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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Adventures in London, part 3

(A view of St. Paul’s from the Millennium Bridge.)

On Seanan’s day off we went to the Victoria & Albert. I spent the most time at the fashion exhibit, which was of course fantastic, although it was pretty hilarious to see a pink velour hoochy tracksuit behind glass like it was some precious artifact. When you go to the V&A you must have lunch (or at least tea) in the cafeteria, which is full of splendid tilework and stained glass windows featuring clever quotations about food. The other really memorable thing was Elizabeth Parker’s needlepoint autobiography, which I feel sure I read or heard about in a blog or podcast awhile back, because reading the embroidery felt awfully familiar.

Then there were incredibly delicious fruity cocktails at Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill, which were worth every cent of £9. (Just don’t pay by credit card, because the waiter will try to confuse you into leaving a bigger tip than he deserves.)

The next day I went to the National Gallery expressly to see Venus & Mars (not that I didn’t see a lot of other amazing paintings too–being able to view The Ambassadors in person was a really cool experience!), and then to the Royal College of Surgeons Museum, which is the final resting-place (er–of sorts) of the ‘Irish Giant’, Charles Byrne. (I’d recently read The Giant O’Brien by Hilary Mantel, a fictionalized account of Byrne’s life as a professional oddity in London. Very well written, of course, but stinkin’ depressing–his “friends” were all sitting around waiting for him to die so they could sell his body to John Hunter for an exorbitant price.)

Now to the juicy part of this post: the magical print shop that is T. Alena Brett on Cecil Court, off Charing Cross Road (there’s no website). Thousands of odd or otherwise special little antique prints, most of which are £3-5. I can’t say enough good things about this place, or its owner. The building has a fascinating history as well–a long time ago it was a barber’s shop, and as a boy Mozart had his hair cut there; and in the early 20th century it was a tea room frequented by several of the war poets (Rupert Brooke, et al). The tables were set up along the tiny balcony where I took the photo above.

Above: the Christmas window display at T. Alena Brett. Below: two of the prints I bought, ‘Princess Fiorimonde’ and ‘Fair at Westminster in the Fourteenth Century’.

3 Comments to Adventures in London, part 3

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    January 27, 2010 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Your descriptions of the National Gallery remind me that I'd like to do some sort of refresher course in art history. I have forgotten so much–Mr Heusser would be appalled!

  2. Camille's Gravatar Camille
    January 27, 2010 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    At least you remembered how to spell 'Heusser.' :}

  3. Uxbridge Plumbers's Gravatar Uxbridge Plumbers
    February 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Well done some of the pictures a re brilliant. Thanks for posting !

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.