Now that I've started spring break, it makes more sense to blog about everything that has happened leading up to our spring vacation and blog about my trip in its entirety for my next blog. This is what's been going on during the past week and a half!
Two Wednesdays ago, we took a trip to the National Portrait Gallery with my history of art class. Our topic of that week was restoration, and the National Portrait Gallery is famous for its the amount of restorations it undertakes, making it the perfect setting for that week's class. While restoration is beneficial in some senses as it keeps a painting looking as it did when it was first created, oftentimes it can go horribly wrong and a piece of history is damaged or lost forever.
Our professor took us through a few pieces that had indeed been destroyed or slightly altered from its original forms due to errors during the restoration process, and the results were pretty upsetting. Because the works of art that are restored are hundreds of years old, curators can't give a definite description about what the artist intended their piece to look like at this point in time and must act at their discretion. However, this proves to be problematic when a museum decides to undertake a restoration process and makes a mistake, ruining an irreplaceable painting forever.
Another piece that we saw that I found very interesting was a painting by Hans Holbein. In the lower center of the portrait, there appears to be a smudge. It didn't fit in well with the rest of the painting, and a lot of us didn't understand what it represented. Our professor suggested we stand on one side of the painting and look at it at a nearly parallel angle. Then we noticed that the blur was actually a skull, stretched out so far that it's proportions were distorted when you saw it head-on. From the side, the skull seemed to pop out of the painting, and created an incredible 3D effect. The artist used a mathematical equation to determine the perfect angle at which the skull should be painted and just how far it should be stretched so that the three-dimensional effect occurs.
The following day we made plans to get high tea at the Orangerie, a tea room located in the Kensington Palace Gardens. It was different from our high tea at Sketch, as the place had an outdoor feel to it since it was located in one of the gardens. The entire restaurant was white, with large windows all along the outer wall giving the space plenty of natural light. The tea was delicious, and the food we ate was incredible as well. Some of the highlights of the treats were the chicken curry sandwiches as well as my favorite dessert: macaroons. On our way home, we walked through Hyde Park and enjoyed the beginning of spring weather.
On Saturday, a few of us took a trip to Windsor Castle. I was excited to see the palace where the Monarchs of the UK enjoy spending their time on the weekends, and was amazed at its incredible size. The tour through the grounds was so complete and extensive that I had little questions after I left. We had free audio guides that took us through dozens of rooms in the palace, each more impressive than the last. I was in awe at the sheer amount of money that went into the creation and decoration of each room, and was excited to see rooms that were currently in use by the queen and the rest of the royal family. The tour also took us through the cathedral at Windsor Castle, and we saw the tombs of many previous monarchs as well as the sitting room for members of the order of the Knights. The highlight of my trip however, was the souvenir shop where I not only found a mug with Will and Kate's faces on it, but also a stuffed corgi! Another high point during our trip was that we were coincidentally at the spot where the changing of the guard occurs, and we got to see the ceremony up close.
That Sunday after a long day of studying for midterms, I went back to Sketch for dinner with some family friends. I was delighted to go back, and had the most delicious meal I'd had in a long time. I loved the elegant vibe the restaurant takes on for dinner time, and was pleasantly surprised with their menu. Of course, we couldn't leave without taking a few more pictures in the odd pod-shaped bathrooms!
On Wednesday, my art history class took a trip to the Tate Britain. This has been by far my favorite museum visit, as we finally got to look at some contemporary art. A piece that I particularly enjoyed was an all black canvas that at a glance, makes the viewer think "oh come on, anyone could do this." Our professor saw our reaction to the piece, and after letting us look at it in confusion for a couple minutes, explained the painting to us. The piece was titled "Veil" and was created by a middle eastern woman who has worn the traditional veil for her entire life. That gave us a little more clarity about the piece and why it would be all black, but then our professor pointed out what materials were used during its creation. She drew our attention to graphite, which is the same material that is used in pencil lead. As we looked closer at the all black canvas, we noticed that under the black paint there seemed to be writing. Our professor then told us that before painting the canvas all black, the artist wrote all the reasons why she no longer wants to wear the veil. On the lower portion of the painting, the artist wrote all the reasons why she was still a proud Muslim, despite her decision to stop wearing the veil. It was a very powerful effect, and gave all of us a newfound appreciation for the piece. The rest of our visit consisted of us looking at different contemporary pieces and understanding the meaning behind what at first seems like nonsensical work. I like contemporary art for that reason, because there is more than what meets the eye, and it causes the viewer to think deeper about what they are seeing.
The following day, my roommate Adam and I went to the Sanderson Hotel for their afternoon tea. The tea room was called The Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea, and it was all decorated like the tea Alice in Wonderland. The menu was inside a book, and at a glance I didn't even realize it was in there. A ballerina box housed dozens of little sugar cubes, and the plates and cups all had silly designs to match the theme. We got to smell the aromas of the different teas before we ordered them, and were invited to eat jelly from their complimentary jelly bar. Some of the highlights of the food were a sun-dried tomato and ham sandwich, a mini strawberry cheesecake, and a mini mango smoothie.
After our tea, I went with Adam to do some shopping. I had a moment to remind me that I'm still learning my way around the city after I accidentally lead us in the wrong direction on the tube, and we ended up in Wimbledon. After about an hour of tracing our steps back, we finally made it home. Sorry, Adam!
The following morning the majority of my roommates left for their spring break in Italy. Three of us stayed behind: May is planning a separate trip with her boyfriend who is visiting her this week, Carly is meeting up with them halfway through the trip, and I'm traveling to Spain with my boyfriend who is coming to visit me!
Since May's boyfriend arrived that day and Nick didn't arrive until the following day, Carly and I spent the day together. We started the day by running some much needed errands, and then made our way to the London Zoo. We'd wanted to go for a long time, as it's the oldest zoo in the world, and we were not disappointed!
The first exhibit we saw were the penguins, and we loved it. They were so playful with each other and full of energy that we enjoyed watching them jump around and swim quickly around the tank catching the occasional fish. We walked through the different exhibits and saw exotic birds, butterflies, owls and reptiles.
Another highlight was an exhibit that let you walk inside the area where the monkeys are housed, and you can look at them in their natural habitat without any boundary separating you. It was incredible how close the monkeys got to us, and how cute and agile they were!
We stopped by a petting area halfway through our visit, where we got to touch sheep and goats. One of the goats even chewed off a piece of my zoo map! What was by far our favorite part of the zoo was the gorilla exhibit. A baby gorilla had recently been born, and we had a perfect view of the mom and her baby. Carly and I were amazed at the way the gorilla played with her child, it was nearly identical to the way a human mother plays with her baby. She would tickle the baby, bop it up and down on its legs and hold it just like a human child. It was incredible. In front of her, sat a giant silverback gorilla, who was the leader of the pack. He eyed each of us carefully and kept a protective eye on his mate and their baby. The similarities we noticed between humans and the gorillas were unbelievable. Carly and I stayed at the exhibit for about half an hour just watching, amazed at the beautiful animals.
That night we went to a nearby pub for dinner and drinks. Afterwards, we saw 50 Shades of Grey. It was definitely not what I was expecting since I had never read the book and only had a vague idea of what the movie was about, but nonetheless found it was a good movie.
This weekend Nick and I are going to explore London together. On Monday, we leave for Seville and then travel to Granada. After two and a half months apart, I'm excited to finally see him again and go on an amazing (and hopefully warm) vacation!