london // day 2


 


After a much needed shower and a solid breakfast, I walk over to the Museum of Natural History by foot. The line is quite intimidating, but moves so quickly I am inside within less than a dozen minutes. The crowd, however, is dense, and the galleries filled with loud, agitated children. Not exactly my scene. I opt to visit the Cocoon, an impressive, modern structure within the ancient museum itself. As its name implies, the Cocoon has a circular shape – similar to the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Though I am not particularly interested in the Cocoon’s contents, I do enjoy the way information is presented within it. I can imagine it being a fascinating space for fans of biodiversity and scientific research.

Next, I somehow manage to push my way through to the geology section (not so much by choice, but rather in a rather desperate search for a quieter space). I end up in a room full of precious stones – pyrites, diamonds, you name it. They are all displayed by type and color in a dark room, which altogether makes for a visually appealing sight. I am fascinated by nature’s capacity to produce these bright colors, and the stones have such a presence that one truly wonders why they are not living organisms (the look just as lively as weeds to me).

The Victoria and Albert Museum, located just across the street, is equally well kept. I spend the majority of my time there marvelling at the costume collection, in which historical garments are displayed chronologically. From those uncomfortable-looking 17th century corsets to an outlandish Vivienne Westwood dress, it’s a very nice journey through British fashion.


Finally, I enter the Science Museum, not so much because I look forward to seeing space equipment and machines on display as because it is free and just next door. Just as I did at the Museum of Natural History, I quickly pass through the overwhelmingly crowded areas and end up on the quieter second floor. There, I spend a good half-hour in a temporary photography exhibit titled “Make Life Worth Living: Nick Hedge’s Photographs for Shelter, 1968-72”. I am moved by this series of stunning black and white documentary shots of families living in desolate housing conditions.

On my way to Hyde Park I make a quick sightseeing stop by Royal Albert Hall, which happens to be located just across from the London School of Music (I just had to snap a photo for Meghan). The Hall itself is a rather massive circular building. As it just begins to drizzle, I follow a path along the inner edge of Hyde Park and pop into a cafĂ© for lunch. After a replenishing falafel and hummus baguette sandwich (and another quick look at GoogleMaps), I continue along Hyde Park and walk through its disappointingly sparse Rose Gardens. But what can I expect? It’s still only mid-February.





I keep going East and eventually pass through the Wellington Arch, arriving at Buckingham Palace. After taking a mandatory photo of the Queen’s HQs, I head over to Westminster Abbey. The exaggerated £17 entry fee convinces me to simply take photos of the Abbey from the outside, where it looks stunning enough already. Big Ben is visible in the distance, and also gets a few photos. I continue my journey, passing by the Palace of Westminster and the Victoria Tower Gardens on my way to Saatchi Gallery.




By a happy coincidence, I happen to come upon the Tate Britain, and because at this point one extra museum won’t really make a difference, I decide to step in. Tate Britain is home to an undeniably impressive collection of classic works, including Sir John Everett Millais’, Ophelia (1851-2) and John William Waterhous’s, Lady of Shalott (1888), who interestingly are hung side by side. I’m starting to fall in love with those gold frames.



Next I visit the Saatchi Gallery, which my friend Sophie had highly recommended. As a fan of contemporary art, I am not disappointed by what it has to offer. The current works on display are all part of an exhibit called Post Pop: East Meets West, which, according to the gallery’s website, “brings together 250 works by 110 artists from China, the former Soviet Union, Taiwan, the UK and the USA in a comprehensive survey celebrating Pop Art’s legacy. The exhibit is divided into six themes: Habitat, Advertising and Consumerism, Celebrity and Mass Media, Art History, Religion and Ideology, and Sex and the Body. In the religion gallery I am finally able to see Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ (1987) in person. Serrano had been the guest of honor at the Regional Scholastic Award in NYC, which I attended in 2013, so it’s nice to see his most celebrated work in person. Other familiar artists whose works are displayed at Saatchi include Ai Weiwei and Jeff Koons. The last piece I look at, Tom Sachs’ Nutsy’s McDonald’s (2010), is the one that I will remember the most. Picture a sketchy, grimy McDonald’s shack. On the wall near the hut, employees’ work uniforms (which look more like lab coats) and M-branded helmets (why would you need a helmet to flip burgers?) hang on a rack. Strangely mesmerizing.





I walk a bit along King’s Street, and cannot help myself from entering Habitat, one of my mom’s beloved interior design stores. On the lower floor, the gorgeous ceramics and cutlery sets make me want to create a premature wedding registry. (Side note: wouldn’t it be neat to be able to Pin objects and products we see in real life directly to Pinterest? To my computer science friends: someone please get onto this!)

The day ends with a visit to Harrod’s, one of London’s most famous department stores (think Bloomingdale’s or Saks 5th Ave). I drool over the store’s extensive collection of Cat Kiddleston products, as well as its great selection of coffee table books. On my way out I discover Mungo & Maud, a brand I had never previously heard of. Self-identifying as ‘dog and cat outfitters’, Mungo & Maud offers luxury accessories ranging from beautiful leather collars to adorable plush mouse toys. I take a business card for the next time we want to spoil Morris.

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