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September 23, 2010

Monday in London

We were once again greeted by the sun as we rose to meet the day. Truly, the weather this trip was nothing short of spectacular. The temperature was neither too warm nor too chilly, and we had a lovely breeze all day. After a yummy breakfast at our hotel, we headed to the Gloucester Road underground station for our journey to St. Paul’s and walk to the Museum of London. Just as the tube was pulling into Holborne station where we’d change lines for St. Paul’s, the loudspeaker announced that Holborne had just been closed! So I did some rapid rethinking and decided we’d switch to another line at the next stop to disembark at Barbican. It would be an equal distance to the museum from that point, but we’d be a tad bit later due to the longer tube ride. Ah, the joys of the London Underground! We did manage to arrive just a few minutes past ten a.m. to find Suzi awaiting us in the museum’s main hall with curator Hilary Davidson on her way upstairs. Dividing our group in half, we sent a bunch downstairs with Hilary while the rest of us toured the new ground-floor exhibit hall. It is absolutely incredible–better, I think, than the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History (the MoL’s displays are far more child-friendly and so nicely laid out). Here’s my photo tour:

18th-century court dress on display. A screen next to it showed a video of a woman wearing all the proper underpinnings of the era and moving gracefully about to demonstrate "courtly" movement. It was lovely!

Close-up of the court dress bodice--stunning!

18th- and 19th-century shoes on display in a floor case. There were several floor cases in the exhibit, many showing things that have been dug up during excavations around London.

Close-up of another floor case--this one filled with China that has been dug up at various London sites.

Another gorgeous 18th-century dress on display...

And a close-up of the bodice and sleeves...

18th-century officer's "red coat" uniform. The embroidery work was so intricate.

Off the gallery’s opening display is a room dedicated to fashion. It is a recreation of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a famous place where social climbers and royally connected people once mingled and showed off their taste. The historical clothing is behind glass and rather difficult to photograph due to the low lighting designed to protect the garments. The lighting does cycle up to brighter several times a day, but, unfortunately, we were shoo’ed out to make way for a school group before we got the good lighting. You’ll just have to put up with my attempt at low-light photography here! Later in the morning I saw some photographs in the costume workroom that showed how this exhibit was designed. Live people were put into costume (reproduction–not the real thing) and “blocked” just as though they were in a stage play. After trying out several arrangements of people, the final display model was photographed from several angles so those setting up the final exhibit would know where to place mannequins. It was really fascinating to see how this was done.

1780s gown in the display...

Close-up of the gown...

Amazing embroidered man's suit...

Outside the glass cases were several reproduction outfits for up-close inspection. This girl's dress could easily be reproduced with my new 1780s Girls' Portrait Dress pattern!

Original boy's "skeleton" suit.

1780s gown with unique inverted "V" front lacing.

And a close-up...

1780s court dress with unbelievable amounts of trim...

Lovely 1780s gown with sash. My new womens' pattern (coming soon!) will easily reproduce this one...

Close-up of the gown...

Sorry this is so blurry; the lighting was just so low. Gorgeous 1770s gown with long elbow ruffles...

Here's another angle. The underskirt was so ornate with ruffles and embroidery (white on white).

A reproduction costume with an amusing display angle!

And a close-up...

This reproduction is really a fantasy dress when it comes to the fabric, but it was a lot of fun to study up close. The antlered head-dress is one of many outlandish hats designed for this exhibit by the famous milliner, Philip Treacy...

After leaving this exhibit, we went back to the rest of the displays to finish out the hour before our meeting with Hilary. The MoL is extremely child-friendly with hands-on things to do around every corner. My girls had a wonderful time opening secret doors, pressing buttons to turn on lights, trying on hats, and playing with train sets. Well done, MoL!

Peeping into doors and windows in the Georgian London exhibit.

Looking into the London Underground model...

Yet another children's area filled with antique toys and surprises...

An 18th-century bodice on display in another case. Gorgeous fabric!

One entire section of the new gallery is devoted to Victorian storefronts. Here you see my older girls gazing into a London toy shop. They only wished it was open for business!

