I am a big fan of Victorian art and when I read about a new exhibition at the V&A felt that it warranted a trip to London to see if it was as good as reviewed. Accordingly Onslow and I rose early yesterday and caught the 0744 to Paddington with the intention of doing a few things including the exhibition. The train fares at that time cost only £27.20 each, if we caught the earlier train it is more than double. Getting in around tennish is fine for us, I generally make some bacon sandwiches and pack chilled juice and then we buy a coffee on the train so that is breakfast sorted. The train going down was delayed by someone driving into a bridge support near Taplow so we were about half an hour late but no matter, still plenty of time for our planned jollies.
Since qualifying for the free bus pass last November I have not been to London, previously I had an Oyster card and used the tube, so I did a bit of research beforehand on the internet and was reasonably well prepared for our first journey. Outside Paddington we caught the Number 7 red bus which took us to Tottenham Court Road station and then we went for a bit of a mooch there in the camera shops. Onslow is after a telescopic lens for his Sony Nex-5 SLR and they are proving very elusive to buy. At the Sony Centre we found out why, the Japanese tsunami has wrecked the factories which produce the lenses and there is an international waiting list. The TCR Centre has a waiting list of seven people who want one, so if you add up all the shops worldwide there is probably quite a queue. It is not urgent so we will keep an eye on the Sony website and get one in due course.
Having sorted that we went to our favourite dim sum restaurant in Chinatown for lunch. It is called Gerrards Corner and on the corner of Wardour Street and Gerrard Street and opens for lunch just before twelve. We had eight different steamers of mainly seafood dim sum and two pots of jasmine tea and it was all absolutely delicious. As always. We had crab, prawns, king prawns and scallops plus a couple of char sui pork dishes and Onslow had his favourite spiced whelks on the side. The total cost for two of us was £27 and we were out for one o clock because the service is brilliant. Very highly recommended for anyone in town who likes dim sum - it is served right through until 5pm and always freshly cooked for you. We order four dishes between the two of us and then another four dishes about fifteen minutes later which ensures that everything is always piping hot.
I was not too sure about the next bus so we decided to splurge on a cab (I think it is the solemn duty of anyone who can afford it to use at least one London cab when on a visit to Town) to take us to the V&A and was not disappointed. The cabbie kept up a monologue about the sins of Boris because the roads in the West End are all building sites. It was horrendous, Oxford Street, Pall Mall, Haymarket and St James's were all gridlocked with half the roads dug up. Apparently they are going to become two way traffic again which necessitates a lot of building works. I would have thought changing the signs round would have done the job but apparently not.
The exhibition "The Cult of Beauty" was wonderful and brought together threads on the edge of my knowledge to a very satisfactory whole. I have seen a lot of the pictures in the exhibition at other galleries but when they are broought together like this there is a very pleasing pattern emerging of how and where particular ideas in the art world crystallised and became part of our heritage. It is very well curated and highly recommended. I liked it so much that I will be going back for at least one more visit, I am a Friend of the V&A so can go as many times as I like without having to pay. There is a photographic exhibition opening next week so next time I could do both. There is a Dale Chihuli glass sculpture in the entrance at the V&A which I am always happy to see, but I think it grows more tentacles every time I visit.
We then went and caught the Number 14 bus back to the West End and walked to the British Museum, we wanted a quick look at the Congreve Clock which never fails to delight, and had an hour to spare before train times. The British Museum was absolutely crowded - I have never seen it so busy before, even on a Saturday. There were what seemed like millions of teenagers, mostly foreign, crowding the forecourt and it was difficult to press through them to the entrance. Obviously the school coach trip season is upon us, Easter being so late this year I had not given it a thought and usually avoid the school holidays. We still managed a peek at the clock though - it is mesmerizing watching that ball go up and down the plate and tilt from side to side.
We then picked up the Number 7 at Russell Square which took us all the way back to Paddington. We had about twenty minutes to spare so I nipped to Sainsbury's Local for victuals for the journey to find it is closed for refurbishment until 11th April. No matter, Marks and Spencer was open and a couple of chilled cans of G&T and some hand made crisps made very satisfactory fodder for the two hour rail trip. Our train got in at 1925 so a very nice and well filled leisurely day in Town was completed. I thought it was leisurely but it must have been more tiring than I thought because I crashed out at half nine and slept right through until a cat demanded food with menaces at seven this morning.