Friday, June 29, 2007

Day Three In London

Sunday, September 2

Saint Mary Abbots Church, Kensington
The National Army Museum
Carlyle’s House
All Saints Church
Crosby Hall
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

We will, again, have breakfast at our hotel, and we will leave the hotel at 8:30 a.m.

We will attend morning service at Saint Mary Abbots Church, Kensington, the church we visited and examined the previous morning. After service, we will take the subway to Sloane Square Station.

From Sloane Square, we will walk over to The National Army Museum, our main visit of the day. We will visit this museum three times during our stay in London, and we will see almost all of the collection.

My mother will enjoy this museum, in part because the historical displays are so excellent and in part because so much art is on display throughout the museum. Paintings with military themes are hung in the exhibition rooms, in the hallways, in the stairwells, and in a special art gallery devoted exclusively to great painters of the Hanoverian Period.

On this first visit to the museum, we will only visit the exhibitions covering the 18th and 19th Centuries. In particular, we will focus on the exhibition rooms addressing The American Revolution and The Napoleonic Wars, since these are the finest and most interesting rooms from this portion of the collection.

One of the highlights of the museum is the grand, scaled model of The Battle Of Waterloo. It is a very impressive model, constructed shortly after the event, and it features the entire topography of the battle area, replete with buildings, trees, soldiers, horses and cannon. The model is accompanied by sound and lighting effects that may be activated by the visitor, and these special effects enhance the visitor’s ability to trace the course of that day’s Europe-altering events. When my brother and I visited this exhibit in 2004, we spent forty-five minutes examining the model, and we activated the entire sequence of special effects three or four times in succession.

When we have completed our visit to the museum exhibits covering the 18th and 19th Centuries, we will have a light lunch in the museum café, which apparently has been greatly expanded since 2004, the last time my brother and I ate there.

After lunch, we will walk through Chelsea, examining some of the lovely historic houses that line Cheney Walk, and noting some of the many historic personages that once resided in these various homes.

When our stroll through Chelsea is complete, we will visit Carlyle’s House, home of Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle, who lived the final forty-seven years of his life in this house.

We will visit all five levels of the townhouse, in which Carlyle wrote his great history of The French Revolution and his great biography of Frederick The Great Of Prussia. Everything on display in the house actually belonged to Carlyle: the furnishings, the books, the paintings, the photographs, the china, the curtains, the personal possessions, the mementos. For admirers of Carlyle, this is a great place to visit.

When my brother and I visited Carlyle’s House in 2004, one of the vectors told us that almost all visitors to Carlyle’s House are American—not British, not Canadian, not Australian, not New Zealander, but American. This makes me wonder whether Carlyle is no longer read in other English-speaking countries. In the United States, Carlyle’s books have never gone out of print since the dates of their initial publications.

During that 2004 visit, my brother and I only intended to visit this historic residence for an hour or so. However, the vector was so enthused about our elementary knowledge of Carlyle that he veritably made us his prisoners, opening drawers all over the house and bringing out all sorts of things to show to us, from old books to old postcards to old letters to old underwear. My brother and I had to engage in military-like maneuvers in order to make our escape after three hours.

From Carlyle’s House, we will walk to nearby All Saints Church, an ancient church affiliated with Thomas More. Also known as Chelsea Old Church, All Saints Church was the More family church. One of the chapels is devoted exclusively to Thomas More, and many other church monuments are dedicated to More and his family. Several of More’s relatives are buried in the church. It is a small, but richly-rewarding church.

After visiting All Saints Church, we will walk to nearby Crosby Hall, the immense stone house in which Thomas More and his family lived for many years. The house is now privately-owned, and not open to the public, but its exterior is a wonderful example of Tudor stone architecture, and it is one of the last such buildings in London. Crosby Hall was not situated on its current site during More’s lifetime—the structure was dismantled and moved, stone by stone, to its current location in 1910.

From Crosby Hall, we will take taxis back to Kensington—it will almost be too far for us to walk back to the nearest tube station, Sloane Square Station, from which we commenced our tour of Chelsea—and we will request to be dropped at The Royal Albert Hall.

When we arrive at the Hall, we will get an early and light dinner in one of the Hall’s dining venues prior to the evening’s Proms concert, which we will attend. We will hear the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, under Michael Tilson Thomas, perform Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7.

After the concert, we will walk back to our hotel. We will find a place to get a light supper en route.

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