Back to Britain, Part 7
Tate Britain, Riverwalk along Thames
June 10-25, 2003 (Updated Dec. 4, 2003)
By Lewis Nolan
June 16, 2003, Monday Ė In London
Our good fortune with the weather continues. Another glorious day is unfolding, with sunny skies and a predicted high of 83 degrees. We were also lucky 17 years ago, unlike some of our friends whose stays in London were marked by the famous fog and drizzle.
All the walking yesterday has caught up with me. Despite wearing sturdy, leather shoes made by Rockport and cushioned with Dr. Schollís Insoles (made by my former employer, Schering-Plough), my feet are sore and I have shin splints. I feel tired and crummy. That is a sure sign Iíve pushed myself too hard and am on the verge of getting sick.† So I decided to laze around this morning in our flat at the Dolphin Square, napping and writing in my trip journal.
Betty did our laundry in the hotelís coin-operated facility. She got in just ahead of several, professional rugby players who were in London for a tournament.
After takeout lunch from the hotel deli, we strolled about a mile down the Riverwalk, a wide promenade along the Thames, to the Tate Britain. Along the way we admired the very expensive condo buildings facing the river. The government had wisely secured the right-of-way at the edge of the riverbank so the public has free access to the same views as do the wealthy condo owners. The tree-lined Riverwalk has inviting, wrought-iron benches here and there. It also has decorative lampposts and hanging flower baskets† made of wrought iron in the Victorian style. The sidewalk follows the gentle, winding course of the riverbank. The high-rise condo buildings screen out much of the traffic noise from the busy streets so that strollers have a quiet place of beauty and peace only a few steps away from Londonís traffic.
Plantings of shrubs on condo porches and lots of potted flowers testify to the respect the English have for natureís beauty. We saw no graffiti, broken glass or piles of litter that mar so many public areas back home. The British government must be strict on vandals. Discreet signs warn that the law prohibits ďverminous and filthily offensive peopleĒ f rom using the benches. So London, too, must also have problems with street people.
|Lewis on Riverwalk along Thames|
|Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
Tate Britain is a gigantic art gallery in the heart of London. It has one of the finest collections of British artwork in the world, specializing in art related to the history of Britain from the 16th Century to the present day. Admission is free but voluntary donations are encouraged. Fodorís Citypack London guidebook ranks it No. 11 in the Top 25 Attractions.
Sugar baron Henry Tate paid for the main building of granite and marble that takes up most of a block. He donated his collection of Victorian-era paintings to the art museum named in his honor. It opened in 1897. Its national collections of British and international art have overflowed into a second building, called Tate Modern. It is across the river. Tate Modernís collection and exhibitions are not limited to British artwork. It displays paintings and sculpture by Monet, Matisse, Picasso and other international artists. The Tate also operates smaller branches in Liverpool and in St. Ives on the Cornish coast, where we are headed later in the week. The Tate is funded both publicly and privately.
According to Fodor, Tate Britain is distinguished for its portraits by Van Dyck, Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds; illustrations by Blake; landscapes by Constable and its incomparable collection of 300 oil paintings by J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851).
Our favorite was the work of Turner, who is considered by some art historians to be Britainís greatest painter. Several galleries are devoted to his work and are loosely arranged according to theme. One deals with landscapes, another with Biblical and another with neo-classical ďstoryĒ paintings. The galleries I found most compelling are those that display Turnerís magnificent depictions of the great land and sea battles of the Napoleonic Wars.†
|Betty at entrance to Tate Britain|
|Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
A friendly and competent docent introduced us to the work of the late Barbara Hepworth, one of the seminal forces in the development of modern art. She alerted us to what proved to be a grand exhibition of Hepworthís paintings and sculpture on display at the Tate St. Ives.
The Tate has a decent gift shop. But compared to the all-out merchandising in shops at the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan in New York and the National Gallery in Washington, it appeared to us that the Tate has certainly missed an opportunity.
We enjoyed strolling back down the Riverwalk to the Dolphin Square, where we relaxed for a while before walking back toward Victoria Station to the Sea Fresh Restaurant. We had an excellent fish-and-chips dinner, for £8.95 each. Included were mountains of French fries. We visited with three American women at an adjacent table who had also heard about the great food and moderate prices (hard to find in Central London). They had made the mistake of arriving in London at 7:30 a.m., on the overnight flight from Chicago. Of course their hotel room wasnít ready. The women were exhausted from spending their first day in London on their feet. But they had made the most of their day† and seen quite a few sights.
I confess to a harboring a certain element of smarty-pants satisfaction that came from arranging for our travel on a later overnight flight (from Atlanta) with an 11:30 a.m. arrival. By the time we had collected our luggage, rode the Gatwick Express train to Victoria Station and caught a black cab to the Dolphin Square, our room was ready for check-in.
Until the upheaval in the airline industry that cancelled many flights following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, British Airways offered an even better flight schedule. It had one flight, we were told by a British businessman who bemoaned its cancellation, that departed Boston at 7 a.m. and arrived in London at 6 p.m. local time.