Thursday, June 28, 2007

Two-fer: Tate Britain Gallery and Susan Arrives

June 26, 2007

The Tate Gallery, at some point (I don't know when), split into two galleries: the Tate Britain Gallery and the Tate Modern Gallery. I learned this after arriving at the Tate Britain Gallery this morning. The Tate Britain is devoted to British art (thus the name), and I bet you can guess what the Tate Modern is devoted to. There is of course some overlap of artists since some British artists are modern artists. Hehehe.

I walked from the hotel to the Tate this morning. There was some sunshine, but it was quite chilly: in the 50s, I suppose. In fact, it might not have gotten above 60 degrees all day. But it didn't rain--yippee!

Going southeast from the hotel, I went through Hyde Park toward the Wellington Monument, but from there I took a road new to me: Grosvenor Place which continues on down toward the Thames River. As I walked along I noticed this sign, which those of us with Irish heritage might appreciate:

And not too far from there, I snapped this photo, looking up at the barbed wire and long nailish barbs at the top of the wall along this backside of the Buckingham Palace grounds.

This same sort of barbing protects the wall along Constitution Hill Road too.

Shortly after this, I turned onto Lower Grosvenor. The sun was shining at the time, right onto the red-brown brick wall to my left, and it actually felt warm there for a minute or two! For the past three days, London has felt like Dallas in November. (And the weather prediction for tomorrow is more of the same! But the flooding you may have heard about is north of here, not in London.)

After another block or so, I got around to Vauxhall Bridge Road which leads to--you guessed it!--Vauxhall Bridge, one of many "London" bridges which cross the Thames River. I turned down a road called John Islip a bit before reaching Millbank Road, which runs along the Thames. From John Islip, one can reach the side entrance to the Tate Britain Gallery.

My first goal--once I got a map of the museum (and had a visit to the men's room)--was Room 14, where the Pre-Raphaelite paintings are kept. Apparently Edward Burne-Jones, whose work I often like and whom I earlier referred to as an associate of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, isn't really a Pre-Raphaelite: his paintings at the Tate are in another room. But in getting there I came to a contemporary exhibit, laid out in a long connecting hallway, which deals with British protests against the war in Iraq and features some very disturbing imagery. I wonder if an American public museum could show such work without serious controversy erupting.

Perhaps the most famous paintings in the Tate Pre-Raphaelite collection are two by John (Something) Millais. One is Ophelia, the famous painting of Shakespeare's Ophelia (from Hamlet) floating down the river as she dies. The other is Christ in the Home of His Parents, which shows Jesus as a teenager working with Joseph in the carpentry shop while other members of the family are engaged in various activities as well.

The Tate Britain also has several works by artist and poet William Blake, including some copies of his illuminated (illustrated) books of poetry, among them Songs of Innocence and Experience. Cabinets display some of the books by other authors which Blake made engraved illustrations for, all within the context of the British abolition-of-slavery movement. There is a photographic blow-up of Blake's poem "The Little Black Boy", as well as the actual poem itself which takes up two pages in the Songs. The museum exhibits the first page from "Copy A" and the second from (I think) "Copy T". These copies were made many years apart, I presume because of the time and expense involved in making these books. Blake did not get wealthy as either artist or poet. Lou Ann, I imagine, could tell us exactly what the broader situation was for Blake.

The Tate Britain has a really large collection of works by JMW Turner: oils, watercolors, finished paintings, unfinished paintings, sketches. I really enjoyed seeing some of his drawings of buildings, especially one of Durham Cathedral which he did as a very young man. And some of the unfinished paintings look finished to us as "moderns" because our views of art have changed so much in the 150 years since Turner died. There are scenes of shipwreck, buildings, the English countryside, things he saw on his trips to Europe, and so forth. A real wealth of material. The "interactive" room points out that in the 18th and 19th centuries (when Turner was born and when he made his name and career) art students learned by copying earlier works, and so it provides several works along with pads of paper and pencils, so that visitors can sit down and have their own lessons, if they want to. I was tempted to do so, but was probably a bit too tired by that point.