My 2009 group saw this same lavender dress down in the costume storeroom last year when it was being restored for this display...

A beautiful antique automobile on display in the early 20th-century section...

A selection of Victorian, Edwardian, and 1920s garments on display...

A detail shot of the center dress from that case. The embroidery on the skirt was simply stunning.

A darling 1940s girl's dress on display...

There are several interactive displays like this one in the new gallery. If you touch areas of the table, they come to life with illustrations and descriptions. This table was a map of things near the Thames. My girls loved it!

A lit-up model of St. Paul's on the table...

And the famous London Eye...

We made it through the new gallery in time to enjoy a short refreshment break in the cafe’. Then we traded places with the other half of our group, heading into the treasure room that is the MoL costume storehouse with Hilary. As before, I am not allowed to share any photographs of what we saw, but I can tell you everything was drool-worthy. We enjoyed seeing an unusual 1730s corset, a pair of Queen Victoria’s ball slippers, three 1820s bonnets, a lovely 19-teens evening gown, an 1890s evening gown bodice, and an absolutely breathtaking 1880s evening gown that looked brand new, it was so well-preserved. There were lots of “oohs” and “ahhhs!” as Hilary removed the protective coverings and held things up for our admiration.

After finishing our visit at the MoL, we walked a short distance to the nearby El Vino Alban Gate restaurant for lunch. Joining us was Cathy Hay of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, who had brought several vintage pieces for hands-on study. We passed opera cloaks and an 1850s dress around the table while waiting for our meals. El Vino did a fantastic job with our food, which was oh-so-delicious and provided in a timely manner (no small feat for a group this large!). Hilary joined us, so we all got in a delightful visit, sharing costume stories and swapping history. It was wonderful fun. Cathy didn’t bring anything for dress-up this time, as we didn’t have room enough for trying anything on. Maybe next time…!

Cathy shows off one of her beautiful opera cloaks...

After lunch, our group divided up once again, some ladies going with Suzi to the Museum of Childhood to meet with Noreen, the curator of the costume collection there. The rest of us had tickets for the special Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A, so we said good-bye to Suzi and dashed back to the tube at St. Paul’s, glad to find that Holborne station was open once again so we could take a shorter trip to the museum. The Grace Kelly exhibit contained several of her film costumes but focused mainly on her life as Princess of Monaco. I was disappointed that the Philadelphia Museum of Art had not loaned Grace Kelly’s wedding gown to the exhibit, as I’ve always wanted to see it. I also wished there had been a wider representation of her film costumes, but it was still delightful to see what was on display:

An outfit from "To Catch a Thief"

Another beautiful film dress...

I believe this dress is from Grace Kelly's trousseau, but I'll have to double-check my book to be sure...

Low lighting made it very difficult to photograph much in this exhibit–especially the hats and accessories. It was also crowded to the gills with visitors, so I didn’t get a whole lot of good pictures. Oh, well! After finishing up at the V&A, I took my daughters back to the hotel to await the rest of the group. They began to trickle in around 5:30, most of them ready for an evening’s performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Shakespeare’s Globe. Because my mother had never seen the Globe or attended a performance, I got a ticket for her this year. I was sorry to miss out on the performance, which is a yearly highlight, but I am tickled pink Mom got to go. Christopher Benjamin (who played Sir William Lucas in the A&E “Pride & Prejudice”) performed as Falstaff to great critical acclaim. With everyone off to the Globe or out to eat, I took my girls on a little jaunt to Fortnum & Mason, where I knew they’d be astonished at the beauty of the displays (chandeliers in a grocery store?!). We’d hoped to grab supper at the delightful Parlour, but they’d closed up early that night. Instead, we walked down Piccadilly, looking for an interesting place to stop. My middle daughter stopped me suddenly with a “Mommy, look!” so I turned to see what she was pointing at. Next to us was an adorable restaurant called “Cilantro,” just begging us to come in and take a seat:

Colorful and comfy--my kind of eatery!

