Thursday, May 9, 2013

Postcards from London 1: First Things First

On our first evening in London, we had a reservation at the Dennis Severs House in Spitalfields. I was able to snag a reservation before we left Boston. 

We passed this building covered with creepers as we emerged from a tunnel on the Tube:

This extraordinary house was the ideal beginning for our trip; as you wander silently through the candlelit, pomander-scented rooms, you can easily imagine yourself back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Photography is not allowed, of course, so I can only show you the exterior; do check out the website if you're intrigued. This is also where we met our only cat on the whole trip. She was so perfectly positioned, sitting on a chair, that we thought she was taxidermy at first. Eventually she turned her head and then allowed us to pet her.

The Dennis Severs House. Go there.

It felt odd and exhilarating to emerge back into 2013, which proved how effective the house's atmosphere really was. We admired the Gherkin:

And we roamed through streets of other fine old houses: 

The next morning, we set off for the Victoria & Albert Museum, which I knew would be an exciting, overwhelming experience. We fortified ourselves with sandwiches and pastry for breakfast at Paul. We had our share of their new tartes au sucre during our visit. And their eclairs are as good as they are in Paris:

I have a fancy little replica of the entrance to the V&A that I bought many years ago, so I knew the fa├žade like an old friend. (And I didn't need to bring home a souvenir):

We went directly to my husband's favorite object in the collection — Tipu's Tiger, an automaton of a tiger attacking a British soldier (it also plays music). I admited it, too; how often does the tiger or the lion get to win?

I loved the V&A's costume displays. It often felt like my Pinterest pages for fashion, jewelry, and antiques were coming to life. I saw many "familiar faces" from my pages. Pinterest seems to have improved my ability to figure out the dates for clothing, too. I'd guess and then check the label. 

The V&A's architecture blew us away almost as much as its collections did. Here's the courtyard. Now that's a courtyard.

I have a high tolerance for Victorian bombast of all varieties:

But I also enjoy focusing on one striking work, like this bust of a saintly bishop by Alfred Gilbert:  

The V&A has a Chihuly hanging in its rotunda, which I liked better than the one at the MFA:

And we couldn't help comparing this glorious, tiled dining room with the ones at the MFA, too. The chairs are similar, at least:

We walked our feet off and left dazed and dazzled. But not before we considered this contraption for filling a bowl with oranges:

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