Day Three

August 10th

We got up, ate our English breakfasts, and took the Tube to Blackfriars, so called because of the black friars there at one time (surprisingly enough). We crossed the Millenium Bridge, commissioned from Norman Foster by Queen Elizabeth II. It was the first new bridge to cross the Thames in more than a hundred years. At its gala opening ceremony, so many people stood on it that it started wobbling! They had to close it for expensive structural re-engineering, but it re-opened in 2002.

The Tate Modern Museum was built like a warehouse, which is not surprising, given that it began life as the Bankside Power Station. It was remodelled into a museum for the millenium by the Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron. The floors are arranged by themes rather than chronologically, as befits the increasingly scrambled, conceptual nature of modern art. The themes are History/Memory/Society, Nude/Action/Body, Landscape/Matter/Environment, and Still Life/Object/Real Life. At the Tate Modern museum, we saw amazing works of art by: Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, George Bracques, Pierre Bonnard, Eduard Vuillard, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Cornelia Parker, Paul Cezanne, Richard Deacon, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Smithson, Piet Mondrian, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Robert Therrien, Roy Lichtenstein, Naum Gabo, Andy Warhol, Bridget Reilly, Frank Stella, Clyfford Stills, Alberto Giacometti, Eric Gill, Cy Twombly, Arshile Gorky, Marcel Duchamp, Mark Rothko, Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Beuys, Mark Dion, Bruce Nauman, Jackson Pollock, Roni Horn, Blinky Palermo, Sonia Boyce, and Thomas Struth... and one Monet!

We walked to Shakespeare's Globe Theater and saw the reconstructed playhouse with its thatch roof, timber-framed walls, and the fantastic new front gates. The original Globe was built in 1599. It burned to the ground in 1613, but it was immediately rebuilt, lasting until the Puritans, who thought that theaters were sinful, closed it down in 1642. The American actor and director Sam Wanamaker dedicated himself to rebuilding the Globe Theater exactly as it was, completing the project in 1997. The new theater has one important change, though: the authentic thatch roof has an inauthentic sprinkler system to prevent a repeat of 1613. Each symbol on the new gates represents one of Shakespeare's plays. Unfortunately, our schedule did not permit us to see a play there. However, we did watch “The Taming of the Shrew” performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. We also passed the house where Sir Christopher Wren lived.

We went back over the Millenium bridge to see St. Paul's Cathedral, where the bird-lady in “Mary Poppins” sold her wares. All around the cathedral the saints and apostles looked down... at us! It was designed by Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1710. In size, it is second only to St. Peter's in Rome.

If the Smithsonian Museum is America's attic, then the Victoria and Albert Museum is England's basement. Prince Albert left the collection to the city after the Great Exhibition of 1851. At the Victoria and Albert, we saw all sorts of stuff: European furniture and sculpture; Islamic art, including an immense carpet; Chinese, Japanese, and Korean objets d'art; some enormous cast plaster statues and pillars; the British Galleries, which were delightfully air-conditioned and full of furniture, paintings, and even entire reproduced rooms; and tons of clothing and household goods. What an unbelievable accumulation!

Eric tried on a neck ruff, an Inverness cape, and a gauntlet that was surprisingly comfortable. The costume section was very interesting. There were dresses from the 19th and early 20th centuries up to some pretty outlandish modern outfits.

We also saw what may have been King Henry VIII's writing desk!

We ate dinner at the Chimes Restaurant that night. We drank lemonade, ginger beer, English perry, and this dandelion and burdock stuff, as well as lots of “tap water.” “Water” in London means sparkling water. You have to ask for “still” water to get the flat kind. Heather and Eric had orange treacle tart for dessert.