Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Day in London and the Wallace Collection

My friend, Meg and I met at noon last Saturday in London to figure out what we wanted to do for the day. We were trying to decide between the play, War Horse or the museum, The Wallace Collection at Hertford House. War Horse was completely sold out, so off to the Wallace Collection we went. Taking the bus to Marble Arch on Oxford Street, we found Hertford House tucked on a square a few blocks behind Selfridges department store. The madding crowds of shoppers seemed a world away from the mansion. The Wallace Collection is a small museum filled with opulent visual gems of history on 3 levels. According to Wikipedia, "It was established in 1897 from the private collection mainly created by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800–1870), who left it and the house to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890), whose widow bequeathed the entire collection to the nation. The museum opened to the public in 1900 in Hertford House, Manchester Square, and remains there, housed in its entirety, to this day. A condition of the bequest was that no object ever leave the collection, even for loan exhibitions." Besides the intricate history, there is a romantic and rich feeling to each room and its color scheme. Walking from room to room, you could feel the presence of the past. Even though this is London, there was a definite French flair. But in general, you feel as if you are in the home of a well-heeled collector...and you are. One room was as magnificent as the next with its grand chandeliers, artwork, fine furniture and of course, the drapery. A room of lively jewel tones broke up the more monochromatic settings, where Camille Roqueplans, "The Lion in Love" hung proudly. Are you jaded yet? Then there is Frans Hals, "Laughing Cavalier" and a place to rest. Well, maybe not quite time to sit. We walked down the ornate staircase and saw the courtyard restaurant through a window. That looked like the perfect resting place after we saw the 2 rooms of medieval armor. And some people watching....don't ask! Now for the much needed break. Cream tea is one of my favorites. Meg had Earl Grey and I had Darjeeling tea. It came in individual pots filled with loose tea, and strainers on the side. I think we sat in the skylight covered courtyard for about an hour talking about kids, life, and the exhibits we just saw. I'm so glad they allow photography in the museum, it helps to remember the treasures. We spread the scoop of light and creamy clotted cream and strawberry jam on the large scones, as we chatted and sipped our warming tea. The English in me came out as I heaved a sigh. By this time, the sun had set on Hertford House as we made our way back to busy Oxford Street. There was a little window shopping and some real shopping before catching the bus back to the hotel. We had dinner to think about and Indian food at a favorite restaurant was on the agenda :-)

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