As we walked through the door, we were immediately greeted by someone at the counter. I asked if they were closing up (it was already 7:30), but he said they didn’t close until 8pm and invited us to come and take a seat. A huge selection of sandwiches and drinks awaited us behind the counter, but the waiter urged us to get comfortable so he could show us menus and take care of us. We were waited upon with such friendly service that we felt right at home and knew this was going to be a real treat. My girls ordered spaghetti bolognese, while I got a chicken and tomato panini.

Mmmmm!

Baby Girl is obviously enjoying her supper!

The whole atmosphere of Cilantro is cheerful and restful with lots of books around that customers are free to browse while they wait. We dove into our food, which was delicious and inexpensive (another plus!). After finishing up, an obliging waiter told us about the dessert selections, leaving our mouths watering in anticipation.

Can she eat the entire fudge cake alone? Oh, yes, she can!

A splendid hazelnut chocolate mini-cake for me. Heavenly!

Looking back toward the front of the cafe' with its cases full of tempting food.

It is always a delight to find a new favorite place in London. I thanked my daughter for pointing this one out. If you’re anywhere near 193 Piccadilly, be sure to stop by. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The food is fantastic, the prices are right, and the staff is incomparable. We left satisfied and happy with our special evening out. After returning to our hotel, I put the girls to bed and waited up for the group from the Globe. They came back bubbling over with excitement at the evening’s performance, leaving me quite envious. It is something not to be missed if you ever have the chance.

And so the 2010 England Tour officially ended. We couldn’t believe how quickly our week had gone by. I said good-byes to several ladies Monday night, as they had early flights. We departed friends, and I know we’ll all stay in touch. I’ll finish up later with one last post to tie everything together. So many good memories!

September 15, 2009

Monday Museum Madness!

Admiring tiny ivory carvings in the sculpture gallery above the medieval plaster cast gallery.

Admiring tiny ivory carvings in the sculpture gallery above the medieval plaster cast gallery.

We had an absolutely wonderful morning at the Victoria & Albert Museum, right here in South Kensington. We had a bit of trouble finding my friend, costumier Suzi Clarke, as we came in from the tube tunnel rather than Cromwell Road, so we took a little side detour into the sculpture gallery. Once we managed to find Suzi, we immediately launched into the costuming-focused displays. Instead of going straight into the fashion gallery, though, we took a side detour into the Asian Textiles exhibit, which had several gorgeous gowns made of India muslin and block printed Indian cotton:

A 1780s gown with tabbed bodice over petticoat -- made of scrumptious block-printed Indian cotton.

A 1780s gown with tabbed bodice over petticoat -- made of scrumptious block-printed Indian cotton.

Close-up view of the tabs...

Close-up view of the tabs...

Yet another block-printed 1780s gown, this one with a simpler pointed front (the front closes with pins, which go into the stays and don't stick the wearer!).

Yet another block-printed 1780s gown, this one with a simpler pointed front (the front closes with pins, which go into the stays and don't stick the wearer!).

Close-up of the bodice front...

Close-up of the bodice front...

Side view to show the back silhouette...

Side view to show the back silhouette...

Detail of the wonderful printed cotton...

Detail of the wonderful printed cotton...

Regency gown of tamboured India muslin

Regency gown of tamboured India muslin

Close-up of the tambouring on the bodice...

Close-up of the tambouring on the bodice...

And sleeve detail -- look at that design!

And sleeve detail -- look at that design!

Here is the "sister" dress to the first two block-printed gowns. This one has a jacket with tabbed front and flounce around the hips.

Here is the "sister" dress to the first two block-printed gowns. This one has a jacket with tabbed front and flounce around the hips.

Close-up of the tabs crossing over the plain stomacher...

Close-up of the tabs crossing over the plain stomacher...

Sleeve detail (I tell you, folks, we were all drooling buckets by now! ;) )

img_0828We moved on into the main fashion gallery, where Suzi and I took a seat in the center. Everyone else enjoyed wandering through the exhibit, photographing and sketching. Several came back to our central point with questions, which called for Suzi’s expert analysis and years of costuming wisdom — what a treat to have such a fantastic guide! Lindsay continued to shoot photos as we talked. She apologizes for the dimness of some of these, but lighting is deliberately kept low to prevent fading of the fabrics, so getting clear shots is a bit of a challenge.

