London — day five

Posted on 13 May 2007 at 8:23 am in Dear Diary.

Today we went to the Tate Museums — the British and the Modern. We arrived deliberately early (before the TB opened) so that we could have a leisurely breakfast in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, there were only two cafes that we found, both side by side, and one was completely empty. A very bad sign. The one that was doing business, however, was pretty good. I’ve never had a latte lacking in foam, but their grilled cheese and ham was a tasty way to start the day.

The Tate British *blew* the Modern away, even without being able to see the Blake Watercolors. (They’d been put away for an upcoming exhibit — darn it!) TB has an entire area devoted to the works of J.M.W. Turner, England’s most famous romantic landscape painter. The paintings were definitely interesting, although my favorite (Burning of the Houses of Parliament) apparently isn’t in the collection. His Venice paintings were especially ethereal.

We then took the Tate Boat across and up the Thames to the Tate Modern. This is an impressively fortress-like building housing nothing but modern art. Frankly, I think the building was the best thing we saw. I’ll grant you, we were tired (our energy was flagging earlier and earlier each day) and I’m sure that colored my perception, but I am just not a fan of (what I see as) pointless art. It’s not beautiful, it tends to be a one note statement about something (usually the futility of modern life) and very rarely offers a way into a new insight. There was, for example, a collection of Rothko paintings that he had originally been commissioned to do for a famous NYC dining room (I can’t quite remember, but it may be the Four Seasons). He wanted to cover the seven walls with these huge works, saturating the light and providing a specific ambiance. Unfortunately, when he was finished with the ‘On Maroon’ paintings, he realized that no one would want to dine in such a claustrophobic atmosphere. So he refunded his commission. the story is fascinating. The works — tedious.

We walked across the Millennium  Bridge to St. Paul’s Catheral, but it was closed for cleaning and renovation. So we wandered in the gardens and took a look at our map. Ironically, we were very near (literally, blocks) from St. Martin’s and St Mary’s — we could have come here the first day!

Deciding we’d  done enough for the day, we went back to the hotel. Casa Mama for dinner again” grilled river trout for me (my first whole fish!, succulent to the last morsel and a nearly-perfect Carbonara for J. Tomorrow: the grand extravaganza!

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