Summing Up London

Well…it’s been a while since I’ve posted (apparently long enough to convince my parents I’d been kidnapped by a London street gang) – so I’ll try and control the length of this by limiting it to highlights. Having just returned home from my last day gallivanting about London, I have much to report!

On August 12, after I walked around for a little in the morning, I headed back to the Tate Britain to have my appointment with their archives department, where I spent far too many hours attempting to decipher the writing of Arthur Hughes, John Everett Millais, and their various pen pals in stacks of letters pulled from the depths of somewhere or other. It was actually pretty interesting – most of the letters had absolutely nothing to do with my thesis (plus towards the end I got hungry, having skipped lunch, and started heavily skimming), but were sort of fun to read and touch since they’re over a hundred years old and, quite frankly, look it. One folder was entirely poems and limericks between Arthur Hughes and his friends, which was fun (and, again, useless), but one letter actually mentioned a specific work I’m looking at – hurrah!

By the time I got done, and went back home and changed my shoes and dropped off my computer, it was almost five, and I was starving to death. But it wasn’t dinner and so I ate a candy bar and went off wandering again in Kensington Park, this time to get a look at Kensington Palace. It being five, the palace was closed, but there was an absolutely gorgeous garden with six million different flowers and on a whim (my stomach’s) I decided to get afternoon tea at the Orangery, where I sat next to an older American couple who got all excited that I was from America too and talked to me the whole time. It was fun – as it turned out, they live very near Nana in Pennsylvania (in Lancaster). The restaurant was so pretty – very white. It then started raining, so I headed to pick up some dinner (figuring I’d be hungry later), and home to figure out what sort of researching action needed to get taken in the next few days.

Kensington Palace Garden in London

Kensington Palace Garden

The next day, after researching at the British Library all day, I decided to go check out the outside of Buckingham Palace once I got on the tube, mostly because I felt like I ought to see it and I wasn’t gonna have time to actually go in it. So I went – it’s pretty monstrous, I was impressed (especially by the big honking gold things on the gates – I like gates). Then I bought a sandwich and went and sat in St. James Park by the pond with lots of random birds and ate it. I got all excited about the gorgeous flowers in the park and took far too many pictures of them (I have a flower-photo issue, I love gardens and all that and hence become unnecessarily camera-happy around them). Then off I went, wandering around the park and down this big street with lots of trees (I noted the name at the time and promptly forgot it) until I got to some big empty sandlot-type area with big fancy buildings that had something to do with guards , and when I walked through said big fancy buildings I was where all the government buildings are. I now possess a horribly large number of photos of buildings that mean absolutely nothing to me other than being “pretty.” Anyway, I saw Big Ben and Trafalgar Square and as it turns out, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are open late Thursdays. I did not know this until passing the National Portrait Gallery, so I went in there instead of the National Gallery, and it was really cool – arranged top to bottom from oldest to newest portraits, with the competition for portrait of the year in its own gallery on the ground floor. I ate at a yummy Italian restaurant for dinner – and that was the day!

Saturday I set off at my usual early time for the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I promptly got lost trying to find the Prints and Drawings Room. However, once I did find it, the lady there was very nice and I got to look at some cool stuff. Plus, they let me take photos, which was wonderful. Then I got lunch – their cafe is so gorgeous – and went off to research a bit more in the National Art Library. Then I went off to wander around…it’s really a cool museum. I’m not sure exactly how much I saw of it, but it had some very neat stuff. And the building itself is awesome.

Anyway, then I set off home cause it was nearly dinner time, and I knew the Tate Modern was open late so I wanted to drop off my computer and eat the other half of my gnocchi from yesterday before I went off again. So that’s what I did. I’m not that into modern art, but I ended up liking it a lot. Some of the art was pretty interesting/weird/entertaining, and it’s a cool space. And the setting is beautiful, right by the river. I took far too many pictures of weird art, but it was fun. Afterwards, I walked across the Millennium Bridge over the Thames. The night was gorgeous, and the sun was setting so the clouds were all pink and reflecting in the river, and I was walking right towards St. Paul’s and its big dome was all glowy in the evening light…I walked all the way around St. Paul’s doing the Kelly-as-tourist-with-camera thing, completely giddy, and then off to the tube where there were people singing Happy Birthday and it was just so nice.

Gorgeous sunset over the Thames River in London

Sunset Over the Thames

Yesterday most research institutions were closed, so I went off and visited a bunch of the Sunday markets, as London continues to woo me with beautiful weather. Really beautiful today, a little over seventy and sunny but with enough clouds to make the sky look like a painting…a good day for market-hopping. I got hopelessly lost around the markets, so I had lunch, and then went back to Trafalgar Square and into the National Gallery, where all the galleries were full of light and I saw so many famous paintings and it was awesome. I wandered around Oxford Circle and Piccadilly Circus and got ice cream and brought leftover Indian food from lunch home for dinner.

Whew – this is getting long – OK, so then today I did more research in the morning and went to St. Paul’s Cathedral in the afternoon, climbing all the way up to the top because again, the day was absolutely gorgeous (though I was not once I reached the top…five hundred some-odd steps = a lot of sweat) and down into the crypt. I then took a final wander (my feet are killing me) before heading back here to report, pack, and prepare to return to the good old U.S. of A.!

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