Painted silk saque-back gown ca. 1770s...

Painted silk saque-back gown ca. 1770s...

Detail of the back...

Detail of the back...

Another painted silk--this one a jacket over a skirt and petticoat...

Embroidered silk--this one a jacket over a skirt and petticoat...

A set of stays from the 1780s. I loved the tabbed waistline on these.

A set of stays from the 1780s. I love the tabbed waistline on these.

We next attempted to get up into the Textile Room, which is buried in a far back corner of the third floor. The V&A is almost as confusing to navigate as the British Museum because of staircases that only go to every other floor with “half floors” in between in many places. We managed to get from two to four but couldn’t find our way to three without going through the British Galleries. However, these are some of my absolute favorite galleries to visit (one on the second floor and one on the fourth). I highly recommend them if you visit the V&A, as they are filled with beautiful portraits, furniture, and, yes, many historical garments (including James II’s wedding suit!). We tried our best to hurry through to the Textile Room, but it was like herding reluctant cats to get 24 people all heading in one direction! ;) I didn’t mind. I know how distracting these galleries are, and there is so much to photograph (to see pictures of what’s here, check my posts from 2006).

We did finally make it up to the Textile Room, where frame after frame of fabric, embroidery, lace, and such awaits the eager student of fashion. Here are just a couple of things we pulled from the upright files:

Embroidered 18th-century stomacher

Embroidered 18th-century stomacher

And here's another one...

And here's another one...

You could spend absolute days in here, poring over beautifully preserved examples from the 1600s onward. But we began to run short on time, as half our group was headed to Suzi’s after lunch to view her private collection! So we all gathered for a delicious luncheon in the V&A Cafe’, which is one of the finest museum cafes anywhere with hot and cold dishes prepared by expert chefs. Some of our ladies continued to explore exhibits, while those going to Suzi’s headed to the tube.

Suzi's delicious tea spread, ready for our ladies!

Suzi's delicious tea spread, ready for our ladies!

Suzi shows off one of her Worth bodices.

Suzi shows off one of her Worth bodices.

And here's another beautiful one in turquoise silk...

And here's another beautiful one in turquoise silk...

And a Victorian bodice...

And a Victorian bodice...

I’m speeding through highlights only in this post. We have hundreds upon hundreds of photos from yesterday! Wish I could share them all, but it’s just hit midnight here, and we’re heading to Greenwich at 8:15am to the Fan Museum! I’ll post about today’s fun tomorrow night.

Here are two final photos from yesterday — these of some of our ladies waiting in line at the Globe Theater for the evening performance of “As You Like It.”

Carilyn, Cassie, and Amanda, hamming it up and having fun.

Carilyn, Cassie, and Amanda, hamming it up and having fun.

Two mother-daughter pairs and one of our Aussies...

Two mother-daughter pairs and one of our Aussies...

All but three of us opted for “Groundlings” tickets, which means standing room right around the stage — really the best view in the house. Being rather pregnant myself, I opted for a seat in the second tier right at the railing, renting a cushion to sit upon! ;) We thoroughly enjoyed the play, complete with spectacular costuming as usual. Wish I could share photos, but no photography is allowed during performances. You’ll just have to come over here and get to the Globe yourself!

See you tomorrow!

September 14, 2009

Dressing "Ophelia"

costumerack Okay, as promised, here is the step-by-step costume demonstration we enjoyed at the Globe Exhibition Saturday with Lindsay as our model! (At left you see the rack of sample costumes from various Globe productions.)

This is Lindsay in the linen chemise with very finely knit stockings (you see Kitty kneeling at right). James is pointing out the fineness of these stockings. Working classes wore very rough, wide-gauge stockings.

This is Lindsay in the linen chemise with very finely knit stockings (you see Kitty kneeling at right). James is pointing out the fineness of these stockings. Working classes wore very rough, wide-gauge stockings.

