On Wednesday this week, then, we did a thing. We went to the Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition at Tate Britain. If you fancy going I suggest you put your skates on because it finishes this Sunday, 13 January 2013.
It dawned on me last weekend that this was the final week for the exhibition and I'd promised myself that I'd go and while TLH is in between contracts, it meant he could come with me and we could go during the week. Hooray! Further, TLH said he'd drive up rather than us getting the train. Hooray x 2!
Yes, driving to London can be a pain in the arse (we went up just before Christmas to the Barbican to see the marvellous Philip Glass Ensemble + full orchestra + full choir play to a screening of Koyaanisqatsi (and, no, I didn't blog about it - see Black Puppy posts previously - but it was bloody fantastic and the best orchestral thing we've seen all year) and it took us 3 hours to get there due to rush hour, roadworks and all the traffic lights being against us. There was a great deal of swearing) but train fares have gone up so much that it's now, just about, more economical - and a darn sight more comfortable - for us to drive up there. We go up in the little car (a Smart car) which is ideal for city driving and is frugal on the petrol. It's small, nippy, easy to manoeuvre and a doddle to park in small spaces. I've just done the figures and it was also £10 cheaper for us to take the car than go on the train (two rail travelcards leaving at 11am at £27.10 each = £54.20 versus London congestion charge of £10 + all day parking £35 = £45). Even including the petrol for the journey it was cheaper. Plus I get to sit down from door to door and share a small space with just my husband rather than the heaving bulk of humanity that would have been cramming itself into a rush hour train home. AND the journey was a dream - 1 hr 15 mins from driving off our driveway to parking in a car park practically underneath the Houses of Parliament, and about the same for the return journey.
We hadn't pre-booked tickets for the exhibition but hoped we could just do a walk in. We got to the Tate about 1pm to find that they were selling tickets for 4pm entry, which was okay by us, so tickets were purchased and we went for a wander.
We decided to find somewhere for lunch - a sit-down place, nicer than a Pret a Manger but not fancy. You know the sort of place. We sauntered down Horseferry Road and eventually found a rather nice place called The Loose Box, which described itself as a 'bar + kitchen'. It was modern - wood floors, dark wood tables, comfy sofas, pistachio green walls - and about two-thirds full which, for a Wednesday lunchtime in early January is not bad going. The food was good and the prices - for a central London, posh-ish eatery - surprisingly cheap. Bread with olive oil & balsamic vinegar was brought to the table, we had a large soft drink each, TLH had beer-battered fish and chips with mushy peas, salad and tartare sauce which was falling off his plate, I had king prawn linguine with chilli squid, coriander and lime, 2 large coffees to finish - £31 the lot (not including the tip). Believe me, that's good value for London.
Luckily it seems we had picked a day with the best weather of 2013 so far - clear blue sky and brilliant sunshine, cold in the shade but the sun was warm on your back. As we left the bar, I remarked on how gorgeous it was and what a fantastic day to go up on the London Eye. So TLH suggested we did exactly that! I've not been on the Eye before but I've always thought that booking in advance is a bit of a lottery weather-wise, such a shame to go all that way and find, as British weather so often is, it's too cloudy to see anything.
So we walked over Lambeth Bridge, past Lambeth Palace and along the Embankment.
TLH then noticed that the Eye wasn't moving. At all.
We prepared ourselves for disappointment and we weren't disappointed on that score. It was shut for maintenance from 7 until 19 January. Bum.
We were still a couple of hours away from getting into the exhibition, so we carried on walking along the Embankment towards Waterloo Bridge. As we were approaching the rail bridge which goes to Charing Cross station, I noticed a lot of people taking photographs pointing the way we'd just walked. So I turned round, and could see exactly why:
TLH said he wanted to walk over Waterloo Bridge, and the staircase at the side took us beside the Hayward Gallery which currently has an enormous baobab tree made out of textiles beside it:
The view from Waterloo Bridge was, as ever, utterly magnificent:
TLH suggested I should have a play with the 'panorama' function on my iPhone (by the way, all these photos were taken with my phone) - some worked better than others, but it was fun:
We crossed the bridge then caught a bus back down to near the Houses of Parliament:
We walked through the 'front garden' bit of Westminster Abbey. I really REALLY want to do a trip to see inside the Abbey - we were doing to do it on this trip as well but there just wasn't enough time, but later in the year, I've promised myself:
And we got back to the Tate at about 10 minutes to 4.
It was busy. I suspect there were a lot of people who, like me, had gone 'oh, shit! The PRB exhibition finishes in, like, 5 days - quick, to that London!'. There were 7 rooms of painting and artefacts, and the first couple were really quite packed, but the crowds thinned out in the others.
I thought it was amazing. I've always loved PRB paintings but have only ever seen them reproduced in books or the TV screen so I was totally blown away by the colours and just how fecking big some of them were. I had no idea.
The skill and artistry of the painters is completely breath-taking. In fact, there are no superlatives. Each painting was better than the previous one until I found myself getting a bit overwhelmed. The last room very nearly did me in. I've never cried at a painting before but the Edward Burne-Jones series of Perseus paintings (of which the exhibition had 3) and, especially, his 'Golden Stairs' had me actually welling up, they were THAT beautiful:
The Rock of Doom
The Doom Fulfilled
The Baleful Head
The Golden Stairs
Of course, these images on this blogpage do the originals no justice whatsoever. You can't see how miraculously the fabrics have been painted, for example, and the little pictures here just don't convey the size of them either. The Golden Stairs is almost 9 feet tall. The 3 Perseus paintings are each a little over 5 feet tall. I'd definitely need a bigger house to put them all in. That, or marry Andrew Lloyd-Webber as he owns a few of these.
We drove home in the rush hour and got fish 'n' chips on the way back so I didn't have to cook. All in all, a fabulous day - everything went smoothly, no tempers got lost and nobody drownded.
There are other exhibitions on my list for this year that I want to see so check back later on to see if I actually get there!