Thursday, April 12, 2018

England 2018, Day 6

On Wednesday, we headed to a fashionable part of London - Mayfair! My mother wanted to visit the house where composer George Frideric Handel had lived - now a museum housing both German-born Handel and Seattle-born rock star Jimi Hendrix memorabilia!  We have a particular interest in the former because my grandfather was a Handel scholar, author of a book on Handel that is still in print. The museum was small but charming: we enjoyed a young musician playing the harpsichord while singing Bach in German (he said he'd get to Handel if I was patient), and I learned a little about Jimi Hendrix also!  Most of all, it was exciting to think of Handel working on Messiah in this very house (and I was amazed to learn he had completed it in about three weeks), using this very bookcase.
Handel's bookcase
Before leaving Mayfair, I also poked my head into nearby Claridge's Hotel which made me feel like the royalty and celebrities who often stay there. Perhaps one sign of a five star hotel (not to mention L500/night) is that they made me feel welcome even in jeans and sneakers (if it weren't always cold and rainy I might have looked less disheveled). The hostess at the restaurant urged me to bring my mother in for a coffee but there wasn't time.

Interior of St. George's, Hanover Square
My big miscalculation of this trip (at least so far) was looking on my phone at the distance between Brook Street and the Churchill War Rooms and deciding it was close enough to walk. It took us nearly an hour and half to get there and then there was an enormous line! Nicky had warned us the night before to buy tickets online but the website was uncooperative. It turned out that the tickets were sold out and a sympathetic guard said we might get in but it could be one hour or four! We were cold and disgruntled, so walked another 20 minutes before we found a Pret a Manger, where we partook of hot chocolate, tea, and cookies, which restored our good humor. The walk had been interesting, after all, and among other things we had visited St. George's, Hanover Square, the society church that makes appearances in Georgette Heyer's and others' books. We also walked by the shop (showroom?) of Jenny Packham, the British fashion designer patronized by the Duchess of Cambridge. As my guilty pleasure is this delighted me.
Jenny Packham, clothing designer to the stars
I had read about a fabulous exhibit about Charles I, King and Collector at the Royal Academy, so although we hated to walk another meter, we girded our loans and hustled over to Burlington House on Piccadilly. The queue there was almost as bad as the one we had left behind but fortunately they sold us tickets for 3:30 and we only had to wait patiently for 20 minutes or so to enter. The exhibit had brought the treasures of Charles I from all over the world for the first time since, presumably, he was chased out of town by those vile Roundheads. It consisted of paintings, sculpture, miniatures (by Nicholas Hilliard!), tapestries, medallions and more, dazzlingly displayed in many rooms. The most impressive paintings were by Anthony Van Dyck, who came to England and essentially became the court painter, painting many portraits of Charles and his family. Each room was extremely crowded because the exhibit is closing on April 15th and people were trying to catch it. It was worth elbowing our way through to see such exceptional works.
I really wanted the exhibition poster but was not sure I could get it home intact
By 5:15, however, we were not just tired of the crowds but also eager to see the real reason for our trip, my eldest niece, who is studying in London this semester. We had arranged to meet her at Zizzi on the Strand (a chain but the food was wonderful), so we hurried through the rush hour commuters and a kind manager at the restaurant found us a table although we did not have a reservation. It was great to see my niece and hear about her adventures! She is studying theatre and after dinner we went to see a new play, Quiz, which had just opened and was cleverly staged and great fun. 

Church count: one
Miles walked: 5.0

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