Kitty and James "cross-garter" Lindsay. This was the best way to secure stockings so they didn't fall down during the day. The garters are long fabric tapes that cross behind the knee and are tied above the knee.

Kitty and James "cross-garter" Lindsay. This was the best way to secure stockings so they didn't fall down during the day. The garters are long fabric tapes that cross behind the knee and are tied above the knee.

Now Lindsay's doeskin shoes are laced on. These are buttery soft and have cutwork on the top.

Now Lindsay's doeskin shoes are laced on. These are buttery soft and have cutwork on the top.

Lindsay has slipped on the corset and waits for Kitty to lace her up.

Lindsay has slipped on the corset and waits for Kitty to lace her up.

"Suck in!"

"Suck in!"

Now we get a back view as Kitty finishes the lacing.

Now we get a back view as Kitty finishes the lacing.

Kitty is tying the Spanish Farthingale to brass-tipped cords hanging from the waistline of the corset. This supports the Farthingale so it doesn't slip down.

Kitty is tying the Spanish Farthingale to brass-tipped cords hanging from the waistline of the corset. This supports the Farthingale so it doesn't slip down.

Time to add the bumroll (or French Farthingale), which gives the skirt its distinctive "pouff" at the hipline.

Time to add the bumroll (or French Farthingale), which gives the skirt its distinctive "pouff" at the hipline.

This is the hand-blocked skirt, which is an exact reproduction of a skirt in the Museum of London.

This is the hand-blocked skirt, which is an exact reproduction of a skirt in the Museum of London.

Over her head goes the skirt...

Over her head goes the skirt...

...and James and Kitty tie it in place as they did the Farthingale.

...and James and Kitty tie it in place as they did the Farthingale.

Lindsay shows off the skirt, front view...

Lindsay shows off the skirt, front view...

...and James turns her around to show the "shelf" created behind by the bumroll.

...and James turns her around to show the "shelf" created behind by the bumroll.

Now the partlet is tied--a little demi-blouse that goes between corset and jacket.

Now the partlet is tied--a little demi-blouse that goes between corset and jacket.

Kitty shows us the jacket before it goes on Lindsay. Note the front ties and contrasting color to match the skirt.

Kitty shows us the jacket before it goes on Lindsay. Note the front ties and contrasting color to match the skirt.

Kitty ties the jacket in front.

Kitty ties the jacket in front.

Lindsay makes an adjustment and turns around to give us the full view...

Lindsay makes an adjustment and turns around to give us the full view...

A shot to give you the jacket front in full...

A shot to give you the jacket front in full...

And all that was missing was the hat! Lindsay has let her hair down as a young girl of Ophelia's age would.

And all that was missing was the hat! Lindsay has let her hair down as a young girl of Ophelia's age would.

Isn't she demure?

Isn't she demure?

Full back view...

Full back view...

And now, what went on must come off...

And now, what went on must come off...

Kitty has the bumroll beneath her arm, so you can see the shape clearly.

Kitty has the bumroll beneath her arm, so you can see the shape clearly.

Untied, the Farthingale slips off over the shift.

Untied, the Farthingale slips off over the shift.

James holds the Farthingale while Kitty unlaces the corset.

James holds the Farthingale while Kitty unlaces the corset.

And, finally, Kitty unties the garters.

And, finally, Kitty unties the garters.

Now you know why ladies of means had servants to dress them! ;) Hope you enjoyed this little jaunt through Tudor fashion. See you again soon!

September 13, 2009

At last — a REAL post!

I finally have all the photos formatted so I can share our days with you! Here are some shots from Friday’s kick-off to the tour so you can see how we started out. First off, this is Nigel, our wonderful tour guide, who met us at Heathrow and took us on a two-hour narrated coach ride all over London, telling stories around every corner and pointing down practically every alleyway:

friday-coach-tour-3-11

After 28 years on the London police force, he should know this town like the back of his hand! He’s also a great history buff and thoroughly loves England. It was a fantastic time. We stepped off the bus at several spots for photo ops, including the Albert Memorial in Kensington Park, Buckingham Palace, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Gaping at the Albert Memorial from across the street (for a photo of the memorial itself, see my blog posts from March.)

