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Travel 2017: London Museums and an American Classic: Day Three

Jeff Linamen

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It’s our third day in London and Michael decided he wanted to spend the morning relaxing at St. Pancras. I decided to head over to the British Museum by myself. Michael’s not a huge fan of museums so I was on my own.

 

The British Museum.

 

Masterpiece Clock, around 1650, at the British Museum.

British Museum. I arrived at the museum shortly after it opened and the line to get in moved quickly.

Like all the national museums in the U.K., there is no admission fee to get in. Just one of the things I love about London.

There are many museums in this city– most with a particular focus. The British Museum is dedicated to human history, arts and culture or could otherwise be described as hosting antiques, artifacts and relics from different civilizations throughout history.

In grading a museum, I usually prefer a number of things: a balance of what is displayed, the layout of the exhibition space, the way a story is being told, and the ambience of the building itself.

Unfortunately, this was not my type of museum. The British Museum has more than 8 million pieces in its collection and tries to display too many of them at one time.

The galleries are overcrowded with relics in what feels like haphazardly-placed displays, causing each room to be a congested maze. Add the large number of visitors to that and it becomes too claustrophobic.

Compound that– though galleries are loosely sectioned by civilization,  types of work, etc. — there is no easy-to-follow story or way to simply navigate through the museum’s collection.

 

A child’s sarcophagus, probably from Rome, early 200 AD.

 

I made my way through most of the exhibitions but did so pretty quickly– searching for pieces that might catch my eye. Sadly, I found very little interest here and was more anxious to get out of the crowded spaces so I could breathe again.

I can’t help but make the comparison to searching for a special find at an overcrowded flea market. Michael made the right decision to pass on the opportunity. He would have hated this experience.

In the afternoon, we found ourselves exploring the area of Victoria Embankment. We were on a quest to acquaint ourselves with new areas of London we hadn’t yet explored. It was an enjoyable walk that led us over to Somerset House, one of the places we didn’t have a chance to visit before.

 

Victoria Embankment.

 

Courtauld Gallery. Friends of ours had recommended the Courtauld Gallery to us which is located at Somerset House on the Strand. It is a small gallery with an extraordinary collection of Impressionist work.

The Courtauld Gallery.

I absolutely loved it. The collections, the ambience and the display were all handled to perfection.

I think we spent more time here than I did at the mammoth British Museum this morning. Works by van Gogh, Seurat, Monet and Degas were all beautifully displayed.

My big surprise was finding Georges Seurat’s painting, Young Woman Powdering Herself (1888-1890). I have a reproduction at home and have always loved this piece.

 

Viewing Georges Seurat’s Young Woman Powdering Herself.

 

If we’d have had more time, I could have easily spent several more hours here. I can’t fully explain it. I found the art here thrilling to behold. I definitely hope to return here again.

 

Inside the beautifully displayed Courtauld Gallery.

 

Dancer Ready to Dance, Right Foot Forward by Edgar Degas.

 

Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait With A Bandaged Ear, 1889.

 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? One of our most anticipated performances was tonight’s production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

 

We couldn’t have been more pleased. Why is it that you have to travel to London to see a truly great performance of an American classic?

It starred Olivier and Bafta award-winning actress Imelda Staunton (Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance); Olivier award-winner Conleth Hill (Game Of Thrones, Stones In His Pockets, The Producers); Olivier award-winner Luke Treadaway (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Fortitude, The Hollow Crown) and Imogen Poots, in her West End debut (A Long Way Down, Jane Eyre and Me And Orson Wells).

Everything about this production is perfect! Director James Macdonald’s vision brings to life a fresh, contemporary production that is the best I’ve ever seen. He has guided the actors into new territory with their original, rich, deeply-layered performances– paying perhaps the greatest tribute to Albee’s dark and disturbing masterpiece.

 

What a day!

 

Travel Date: May 15, 2017 (Day Three)

 


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