Monday, June 8, 2009

Mamma Mia - the V&A rocks

It is much much cooler in London this morning. We take advantage of the fact that we can make the bedroom in our suite very dark to sleep in until 9 am this morning. I woke just before the alarm was due and find that the shower is cooler rather than warm - a good ruse to save on hot water bills maybe!! Breakfast is not cheap at the hotel and given our experience last night in the restaurant, we opt to have brunch out!

I manage to catch up with Helen on Skype - home, exhausted after the annual Mapleton scrapping marathon. I explained that I had tried to phone her over the weekend so I could catch up with the girls but I kept getting the 'this phone number is disconnected' message. Turns out she had to buy a new phone and for whatever reason, could not keep her old phone number. Oh well, the best laid plans ...
We also managed to get on to Antony and Amanda on Skype. They leave Darwin for 6 weeks visiting the rellies this Wednesday. Izabella was asleep after a day which Antony described as 'she finally found her feet fully'. I can just see her in my minds eye, running and giggling up and down their long hall! Turns out she is wearing a size 5 shoe. OMG she is going to be talllll.

Michael goes for a wander through the Kensington Gardens across the road while I upload yesterdays photos on to the blog. This blog is turning out to be our saviour as we often get confused these days with where and when we saw a particular thing. Today we are off to the Victoria and Albert Museum. From here we get the Tube from the Lancaster Gate Station, and we change at Notting Hill Gate for the Circle line to get off at South Kensington. Now, I know that everyone will not believe me, but there we were at 12:48 in the afternoon at Notting Hill Gate Station, with literally no one else on the platform. And this was as the train was coming! That would have to be a first, surely!

Then it is a walk through a subway lined with posters of all the Shows presently on in London. Gosh, there are so many! There are many exits from this subway - all signposted just like you are up on the streets and I am reminded of The Third Man with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton where the sewers have street signs! We emerge at the Museum of Natural History - more so we can take a decent photo of the amazing architecture than any desire to go in today.

The V&A as the Victoria and Albert Museum is locally known is on the next block, and is almost as striking. But the real beauty unfolds when you walk through the doors. There is a reception area that sits squarely under a beautiful cupola with an amazing modern glass sculpture hanging from it. We buy tickets for the Baroque exhibition - Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence. But before we go in, we grab sandwiches and coffee and sit in the beautiful garden surrounding a cascading water pool.

Given all we have seen in the past six months, this exhibition seems especially interesting. And it was, demonstrating how the baroque art and furniture opened world travel and trade. Although by the end of it, we came away thinking that world poverty could be well and truly a thing of the past if only the mainline churches divested themselves of some of their wealth and applied it where needed - gosh, world debt could probably be wiped out!

We had time to see other exhibits then and split up as we wanted to see different things. Michael went off to drool over the statuary, while I headed off to the Sacred Silver and Stained Glass gallery. This one focuses on the development of stained glass from the 1300s on and since most of this is in churches, it made some sort of sense to also exhibit some of the silver (and gold) pieces held by the churches with it. My comment from the last paragraph applies equally as well here!!

Then I went to have a look at the Cast Courts, followed by the European collections - Medieval and Northern Renaissance. The cast courts are a collection of plaster casts taken of significant historic monuments. The explanation is that this is one of the only ways that many museums, and therefore many populations, will ever get to see these monuments. As I move through them, my eye is drawn to something that seems familiar - and there it is - the Ruthwell Cross cast. Hm, it is much more impressive in it's church setting in Scotland and away from the overcrowded setting here. The space is dominated by casts of Trajan's Column in Rome - in two pieces, and without the bronze statue top!

Finally a huge open gallery hung with Raphael cartoons. Now, the original definition of cartoon is 'a full-scale design for a picture, ornamental motif or pattern, or the like, to be transferred to a fresco, tapestry, etc' These ones are huge! And there are conservators sewing tape to the back of one of the tapestries that one of the cartoons were sketched for. I asked her how long it would take and the reply was "a few days" - that is two of them just using running stitch to sew on a hanging tape around the perimeter of a tapestry that measures something like 40 feet by 12 feet! You could not take photos in many of these exhibition spaces, but if you click on the museum link you can see some of it.

When we meet up at the Information Desk, Michael says the Sculpture Gallery was the highlight for him, especially the one of Samson and a Philistine by Giambologna made in the mid 1500s.

We then get a red London Bus to Picadilly Circus for the Prince of Wales Theatre where we have tickets for MAMMA MIA. IN LONDON! AND MICHAEL CAME WITH ME. Cool, very cool! Knowing that once we get back onto the continent next week, we will not have good opportunities for a good Indian meal, we decide to try to find an Indian restaurant close to the theatre as London (and England) have some great ones. And we find one less than a block from the PoW Theatre - the Indian Brasserie in Rupert Street. As we are having a look at their menu in the window, a staff member comes out to encourage us in with "very good food missus" . My reply of "well, they would shoot you if you said it was bad food" seemed to perplex him! Don't think anyone has ever had a retort before! Anyway, in we go - we want to be close when it comes time to go to the show. The food turned out to be good - very very good!
Our meal consisted of:
Pappadums with onion salad, mixed pickle, mint sauce & mango chutney
Mixed Kebab - Lamb Tikka, chicken Tikka sheek kebab
Lamb Korma
Chicken Tikka Masala - Diced boneless chicken cooked on skewers in the Tandoor and then cooked in a special sauce and fresh cream (mild)
Aubergine & Potato Bhajee
Tarka Dall (Lentils)
Pilaw Rice (Basmati)
Nan - unleavened bread baked in clay oven.

Then a quick stop for munchies before we go into the theatre. Our tickets are in Row H in the Circle - so, up high we go. Up four flights of stairs. And my leg is killing me - so much so that in the cramped environment of a packed 1100 seat theatre I finally relent and take a codeine tablet.

The show was F A N T A S T I C as I knew it would be. And even Michael concedes that (in parts) it was very good. It is loud and upbeat and fun and familiar. Just great! It finishes with 3 encores just after 10 pm.
In a London cab ride back to the hotel we learn that there is a 48 hour tube strike commencing at 7pm tomorrow night. Looks like getting out of the City on Wednesday morning might be a right headache (yes, we are staying another night!) A great day!

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