National Gallery to London Bridge

Trip Start Oct 09, 2012
Trip End Oct 17, 2012

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

A long but very good day. Rain on and off but lots of sunshine, too. My friend had a school meeting all day, so I decided to head off to central London for a lot of walking. The train was leaving the station shortly after I arrived, which was convenient. I walked along the Mall to the National Gallery.

The National Gallery offers multiple audio-tours, which was appealing to me, so I opted for one on techniques of painting and preservation. The tour covers 13 paintings, but you also have access to the entire audio, so you can access information about any painting with a number. Separate numbers are found for the "special" tours. The descriptions of the paintings was about the right length … long enough to make you feel as if you were getting what you paid for, but not so long that you grew tired or bored. We covered a lot of material, so I won't include it all here. But I can say that it was interesting to learn that painters in the Netherlands learned the secrets and perfected the use of oil paints before the painters in Italy. One of the more interesting works was Holbein’s The Ambassadors, which has a distorted skull floating in the bottom center of the canvas. You could see two totally separate eras and styles in Renoir’s The Umbrellas, including a shift from cobalt blue to French synthetic ultramarine. In fact, blue paint with lapis lazuli played a large role in a number of the paintings.

I also saw two Vermeers: A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals and The Guitar Player (on loan). The second Vermeer that’s usually at the National Gallery (A Young Woman Standing at the Virginals) was not in place. I passed by the Da Vinci Virgin on the Rocks but spent more time looking at the “Burlington House Cartoon” by him.

From the National Gallery, I walked down the Strand to the Thames, then along the Thames. It rained a bit but not too much. I crossed Millenium Bridge, heading for the Tate Modern, which was incredibly crowded. Too bad, because the sun was now out and the view would have been fabulous. Instead, I stayed on that side of the river and walked down to London Bridge. I had lunch at Hay Market, then walked to the base of the Shard. As with most tall buildings, it was better viewed from the distance. Then, I crossed Millenium Bridge again and walked up to the Swiss Re Building (“the Gherkin”). It was actually really interesting close up, because of the way reflections played in the windows.

Coming home, I basically retraced my steps, making for a 9-mile walk today. I arrived around 6:15pm, just as the light was fading. We had a very tasty dinner (including a special chocolate cake), then I went upstairs to bathe and rest my aching feet.
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