Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 13: London

Monday was my last full day in London....and it was sure another packed day. I walked over to the Tate Modern from the train station, and wandered around. I had big expectations for this site, and sadly I left feeling a little disappointed.

There were some interesting paintings and photography on show, to be sure....but just not quite as much as I was expecting and fewer pieces that I really loved (especially in contrast to MOMA in NYC). And there were lots of wide open spaces that seemed to require a lot of unnecessary walking (given the amount of walking I still had to do that day!).

They did have a really awesome book shop, though, so that was a definite plus! :-

From there I walked across Millennium Bridge, crossing the Thames and heading for the Tower of London. Once on the other side, I decided to save my feet (and some time) and cheat a bit by taking the Tube.

The Tower of London was really fabulous! In spite of the crazy admission prices (£18), it was totally worth for me. Steeped in history, there is so much to see and explore.....aside from the various rooms and buildings themselves, I was able to see the spectacular Crown Jewels and amazing armour and weaponry from several centuries (including various pieces from Henry VIII). With so many diverse exhibits, and the ability to wander at your own pace, I easily spent about 4 hours there.

There are also really great views of Tower Bridge from here. Sadly I didn't end being there at the right time to see it lift open....but still an impressive sight none-the-less.

When I left, I was thinking that I should go and do a bit of shopping (I was still hoping to find a couple of gifts), but while I was considering my options on the map, I was reminded that I hadn't yet made it to the National Portrait Gallery. So I made a mad dash over, and in hindsight was thrilled with my choice.

I was only able to take a handful of snaps before I got into trouble.....ooops! ;-)

As with most galleries and museums in England (the only places I visited where I had to pay were: Courtland Gallery, Tower of London, Hampton Curt Palace and Roman Baths Museum in Bath), the National Portrait Gallery is free. There were lots of wonderful old portraits of the Tudors which I particularly enjoyed seeing. Not having to pay to get in definitely helps to keep expectations in check -- my only regret is that I didn't have more time to explore and that this is one of the (seemingly few) places that doesn't permit photos.

Day 12: London

On Sunday I started my day with a trip to the V&A. It's a place that's been on my bucket list since I read Kaffe Fassett's early knitting and needlepoint books, while I was still in high school.....and it did not disappoint. I think I could easily fill the rest of my day hooking all of the rug ideas that I had while wandering the halls of this inspiring place. It's definitely the type of place that you could visit over and over, and not run out of new things to see.

Again, I took a lot of photos, but found that I had to remind myself to concentrate on what I was looking at -- seeing it while I had the chance to really look, rather than focusing on trying to capture shots of everything before me. It's such a challenge for me, especially knowing that I might not return again. Here are just a few of the interesting things I saw....some of the other pictures I've taken might inspire some future rugs (and I will share the source then) :-)

What really impressed me about the V&A was it's a ability to mix the old with the new. They have several contemporary features mixed in with all of the wonderful decorative arts of the past....including a really neat display of fabric designed with an iPad (along with stations set up so that you could try your hand at the same) and garments and furniture made with said fabric. Very cool.

There were also some very interesting and attractive contemporary works by Hadieh Shafie that I loved upon first sight. So many wonderful colours in these pieces and others on her makes me want to hook a cat's paw rug. Right. This. Minute.

I was there for hours -- probably twice as long as most museums I visit -- and left with some areas still undiscovered. There are just sooooo many things in a place this size, it's just not possible to take them all in in a single visit.

The next stop was Harrod's....just so that I could see it and say that I had been. To be quite honest, I was a little disappointed here -- IMHO it's just like any other high end department store, such as Sak's 5th Avenue in NYC or Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street in Toronto.

From there, I headed back to Liberty to pick up a little bit more fabric (I was afraid I had been a little stingy the previous day)....and also took a bit more time to wander around the whole store. They have a lovely area filled-to-almost-bursting with rugs and carpets....a real treasure trove.

From there, I shopped a little more in the area, as I made my way to the train station....and went home to rest my weary feet.