on November 8, 2008
The third of the big three South Kensington museums is the Victoria and Albert musem, a sprawling heap of galleries in a Victorian heap, opened circa 1857. It was the first museum ever to have a refreshment area (cafe). Personally, I think the building is not all that attractive, looking a bit like a tiered wedding cake at the entrance. Not as elegant and graceful as the Natural History museum next door. The big yellow and green blown glass chandelier was a millenium project. I'm not sure it's to my taste but it certainly is a feat of design, so it probably does suit the lofty ceiling and grandness of the entrance hall. The V&A is a design and decorative arts museum, filled with furniture, jewellry, ornamental items, textiles, fashion, painting, and various other works of art and curios spanning 5000 years from pretty much every culture of the world. It was founded in the mid 1800s and named after, naturally, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It's a huge building and I think you might prefer to pick a few areas to see because otherwise, you will soon be overwhelmed at the immense amount of things to see and take in. We spent a few hours traipsing around and indeed, it does all blur after awhile.One of our favourite parts was an unexpected gallery filled with plaster casts of all sorts of things from ancient columns to reproductions of famous statues to effigies and friezes. It was really fascinating and we spent a fair bit of time in there checking everything out. I particularly liked the room with Raphael Cartoons, as well. Cartoons are designs for a set of tapestries. They are enormous and I seem to recall there is one of the actual tapestries that was woven from one of the designs. I also really enjoyed the British rooms, filled with old furniture and portraits, particularly the Tudor and Jacobean rooms including the great Bed of Ware, an Elizabethan four poster bed with exquisite carving. The Asian and South Seas exhibits were particularly nice, too. I wasn't that keen on the glass and metals items. It's a museum I would like to go back and see again when I have the energy and time since exhibitions are always changing and you never see it all in one visit anyway. There are planned refurbishments and renovations over the next few years so some galleries may be closed. Open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and until 10 p.m. on Fridays. Some rooms close at 5 p.m. Entrance is free other than for special exhibits as is normal for most museums and galleries. Take the tube to the South Kensington station and follow the tunnels and signs to the entrance. Main entrance is on Cromwell Road with ramps available and the Exhibition Road entrance is step free. There are lifts and accessible toilets. There are free guided tours throughout the day, starting at the meeting point in the entrance hall. They start at 10:30 p.m. and every hour on the half hour until 3:30 p.m. You can take pictures, even with a flash, everywhere. There are of course cafes and shops.
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