Last Week in London – February, 2013

I haven’t posted about my busy last week in London because when I got home, I was so busy, my blog fell by the wayside.  Now that I am back traveling, it is definitely time to get my blog up-to-date! 

I knew that my time in London was quickly coming to an end and although I had gone to several plays, spent hours in the museums and visited a variety of neighborhoods, there was still more that I wanted to see and do before I boarded the plane on February 21.

Everyday, I was up and out the door between 8:00 and 8:30 and didn’t arrive back to the apartment after 10:00 or 11:00 at night.  My days were full, full, full!!  

I actually did several tours of various museums during the week.  That was something that I hadn’t done and with a limited amount of time, this was a great way to see highlights of the museum in a short amount of time.  I, also, spent time seeing the last few performances that I wanted/hoped to see before I left. 

I finally saw the play War Horse.  It was extremely well done and I was grateful that I was able to see the play as I know that I cannot read the book and definitely not see the movie.  I just cannot take the suffering that the war animals had to endure during the wars.  I figured that with mechanical horses they used in the play, I could watch that.  The play was amazing and I got second row seats at the last minute for only $40 for an evening performance.  Another play I went to was Great Expectations.  I love Charles Dickens and I loved the story when I read it as a freshman in high school.  The set of the play was decorated exactly how I remembered the story’s description of Ms. Havisham’s home, the clocks set at 20 minutes to 9, the time that she received the letter from her betrothed saying he wasn’t marrying her, the stale wedding cake was on the table and the room was dilapidated from years of neglect.  The actress, Paula Wilcox, who played Ms. Havisham, looked exactly like the character that Dicken’s described.   I really enjoyed the play. 

I, also, saw two operas.  One was Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky at the Royal Opera House and the other was La Traviata by Verdi at the English National Opera.  I had not seen either opera before.  I love the story to Eugene Onegin and saw the ballet earlier at the Royal Opera House, so decided if I could get a ticket, I would try to see the opera.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It was as wonderful as the ballet.

La Traviata, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment to me.  It was a very modern take on a classic.  The stage only had a chair for the prop.  The curtains were seemed to be another of the props.  The singers would be on stage singing and wrap themselves in the curtain and then roll out, after awhile.  To me, it was all very bizarre.  Another scene that I thought was a bit much, was a party scene.  The chorus was singing away, making merry at this party they were attending.  Then, I guess that they whipped themselves up in such a frenzy, that they all passed out.  Instead of closing the curtains, the lead singer came out and started singing her song while the chorus crawled off stage in the darken background….all very, very strange to me.  Finally, at the end, the lead singer is dying. Her  lover’s father is singing to her from the audience in the theater.  Now, this wasn’t bad and kind of creative.  What got me was when the son had to crawl over the feet of the people sitting in the first row to get to where his father was standing, while he was singing.  It was so foolish looking.  No, I didn’t care for this production of La Traviata at all!

During the days, I went to the British Tate, the Victoria and Albert, the Tate Modern and the Courtauld Gallery.  Like I said, I took tours at most of these museums.  I spent the first part of the day at the British Tate with my friend Stephanie and her sweet daughter, Ava.  I met Stephanie my first week in London.  She is actually from Kentucky and met and married an Irishman and now live in London.  We tried to have visits at least once a week.  This outing was our last before I left.  I didn’t have many friends here in London and really loved the times that Stephanie, Ava and I spent together.  

One of my favorites by John Singer Sargent

After they left, I took two tours that the museum offered.  This museum has a collection of British art from the 1500 to modern day.  It has the world’s largest collection of Turner’s art work which he bequeathed to the museum. All I can say is WOW!  It was great seeing so many of his paintings together.  Other famous British painters on display were David Hockney, John Singer Sargent, John Constable, John Whistler (who was American born but lived in Britain).  I learned, too, that Whistler signed his paintings with a butterfly signature, out of interest for Asian art. 

Another Tate that I visited was Tate Modern.  As you may have read in an earlier posting, I do not like modern art.  Ray, the guide who gave a tour at the Tate British, said he was giving a tour the following day at Tate Modern on appreciating modern art.  I felt that had my name written all over it so made the effort to attend the lecture.  It was good.  A couple of things that he said about modern art were there were no narratives for the artwork, just forms and color.  That artist wanted to move away from the material world and express pure feelings while looking at art through fresh eyes.  He, also said, that the artist starts the painting but it takes us, the viewer, to finish the painting.  It was a good tour and I am glad that I attended because I now try to look at modern art with a more open mind and appreciate it for what it is…forms and colors!

I did a couple of tours at the Victoria and Albert museum.  It amazes me, with the time I spent there, that I still had miles and miles of museum that I didn’t see!  The introductory tour that I took, the guide said that there are 7 miles of museum and over 4 million objects owned by the museum.  So, no wonder I didn’t make a dent in this remarkable museum!

Inside the British Museum

Finally, I visited the British Museum, which is dedicated to history and cultures from around the world. It is another massive museum full of artifacts.  I was only there for an afternoon and of course, I didn’t make a dent.  

Inside the British Museum

One interesting artifact that is on display there is the Rosetta Stone.  It is from 196 BC and was written by priest in Egypt to honor the Egyptian pharaoh.  It is written in 3 different scripts that were being used in Egypt at that time.  The first was hieroglyphics used for important religious documents, the second was demotic – the common script for Egypt and the third was Greek, the language of the rulers of Egypt at that time.  Nowadays, you hear Rosetta Stone and you think of the language learning program, not the actual historical artifact.   

It just amazes me how old some of the pieces were in this museum.  Take for example, the Aegina Treasure that is believed to be found on the Aegina Island near Greece.  The experts think that these pieces were from 1850-1550 BC….can you just imagine and in such good condition?  My goodness?  
I certainly didn’t do this museum justice, like I mentioned earlier.  I hope to return to London at some point and will plan to spend more time there.  

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