It’s always a good time for tea, it’s always a good time for London

IMG_0303imageLondon: it’s tea, high tea, muffins, scones and carrot cake, art. Civilised people, who speak in two words, and who know how to queue up waiting for a bus. It is Tate Modern, obligatory stop on every visit, but there is top notch stuff going on in other places, too.
I’m addicted, it’s simple as that.
GA849147_942longThe same railway station where every morning I take the train to work, only this time my train leaves just a few tracks further. The security check, similar to the one at the airport, and then the passport check, first by a Belgian officer, then by a Brit, the cart/wagon numbers on the platform and the lovely hostess who welcomes you,… it all contributes to the nice feel of being on the road again.
Twenty minutes from Brussels and I’m already in France. I know because my internet connection stopped: I don’t allow my phone to roam, too many horror stories about excessive costs. Not even half an hour from Brussels and we’re in Lille. My every day commute to a Belgian city right before Lille takes me 1 hour 20 minutes every day, in 2 hours time I’m in London city. The Eurostar is fast.
(Tip: change your seats online before printing your tickets. I have plenty of space: 2 tables for myself, and the 3 other seats are empty. I was attributed a spot in a completely crowded wagon, good thing I thought of doing the necessary before leaving.)
I go straight from London Pancreas International to my hostel. The crowd in the city streets and on the underground is quite different from Brussels; classy Asian women, and hot black guys in smart suits…
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The reason for this trip is the V&A exhibition Masters of Chinese Painting: 700-1700.
Only three more days, and it’s finished. I rang up the museum to know whether there would be a prolongation or maybe an itinerant exhibition, but no, the paintings are too fragile. Saturday and Sunday were already sold out, so I had to leave on Friday morning if I wanted to see the works.
I don’t regret one bit that I spent a bit more than usual to come to London. Tickets start from 88 euros for a return trip, I paid a 200, acceptable given my last-minute decision. My hostel is gonna be my temporary home on all my next London trips: helpful staff, nicely located near the Thames, spotlessly clean and free drinks all day long. Same price as any other place here, but much more value for your money. I’m not giving away the address, but on www.hostelbookers.com you can book cheap accommodation in the whole of Europe and beyond.
Entrances at the V&A are timed. So many people to see Chinese art, you have to queue up and be patient to see the scrolls horizontally displayed in their cabinets, or to study the paintings behind glass. When it’s your turn to look into the eyes of some ancient buddha, you know it was worth the wait. These paintings, carefully crafted many centuries ago, are in an exceptionally good condition. The colours are still magnificent, and the silk is hardly damaged. I’ve always been well aware that the Chinese have an important cultural heritage, but this is from a jaw dropping quality.
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Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara with 1000 hands and 1000 eyes (983 AD) seems to be alive. When your eyes follow the Bodhisattva’s hands, the painting really conveys movement (no drugs involved 🙂 )
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Intrigued by this painting of a monk walking with a tiger, I googled information about the returning theme of monks and big felines, and I bumped into another picture:
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This is one of the guys who made this exhibition possible. Paul Pelliot, a French Sinologist, at work in the Mogao Caves in China, in the year 1908. Look at all the scrolls behind him, undiscovered still. Here, in these caves, thousands of paintings and manuscripts were kept safe from bad weather conditions and robbers, and now they are here, for us to see. I feel so privileged.
After the earliest religious work, “objects of devotion”, the show continues with landscape paintings, work created under Mongol rule, art from the Ming dynasty, and finally later work, from 16°°-1900.  The latter is divided in two main schools: the artists who create new work based on ancient themes and those who experiment with Western art.
Of course, photography is not allowed here, and it’s too late now, the exhibition is no longer on show. But no worries, London often has interesting food for your eyes on the menu. The city is sprinkled with art galleries, and has what’s probably the highest museums per square meter ratio in the world. Most museums are for free, you could easily linger around for a week here indulging in art without spending  a penny on entrance fees.
Many museums here are worth a bit of your time.  Tate Britain is a bit further down the river, so I decide to pay a visit.  This beautifully renovated building – with still some work in progress – is packed with British art from the year 1500 up to now. There’s a funky bar and  a fancy restaurant downstairs. Instead of borrowing an audio guide, you use your own smartphone or tablet for a visit; just click here.
At 11 o’clock sharp, there is a daily talk by a member of staff.  We got a closer look on three paintings.
What do we see in the first one? A family scene, in a drawing room. The woman, lying on the floor, at her husband’s feet. In his hand, a piece of paper: a letter of his wife’s lover. Under his foot, a picture. Very dramatic, indeed: this has to end in misery and doom.
In the last painting, we see the woman, empoverished, under a bridge. Maybe she’s become a prostitue. On the walls behind her, posters. Publicity for “pleasure excursions to Paris,” for gentlemen who are not only interested in art and architecture. Ah, good old double standards!
The painting in the middle shows the two children from the family scene, under the same moon as their mother in the third piece of work, just as unhappy as she is, in an environment that looks a lot less lush than their living room once used to be.
On Saturday, I had very different stuff on my plate. I went to the Science Museum, to see an exhibition on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Very entertaining, indeed. All the theoretical stuff on the Higgs Boson etc. you can find, and much more. We got a Nobel Prize winner there.
For all you guys and girls who are still looking : Tori Amos said it right. London girls are the best in the world, there ain’t no doubt about it!   London Girls according to Tori Amos : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD9fqpsK8WE
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