1) Awake at 6:30 in the morning - just like home. Then hotel breakfast - I’d forgotten how extensive European hotel breakfast buffets are - and off for the day at bit after 9 AM.
2) Today turned out to be all about Cromwell Road, as my two destinations were both on it: the Victoria and Albert Museum and Harrod’s. On my first trip to London in 1988 (for Christmas with the family), I got a total of 45 whole minutes at the V&A and wanted very much to correct that. I also remembered shopping at Harrod’s on that trip.
3) With something like half an hour until the museum opened, I continued strolling and soon came to the Brompton Oratory, which I gather is one of the most famous Catholic churches in London. I did go in, not just to see the church, but to pray in the back, and to light a candle for some dear friends who are going through difficult times.
3a) It’s quite the polychrome old barn, with the sound of a mumbling priest coming from behind a corner. Almost no one there besides myself but two or three older ladies wearing white lace mantillas and sneakers.
4) Finalmente, the museum opened. Chaos! Everyone so eager to get inside and stand in the way! I enjoyed every moment, but the one gasping “Oh my God!” moment was not the amethysts in the jewelry exhibition, but the needlework of Mary, Queen of Scots Herself! I had read about these examples of her embroidery in Stefan Zweig’s biography of her, but certainly wasn’t thinking about finding them there. Also a portrait of her just before her first marriage, a radiantly beautiful young lady.
5) The V&A doesn’t have a proper restaurant, only cafeterias. Since I didn’t really want to tote a tray about, I left the museum and continued down Cromwell until I found an interesting establishment full of empty square burgundy velvet sofas with black-and-gold glass tables, and a couple parties smoking water pipes near the entrance. I enjoyed good coffee and a lamb shwarma over The Economist.
6) Touring Harrod’s is very much like touring the V&A. At each you walk through obstructing crowds in overdecorated rooms to admire beautiful things you can’t afford. At least at the V&A you get a map! I paid much more attention to the décor this time, but mostly I noticed the claustro low ceilings. In the men’s section a nice young woman studying fashion helped me find socks - fabulous.
7) Then it was back to the V&A for more. “Well, they have Art over here, and that’s what we come for,” says the tired American tourist in Ruth Draper’s monologue “A Church in Italy.” But I did get a few decorating ideas . . .
7a) . . . and got to appreciate more the idea of a Cabinet of Curiosities, something I’ve always wanted to attempt on my own.
7b) How I would have loved to share the china section with my grandmother! She loved pretty things so much, and I have certainly inherited that taste.
8) My feet had enough, so after negotiating the shops I ankled back to my hotel for an enormous NAP of one hour.
9) Dinner at a place not far from the hotel called Scoff and Banter. Antonio, my waiter, didn’t really know what a rye manhattan was, but the result was still drinkable. Gin-and-lime marinated salmon was perhaps a bit too much for me, but a perfect steak with rosemary red wine sauce, broccolini, and grilled cherry tomatoes still on their stems. Antonio then steered me to the sticky toffee dessert, which turned out to be the only possible choice. Heaven!
10) In for the night early, and that’s OK!