Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday in London - Cortauld and Nat. Portrait Gallery Talk

After much hugging and well-wishing at the St. Margaret, Sherri and Jane wheeled their suitcases onto the Tube to get to Heathrow for the flight to Istanbul, and I headed to Somerset House, a very easy walk toward the Thames. After a bit of backtracking I found the Somerset House and was completely blown away after looking into it though the Strand Entrance. I saw a huge inner courtyard lined with impressive white stone buildings. The courtyard had a large flat area of fountains set flat on the ground that spout up to various height over time. That made me think how much my son Alex would have like to see it and figure out how it worked, and also how he would have loved to run through it (which was quite part of the design I think.) Anyway, the weather had gotten nicer and nicer, so a little bite seemed to be in order, and the cafe beckoned. What an excellent idea! I took my sandwich out on the Riverside Terrace, overlooking the Thames and basked in the sunshine. Perfect temperature and setting.

OK, but life is not ALL about eating and relaxing, so back to work, to LOOK at ART! I bought a ticket to see the Hermitage stuff and the Courtault Collection. Sped through the magnificent gold and Greek stuff the Russians had acquired, also coptic textiles from Egypt (who knew?) then to the Cortauld.

Words (almost) fail me regarding the experience of seeing so many famous Impressionist paintings in such a great setting, but I'll try. The setting is POSH, these rooms themselves are quite remarkable. Fancy ceilings and walls with some antique table type things and chairs to give it a little life, then these paintings hung quite nicely around the room. Not too many, each thoughtfully placed and separate from the others. Causes you to just breath a little slower and slow down. No crowds, subdued light coming in from the couryard windows. Some rooms have a central padded bench or seat for longer viewing. Go online and see what they have, its incredible. I took non-flash pictures of many of them, as permitted, but more just to remember that I was there. Only permitted after asking for permission and signing an agreement not to reproduce (I think, I just signed, bad lawyer behaviour).
Saw even more magnificent stuff on the next level, no photographs allowed, but got many art cards from the gift shop and even a book.

(As an aside, wise words from Sherri Brown on buying books while traveling: think of them as bricks, and think about carring them with you on your trip. So my theory is only buy if not available on internet and its REALLY special. Also have to remind self that London is one of most expensive cities in the world and that Turkey may have knockoffs of any little thing, and lots of handcrafted items so JUST WAIT!)

Anyway the Courtault was terrific, I highly recommend it, wish Jane and Sherri could have been there too.

So then I walked toward the National Portrait Gallery to see if I could get in to a talk by Paula Rago, artist of several remarkable portraits in the NPG, but artist of mostly other figurative work. Of particular interest is that she works in pastel! Anyway, the Art Gods were sending luck my way and I got into the talk (£3) after waiting in line with a few others hoping to get in to the sold out talk. I took about 4 pages of notes (in the dark) and was thrilled to hear her. Cannot explain it all, but will later. A BIG Thrill for me, how fortunate to luck into being here and getting to hear her.

So bouyed with that excitement I walked back to the hotel, but saw this internet cafe and decided to update y'all. Quite a big place but nicer than a previous huge internet place Jane, Sherri and I tried our first day. So now, out into the bustling crowd to the St. Margaret for my last sleep here in wonderful London. May correct my sense of direction by looking at the map. Our hotel has been such a perfect location for all these museums. Wonderful service, location and feeling (I told them to look at our Blog! Hello St. Margaret's!). Don't know about what to do tomorrow, maybe the Victoria and Albert or maybe not. Will have to get on the Tube by 1 p.m. I think, so not sure . . .

Perhaps next post from Turkey, whenever an internet cafe is located, might not be as easy as here.


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