Gaping at the Albert Memorial from across the street (for a photo of the memorial itself, see my blog posts from March.)

Nigel gives us all the details on Buckingham Palace (the queen wasn't home today!).

Nigel gives us all the details on Buckingham Palace (the queen wasn't home today!).

We had the most fantastic weather for photos....

We had the most fantastic weather for photos....

And here we are at St. Paul's, enjoying its beautiful front ("Feed the Birds," anyone?)

And here we are at St. Paul's, enjoying its beautiful front ("Feed the Birds," anyone?)

Our group started out chipper and talkative, but jet lag started to hit hard toward the end, and we were ready to check into our hotel, the Millennium Gloucester in South Kensington. We deliberately left Friday afternoon free so that our ladies could unpack, settle in, or hit some sightseeing spots of their choice. A bunch went to the Tower of London together. My husband and son went to St. Paul’s to hear the boys’ choir while I stayed back to unpack and take care of the rest of our check-in process (including getting Internet hookup–so important!).  We grabbed some yummy Portuguese food for supper from a place around the corner from our hotel, then crashed for the night.

Our group sits enthralled as Kitty gives us the history of the original Globe and this amazing reproduction.

Our group sits enthralled as Kitty gives us the history of the original Globe and this amazing reproduction.

Saturday morning we enjoyed a delicious full English breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant before gathering to head to Shakespeare’s Globe for our group tour. With this many Jane Austen fans in one place, you can imagine the kick we got out of having a guide named “Kitty.” ;-) She was an absolutely lovely lady who obviously has a passion for Shakespeare and for the theater itself. She led us through all the levels of the Globe so we could see the stage from all angles, explaining who would have sat where and why and showing us the incredible artistry that went into recreating the entire theater authentically. Workmen built the timbered structure entirely by hand, using tools from the time period (some of which had to be made especially for the Globe project). All of the beams are fastened together with wooden pegs, and the walls are of lathe and plaster.

A view of the stage from the yard.

A view of the stage from the yard.

The stage from the topmost level, right under the thatched roof.

The stage from the topmost level, right under the thatched roof.

After a 40-minute tour through the theater, we stepped into the Globe Exhibition museum, which includes artifacts from the time period, plus a glorious gallery of costume!

One of several gents' outfits on display...

One of several gents' outfits on display...

A mannequin in shift, corset, and Spanish farthingale.

A mannequin in shift, corset, and Spanish farthingale.

Here is what’s most amazing about the productions staged at the Globe: For period plays, all of the costumes are made entirely by hand, using only materials that would have been available in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. All of the lace is hand-made, and all trimmings are created from originals in museum collections around Britain. So being able to view these outfits up close with no glass to interfere was nothing short of heavenly! Lindsay took all these gorgeous pictures so you can see the level of detail. It’s astonishing that so much work goes into outfits that will be worn on the stage and seen from a distance. Seeing them up close is a revelation.

Another fabulous gent's costume...

Another fabulous gent's costume...

The hand-starched lace on the ruff was amazing, and the fabric was reproduced from an orginal garment in a London museum.

The hand-starched lace on the ruff was amazing, and the fabric was reproduced from an orginal garment in a London museum.

Two costumes were behind glass because of the intricacy of their workmanship. This photo shows a gentleman’s costume that was created by a donor for the Globe Exhibition:

saturday-globe-20-1
This gown defies belief — from the custom-woven fabrics to the hand-made lace ruff, it is just mind-bogglingly intricate:

Notice the size of the wheel farthingale beneath the skirt. It's all about status....

Notice the size of the wheel farthingale beneath the skirt. It's all about status....

And here's the back view...

