Had a bit of a lie-in before walking over to the Paul Mellon Centre with Cassie to do preliminary research for our Glasgow presentation on the city’s School of Art, designed by the celebrated Charles Rennie Mackintosh. We worked for a little while before walking down to Trafalgar Square, which is lovely and has large fountains and larger lions, and one heck of a big column topped by Admiral Lord Nelson. He Expects That Every Man Shall Do His Duty, so Cassie and I climbed the base of the statue and dutifully posed with his lions. We then popped into Pret a Manger (habit forming) for lunch before going into the National Gallery. We purchased audio guides, and spent a good two and a half hours looking at Rembrandts, Manets, Monets, Renoirs, VanGoghs, Seurats, Vermeers, Claudes, Gainsboroughs, Velazquezs, and some Michaelangelos. Wow o wow o wow. Too many paintings, too much standing, too much directors talk to go see. We left a little overwhelmed and walked down Charring Cross to a pub named for Inspector Sherlock Holmes. We then proceeded down to the National Theatre, walking through the book stalls underneath the Jubilee Bridge before going inside for the talk. The director, who surprisingly looks a lot like the actress playing St. Joan, said some interesting things, and we had our fair share of Inane Question/Comment Folks, only they had lovely accents. Professor Roach asked a good, short, Question question. Which was nice, but unfotunately somewhat poorly answered.
After the director’s talk we found a boulevard area full of cute shops (all closed by early evening – how do England shops survive?!) and fun places to eat. We sat in the central picnicking area, full of carved wooden chairs and tables and rocking animals (including a pair of elaborate pig/squirrel rockers) that apparently live there all the time. How neat. After dinner, a few of us headed to the Tate Modern, an art museum that is currently featuring an installation about ten of the world’s most dense cities (London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Los Angeles, Cairo, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Shanghai). We were there for over an hour (the museum closed at 10), and saw only a fraction of the exhibit, as there were fascinating video installments and walk-in cubes for each of the ten cities. We walked home post-museum in a balmy dusk, which brings me to a SPECIAL NOTE: the weather in London is odd. It has generally been cold and gray in the mornings, before staying cold and gray all through mid-afternoon. At about 4 PM it begins to grow sunny and warm, and between 5:30 and 6:00 PM the daily high temperature seems to finally arrive. Then the evening is inevitably totally lovely. It all makes for some bipolar days: slightly sad mornings finished by elating evenings… I suppose we’re getting the hang of it.
We stopped at a convenience store for a snack on the walk home: I have decided to try as much English candy as I can, especially since the New York Times just proclaimed that English candy (chocolate in particular) is worlds better than the American kind. (Besides, I think I must be walking and standing everything I eat into oblivion.) Last night I had an Aerobar, which is bubbly crème-de-menthe filling covered in chocolate holy cow. Tonight was a Cadbury StarBar, a delicious caramel/peanut butter mix covered in Cadbury mmmmm. I feel as though the theatre variety is not the only thing that’s going to work out here.