Wednesday, October 28, 2009

London Tuesday Evening - London Museum, Fabric Shopping, and Dinner

After our lunch, we went to the London Museum. This was primarily to see their costume collection, but we had time to explore the museum as well while we waited for our group's turn. Then we went downstairs to a special room where Hilary showed us an array authentic historic clothing from various eras. I cannot post photos of these beautiful garments, however, because this is against museum policy. To sum up the highlights in a few words though, we saw some divine creations, awesome embroidery, a bonnet actually owned and worn by Queen Victoria herself, and an Edwardian gown that was so beautiful and intricate, I don't think it could be duplicated.

After this, a small group of us decided to go fabric shopping at MacCulloch and Wallis. This was fun. It is very old-fashioned and it is housed in three stories of the building. There were some lovely muslins there that I was tempted to buy, but instead settled on some charming bias binding that was so unique and pretty, I couldn't resist:

Here is a part of a hanging basket outside the shop:

And here I am, belatedly mailing postcards home from a charming mailbox:

To end our evening, our group went to dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub. It was great food at a cheap price, but seating is limited. However, two nice gentlemen took pity on us and let us borrow their booth so we could eat. It was a nice dinner and a good chance to get to know our fellow travelers better.

London Tuesday Afternoon - Tea At The Orangery

After touring Kensington Palace, we went to The Orangery for lunch. We had a beautiful space in a rotunda, all white with orange trees on the table:

Then Catherine Hay from Your Wardrobe Unlockd, came and gave a talk about making one's "Holy Grail" costume. She dispalyed her Holy Grail gown, a copy of a Worth gown that she worked on for a monumental number of hours. One lucky young lady in our group, who had followed the construction and progress of this gown online, got to model the gown for us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

London Tuesday Morning - Kensington Palace

Our Tuesday started with Kensington Palace. The gardens were spectacular:

Inside, we saw gorgeous gowns, including many of Princess Diana's. Here are some gowns formerly worn by 1950's debutantes:

There was also an "Etiquette Room", where there were interactive displays to learn how to behave properly in the Queen's presence. For example, we learned how to walk a straight line balancing a book on our heads, how to waltz, how to set a proper table, and there was even a short video on how to correctly curtsy to the Queen (and I practiced with the video, but alas, did not meet the Queen!). There was this sign too, on how to tie a bow tie:

Here are some interior shots of the palace:

And here I am!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

London Monday Night - As You Like It

On Monday night we had the great privilege of seeing As You Like It performed at Shakespeare's Globe Theater. In spite of tired and wounded feet, we did go through with our plan to be "groundlings" and view the play standing in front of the stage. What fun! We were back against the wall for the seat, so could lean, and many of the actors walked right past us as they left the stage.

The acting was marvelous. We especially liked Jacques and Touchstone, who played their characters with such interesting interpretations and humor. Did we laugh! It was such a joyful time.

Afterwards, elated by our awesome Shakespeare experience, we walked home past the Thames and over the bridge to return to our hotel. Here was the view:

(I want to go back...please let me go back!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 6 - Monday at V&A and Suzi's!

Monday was our first big historical fashion day, plus our planned night out at The Globe for As You Like It. We were concerned because the previous night Kristin's ankle was seriously hurting her. I was afraid she'd be laid up for the day or worse. So I ran out to a pharmacy and got an ankle brace, some Arnica (an herbal ointment for brusing and swelling), and some little blister pads (we both also had blisters). We called room service at the hotel for ice. This was amazing: the ice arrive within five minutes, carried on a tray in one hand by a uniformed hotel employee, and the rooms in our hotel had doorbells (how neat!). So he rang the bell and presented us with our elegant ice delivery! We did the whole RICE routine (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) for the ankle, and I gave Kristin some Motrin for the pain and swelling. So we stayed in, ordered room service, and watched a movie. In spite of the calamity, it was fun.

By Monday morning, with the treatment we had done and plenty of rest, Kristin was doing much better. Aylwen (one of the two charming Australian ladies that made the trip very enjoyable) offered Kristin her ankle brace, which was much easier to move in, so we were all set to go.

We started at the Victoria and Albert Museum with our guide, Suzi Clarke. What a beautiful museum. We saw historical art, sculpture, furnishings, plateware, and jewelery, along with some Beatrix Potter original drawings. We also got to look at their study table collections - textiles preserved in glasss frames and catalogued. We were able to take whichever frames out we wanted and view them close up. I would have been happy to spend even more time there. There was just so much to see.

Here are some photos:

An actual foyer of a house, transported to the museum. Look at that inlaid wood.

