London- (Part 2)

The first week in London was so packed, I need to split it into two posts.

Saturday June 7.

We got up and headed to Portobello Road Market which is an open air market that runs for blocks and is only open on the weekend. It reminded me of Porta Portese in Rome, but this was the first market I’ve ever been to where the vendors didn’t completely open before 11am.

For someone who loves antiques, this is a real destination. The antique dealers are mostly in the buildings on either side of the street as well as a few who set up stalls in the middle of the street with the food vendors.

I browsed a lot, but didn’t buy anything. I had some great pizza on the way back to the tube station. It felt very familiar not only because it was advertised as Napoli style, but because it was sold the same was as in Italy, by weight. It also helped that the staff spoke Italians and other customers walking in started right in speaking Italiano. It felt like comfort food to me.

The class met at the British Museum after lunch. It is only a few blocks from our hotel and this was the first of two scheduled visits. Vickie took us to see the highlights of the Egyptian galleries before moving onto the metalwork. We broke up after a few hours to go our own way, but since we still had almost an hour before closing, I stuck around and went through a few more galleries and managed to see the Rosetta stone and some amazing relief sculpture walls from the Assyrians.

A bunch of us went out Saturday night with Vickie to try some fish and chips. She knew a place near Paddington station that was inexpensive and pretty good. It was my first time with fish and chips. It was good, perhaps not something I would eat all the time, but it was quite enjoyable.

Sunday June 8, 2014

We left about 10:30 Sunday morning to head to the Cockpit Arts building for an open studio event that happens there twice a year. It is a cooperative building where individual artists can rent studio space. We had a specific appointment with Jane Adam, who works in dyed anodized aluminum and silver and gold bi-metal. She was very generous with her time and answered our questions.

After Jane Adam, we wandered the studios of the rest of the artists. I bought a tiny ceramic bowl and spoke to several of the artists about their work. There was a lovely café with tasty, fresh food.
We also spent time looking at the pieces that were removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. It was inspiring to see what is left of the greek gods that were depicted there.

We had tickets to see the special exhibit at the British Museum on the Vikings.
Wow, was this an amazing exhibit, especially in terms of metalwork. It was thrilling to see how the Vikings interacted with other cultures. Some of the gold pieces ffrom the Viking hoards were jaw dropping in scale and workmanship. I looked at the catalog, but none of the pictures could do justice to these amazing pieces.

I also found myself very interested in and inspired by the religious aspects of Viking culture. A volur was a magic woman and the volua were sorceresses. They believed in shape shifting abilitie of some people to turn into animals as well as in the Viking pantheon, Odin, his wife Sifa, Loki, Thor, the Valkyrie. Etc. I found the magic Staffs that were on display to have a significance that carried a lot of meaning for these women.

I spent the rest of the hour remaining wandering the ancient Greek, Roman and Assyrian rooms before stoping at the gift shop on my way out.

There was enough time for a very short nap, then we were out the door to the Tower of London again to meet the guide for the Jack the Ripper tour.

The tour itself was quite interesting, but we had a very large group so it was sometimes tricky to hear and fully see what was going on. However it was fascinating to learn about these murders and the horrendous conditions that existed then in the East End of London.

Monday June 9, 2014

It was an early morning on the tube on our way to Goldsmiths Hall. This is one of the livery companies that operate in the City of London. The City of London is surrounded by London itself and it’s quite an interesting situation. There’s a great video about it by CGP Grey that is worth looking at if you are interested in more.

Goldsmith’s hall is where the term Hallmarking came from. In order to sell a precious metal item it must go through a testing and marking process at the hall to be sure it is up to the standard at which it is sold. The maker registers their mark with the Hall and sends any items that are to be sold in the UK to the hall so they can be marked. The makers are charged for this process, but it is relatively inexpensive and required on any item of precious metal that is sold in the UK.

The Goldsmith’s Centre nearby is affiliated with the Goldsmith’s company, but more in an educational role. There is a program where students learn and get a leg up in the business role and by learning as apprentices to established gold and silversmiths. There was also an amazing display of silver work on exhibit there while we were there.

A short break and we headed to the Barbican centre to see an exhibit of fashions by John Paul Gaultier. It was a very well done exhibit and quite inspiring for any artist to see the themes of Gaultier’s life and how they played out in his work.

I finally had dinner at pub. I enjoyed a bottle of hard cider and tasted a pale ale. Bangers and mash were as delicious as I thought they would be. It’s been a quick week and we still have two and half more to go. Later today, Bath, Avebury and Stonehenge.

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