Saturday, July 9, 2022

Day 25 – Apsley House and Pub Quiz

It was hard to know what to savor on my last day in London. We were asked to do an evaluation of the British Studies program on computers in an underground classroom which took until after 10:00, and then I unexpectedly had to put together a PowerPoint, one of my least favorite things to do. Once that was done, I set off to visit the London Review Bookshop and, just as importantly, its cake shop next door, as I was craving Victoria sponge cake.
It is the kind of bookstore that is mostly modern fiction and heavy nonfiction, although there was a crime section with nicely packaged Dorothy Sayers and a children’s area on the lower level. I was not tempted by the books, fortunately, as my luggage was threatening to get very heavy. The cakes didn’t tempt me either, although I would have tried the quiche if it had been a more appealing flavor than pumpkin!
Swans on the Serpentine
My next stop was Hyde Park, the largest Royal Park in central London covering over 5000 acres. In addition to the 4,000 trees, plants, flowers, meadows, bridle paths, and miles of walks, the park contains the Serpentine, the world’s first artificial recreational lake. Those who read Georgette Heyer know that during the London Season it was important to be seen in Hyde Park during the promenade hour of 5:00 to 6:00 pm. Well, I was there at the unfashionable time of midday but I still enjoyed strolling as far as the Serpentine. I inspected the adjacent café but was unimpressed so kept going, although so hungry I had to resort to an emergency granola bar that had been at the bottom of my bag for weeks.
A Georgette Heyer fan had recommended a visit to Apsley House, which was the home of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, hero of Waterloo. Standing in the heart of London, Apsley House was designed and built by Robert Adam in the 1770s, and purchased by the duke in 1817. He transformed it into a palatial residence to befit his status, and filled it with works of art and extraordinary gifts from rulers across Europe, grateful he had saved them from Bonaparte. The house is a dazzling backdrop to Wellington’s outstanding collection and I was able to see a special exhibit, Wellington, Women & Friendship, which will be available through October 2022:
by Sir Thomas Lawrence
In the 170-years since his death, the Duke’s reputation as a great military strategist and statesman has tended to overshadow his reputation during his lifetime, which was that he was something of a ‘ladies’ man’.

Through letters, portraits and much more, on loan from public and private collections, Wellington, Women and Friendship will present an intimate picture of a very public life; revealing Wellington’s social circle, his marriage and how his friendships with women could sometimes provoke rumour and gossip.

Wellington, Women and Friendship presents twenty works including paintings, miniatures, drawings and previously unseen or published letters, plus contemporary cartoons which present a window onto the world of society gossip during the 19TH-century. Many of these portraits of the woman he corresponded with hung in his own home during his lifetime.
The house and exhibit were delightful and it was obvious that his marriage was unhappy because his wife did not share any of his interests or enjoy society and witty conversation.  It was entertaining to learn about the women he chose to spend time with instead.  Just as I was wondering if Wellington, the military hero, and Lord Nelson, the naval hero, had crossed paths, a curator had anticipated my question and a notice explained they had met just once in 1805. Nelson initially appeared arrogant to Wellington but apparently, there was soon a meeting of the minds.
This room was sometimes used for the annual Waterloo Anniversary Dinner
Afterward, I had time for a quick trip to Hatchards, London's oldest bookshop, established in 1797, also on Piccadilly but not walking distance, before I dashed back to Marylebone for presentations from all the British Studies groups (theatre, business, gothic studies, history, public health, as well as library). I stopped by the Marylebone library to leave my laundry detergent for Nicky, which her colleagues found very odd but I didn’t want it to go to waste!
Hyde Park Corner
The perfect activity for our final evening was a pub quiz at the King’s Head, in Earl’s Court. Surprisingly, the food was great – I had a buttermilk chicken sandwich and the best chips I’d had all month, piping hot and just the right amount of crispness. The quiz had begun when we arrived but the amiable host recognized my friends from the previous week (I think I had been doing employee evaluations via Zoom) and caught us up. I was impressed by Desiree and Amanda's ability to decipher some of the puns! Some of the questions were impossible for us to guess but it was fun anyway. We did well on a multipart Wimbledon question except I went completely blank on Novak Djokovic’s name. “Put ‘the Serb who refuses to get vaccinated!’” I told Erin, who was writing down the answers, and hoped we’d get partial credit! I was pleased with myself for recognizing Fred Perry’s picture. The Librarian Queens team made an impressive leap from second-to-last place last week to fourth out of eleven this week and we won a package of cookies!
Dr. Steele and Amanda thinking hard
Miles walked: 6.5
Books donated to the Marylebone Library: 2


Anonymous said...

Wonderful experiences. Do you have a stand out "best" or "most memorable"?

CLM said...

That is a good question! Even though I had been to Oxford before, I think visiting the library at Christ Church College, seeing its treasures, and talking to the librarian there about Cambridgeshire was one of the most satisfying experiences, along with visiting Green Knowe. And visiting the London Library, seeing Georgette Heyer's picture and knowing she spent time there was also very enjoyable. When our professor asked us for feedback on the libraries we visited so she could determine which ones to keep in future years, it was very hard to say that any were less enlightening than others. The moment when they started showing us their treasures was always a lot of fun too! I also really enjoyed going to the theatre. Because it was so much less expensive than in New York or Boston, I was more spontaneous about it. I usually invited the others to join me but I didn't mind going alone if no one else was interested and saw some great shows.

Anonymous said...

I remember when I was in library school in the early 1980's a visit to three "special libraries" in Chicago, one the library of the Art Institute, one a newspaper library for the Tribune and I think the third was associated with the Natural History Museum, was a big thrill. But the ones you were able to visit sound like they were outstanding.

Many thanks for sharing with us.


LyzzyBee said...

This has been so lovely to read - thank you for taking the time to take us all along on your adventures!

Jean Winnipeg said...

I was wondering what your course was? I have been going backwards reading your posts. I am enjoying reading of places you are visiting for ideas for future trips.

CLM said...

Jerri, surprised you did not visit the Newberry Library! I have walked by it and been very curious. We did visit some lovely places - the moment when they brought out their treasures, as I may have mentioned, was very cool. Sometimes we were so eager to see what they had that we were sneaking looks the whole time they were talking. It was also interesting that my classmates, much younger than I, really enjoyed talking to the entry-level librarians we occasionally met whereas I liked talking to the bosses!

Liz, thank you for reading. I had hoped to get up your way but when the trains started going on strike, I unplanned some of my trips. But there is always next time!

Jean, I am finishing a master's degree in library and information science. This course was the final six credits I needed to graduate. I did not get much work done on my term paper this weekend but I need to finish it by July 22, and then I am done.

TracyK said...

You packed a lot into that last day and with bookstore visits as well. I would have been very tired after just half of the day was done.

Hyde Park sounds wonderful, I would have loved to have been there.

Jean Winnipeg said...

Thank you for the information re your course. Jean