The fireplace

The ceiling

Here is the photo of the house it was taken from. Silly me, I can't remember the name. But I love the picture and the foyer. It reminds me of the house in the movie The Others.

An example of the embroidery that can be viewed in the textile section. There were lambs (above), hedgehogs, and mice. So cute!

The entire display frame. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous embroidery.

After V&A, half of our group went over to Suzi's house. Suzi is Suzi Clarke , a London historical costumier and historical expert that we were incredibly lucky to meet. I have known Suzi through the Sense & Sensibility sewing forum, but never met or talked to her in real life. She graciously opened her home to us and shared garments from her collection for us to see and examine. Then she treated us to a "proper English tea", with delicious scones (that I am going to attempt to make myself tomorrow). Suzi gave us all sorts of pointers on costume construction and history.
It was a most educational day!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

London Day 5 - Kew Gardens

A Sunday in the park - Kew Gardens. How completely lovely. We are avid Botanical Garden admirers, having the Chicago Botanical Garden 20 minutes from our home. I must admit that in spite of how gorgeous our Botanical Gardens are here at home, the British are one up on us in that regard. See below:

The conservatory - stunning

Inside the conservatory, on the spiral staircase


An English Rose

Cedar of Lebanon

Kew Palace

Kristin on the grounds of the palace

Me at the Wishing Well

Kristin in the gazebo

A Wheeping Beech Tree

Inside the Wheeping Beech - it was a completely sheltered and enclosed space. Oh, to be a child again and play in there, what fun we would have!

Holly boughs and berries - and it's not even Christmas yet!

We weren't sure what this plant was; there was no label, but it looked neat.

Swans, swans I tell you, right there in the garden

I have no idea what this bird is. Does anyone know? We loved his fern-like feet.

Kristin by the flowers. At this point, after walking miles and miles in the garden (and actually getting semi-lost - HELP!), our feet were killing us.

Me with sore feet

We thought the town was charming.

In spite of sore feet, we enjoyed our day at the garden and would recommend it to anyone travelling to London. I would love to go there in the spring because they have rhododendron plants there that are enormous. I can just imagine how beautiful they look in bloom.

London Day 5 - Sunday Morning Mass

On Sunday morning, Kristin and I went to Mass at Westminster Cathedral (which gets confusing; Westminster Cathedral is the Catholic Cathedral in London, Westminster Abbey is the famous Anglican church where coronations of English monarchs takes place). We made sure to go to the Mass where their choir was singing (the Solemn Mass, or sung Mass, where portions of the liturgy as sung rather than spoken). It was beautiful.

Westminster Cathedral

The tower of the Cathedral

Above the doorway

After Mass, we walked back to the train so we could head over to Kew Gardens. We spotted "Baby Ben" on the way:

Monday, October 5, 2009

London - Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

Loads of fun! On Saturday afternoon, Kristin and I finished with the Sherlock Holmes Museum, then walked over to Madame Tussauds. There was a bit of a "queue" as they say in England, but it was only 20 minutes or so. It was well worth the wait. I was under the impression that the exhibits would be roped off, for viewing from afar only. Not so! The wax figures are standing about, ready to be examined closely and posed with. Sometimes it got a little creepy, as when a "person" I thought was a fellow tourist standing next to me was actually a wax figure!

Anyway, we had a blast. Besides the figures in the various rooms (each room had a different theme, such as political figures, movie stars, historical figures, etc.), there was also a ride (sort of like a tame roller coaster) where one got to go through a big display on some of England's history. We also purchased three formal photographs that the staff took; one was of me with the Queen! It looked so convincing that I played a joke on my friends when I showed them the picture, and told them "Look, I got to meet the Queen!" (I admitted the truth immediately after, but they all said they couldn't tell at first that it was a wax figure.)

Me with Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart). I took this one for Paul, since he is a "Trekkie".

Kristin with Brad and Angelina. We all think Kristin resembles Angelina a bit.

Kristin with Orlando Bloom. We loved him in The Lord of the Rings.

Kristin with Nicole Kidman (Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp to the sides).
Nicole looked so real.

Kristin in High School Musical

Me with Spiderman. I took this one for Tyler, who loves Spiderman.

Kristin and Prince Harry. We were surprised by how tall the princes are.

With Prince William

Kristin and her hero, The Bard himself, William Shakespeare

We had the honor of "meeting" Pope John Paul II!

I recommend a visit to the Wax Museum to anyone travelling to London. It was so much fun, especially with a teenager along. The artistry is just amazing.