I was at the museum for about 4 hours, I guess, but I broke the time up by having lunch in the cafe. I had a can of tuna and an apple with me, so I bought a pot of tea and (what else?) a chocolate muffin to add to them. (Why is it that nowhere in the universe can anybody offer a plain muffin? Why does everything have to have fruit, nuts or chocolate in it? The cafe didn't even have plain potato chips! Okay--end of complaint from Captain Food Allergy.) I sat in a corner, ate my little lunch and read a bit. The Tate Britain cafe, by the way, gives better value on tea than the Tate Britain kiosk cafe near the side entrance or the Victoria & Albert Museum outdoor cafe does.

After leaving the Tate Britain I wandered up Millbank Road toward the Lambeth Bridge. (The next bridge beyond Lambeth is the Westminster Bridge, and beyond that you hit the Waterloo Bridge, the Blackfriars Bridge, the Southwark Bridge, and then the London Bridge. I haven't made it that far yet.) Along the way I took this photo, looking down the Thames toward the Lambeth Bridge and the London Eye.

The Eye is the enormous Ferris wheel in the photo. The information guy at the Tate Britain told me that the London Eye is really the only thing associated with England's millennium celebration that people like. He said on a clear day it's really wonderful to ride it and see the whole city. Maybe there'll be a clear day later this week! (Technically, today was probably clear enough--the clouds were fairly high--but it was way too cold to want to be in a Ferris wheel.)

Walking on north one gets this view of the Houses of Parliament.

Just west of here (to the left of the photo) is Westminster Abbey, which itself faces west. If you look carefully at the photograph, you might be able to make out part of the south clock face of Big Ben. I couldn't get more of the clock without moving under the trees, and thus losing another part of the clock!

As one gets nearer to Parliament, one comes to The Burghers of Calais by Rodin.

According to the story, in the fairly early years of the Hundred Years War, Edward III of England had had Calais under siege for almost a year when 6 burghers (citizens) of the French city volunteered themselves as sacrifices on behalf of their people. Edward allegedly had mercy on them. The Hundred Years War ran from something like 1338 or 1339 to 1453. Edward himself was king from 1327 to 1377 and (if I remember my English history correctly) was really more interested in architecture than war. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Passing alongside the Abbey, I ducked into St Margaret's Church for a few minutes and got out of the wind. The church is right next to the Abbey. Then I went by the Westminster kiosk for another cup of tea. I was thirsty, and I needed something to warm me up. I held the cup with both hands for heat as I walked for the next few minutes. The tea cooled down fairly quickly and was ready for drinking. I made it to St James's Park and took this photo of Buckingham Palace from the pedestrian bridge in the park.

At the same time a long line of ducks was passing under the bridge.


Checking email a while later, I got a message from Susan saying that, last time she looked at the Continental Airlines information online, her flight arrival time tomorrow had been delayed. So I checked as well, and saw the same information. Looks like I won't need to leave the hotel quite as early in the morning as I had thought. What's interesting, of course, is that the time in the US, at that point, was only about noon, several hours before her flight was supposed to leave Houston, and yet they were already predicting delay because of a problem with another flight or some such nonsense. In fact, as I write this posting, Susan is probably still sitting in the airport in Houston!


June 27, 2007

This morning I took the longish walk down to Victoria Station to catch the train to Gatwick. As of yesterday evening, Susan's flight arrival time had been delayed about two hours, so there was no need to be in a particular hurry to arrive. I walked through Hyde Park, taking a path I hadn't taken before. At one point I stopped and pulled out my map to figure out which direction to go next. A passerby stopped without my even asking and said, "Where are you trying to get?" Lots of nice folks here. I also took this photo of an Aston Martin in the park. I thought Deron would want to see it.

