February 19, 2008

The Beginning of Time and Real Art

The weekend before last, we spent Saturday on a boat ride down to Greenwich. Although not strictly a tour guide, one of the men working on the boat did point out the highlights of our trip downstream and not making any bones about his likes and dislikes on the London riverscape. His accent, though, was thick enough (in what I, the uneducated in London dialects, would call Cockney) that I had trouble understanding him at times, but it still brought a little something extra to the trip.

So we made our way under the Millennium Bridge, the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge and on down to the city where time begins. Greenwich, of course, is where one finds the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian. The kids were, perhaps, a bit young to be impressed by the thought of standing with one foot in each hemisphere, but they sure thought the Bart Simpson alarm clock in the museum of clocks was cool. All of them remarked on it in their journals, leaving forgotten the ancient Chinese fire clock and other time keeping instruments that made a somewhat bigger impression on me.

We opted not to return from Greenwich by boat, but hopped onto the light rail train that runs back into town. It was much faster and took us through the old dock areas, where large office buildings now inhabit many of the old quays.

Sunday after church, we headed out to a restaurant -- a special treat these days -- to The Wallace Collection's Museum restaurant. It came highly recommended in our guide book and with good reason. The food was excellent -- I had an omelette with herbs (don't forget to pronounce the "h") and a pot of orange blossom oolong -- and the price of the meal was reasonable.

The Wallace is a wonderful art collection. It was all collected privately by the Marquesses of Hertford over several generations and became a museum collection in 1900. The gallery is the former Hertford House on Manchester Square not far off Bond Street. The collection is one of not only amazing paintings and sculpture, but also ancient weaponry and armor, china and furniture. The paintings were my favorite part though.

I would have loved to have spent hours in the collection, but my three year old did not feel the same way. After the first floor, my husband kindly took the smallest three outside, while the oldest and I went on upstairs.

There is something special about an art museum when I get to see face to face a painting I've seen before in a book. The collection contains many pieces of sacred art and seeing on particular version of the Annunciation, that The Boy and I already loved was a real treat. Other than that, seeing The Laughing Cavalier, pleased The Boy a great deal. I particularly liked the Gainsboroughs and seeing George IV and Victoria. We sat briefly in the different rooms picking out our favorite piece on each wall and discussing what it was about it we liked and also looking for paintings with similar themes.

Still, I didn't get to browse, because I didn't want my amiable spouse to be overcome by the swarm downstairs.

After leaving the art galleries, we made our way over to Grosvenor Square where we ate a picnic lunch and established that we Americans have the ugliest embassy on the Square.

We walked around town some more, came home to rest up and discovered that it wasn't without good reason that I'd packed the whole medicine cabinet for a our trip abroad.


Oh no! Not another sickie. I hope all is well.

Posted by: dcrmom at February 19, 2008 09:44 PM