And here's the back view...

saturday-globe-28After we finished the exhibition tour, Kitty let us know there would be a costume demonstration at 12:30 and 1:30, dressing a volunteer from the crowd in “Ophelia’s” costume from the most recent production of “Hamlet.” Part of us opted to go to lunch and catch the 1:30, but those who had other plans for the afternoon went to the 12:30. Here’s Courtney dressed in Ophelia’s shift, taking her turn as model. We didn’t get any other pictures from the first demonstration, but you’ll get to see Lindsay go through it in my next post!

saturday-imperial-war-museum-11My small group moved on to the Imperial War Museum after the Globe. This wasn’t just a stop for my son (who absolutely loved it!) but for me, as I wanted to see the Children’s War exhibit, which covered the history of London during the bombings in WWII and had heart-breaking stories of evacuee children who did not see their parents for anywhere from two to five years. The photos below show mannequins wearing clothing donated by these (now grown up) children, many of whom saved their identity tags, the toys they took in their pockets when they left home, and letters they wrote home to their parents:

102_1194 102_1195
The horrors to which these children were exposed were unimaginable.

The horrors to which these children were exposed were unimaginable.

102_1193The most fascinating part of this exhibit is a two-storey “home front” house with fully-furnished and decorated rooms. Here is a series of photos I shot while walking through the house. You can see period furniture and wallpapers. The windows are not mullioned windows but are taped in that pattern — they had to tape the windows for safety during bomb raids. Rather than utilitarian “Xs”, they created the look of leaded glass!

The family room, with a dress in progress on the mannequin.

The family room, with a dress in progress on the mannequin.

The tiny kitchen...

The tiny kitchen...

102_1198There were a lot of posters and advertisements encouraging women to recycle and mend clothing, reuse as many items as possible, and use up every scrap of food. There is a similar exhibit in the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, but I enjoyed this one more, as the rooms are not behind plexiglass, and you can really see things in detail. The gift shop had a wide array of vintage reprints from this time period, as you can see from this shot I took of one shelf — lots of books on fashion, hairstyle, makeup, food, and more.

Halfway through the museum, I took a tea break to put my feet up, enjoying this lovely Victoria Sponge with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, plus a pot of Earl Grey tea. Yum!

102_1197

saturday-ye-olde-cheshire-cheese-2We decided to hit the famous Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Shop for supper, but the directions I got from the Internet took us into a quiet residential side street in Chelsea — nowhere close to where we needed to be! We finally broke down and hailed a cab, which took us to the opposite side of town off Fleet Street (closer to the theater district). Lesson learned — don’t trust website directions implicitly; double-check them! But it was well worth the drive, as this is London’s oldest pub, rebuilt in 1667 after the Great Fire. The restaurant upstairs was filled to capacity, so we ducked our heads to get down the narrow staircase and ordered directly from the bar. Let me tell you that this is one of the best-kept secrets in Great Britain. If you want to save 50% off your supper bill, order directly from the bar. You can get take-away food or eat it at a small pub table. The atmosphere was delightful, as you can see in the shot below. We enjoyed cottage pie, steak pie, and fresh salad greens with home-made vinaigrette. Everything was delicious and very inexpensive, especially for London.

saturday-ye-olde-cheshire-cheese-1

We walked ourselves back to the St. Paul’s Underground, where Lindsay snapped these beautiful photos:

Yes, that deep indigo really is the color of the sky we saw last night!

Yes, that deep indigo really is the color of the sky we saw last night!

This is Temple Bar, the old western entrance gate to London which was later moved over by St. Paul's. It has a very spooky appearance at night!

This is Temple Bar, the old western entrance gate to London which was later moved over by St. Paul's. It has a very spooky appearance at night!

After settling back into our room, we had a knock at the door and found several ladies out in the hall ready for a gab fest. With group members going in all different directions yesterday, it was really fun to hear where they’d been and what they’d found. Several ladies hit the Portobello Antiques Market and snagged great bargins. Others brought back gorgeous pashmina shawls at a stunning bargain-basement price. It was delightful to see all the treasures. We were joined by still more ladies over the next couple of hours and sat up until far too late talking, swapping sewing stories, and laughing. This is the most wonderful, congenial group you can imagine — just like a party of sisters. We all wish you were here!

More tomorrow…!