The ticket line at Victoria was incredibly long, so I got in the "quick ticket" line to buy the train ticket from a machine. Some kind women in line behind me helped me decide which I needed (the cheapest did just fine!), and then I had to find a couple of other folks along the way to figure out which platform and train to get to. Victoria Station confuses me no little bit.

When I got to Gatwick's North Terminal, it was about 11:30. Susan's flight, originally scheduled for a 9:55 arrival, was on the arrival board for a bit after twelve. I had a can of tuna with me, so I got a cup of tea and some chips from a little cafe at the terminal and had an early mini-lunch. After reading a while, I bought a soda and a package of croissants at Marks & Spencer to supplement lunch. Then I walked down to the arrivals area, just in case Susan had had time to come through passport control, luggage and customs by then. I looked into the WHSmith bookstore near Arrivals to see if she was there, then wandered past the Arrivals gate--and there she was, looking perhaps a little dazed, just coming through.

They fed her well on the Continental flight, apparently doing everything they could to make up for the long delays in leaving the US, so she didn't feel the need for one of my croissants. In fact, she wanted only a bottle of water before we got her ticket and got on the train to Victoria Station. We left Victoria and went up to the street, catching a bus rather than "the Tube" to get back to the hotel. From the bus, you can see the view out the window--on the subway, there's nothing to see.

Once we got her things put away in the hotel, she was ready to get out and look around, so we headed off up Bayswater to Oxford Street, thinking we might make the British Museum before it closed. We bought some picnic items at Sainsbury's Grocery and ate at the Marble Arch park right on the northeast corner of Hyde Park. Then, continuing on Oxford, we went into a Clark's shoe store, did some browsing at HMV (music superstore) and broke out the umbrellas repeatedly as the rain came and went. Finally we made the British Museum about 5 minutes before it closed, so we didn't go in, though Susan took some photos outside. She also photographed the plaque marking Randolph Caldecott's house, just across the street from the museum.

After returning to the hotel for a short rest, we went just around the corner to a small fish-and-chips/burger place, which the desk man at the hotel recommended. Susan had fish-and-chips and a salad; I had chips only. Then we went down to Starbuck's so that I could check email and post the Travel Log, and Susan wanted to read from her London guide and have a cup of mint tea. Well, tonight the T-Mobile connection was not connecting. I suggested to the Starbuck's clerk that he could just unplug it and plug it back in and it would probably be fine, but he was adamant that Starbuck's employees don't touch the T-Mobile equipment. I tried repeatedly to connect, but the problem was clearly in their router--since I was getting a strong signal of connection to T-Mobile, but T-Mobile was not connecting to the Internet. Since there is another Starbuck's up the street, we headed up there to try to get a connection, but at that location there was no T-Mobile signal at all. Yet at both locations my computer detected numerous other wifi providers! Of course I'm not paying for those, so they were no good to me. I'll hope to pass a T-Mobile shop tomorrow so I can complain. For now, my only comment is that T-Mobile's wifi hotspots leave a lot to be desired, both here and in the US. I used Barnes & Noble's SWB/ATT wifi service for a year from 2005 to 2006. It occasionally hiccuped, but never failed to work. T-Mobile's service--good at Starbuck's and Borders Book Stores--which I used in the US for about 10 months before I left for Europe was not nearly as reliable, a B+ maybe, whereas the B&N service was right at the edge of being perfect. So there is your explanation for why you did not get a travel log posting on Wednesday!

The constant wet chilly weather here has given me a sore throat, and unfortunately the weather shows no sign of improving. I'm still having great fun, but I'm not enjoying being sent back to an ugly March in Dallas!

Coming Soon: The Changing of the Guard


KBill said...

Glad to hear that Susan made it safely. It's still raining here--another 3 inches today. The math conference was pretty messy, though most of the day could be spent in one building. Marble Falls flooded Tuesday night--lots of buildings destroyed.

Cooper Renner said...

Marble Falls with flood damage! Yikes. Right there on the lake, I suppose that is inevitable. How are y'all doing in San Antonio?