I am a history nerd. I love the stories and coincidences that tell us how we landed where we are now. And even more, how art and culture reflect those events.
How perfect is it that I would go to England? My first time! So much history, I couldn’t stop smiling.
The Tower of London. Right next to the remains of the old Roman wall that surrounded what was then Londinium. Just after William the Conquerer’s invasion in 1066, he built this fortification.
Westminster Abbey! This structure was first built in the 1200’s. Over 3,300 people buried and/or commemorated here. Jane Austen, Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, Shakespeare… Name a famous English person, they are commemorated here. The home of amazing architecture, art, coronations and royal weddings. Westminster Abbey is a World Heritage site.
By the way, check out the statues just over the door. They’re important and influential people from the 20th century.
Including Dr Martin Luther King, 5th from the left.
London, with its narrow, skinny streets.
Including the one pictured below in Spitalfields.
Spitalfields, from ‘hospital in the fields,’ an area once outside of the boundaries of London. During the 1600’s this East End district of London was a refuge for French Protestant Huguenots.
They were silk weavers and soon set up businesses. Stores on the first floor, living quarters on the 2nd and 3rd, weavers working on the 4th. During their heyday there were over 5,000 silk weavers in this area.
These properties are now very valuable. The pink building on the far right still has it’s original paint, adding to it’s plus several million pounds value.
It’s a happening place now, below, a fashion photo shoot in front of street art. Not graffiti! I was told that this is a welcome and acknowledged art form.
And tea! Everywhere you go, cakes and sweets.
The Globe Theater! ‘As you like it,’ as close as you can get to the original experience. Pay a bit more for a bench seat. My advice, for extra comfort, rent a cushion.
2 days at the British museum. Not nearly enough. Maybe a lifetime would cover what they have in there. There are about 8 million items total, at any one time 1% are on display. Still, that’s 80,000 things to see.
Name it, they have it. From Egyptian burial objects,
To the history of watches and timepieces.
One of my favorites? A small clay tablet inscribed with what was until around the 1950s an indecipherable script.
It’s Mycenaean Greek, written in about 1400 BC. It was an unknown language written in an unknown script. The story of how this mysterious code was deciphered is the subject of an excellent book, ‘The Riddle of the Labyrinth’ by Margalit Fox. After some help from an information specialist, we found one of the tablets! Amazing.
At the National gallery, Holbein! One of my favorite artists.
His amazing ‘The Ambassadors’, painted to impress Henry VIII, in the hopes it would land him a job in his court.
But there was another painting that was number one on my list, Jan Van Eyck’s ‘Arnolfini and his Wife.’ I was on a quest to see it.
Others had the same idea,
But, if you’re patient and wait your turn, you can eventually move in.
The loyal dog, the shoes off in this holy ground, the oranges available for only the wealthiest people, the mirror reflecting others in the room, the signature stating, ‘Jan Van Eyck was here.’ The candle lit only over the man, does this suggest that he was living and his wife had died?
Her amazing gown, so huge that she leans back to hold up all that fabric [leading to the mistaken rumor that she was pregnant]. There is a wonderful documentary of a recreation of this gown, check it out here.
Absolutely one of my most favorite paintings. I didn’t want to leave.
But, eventually, I moved on.
Then off to Henry the VIII’s Hampton Court.
Originally built in the early 1500’s, by the late 1600’s it was old fashioned and out of date. William and Mary began a major remodel. But they didn’t tear down all of the original building. Instead parts of the older Tudor buildings were left and connect to the baroque.
You can just see the Tudor walls and chimneys behind the newer building.
Two distinct architectural styles side by side.
Where they connect, from the inside. In an out of the way elevator, the back side of the tudor brick walls and windows attached right next to the newer building.
I love this stuff. So cool.
The amazing gardens.
So much more! Too much for one post. Especially the Victoria and Albert museum. It’s huge and packed full of amazing and fascinating objects.
As luck would have it, there was an especially magnificent exhibition of the House of Dior!
Stay tuned. Next week’s post. The Dior exhibit!