Wednesday was not an early wake-up day, but we did rise at early enough to catch breakfast at a little diner a couple of blocks from our hotel. We found it during a vain search for Harrod’s. I had dropped egg on “brown” toast (wheat) and coffee. Susan had a bagel with butter. We sat in the window and saw our little corner of South Kensington come to life. Across the street was a creperie, which Susan and I agreed to try another day, and a place that sold door handles and knobs.
Fully nourished, we ducked into the Tube at South Kensington and took the Picadilly Line one stop to Knightsbridge to go to Harrod’s, which makes all US department stores look like KMarts.
First of all, there’s about 10 levels to the place, three of which are underground, and it takes up a couple of city blocks. There’s all kinds of regular clothing departments, but Susan and I fancied the food lots and souvenir section. We regaled our tourist status by lingering among the many items marked with the Harrod’s name, then walked wide-eyed through the food stalls to see what was for sale. The place was loaded with candy of all kinds, fresh meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and more. There was a food court replete with a full-size Krispy Kreme. Susan and I enjoyed a mocha cap and chocolate gelato, even though we had only eaten an hour before.
From there, my day began. We Tubed over to Trafalgar Square, where there is a towering monument to Lord Admiral Nelson, who won the famous sea battle at Trafalgar. That’s all I know. He is joined in the square by a pair of fountains.
I’ve often said Boston needs more fountains. It’s just such a nice place to repose. Trafalgar Square also happens to be home of the National Gallery, not to be confused with the National Portrait Gallery, which is in an adjoining building. The National Gallery is full of works by the masters, started with unsigned reliquary from the 13th century all the way until famous 19th century painters such as Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, and more.
I tried to explain to Susan the changes in art and how most of the art from the Middle Ages was commissioned by wealthy families for use are prayer objects, and how during the Renaissance, the painters, still working by commission, were painting biblical scenes for family chapels and so on. Well, she was tired of it all by the time we got to the Dutch masters, such as Van Dyck and Vermeer, all of whom led the painting world into portraits of living people, still lifes and landscapes. She was bored, so she hung out in a room of post-Renaissance Italian painters while I moved from room to room taking all of the wonderful art. I got to see works by some of my favorite Spanish painters Velazquez and el Greco. Then it was on to the Ruebens room, which is a grand room of three octagons full of mostly Peter Paul Ruebens paintings, including two biblical scenes that were amazing. One of them was only discovered to be a Ruebens in 2001, and it was a match to another scene, long known to be his.
Finally, I finished with painters I was sure would interest Susan. They didn’t. She was nonplussed, even when I took her in to see the Rembrandts and Monet’s We got to see Monet’s “Bridge over lilies” and she complained it was no big deal. I was undeterred, but it was time to go. I had seen all I wanted to, or so I thought. When we got to the gift shop, I saw they had copies of Van Gogh works I hadn’t seen. I left Susan standing under a display of the artist-in-residence while I ran back to see the Van Gogh room. In there was a painting I have been dying to see since Suzie and I were in grade school together. It was Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” I could have stared at that painting for hours. It was amazing, and the card beside it said he painted it for his spare bedroom in Arles, France in anticipation of his friend Paul Gaugin’s arrival. Imagine, one of the most recognizable piece of artwork in the world was done on a lark to welcome a friend.
We left with the intent of trying to cram in another museum, but I was pooped. Susan of course had long had it over an hour before, so I modified my mental schedule while we ate a late lunch in a pub outside of Trafalgar Square. My feet were also killing me. I was wearing the most uncomfortable pair of black dress shoes that I can’t tolerate for too long. Despite being dressed in blue Dockers, I donned trainers anyway on our way to the London Eye.