were in the club zone with a very good view of the entire pitch. Too bad Arsenal lost the match.
I just love the National Gallery and wish I lived in London so I could visit it monthly, if not weekly. We didn’t go to a special exhibition. We just visited some of the permanent collection. I particularly wanted to see the newly cleaned Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Virgin of the Rocks, which was back on display after 18 months of specialist conservation work. The painting had been covered with a layer of badly discoloured varnish from the late 1940s. But after expert cleaning and a new frame, the painting has been restored to its former glory. It is now much easier to appreciate the painting’s full tonal range, especially in the darker areas.I adore how you walk into any room of the Gallery and your eye gets caught by a masterpiece. We lingered over some of my favourites, Caravaggios, Titians, and Turners. But when we decided to leave, I almost got whiplash trying to catch all the beauties in the rooms we passed through as we headed to the exit.
We bought our tickets online the day we decided to visit the Gallery. The website tells you that there are some tickets available to buy in person but recommends you purchase ahead of time to ensure you can get in when you want. It was good advice. Even though we went on a Friday, there was quite a queue waiting to go in and by the time we arrived, half an hour before our booked time, there were no more tickets available for the morning or early afternoon.We looked a bit in the gift shop while we waited for our booked time. Nothing there interested me – mostly knick knacks about the Queen or Buckingham Palace.The Gallery was showing pictures, sculptures, furniture and other objects owned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Some of the things had been publicly displayed but many of the objects were personal, given to each other for birthdays and private celebrations. Some of the paintings were very interesting and important, e.g. a Duccio, some good Cranachs, which were selected by Prince Albert, who studied art history which was then a new discipline. A number of the paintings which hung in private rooms featured nude women, which blows away the idea of Victorian prudery being the character of Queen Victoria, at least, not while she was happily married. The exhibition also included a number of decorative objects designed by Prince Albert, some employing the new technology of electroplating. It ends with the death of Prince Albert. We left thinking Prince Albert was a lot more interesting person than Queen Victoria.
The Museum was designed by Soane, one of Britain's greatest architects, and was his home as well as his private Museum. It is a building of originality with its picturesque vistas and inventive handling of light and space. Soane’s collections – architectural fragments, Graeco-Roman marbles, casts, paintings, sculpture and furniture – are combined with the architecture of the building, and are still arranged today as they were at the time of his death in 1837. The result is many floors just stuffed with objects. I particularly like the paintings which included some good Turner paintings, as Turner was a friend, and some very good Hogarths, including the entire Rake’s Progress series.The stairs are narrow, some of the rooms tiny and the floors so crowded with objects, the Museum limits the numbers allowed in at any time. You have to wait for someone to leave before you can enter. And before you enter, they make you put your bag and overcoat into a plastic bag to be carried by hand. I guess because they are worried you’ll knock over something with a bag on your shoulder or back or by a flapping coat on your arm.It is an extremely curious collection and made me shake my head at the way so many collectors could just buy and ship home antiquities and other treasures from Continental Europe.
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