A Sunny, Art-full Day in London Town

IMG_0016

SUNNY AND IN THE 60s…I can’t complain about yesterday’s weather in London. And there’s something about the sky. When it’s not gray (as it so often is, and is again today, Friday), it’s particularly, poignantly beautiful.

I visited two of the city’s outstanding art museums, the 250-year-old Royal Academy of Arts, where one of the current blockbusters is American Painting After the Fall (meaning after the stock market crash of 1929 — I had wondered which fall they were talking about), full of rarely-seen, dystopian works by Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper and other social realists. Most were borrowed from museums other than New York’s and were wholly new to me.

I breezed through the permanent collection of The National Portrait Gallery just to get the idea, lingering over a few Tudors and Stuarts whose faces or costumes particularly arrested me. Then I enjoyed a ‘modern British’ vegetarian lunch in the third-floor restaurant, where the view rivaled (and resembled) that of Florence, with an unexpected number of domes and spires.

Both art institutions are housed in venerable buildings whose interiors have been cleverly revamped to suit current purposes, with (in the National Portrait Gallery, especially) dramatically long escalators and glass elevators that allow the building’s original ornate detail to still be seen.

Late in the day, I walked through some of the city’s poshest precincts, including St. James Square, top, and Westminster, wearing out more shoe leather over the Millennium Bridge. Destination: the National Theatre for Twelfth Night, a brilliantly staged production of Shakespeare’s original, in modern, outrageous costume and with hilarious physical comedy. I hope they don’t bring it to Broadway, where they’re sure to ruin it.

Come see what I saw.

IMG_0001IMG_0019IMG_0002

Above, The Royal Academy of Arts on busy Piccadilly

IMG_0003IMG_0006IMG_0005

While just around the corner, on the narrow side streets, the feel is of a smaller, even older town

IMG_0017IMG_0018

High-priced shopping in the Burlington Arcade, off Piccadilly, includes several hatters and other old-fashioned businesses. Above, Fortnum & Mason’s glittering displays

IMG_0004

I peeked into Zedel’s, a fabulous and festive Art Deco-era brasserie, a dead ringer for Paris’s, and found it hopping at lunchtime

IMG_0007

Outside the National Portrait Gallery, above. Sadly, there’s a fair amount of homelessness on display in London

IMG_0013

Samuel Pepys, 17th century diarist, bon vivant and Secretary of the Navy, without whom we would know much less of London’s Plague and Great Fire

IMG_0014

The brooding young poet, later priest, John Donne

IMG_0008IMG_0012

The view from my table at Portrait, the National Portrait Gallery’s top floor restaurant. Nelson’s column at Trafalgar Square is prominent

IMG_0009IMG_0010

Above, the view from my plate: a goat cheese starter and herbed quinoa and cauliflower main, artfully composed

IMG_0015

Trafalgar Square from street level in late afternoon, now pedestrianized. I remember it as a terrifyingly traffic-choked roundabout in the late 1960s

IMG_0021

Skirting St. James Park at sunset

IMG_0022

Same time of day but looking east, a host of golden daffodils

IMG_0023IMG_0025

Japanese musicians on the Embankment, astonishingly good

IMG_0024IMG_0026

Irresistible Thames evening views, again. You can be sure I wasn’t the only one taking iPhone photos

About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
This entry was posted in LONDON and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Sunny, Art-full Day in London Town

  1. coppermaven says:

    Missed you yesterday! I feel like I’m seeing London anew through your photos!

  2. Julia Mack says:

    Although I do love travel in London, one favorite of your shots so far is the portrait of Samuel Pepys. That classic, dark Rembrandt-style with beautiful gilded oval frame is eye-catching and so elegant.

  3. Stacie R Sinder says:

    Beautiful photo of St. James Park among others — wish I was there to see it all with you!

Got something to say? Please say it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s