London- the first week (Pt 1)

As of tomorrow, I’ll have been here in London for a week. Time has really flown. I’ve barely had time to process my photos every night, let alone put together a blog post, but tonight we didn’t have anything going on in the evening and tomorrow’s itinerary starts a little later.

June 4, 2014
We arrived Wednesday morning in the rain. We were met at Heathrow by our guide, Victoria and were whisked away to the Tower of London with commentary about the sites along the way. We had only a few hours there but it was enough to fully take in the splendor of the Crown Jewels. We did miss the Imperial State crown since we happened to arrive on the day of the State opening of Parliament, which meant that the crown was in use by the Queen. I spent a little time walking along the wall around the tower, but there was only time to cover about a quarter of the way around.

From the Tower we drove back through London to our hotel in the area of Soho near Covent Garden. We settled into our rooms, ran a few errands and then headed to a local Asian Fusion restaurant for dinner.

After dinner, I went for a walk on my own to see the Thames and the houses of Parliament. I got soaked in a rainstorm along the way, but it cleared in time to go through Trafaglar Square. I made it across the Thames around sunset and walked back by Big Ben,which is now known as the Elizabeth Tower in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee a couple of years ago. I decided to head home and realized that my phone didn’t make it and I forgot to get a paper map. I wandered back in the direction of our hotel, but was still a bit out of the area a couple hours later and flagged a taxi. It was quite an adventure for the first day.
Elizabeth Tower

June 5, 2014
On Thursday, we headed to the National Portrait Gallery which is in Trafaglar Square. It was amazing how many famous paintings are housed there. I explored the area for a while over our lunch break and wandered into St. Martin in the Field Church. I happened in just as a sacred music concert was beginning. I sat entranced for the next 30 minutes and stood with the rest of the spectators for the finale, The Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

I found a Persian restaurant for lunch and headed back to meet the rest of the class for our next destination, the Leslie Craze gallery, to see the current exhibition by Wendy Ramshaw. All of the work in the Gallery was inspiring and there were many different designs. We walked through the jewelry district and took a bus back to the area near our hotel. I went in search of Indian and found a lovely place in Covent Garden and enjoyed some malai kofta which I’ve been craving for about a week. It did not disappoint.

June 6, 2014
Friday was a day of contrasts with our two destinations. Beginning at Harrod’s we explored all four floors of this famous high end department store. I rode the Egyptian Elevator to each floor and made a quick round. Each department was meticulously merchandised with displays were engaging and unique. Their food area encompassed about eight large rooms.

I bought a sandwich for lunch at Harrod’s and we walked as a group through the neighborhood towards the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is one museum I’ve been hoping to visit for several years and it was a thrill to finally arrive. The middle of the museum has a lovely courtyard and pond where our group picnicked and discussed our project. Then it was upstairs to view the extensive display in the jewelry department.

I was blown away. Several of us walked around entire display with Roger Millar. Roger is a retired silversmith who taught at the Glasgow School of Art. He is joining my Tyler professor, Vickie Sedman, in teaching this course during our time in the U.K. His knowledge of nearly every piece in the V&A’s collection is quite extensive.

There were three pieces by Lalique, one of which was “woodland Evening, which I really enjoyed when I was researching the paper on his work in the Fall.

Then we spent some time going through the rest of the collection upstairs in drawers. The V&A’s mourning jewelry collection is known the world over and it was a privilege to be able to spend time looking at it in person. But it was making me crazy that I wasn’t able to take photos for reference later. Oh well, there’s always the internet. We went through more of the V&A’s collection of metalwork and realized it was getting late. We headed to the ironwork area and managed to see about half of it before it closed. Although the museum was open until 10pm, many parts closed at 5:30. It was about at this point that we started to split up. I stayed with a group for a while, but eventually my stomach won out and I headed to the café for a lovely dinner. Then I went in search of the Indian jewelery I had read about during the spring semester.

I was not disappointed. I also spent some time with the many statues and medieval metalwork. I found number of very lovely reliquaries that once held relics of St Catherine of Siena, St Sebastian and even a reliquary of St Christopher that appeared to still contain the relic. I also enjoyed the Merode Cup which is the best example of Plique -a-jour enamel from the medieval period.

It was a late night at the V&A, although my feet hurt, I would have stayed all night if I could, but all museums must close sometime. I hopped on the Tube back to the hotel.

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